Monday Mood: Being (Not) Generous

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

I grew up in a family, where spending money was considered a bad thing. My shoes were two sizes too small (yes, that hurt), my clothes didn’t fit, my school books were always at least one edition too old (I sometimes had a different text then the other studentes), I did not get the proper gym outfit.

I often felt embarrassed. I did get the things I really needed however: I got food, health care and I was allowed to join sport clubs. My parents praised themselves: this was great parenting. And though I am a blessed person, certainly compared to other people in the world of today, I felt emotionally bereft… There was money, it was just not spent on the kids, who were more or less a burden, and considered ‘ungrateful’ an inobedient.


I left home on my 18th birthday, and started working. I spent all my money on things I liked. I can’t say that was wise, but I liked it. I had fun, though my bank statements were printed in fiery red. Decades later, we wanted to buy a house. I started saving. If I had spent too much on ‘fancy things’, I would lie awake. I robbed myself of many pleasures. And damn, did it feel good! It brought back a very familiar feeling: the feeling on not deserving anything.

When we did buy a house, I could afford the downpayment, the contract, the taxes, the solicitor, the new furniture and even more. All from my savings. I was really proud. I started to spend money carefully, enjoying it a bit more (otherwise, my cupboards would not be filled with all the vintage stuff I love).

Still, the money thing haunts me. It symbolizes an emotional value, attention. I had dinner with a friend, who’s quite well off. She spoke about difficulties in her on-and-off relationship, her pastimes, about herself. She hardly asks me about the things I do. Why do we go out then? I have known her for nearly 30 years. She is a widow, and more or less single. I sometimes feel sorry for her. I also felt I was doing something nice for her.

Money makes the world go round…

As I did not have to drive, I drank wine. My friend had one glass of wine and softdrinks. When we left, my friend checked the price of the wine. She carefully added up the price of my wine, and said that I had to pay for the ‘extra glasses’ I drank. I was astonished: normally we just split the bill. I never count drinks. I suddenly realised I had enough of this. Enough of the one-sided conversations. I did not really want to spend time with her, she did not really want to spend money on me. I received what I gave. Be it money, be it attention – there is no real difference. Money is energy. We were both calculating our ‘expenses’.

I carefully tried to explain this to my friend, but to no avail. She was offended: I drank more, I HAD to pay for that. In the end, I just paid for the whole dinner. For me, it is not about money. We parted ways. I should have spoken about this a long time ago. I should have been more honest. To me, to her. We both deserved it.

This post is also available in: Nederlands (Dutch)

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