$40K Ice Cream

After a delightful meal yesterday with the dear friend who introduced us, my fiancée and I engaged in a major fight during the car ride. It easily ranked in our top five most intense. She had to take a long walk when we got home, and she hates walking. Then we continued arguing to exhaustion without much resolution.

We are still scheduled to be married, but this was one of those piercing issues that will always cause tension. I really shouldn’t be blogging about it, but heck, I’m already not getting laid for the foreseeable future.

Let’s start with Steve Jobs. Belying his manic obsession with design and creativity, Jobs embraced a selective form of asceticism. He would go through extreme phases of diet restriction and keep the interior of his mansion barren. At least part of the idea is that when you establish a baseline of minimalism, indulging in pleasurable things becomes that much more pleasurable.

I am kind of like Steve Jobs without the vision, capital and drive. I am a very difficult person to date because of a mild strain of narcissism and perpetual need to pick apart the people closest to me — including myself — to make us better.

One of my favorite things about me is my baseline of contentment. I don’t need much, and I don’t ask for much. Some of my happiest days were during my first job out of college, making $13 an hour while living in an apartment in a sleepy desert town called Victorville. I had no furniture, friends, TV, internet or prospects to have sex. I bought a standing lamp and purple seat cushion at Wal-Mart and tossed them in the corner by the window. I distinctly remember reading The Da Vinci Code underneath that lamp, sprawled on that cushion, doing push-ups between chapters, and feeling truly fulfilled.

There is a powerful wealth in desiring simplicity and not wanting much. How rich you are in life is not how much money you make. It’s not family or societal impact or anything cheesy like that, either. It’s how much money you make relative to what you want, that is, the ratio of haves to wants.

Any middle school student or Asian elementary school student can tell you that to make a fraction bigger, you can increase the top number or decrease the bottom number. In my case, the bottom number — the cost of the things I want — is so small that I feel so rich. All I really want out of my day is a grocery store, gym and public library. We went to Sprouts and Wal-Mart consecutively on Saturday, and I swear I was half-erect walking through those shiny automatic doors.

This is who I am, and I think it’s awesome. I don’t need to overextend my finances, time and energy chasing trivial or material things to stimulate my senses for a fleeting gratification. I can be much happier eating chicken and broccoli purchased on sale than going out to any restaurant except maybe In-N-Out. I wish I could pass this on like a gene to my children because what a peaceful gift it is, to take satisfaction in simple living.

This is my identity, and it’s important to me. It’s worth fighting for in this union. I am struggling mightily with the notion and perhaps inevitable reality that marriage is about giving up who you were before. It hurts.

I want to hang on to that guy in Victorville, but it’s hard. Because to put it gently, women want so much. They might lie to themselves and say they don’t, but really they just don’t connect the dots and recognize how much they want and the cumulative burden it imposes on guys with different utility curves.

Women are full of wants every day, irrespective of finances, time and energy. Present a female with a list of options, and she effortlessly will choose some combination of the most expensive, difficult or illogical.

Take for example our engagement pictures, which overall were the worst optional activity of my life. Out of all the places to set up a photo shoot, the Santa Monica Pier had to be it. For those unfamiliar, this is a daily tourist attraction with some of the worst foot and vehicle traffic in L.A. I got an idea, why don’t we do our pictures in the middle of Times Square? Or if the lighting isn’t ideal, how about the Vatican?

Of course the shoot coincided with the L.A. marathon and a finish line conveniently located right there on Ocean Avenue. The best thing about being gridlocked for 5 miles was that we only needed to find a parking spot in the very epicenter of it. That way we could set up home base for our multiple outfit changes, two bicycles, and a $200 French horn shipped from China which was an ordeal in and of itself.

Ultimately we couldn’t even make it through the traffic. Already late for our $700, 2-hour shoot, we valeted at a hotel probably too far away. I nonetheless unloaded the trunk while trying not to sweat in a suit and tie, only to ask for the car back 30 seconds after the attendant drove off because the photographer on the phone told us to give up on the logistical nightmare. She was compassionate enough to sense our panic and let us come back and try again the next day. This time it only took us 100 minutes to make it through traffic and stake out an overflowing parking lot for a spot.

I am so glad engagement pictures are over. My fiancée gets upset when I tell her I am zero-percent excited to see how they turn out. I really shouldn’t be so negative about them. Because the resentment might fester and fracture our relationship, and then I might have to take engagement pictures again some day.

You think I’m a monster, but just wait to hear what triggered the fight in the car yesterday. It was ice cream. She just wanted ice cream.

Listen, I acknowledge life is short and if you want ice cream, you should have ice cream. But sometimes the smallest of nuisances sets off the biggest of philosophical differences. This was the third time in a week that we had to make a traffic-heavy detour for her latest fancy — lavender ice cream at some shop with no parking on Main Street. We were moving yards per minute through Santa Monica, and my frustration compiled with each jammed intersection.

Can’t you just… not want ice cream this time? Or anytime we’re heading out during daylight hours, like that morning, can’t you just… not want to stop at Starbucks? What is it with white girls and Starbucks? Can’t you just drink some water out of the fountain and enjoy… being?

No one should feel guilty for wanting ice cream. It’s not her fault I am this way, but it’s not mine either. I have an austere baseline by First World standards, and I embrace the freedom of not wanting things. I care about exercise, learning and financial responsibility.

Because of that, because I work hard and want less, I have built up something foreign to certain people with the reciprocal ratio. Savings. No less than $40,000 of it will go toward this wedding. I am sorry if that is rude to share, but don’t worry, it won’t be my money anymore soon enough.

And therein lies the fury on both sides. She doesn’t want me to resent her for spending this money. I won’t, but only if she appreciates it. And by appreciate, I don’t mean gratitude. I mean appreciating it enough to allow me to be annoyed every five or six Starbucks trips without accusations of being a tyrant who doesn’t care about what she wants.

I should get a grace period to cling to some of my identity before marriage and kids crumple it into a ball and stomp on it along with my other two. For a guy who never wanted much for himself, I think $40K should buy the right to some acerbic commentary. Or at least cover an ice cream cake for the wedding so we can save an extra trip.



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