June 13, 2000
Give Me Some Credit


"So what are you going to do?" David asked me yesterday. "Just walk around, looking at it all night?"

I nodded happily.

"I think it's beautiful," I sighed. And I rubbed  another microscopic smudge off the little VISA symbol in the bottom right-hand corner.

At age forty-two, I am the proud (and, I'll admit, ever-so-slightly astonished) owner of my very first credit card.


(Flashback to 1997: Secra sadly rips up another snotty rejection letter from another snotty credit rejection center, while the Oregon Boyfiend dourly informs her that "The only way YOU are ever going to have a credit card is if you get married again." And then he goes back to measuring his wheatgrass.)

My shiny new credit card landed in yesterday's mail ... along with a magazine, a couple of bills, my monthly bank statement (no bounced checks in over a year!) and my suitable-for-framing membership certificate to The National Association of Executive Secretaries and Administrative Assistants.  I applied for the card in April ... was approved shortly afterward, for an unsecured VISA with a teeny-tiny credit limit ... and have been watching the mailbox like a kid waiting for her magic decoder ring, ever since.

For a long time last night I just sat there, holding it in my hand. Looking at it. Tracing the raised letters of my name. Polishing the shiny little eagle emblem.

Feeling the power.

When we went to bed, I placed the card on the headboard above us. I fell asleep looking at it.

David watched all of this with amused affection.

As personal achievement goes, he knows that getting this credit card may not rate up there with ... oh, say ... giving birth to three exceptionally fabulous Tots (one of whom won a HUGELY IMPORTANT AWARD at school today, btw). It might not rate with the big promotion from Front Desk to Executive Ass last year. (Or with sticking it out in the Exec Ass position for more than a year, in spite of what I'm sure we will all agree are pretty overwhelming obstacles.) It might not be as important an accomplishment as being consistent about my child support payments, or about my website, or about taking my St. John's Wort, or maintaining my sobriety.

But it's an achievement, nonetheless.

He knows, also, that this isn't strictly about money. I'm not going to run right out with my bright shiny new credit card and buy an IBM Thinkpad, a case of Tobler Chocolate Oranges and those gold hoop earrings I saw in the window of the Alameda Silver Sword Jewelers.

It's more about growing up, finally. David knows that.

And he knows  --  more than anyone else on the planet, probably, besides my mom  --  how tough (and often discouraging, and occasionally heartbreaking) the struggle has been to get to this point: the point where I can look in a mirror and not see a dumb delusional fortysomething-year-old woman with a toxic hangover and -$35.68 in her checking account.

He's proud of me. Almost as proud, I suspect, as I am of myself.

I'm not going to launch into a long predictable schpiel, here, all about all the years I spent trapped in a dysfunctional marriage, where money was a constant hand-to-mouth affair (and that "hand" was "constantly" holding a bottle of beer) ...

... nor about how I walked out of that marriage, after sixteen years, with ruined credit and ruined self-esteem (and zero idea how to repair either one) ...

... nor about how a lifetime of bad choices, bad planning and bad chablis left me unprepared to scrape together four quarters and a nickel for BUS FARE, let alone balance a checkbook/pay my bills on time/be approved for a credit card ...

... nor about how it was only when I sobered up and took responsibility for my life and my health and my finances that I could look more than a day or two into the future and NOT run screaming in horror at what I saw waiting for me there.

I'll spare you the schpiel. You've heard it all before, anyway. I'm a broken record when it comes to all the ways that sober feels better than not-sober.

Instead, I'll just say that once again David is right: this sobriety stuff does not completely suck.

And neither does growing up.

one year ago yesterday

throw a rock