The Social Contract of Lending: Hairbrushes and Rakes

I didn’t make a sound when the lovely Paula handed me my first paycheck, but I had a marching band going on in my mind, complete with a field commander leading a marching band, drum and bugle corps. To my fellow employees, standing in line to collect their own checks, this was just another payday. I flirted with making it more memorable for them. Paula didn’t last long at the restaurant, for reasons endemic to her character, but due to the fact that she was the one who handed me my first paycheck, her face is enshrined in my personal Mount Rushmore. As I walked away from that cash register, I thought of the lessons my father and grandfather taught me about the value of a dollar. Those lessons may have been nothing more than a creative way they found to avoid giving me more money, but whatever it was their lessons did to me were born the day I received my first paycheck.

Sleep was an inconvenient conclusion to the night for me back then, but a precious commodity in the morning. I didn’t greet mornings with a “healthy, wealthy and wise” attitude. I wasn’t happy to see another sunrise, and I wasn’t happy to be alive for another day. I wanted more sleep. I took advantage of every opportunity to sleep during the day, because I didn’t want to sleep during the night back then.  

The eve of my first paycheck was different however. I went to bed early. I didn’t sleep, I was too amped up, but I was in bed. I purposely woke early the next morning. I knew what morning it was the moment I awoke. There was no mid-morning delirium, and the first words out of my mouth did not contain a swear word. I didn’t go back to sleep on this morning, as I would any other normal morning when I didn’t have to awake early. I threw my warm, comfy blankets off, ready to greet the day. Even though we were in the crack of dawn hours, I already had a mid-morning smile on my face, and that hadn’t happened since a certain someone ruined Christmas for me. I don’t remember the bus ride over to the restaurant that day, but I remember stepping off the city bus, knowing that my paycheck was waiting for me inside the restaurant.

I knew that the days of asking my father and grandfather for money were officially over that morning. I was as free as a teenager could be. That day was the day I learned the power of the dollar, firsthand, and it is still one of the top ten greatest days of my life.

My first official purchase, with my money, was a hairbrush, and I considered it an argument against my father and grandfather’s claim that I would never learn the value of a dollar. My grandfather lived through The Depression, and my father lived in the aftermath of it, and they knew the value of a dollar and the subsequent scarcity of it better than I ever could. Their words went in one ear and out the other, until I cashed that first paycheck. Buying products with my own money, introduced me to the power of the dollar, but the more profound lesson I learned occurred soon after the intoxication with my financial freedom led me to blow that first paycheck in the course of one weekend. Even with all of the lessons they taught me, I went from being a power player in control of my financial fate to the vulnerabilities inherent in being dead broke in the course of one weekend, and the only thing I had to show for it was a hairbrush.

My father and grandfather informed me that when I purchased a product that I was to care for it in such a way that extended its life cycle beyond generally accepted norms. Doing so, they said, paid homage to the cogs in the system that made that product available for my convenience. Caring for it also displayed a level of appreciation for the idea that I was only able to demand quality services from my fellow man by providing quality services to him. If I purchased a meal, for example, they suggested I should all but lick that plate clean in appreciation. If I purchased a rake, I was to hang that rake in such a manner that it wouldn’t fall off its peg, and/or collect any water that might cause rust. There was no excuse for a rake falling off a properly secured peg, in their world, and if it did, its rattling tone would reverberate throughout our genealogical tree. This newfound purchasing power, and the subsequent values inherent in the dollars I earned, taught me more about the power of the dollar than their theoretical lessons ever could.

Their lessons also suggested that while I should care for the products I purchased, I should display reverence for the products another might lend me. If a man were generous enough to lend me his rake, in my time of need, not only was the rake not mine, it was not mine. I was to treat such a rake as if the Baby Jesus himself had once suckled it. Not only was I to return it in a timely manner, but I was to return it in the condition in which I received it, or replace it for the man if it was not. This horrible responsibility I considered inherent in borrowing things from others, often led me to just purchase a brand new rake. It’s also much less emotionally taxing on me to simply do without. 

Purchasing a new rake is not easy for me either, for doing so is a condemnation for how I treated the previous one. I would much rather use a rake that is not 100% productive than endure the personal embarrassment and remorse I experience when replacing one. Even if my standards and practices lead the productive lifespan of the lawn tool to last ten years beyond its life expectancy, I still experience a small scale Oskar Schindler dilemma when I throw away an old rake away thinking there was something I could’ve and should’ve done better to extend the life of that old rake.

I know most people do not receive the philosophical training seminars on preservation and conservation I did, but when I decided to loan my hard-earned hairbrush to a friend, and he disrespected it, I considered him unprincipled. I worked hard for that hairbrush. It cost me approximately one half hour of manual labor. As a general practice, I didn’t keep that hairbrush in the family bathroom, fearing that others in my family might use it, ruin it, and alter its life expectancy. I knew where this hairbrush was at all times, and I developed a special spot for it that I thought might prevent me from losing it. When I did loan the brush to my best friend, I monitored his usage and stipulated the terms of its usage. Once he no longer needed it, I told him, he was to return it in the manner I loaned it to him.

On a separate occasion, I loaned a Queen’s Greatest Hits cassette tape to another friend. Although this tape endured thousands of plays, over the years, its condition was excellent relative to usage. The friend I loaned it to managed to lose the plastic jewel case and the inner jacket sleeve within a week, and he had to spend another week locating the cassette tape. He never found the jewel case or the jacket, but he did manage to locate the tape. The friend didn’t offer to compensate me for my loss, or display any of the guilt that should’ve followed such an egregious violation. I would’ve considered this a reflexive response, he did not. When I informed him, in a heated argument, that I would be compensated, he said. “It’s just a cassette tape geez.”

“It’s my cassette tape,” I said, “and you do not dictate its usage.” He decided to compensate my for the loss later, after I offered him a month’s long sampling of our father and grandfather’s many lessons on value, relative value, and what I considered the epistemological penalty of violating those standards in regards to his character. In the aftermath of this incident, my friend found it less stressful to buy the products he wanted, rather than borrow anything else from me.

The thing that still grates on me is that this friend who borrowed my cassette tape knew the backstory of my hairbrush, and the friend to whom I loaned it. He even joined me in condemning my hairbrush friend. So, “It’s just a tape geez,” was what I considered a violation of the values I assumed he and I shared. I wasn’t sure if I should continue to befriend him if our values were so disparate, and I told him so. “It’s just a tape geez,” he repeated, and he added my name at the beginning of this repetition to strengthen his case that I should rethink my whole line of thought on this matter.

There wasn’t a whole lot of clamor for usage of my hard-earn hairbrush, and that’s the way I preferred it, but anytime one values a possession in the manner I did with this item, some people are going to be seduced by the intangible qualities we assigned them.

After a couple years, a piece of plastic splintered off the mainframe. The splinter started as a simple fracture in the border of that hairbrush, but it grew over time, until it was sticking out from the brush at a length as long as the average person’s index finger. The splinter soon became an eyesore, and an embarrassing detail for its owner. I didn’t want to cut that piece off or try to fix it in anyway, however, for it had been my experience that whenever I tried to fix something I only made it worse.

When my friend asked if he could borrow the hairbrush again, I was reluctant. As I said, I consider the whole practice of loaning items out rife with unforeseen ramifications. I don’t think either party gains anything in the transaction. If the recipient returns the product as it was, it is a relief to the relationship. The relationship continues as is without any EKG style movements. Anything less than as it was, could cause unforeseen turmoil and/or unseen tension between the two parties involved that might damage the relationship.    

As a responsible lender who didn’t want this transaction to end in any tension, I laid out some of my stipulations for him to consider before using it, and he said, “It’s a brush (he added my name with a hint of condescension). I’m going to brush my hair with it a couple of times, and I’ll hand it back to you. I promise.” His intention was to make me feel silly for valuing a hairbrush in such an inordinate manner. When he added the words ‘I promise’ after evaluating me, it revealed how uncomfortable I was with the notion of lending out my beloved brush to anyone, even someone I considered a best friend. I felt foolish, and I begrudgingly acquiesced, but I watched him use it intently.

He watched me watching him use it, and he informed me that I might have some hang ups a psychologist would find fascinating. He then pretended to throw it, and my near hysterical reaction caused him joy. As anyone who knows anything about psychology can probably guess, my friend asked me if he could borrow my hairbrush as often as he could. He enjoyed watching my squirm. I lied at times, and told him I didn’t have it on other days. He knew I was lying, and he capitalized on it. He enjoyed doing things that might cause me to lie, and he tried to force me to prove that I didn’t have it by opening up my school bag. I told him that I would not be emptying my bag to show that my hairbrush was not there and that he would just have to take my word for it. I also speculate that he knew I wouldn’t be able to use the hairbrush for the rest of the day, in fear of revealing the lie. If I wasn’t going to allow him to use my brush, then he wouldn’t permit me to use it either. Whether he knew it or not, this tactic was very effective, because I knew I could never use it in his company again. 

To thwart the effectiveness of this tactic, I told him he could not borrow my hairbrush on another occasion, and I offered him a pre-planned explanation. I informed him about the hygienic concerns he should have when using another’s hairbrush. I wasn’t concerned about such matters, but I considered it an excellent excuse regarding why he shouldn’t want to borrow another person’s hairbrush. When he proceeded to rip that excuse apart, I endured that rant with the knowledge that my rationale was sound.  

On one of the other occasions when I did lend it to him, he began fiddling with the splintered piece of plastic that hung off the brush. His fiddling included twisting the splintered piece in such a manner that it would eventually fall off. I caught him in mid twist, “Wait a second,” I said. “What are you doing?”

“Oh, you want that left on there?” he said.

A brush is just a brush, and a rake is just a rake, but it seems common sense to me that when two parties enter into a social contract of lending, an unspoken stipulation accompanies that agreement that suggests the recipient of another’s largess has no standing when it comes to the condition of said product. This, it would seem to me, is an ancient rule that compels both parties to recognize the guiding principles of such a transaction, regardless the relative value of the product in question. I realize that I may have been over-schooled in this concept, relative to the rest of the world, but I would think that everyone would have a firm grasp on the elementary aspects of conscientiousness and respect. 

I understand that a rake is just a rake, but if I was to borrow another’s rake, and I damaged one of its rake teeth, I wouldn’t say, “It’s just a rake. Just favor the left side from now on.” I would consider such a statement an atrocious violation of my personal constitution that I wouldn’t be able to look the owner in the eye ever again, and I don’t understand how other grown adults, with presumed mentors teaching them about guiding principles, can violate them and absolve themselves of any guilt by commenting on how inconsequential the item in question is. It’s not your product, I say, and you have no standing in this arena. 

I have tried to understand this matter in an objective manner, and I can report to you that these two friends do not engage in subterfuge. They might attempt to excuse their guilt away, but I do not believe they do so to insult me, or minimize my valuables. I think they genuinely believe that my tape and my brush were disposable items that would eventually be lost, broken, or in some way ruined. The fact that it happened while in their possession was simply the laws of chance occurring in that brief window of time. In the case of my friend who lost the Queen’s Greatest Hits tape, he wanted me to buy the idea that because I owned the product for ten years, it was bound to be lost sooner or later whether I loaned it to him or not. He didn’t say those words, but that was the gist of his reaction to my righteous anger.   

I could go into further details on this matter to break it down into the minutiae involved in such an agreement, but I consider them so fundamental that neither party involved should be required to undergo the near-militaristic training I received, in this field, to understand its fundamental role in a civilized society. Expressing such concerns in the hope of changing their mind, or opening it to the possibility that they should reconsider how valuable these products are to me, and that they should value them accordingly, is an exercise in futility.

My friends’ defense was that they did not intend to lose, ruin, and destroy my products, and they did not seek to insult me by placing so little value on my possessions. They were just careless people who hadn’t been taught the same principles I was. In the case of my hairbrush friend, he was also an unconscious fiddler. He fiddled with everything he could get his hands on, and that fiddling often led to an unconscious destruction of everything he didn’t lose. I knew my friend’s habits, and I knew that the subtext of his condition involved a mother replacing everything he lost or destroyed. 

My friend and I came from different sides of the track in this regard, for if I fiddled with a hairbrush in a manner that led to its destruction, and/or lost it, I might have to create a ten point dissertation describing my careless act, and why a young man, my age, might need a hairbrush in this day and age, before my father or grandfather regretfully parted ways with the money I might need to complete such a transaction at Walgreen’s. My friend would just have to say, “Mom, I need a new hairbrush.” Say what you want about the binary constraints my father and grandfather placed on me, but their stubborn, frugal ways led me to learn their lessons on value long before I was able to purchase products on my own.  

If my friend and his mother valued their products in ways I could not see, they had no regard for the products of others. I knew if I loaned one of my products to my friend, and he destroyed it, it would take nothing short of a civil case to get his mother to replace it. I knew that if he destroyed my hairbrush, I would have to work another half hour to buy another one, and I would have to budget accordingly. He didn’t understand any of this, because he didn’t have to, and he considered my desire to have my hairbrush returned to him in the condition he received it quaint and quirky.

I spent most of my teen years with this friend, and I watched him blow through money like a high stakes Vegas gambler. He had no regard for the various components of power money wielded. He spared no expense when it came to having a good time. He didn’t make discerning choices with money in the manner one might to make his good times last as long as possible, but, again, he didn’t have to. I was the tightwad who made discerning choices. I decided, for example, not to throw a softball at the target to win my girlfriend a prize at a fair, because I knew I would not hit the target. I also knew that when I didn’t hit it, I would play the stupid game until I did to prove to everyone involved that I could. The idea that attempting to win a girlfriend a prize at the fair is a time-honored staple of a relationship was not lost on me, and I knew she wouldn’t hold it against me if I didn’t win one, but my competitive instincts were so powerful that they would override good sense, and I would end up blowing through whatever money I did have to win her a prize of minuscule value.  

At various points in my life, I was a kid with money, making decisions on how to spend it. I was also the kid without money, at various other points in my life, who lost the power to decide. I knew that the kid with money had a lot more power and prestige than the kid who didn’t. I decided against playing the stupid softball game, enduring the abuse for doing so to spend my limited resources on tickets for her to ride the rides at the fair with me, and I bought food for her too. I thought the fun we ended up having proved that I made wise, thoughtful choices with my money, but the only thing they remembered from that weekend was my refusal to play the stupid softball game.

In the course of that night at the festival, my hairbrush friend played every stupid game the fair offered, and he won his girlfriend prizes, and he ran out of money. He called his mom to inform her of this, and he chastised her for her lack of foresight. “I told you that $20.00 wouldn’t be enough,” he said. Not only did my friend’s mom avoid commenting on my friend’s irresponsible spending habits, she accepted her role in the incident by not showing enough foresight to give him more than $20.00, and she felt guilty about it. The heated exchange that followed also involved my friend accusing his mother of making him look foolish in front of us, his friends, and his girlfriend. This exchange was so foreign to my experience that the only reaction I could find was laughter. 

The natural arc of such a piece should lead the reader to a laundry list of how the antagonist’s lack of principles led to his eventual downfall, and how the author wallowed in the glory of that man’s eventual realization. This is not one of those stories. My grandfather, my father, and I thought my friend’s story would not end well. We thought he would eventually learn the responsibilities inherent in responsible spending. “One way or another he will learn,” they told me. “Every man does in his own ways and on his own time.” My friend did go broke numerous times in his adult life. After an employer fired him, he filed for unemployment, then disability, and then welfare. He said, “I don’t agree with the idea of government assistance, in general, but I can tell you they saved my tailbone.” After discovering a loophole in the bankruptcy laws, he found a way to file for bankruptcy twice. When he needed a loan from a bank, he knew his credit rating was such that they would turn him down, so he and his wife filed for it under his wife’s name. I thought our principles would reveal our relative characteristics over time, but they didn’t. The reader might suggest that falling to a point where he had to use such resources was a punishment in and of itself, but my friend had excuses all lined up for anyone who might condemn him for such actions. As far as any shame or remorse he might have felt, I can tell you that he took some pride in figuring out how to manipulate bankruptcy laws, and all of the other systems that provided him more money.

“So, why were you friends with this guy?” some people have asked. My first inclination is to say, he and I shared a set of values. We talked values all the time, in all the indirect ways friends do. He and I talked on the same page so often that we became brothers. Yet, when I try to come up with a defense for why I decided to befriend him, the words “good friend” don’t come to mind. I want to say that, “For all his faults, he was a good friend,” but he wasn’t a good friend. He wasn’t always there for me. He wasn’t loyal or trustworthy. He wasn’t a good husband. His kid didn’t turn out too well, from my limited experience around the young man, and his parents ended up falling prey to some news worthy charges. All I can say, in defense of our friendship is that he and I became brothers in the formative years of my life, and we have been brothers ever since. Anyone who has a brother understands that he can be 180 degrees different from us, and that might confound us considering that the two of us were born and raised in the same way, but we’re still brothers. We realize that shortly after we disagree, and after we fight and hate each other in the short term, the two of us can sit down together to strengthen the unbreakable, inexplicable bond between us. 

The search for any lessons my friend may have learned require a deep, philosophical dive on my part, and it has something to do with my friend never learning the basic definition of value. The objects involved in this discussion are of relative minuscule value, but if we do not value the relatively meaningless articles and aspects of life, it ends up forming an underlying layer of definition of our character that surfaces throughout our life. 

Can the desolate feelings of desperation teach us anything about ourselves? What happens to us after we’re backed into a corner? Some may joke that the desperation we experience in such situations are relative, and that the problems listed here are first-world problems, but they still require proactive and reactive solutions that we learn over time to define our character, unless someone steps in and helps us avoid ever having to endure them.

“She always believed in me,” my hairbrush friend said at his mother’s funeral. “Even when she probably shouldn’t have, she always had my back.” I considered that sentiment a touching testimonial to his mother in the moment, and in my experiences with the two of them, it was 100% true. As a person who spent most of my maturation without a mother, I envied her unconditional loyalty to him, but that jealousy blinded me to the idea that although unconditional loyalty can be a beautiful thing to watch, it doesn’t always serve the recipient well. 

You Don’t Bring me Flowers Anymore!

“You’ll make it work in the end,” an adult baby said with a hand on his wife’s shoulder, as she pined over their financial affairs, “you always do.”

The wife recognized the compliment for what it was, but the full import of the gesture failed to register with her at the time. She had no idea, for example, that her husband would not be participating in the sacrifices required to “make it work out in the end,” unless she was adamant, and she could be adamant. Even when she was adamant and detailed with her instruction, however, he would only alter his lifestyle for as long as he deemed necessary to get over what she declared a dire financial state.

The adult baby intended the compliment to serve as a statement of appreciation for his wife’s abilities, and he wanted her to know he would stand by her, as long her findings didn’t affect his preferred lifestyle in the long term. Thus far, she did have an excellent record when it came to making their lives work, and he wanted her to know that he recognized that. Her record of achievements in this regard did not begin and end with finances however. The family made sacrifices to offset his irresponsible behavior, and she informed him of the sacrifices they needed to make to offset his actions. He saw the effort she put forth, and he was aware of the idea that his family needed to sacrifice, but he viewed it from third-party perspective.

Adult babies are like small children playing with toys in the living room. Neither party expects others to clean up after them. They simply don’t put that much thought into it. If no one instructs them to pick up their mess and no one enforces the practice to the point of making it the child’s habit, the idea of cleaning up doesn’t enter their purview. They play as much as they want to play, then, without any effort or sacrifice on their part, the area is clean. They won’t even notice that the area is clean, when they return to it, it just is. It always is.

Adult babies hear about financial problems, but like those mysteriously disappearing toys on the floor, they hear about those financial pile-ups so often that the adamant tirades go in one ear and out the other. They know everyone in the family must make sacrifices, and they even echo the wife’s sentiment to the children, but they know that these temporary blips have a way of working themselves out.

The wife may have to work some overtime or even, take on a third job to keep food on the table, but no one ever starves. He might not have much involvement in the lives of his children, but they receive the attention they need. All they know is that the home is always sound, so sound that he can eat his tortilla chips and watch his shows in peace. The little woman may harp, and she might nag a little, but she gets over it once she’s had her say. She always does, and to keep a happy home, he knows that he has to let her have her say.

If he wants to continue doing what he wants to do, he will not only have to endure those occasional rants, he will respond with a line that suggests that the woman is always right. A nice “Yes dear!” sprinkled into those conversations makes the clocks run on time, balances the books, and allows him to live the life he’s always wanted.

The adult baby has no powers of reflection. His woman might be adamant that he look around on occasion, but she’s not adamant very often. If she was adamant more often, he probably wouldn’t be an adult baby, for the adult baby species would be on the endangered list were it not for its enablers.

 “I used to love getting flowers,” a woman named Sheila confessed, “until I found out how much I was going to have to pay for them.”

Sheila’s ex-husband, Craig, used to bring Sheila flowers. He bought flowers for her when they dated, and he continued to buy her flowers long after they tied the knot. Craig loved Sheila, and he didn’t want to be just another man who brought a few roses home to the woman he loved. He bought flowers. The rooms of flowers he bought and choreographed made cinematic statements of how much one man can love a woman, and he did so regardless of the effect it had on their financial statements.

“How can you put a price on love?” Craig would ask when she interrogated him.

As far as finances were concerned, Craig would be the first to tell you that he knew little to nothing. “The wife takes care of all that,” Craig said on one occasion, “and she can be a real drill sergeant. That woman can drain the romantic symbolism out of flowers and turn them into economic principles. She can be so anal-retentive, like that character on the show Friends. Monica Geller. That’s what we call her,” he added with a laugh.

“Money is her big topic,” Craig said when he talked about how she was always harping on him.

As is often the case when one person complains about another, Craig refrained from offering any details of Sheila’s argument, for those details might have revealed the substance of her argument. Craig did not say anything about how Sheila complained about his spending habits. He didn’t acknowledge her complaint that he signed up for multiple credit cards without telling her. He also would not repeat Sheila’s line, “You spend money like a child learning the power of money for the first time, and what’s worse is you’ve done so for so long that it’s obvious that you are incapable of gauging the consequences of your actions.”

I made the money she complained so much about,” Craig said to conclude his rant. “And I’m a grown-ass man who worked as hard as any man I know. I don’t know who she thought she was, always trying to tell me how to live?”

As with most adult babies, Craig lived by his own set of rules and standards. As far as he was concerned, no one –not even his beloved wife– was going to tell him how to spend the money he earned. He confessed that he might have had some problems with impulse control, “But hell who doesn’t?” he asked. Spending money and purchasing things gave Craig a sense of identity he couldn’t explain. He confessed that purchasing products gave him a rush.

“You’re selfish,” Sheila said the day she found evidence of yet another one of Craig’s out of control spending sprees, evidence he usually did a better job of concealing. “You’re the most selfish person I’ve ever met.”

“Only to you guys,” Sheila quoted Craig replying to that accusation. Craig was referring to Sheila and their two daughters. Craig apparently said this without reflection, and to remind her that he was not a bad guy. “People love me,” he added, assessing his character via perceived public opinion. “While I might seem a little self-involved when it comes to you three, I’m not a bad guy. I know better. I help people Sheila. Your opinion doesn’t extend beyond these four walls, so don’t try to tell me that you know who I am.”

We all say things we regret in the heat of the moment, but sometimes, our words define and expose us. The things we say reveal what we believe our image is, what we believe others see in us or what they should see. As far as we’re concerned, those aren’t lies, fabrications, or exaggerations. We might step on a landmine on occasion that exposes our failure to mature in all the ways our peers have, but, hell, everyone has made missteps.

While not all adult babies are male, the majority of the demographic consists of over-nurtured, 40-something males who are unable or unwilling, to shake free of the leash of the people who control them. Women have reminded them of the need to share, that they need to eat their peas and clean up their messes, but at some point, the adult baby became fed up with it. Women have set their clocks, raised their children, and handled the more inconsequential matters for most of their lives, while they did what was necessary to provide. Even though their wives have had to make sacrifices and they’ve done whatever was necessary to supplement the family income, the adult babies argue, “I’m the one who’s been clocking in and out for decades, without complaint, and now you’re asking me to do more? Where does it all end?”

“I’m not asking you to do more,” the wife counters, “I’m asking you to do less. I’m asking you to stop doing what you’re doing. You’re making my job impossible.”

“Women have it so good,” the adult baby says. “They get to sit home and watch their shows, while the man goes to work and caters to the whims of a boss. Whatever happened to the idea that the man is the king of the castle?”

If the man wants a new motorized vehicle that only travels on water, he gets it, even if he lives in a land-locked state that requires the vessel to sit in a high-priced storage unit 364 days a year. If the man wants a leaf blower that has a high-powered engine, when his is working just fine, he gets it, and if the man wants the electronic gadget or device, that one of his friends has, he gets it. The woman is in charge of the accounting, and she attempts to balance the books in the wake of his attempts to indulge his desires. “I don’t know how she does it,” the adult baby says if his friends ask how he can afford such luxuries, “but she makes it work.”

Experts might have informed Craig that his current predicament resulted from a cycle of dependency, but Craig probably would’ve dismissed that as daytime talk show gibberish. He was unaware of his role in the matter, and he was naïve to the fact that as soon as the first eighteen years of his cycle of dependency ended, he married a woman, straight out of college, who reminded of his mother. He was not cognizant of the fact that the responsibility for his welfare transferred from a mother who coddled him to the wife tasked with doing the same.

Craig was crazy in college. He “got drunk” in a manner that suggested he was trying to make up for the time he spent acquiescing to his beloved mother’s request that he act more responsible. He also engaged in a number of sexual liaisons, until he met the good woman that could cook like his good old ma’. Craig never lived alone. He didn’t encounter the pratfalls of being irresponsible in those years, and he never learned the level of freedom that allows one to succeed and fail. Craig was thus deprived the lessons that young people learn during these years and carry with them throughout life.

Even when we marry, buy a house, and have kids, there is that constant need to relive the crazy, college years when we were old enough to know the complexities inherent in adulthood, but young enough to shrug off the consequences of ignoring them. Back then, we thought we were equipped and entitled to show all those who mattered that we were no longer children,  back when we were young enough to shrug off the ramifications that come with continuing to live like them. In our adult years, we flexed the muscles of independent living in college, all while our parents footed the bills. We were in a zone toddling between adulthood and childhood that allowed us the freedom to form an identity without any concerns for the responsibilities that might help better form it.

Few, however, have the resources to make those crazy college year last well into adulthood, and the lack thereof requires most to make choices no one wants to make. We work hard to put ourselves in a comfortable position in life. We kowtow to bosses, and we hold our tongue when our peers have said things with which we disagree. We try to build an empire that will allow us to do most of what we want, but some others who just do it. That’s the gist of their answers to the curious who question how they’re able to afford such luxuries on their salary, with two kids, “Like Nike says, you just do it.”

Most full-fledged adults know the despair that results from crushing debt, and they learn to fight off the impulses and temptation that could drive them to shut-offs, red box “past-due” notices, and shameful credit ratings. We’ve all made our share of mistakes. We’ve all been broke at one time in our lives, and we all know the horrible feeling of not having as much money as someone else, but we’ve all come to terms with bitter reality that the good times of living like a child ends. For some of us, this is a long, painful process. Others might never have to face these inevitable truths because others make it all work out for them.

The women in the lives of the adult baby learn to do everything they can to avoid leaving them to their own devices. As a result, the babies don’t experience embarrassment, aren’t required to deal with inadequacies, and ever fail. They are good boys and good sons that become good and honest men, but they are the half of those relationships rarely held to account for their failings.

“I never spent us into unmanageable debt,” Craig said. It was his best defense, for in those moments when the family had to sacrifice Craig decided to control his spending, in the short-term. He refrained from purchasing big, luxurious items when the family budget hovered near ground zero. He even felt some guilt for the role he may have played in the familial sacrifices, albeit only in the short term. To rectify whatever damage he may have caused, Craig bought his wife flowers, but he didn’t just buy her flowers. He made his apologies cinematic.

“You can’t buy me flowers anymore!” Sheila shrieked, “We’re broke!” Sheila would later say she felt bad about the times she yelled at him like that, because she knew he meant well. She said he bought her flowers, because she used to love flowers. “They used to be one of my guilty pleasures,” she said, “until I realized how much I was going to have to pay for them.”

In the wake of their divorce, Craig entered the house to collect those prized belongings of his not listed in the decree. Craig also considered this his opportunity to tell us his side of the story. He answered all of the questions posed, as listed above, and he pointed out the days when he acted “all growed up” to counter Sheila’s claims. Craig also informed us of all the purchases he didn’t make, because he knew the family couldn’t afford it to counter Sheila’s claim that he was such a spendaholic.

We couldn’t help but wonder if the purchases he didn’t make, and the moments Craig recounted for us to counter Sheila’s claims, were all the more remarkable in Craig’s memory because of their rarity.

We reminded Craig of one of his favorite sayings, “Money is power! Money is freedom!”

“Was I saint in our marriage?” Craig asked. “I was not, but I was not an idiot. We always found a way to made it work. Somehow or another, she always made it work in the end.” We couldn’t help but avoid thinking he slipped up in the second sentence saying she as opposed to we in the second sentence, as he slipped a final bouquet of dead roses into a living room now full of dead roses to complete what he considered a final cinematic statement to his ex-wife.