By E.J. Gordon
They called it Operation 401(k). The strategy was to find a woman to marry who happened to come from a lot of money. The objective: Get Set Up For Life.
The idea of marrying a woman who had a rich family was very attractive. Not only could it mean free vacations, summer camp supplements, and nice cash bonuses during the holidays and at birthdays, but also it could mean that a man might be able to work less … a lot less. If his in-laws gave his wife a credit card, it would mean less clothes to pay for. If they gave them a deposit for their first house, it would mean a lower mortgage. And if the first two were true, there’s a good chance college would even get paid for by the super-generous in-laws. Cha-ching!
So when my husband (pre-Me) and his friends hatched this idea, they thought they were geniuses. When he met me, because of where I’m from, my husband thought he was on the verge of completing Operation 401(k). He was sorely mistaken, as I’m just from a regular family. “Trust me,” I told him, “I might not have a trust or loaded parents, but you are better off.” For years we’d playfully go back and forth on this issue.
He would facetiously lament that he didn’t marry well, and I would always raise an eyebrow and tell him he had no idea how LUCKY he was that I wasn’t rich.
And when my husband bought us our first house with no help from my regular parents, I was happy. I didn’t care that it didn’t have underground sprinklers and or a master bath. And when he took me on vacation, and we stayed in a nice hotel, I was happy. I didn’t care that it didn’t have a bathtub with jets or white fluffy robes with matching slippers. And when he bought me my first car, I was so happy to have a new mini-van, I didn’t care that it wasn’t the “touring” level and that it didn’t have a built-in DVD player.
And yet he still lamented, “Sorry we can’t put an addition on the house. It’s too bad you didn’t come with a big dowry, like a seat on the Board of Trade.”
In the meantime, a few of his friends actually succeeded at Operation 401(k).
First there was Bill. Bill’s wife’s father owned a very profitable company, and Bill tossed away his dead-end career and happily went to work for her Dad. He was thrilled to go to the family’s second house in Florida. He quite enjoyed the bigger and bigger houses they kept buying.
He gleefully accepted all the new clothes HER parents bought HIS kids every year and the fun vacations: He got Set Up For Life.
Then there was Joe. Joe never had much luck finding a decent job, but when it came to the Wife Department, boy did he score. She was smart, stylish, funny, and her family was loaded and liked to share. Joe would walk around with a huge smile on his face. He supposedly worked at a company he created, but one could find him at the gym very early in the afternoons, working out, playing basketball, taking a steam. He enjoyed having tons of time with his kids, and he just loved the Arizona family home, as well. Joe’s friends would all whisper, “He did good! He got it right! The guy barely even works!” The guy was Set Up For Life.
And finally there was Gary. Gary met a girl whose parents had “Fuck You Money” — as my husband liked to call it. It meant they could say, “Fuck you” to anyone, and it didn’t matter because they could buy and sell whatever person they ran into. And the daughter was cool as hell — laid-back, fun, adorable. Gary’s friends cheered him on. When they started dating, Gary moved right into her condo. Gary drove her fancy car. Gary was all set to complete Operation 401(k): this girl was READY to get married.
But Gary was the first to notice the downside of the Operation. He had been a trader, and when the going was good, it was really good, but he’d had a few bad months. His potential wife didn’t understand what was happening. She said to him, “I don’t get it. You’re almost 30. How are you NOT making $300,000 a year?”
And then he realized something: In her eyes, he would never be good enough. He could never meet her expectations.
And he could never please her either, because she had already been there, done that. She’d sat in the first row of “Rent” with expensive, scalped seats. She’d sat court-side at the Bulls’ games. She’d flown first-class to Hawaii. He couldn’t compete with or surpass her father’s success. So he bailed.
My husband, at the time, had thought Gary was crazy passing up lifelong luxury.
Years went by, and then one day my husband came home and relented. “I think you might be right. Operation 401(k) was a stupid idea. Gary was right NOT to marry that babe with all the money.”
“These friends of mine whose fathers-in-law give them everything have no say in their lives.”
“Look at Bill,” he continued. “Every time I ask him to hang out, he has to get clearance from the tower. He needs to run it by his wife, and if she has plans, there is no compromise; he’s not allowed out. She has all the power in that relationship. She’s the boss because he works for her Dad and lives in a house paid for by primarily her family, so she runs the show. She can do whatever she wants, but he needs permission. And look at Joe — he’s been miserable for years because his wife’s Dad controls their whole lives. He’s too afraid if he leaves her, he won’t be allowed time with the kids because of her Dad. It’s like, these rich girls get married because they want kids, and then once they have them, the magic wears off the husband, and she gets everything she wants from her Dad, and he’s just some chump living in her house by her rules.”
And, of course, that’s all I ever needed to hear, that maybe the hand-me-down wearing, Four-Points Sheridan staying, public pool attending, mini-van driving, Middle-Class Mama is the Real Catch.
And so to all you ladies Out There who may be thinking: “Hmm, these women might be me” … If you want a man who is a happy father to your children, a partner and best friend to you as you grow old, then throw the guy a bone. Let him feel like he can impress you. Let him feel in charge sometimes. Try to remember why YOU picked him, and let him feel like a man and not your eldest son. We might joke about how he might have scored in the Finance Department by marrying you, but that’s not why he married you, just like my husband scored in the Boobs Department, but that’s not why he married me.
Remember: You’re going to grow old with your husband, not your father. And ’til death do you part is a long, long time.
Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: E.J. Gordon is a freelance writer, a regular contributor to GIRLillaWarfare, and “Sexpert”. Have any questions or topics that you would like her to address? Remember: No subject is taboo, and Anonymity is accepted. Contact E.J. at: EJGordon529@gmail.com.