About a week ago, I was having lunch with a friend when we got to talking about finances. I mean, every so often it happens in real life, right? It actually started with her making an off-hand remark about her credit card debt. She was talking about a recent, large purchase she’d made and something like, “I mean what’s the big deal about buying one more thing I can’t afford? I gave up paying the full balance on my credit cards a long time ago!”
If someone had made a comment like that to me a year or two ago, I would have choked on my soup. Credit card debt not being a big deal? Are you kidding me? But in the past year or so I’ve definitely become more relaxed about other peoples’ finances. If other people have credit card debt or no savings or don’t know what a Roth IRA is, I’m no longer shocked and appalled. I accept that most people know nothing about money and don’t think less of them for it. That might sound enlightened, but mostly it was just exhausting me to be such a judge-y bitch, even if the bitchiness was contained in my own mind.
But anyway, back to the conversation with my friend. In response to her who-cares-about-carrying-a-credit-card-balance comment, I said something along the lines of, “yeah, credit cards can be a pain in the ass. I paid mine off a few years ago and it sucked!” To me this was a perfectly innocuous statement. Even though I’m way less of a judge-y bitch than I used to be, I’m not going to suggest to anyone (especially a friend) that being in credit card debt is ok or dismissible.
Apparently, though, this was not an innocuous response. Because she shot me The Look. You know The Look. It’s the I-can’t-believe-you-just-said-that! look. It passed across her face very briefly, but I saw it.
“So, you paid off your credit cards?” she asked.
“Yeah, a few years ago. It seriously sucked,” I said.
“So you have no credit card debt?” she retorted.
“No, not anymore,” I said.
[Insert long, awkward pause]
“Well, you’re not married. Just wait until you plan a wedding. You’ll be spending money left and right – it’ll add up fast. Those credit cards will come in handy then,” she finally responded, with a knowing nod that implied that my credit card debt freedom would be short-lived.
Now it was my turn to give The Look. Hopefully I wiped it off my face as quickly as she did, but I have to admit that I was stunned into silence for a beat. I understand that my friend was probably feeling a little bit bad, knowing that I’d been able to conquer a challenge that she was still struggling with. I get that. And looking back on it, maybe I should have just changed the subject immediately after she brought up the issue of credit card debt instead of telling her that my cards were paid off.
Still, though, I think that this response was incredibly rude. It actually stung a little; for one, she was trivializing my accomplishment. Paying off credit card debt is a pretty big deal, and I felt like she was qualifying it as “easy” for me because I’m single. Second, she had touched on a sensitive issue for me, my unmarried status. Even several months later, my break-up is still pretty raw. I try to hide it from my friends, so there’s no way she could have known this. But it was hurtful to be reminded that I’m no longer on the “marriage track,” regardless of how it came up.
I guess the moral of this story is that talking to this particular friend about money will have to be off-limits in the future. Everyone has friendships in which they need to steer clear of certain topics, but it makes me a little sad to have to watch my conversational step with a friend. I guess, as they say, people are funny about money. It’s a sensitive topic that dredges up lots of other issues (obviously). I’ll count this as a lesson learned.
Do you talk to your friends about money? Why or why not? Have you had any bad experiences when doing so?