Seventeen years ago today, my husband and I went on our first date — out to dinner and to a drive-in movie.
Sixteen years ago today, we were married.
Something like fifteen years ago today, then, when he moved in with me, I was officially Not Poor Anymore.
My husband’s income was nearly four times what mine was. Which wasn’t saying a whole lot, really. I was very poor. But, still. Just like that, my poverty years were over.
It took years after we were married for me to stop making a holiday out of bill-paying day.
Seriously, I’d make a special dinner. I’d make a spreadsheet. I’d put on lipstick.
Which, you know, puts me in easy for me to say realm, right. I’m not going to sit here and tell you to get married so that you’re not poor anymore. That would be weird.
But — it does make me think.
I was poor before I got married, but I was less poor than I could have been, because my best friend and I looked out for each other. We combined our resources.
If we had combined them even more, the way my husband and I did when we moved in together before we were married, it would have been a game changer for both of us.
My BFF and I met just as my first marriage was falling apart. I honestly don’t think I would have survived without her. That’s the honest truth. She saved me.
We haven’t lived in the same city for ten years, but she is my person and she will be for the rest of my life. Every time I talk to her, it’s like no time has passed.
In those years, we were a family. We still are.
But back then, we helped each other.
We buffered each other from the edge. We pooled resources. We gave our kids a desperately needed second adult to count on.
It never occurred to us at the time, but we could have combined our households. We could have had one power bill, one phone bill, one rent. One car, one grocery order.
I’m not sure why single mothers don’t combine forces more often. She and I made the years when our kids were small safer and more stable. I wonder what it would have looked like to take that futher.
My BFF is part of my family.
If we’d been living together, single mothers with a combined household, it wouldn’t have had to change that when I got married. She remained a single mother — her youngest daughter graduated from high school a couple of years ago.
Maybe it’s weird. Definitely, it’s unconventional. But I’d be happy to live with my best friend. In fact, I’ve been trying to get her to move in with us for years. I think now that her kids are grown, some day I’ll finally talk her into it.
I have this vision of the two of us as little old ladies, tearing it up.
I wish it had occurred to me twenty-two years ago, though. Someone should make some kind of official best-friend, single-mom, co-parenting arrangement.
What if it looked like this?
A couple of women join forces.
They pool their resources so that instead of two crappy little apartments, they can afford one nicer place in a safer neighborhood, with better schools.
Instead of each mom doing every single chore, every job, cooking every meal — they take turns. If one mom really loves to cook, she takes that job. If none of them love it, neither of them has to do it every night.
(I mean, probably no one loves cleaning toilets, right? So how nice that no one will have to clean them every single time.)
They share expenses — maybe go in on a family car, for instance. Each pay into insurance and gas and repairs. Maybe they won’t need to pay for as much day care, if they can take turns taking care of each other’s children.
They make shit work, the same way any family does. Maybe even better, because some of the emotional stuff isn’t mixed in there.
And if a partner comes along? They get added to the mix. The family expands. Why not? Blended families happen all the time. I live in one right now. My husband’s parents live with us. We have a friend who lives with us.
It wouldn’t have been such a stretch.