Death and taxes.

February 18, 2008

Well, okay, just the latter. (Warning, entitled whining ahead.) Today G and I did an online “draft” of our 2007 taxes and guess what? We owe. A LOT. Like, thousands upon thousands of dollars. You might think I am exaggerating, but trust me, dear reader, I am really not. 

What I have realized is that we should have taken the huge amount we owed last year (five grand, to be exact) a little more seriously. Naively, we figured then that it was some fluke, some inadvertent but still minor and easily fixable error on our part. I had mistakenly listed two allowances on my W-4, and both G and I had checked the withholding box for “married” status, instead of “married, but withhold at higher single rate.” So, having corrected these things, we figured, hey, next year won’t be as bad. Maybe we’ll owe a little bit, but we should owe way less than five grand.

…So, this year we owe almost 50% MORE than last year. Turns out–and if we’d consulted an accountant like we’d meant to do but never got around to doing we would have known this sooner–tax law is pretty much set up to penalize couples in which both husband and wife work and both husband and wife make equivalent salaries. That’s why they call it the “marriage penalty,” apparently. What pisses me off about this is how it punishes fiscal equity, and still sort of rewards partnerships in which one spouse, usually the husband, makes dramatically more than the other. (Way to keep kicking it old school, tax law!)

Basically, if one spouse in a marriage is a Wall Street power broker, or physician, or corporate exec making $100K plus, and one spouse is an elementary school teacher, waitress, secretary, or copyeditor making $25 or $30K, then the couple will face no major tax penalty. But if, as is the case with G and I, both spouses make good-but-not-astronomical money, if, in fact, the two spouses make nearly equivalent annual salaries–i.e. the wife is also a professional–then they are really going to get screwed.

Not only do we owe more tax married than we would as two single individuals filing separately, but the system is set up to underwithhold from both of our paychecks! Unless we each voluntarily ask the government to withhold a couple hundred extra dollars per paycheck, all year, we will end up owing big bucks every tax season.

That is, until we save up $50,000 to $60,000 for a down payment and buy some property in our chosen city (yeah right) or, possibly, have a baby (sigh). In spite of the fact that we are going to be drastically in hock to Uncle Sam starting right around April 15, we are still moving ahead with Project: Living, Breathing Tax Deduction. In fact, if we do a Clomid + IUI cycle starting mid-to-late March, I could be getting news of successfully being knocked up at the exact same moment that I am signing over my first born to the government to pay our tax bill! AWESOME.

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And complicated. I’m not sure it makes me look very good, either. It has a happy ending, though, I promise. (Oh, by the way, Flo abruptly showed her red face this morning, after absolutely zero advance spotting yesterday or last night. This seems to be the new, no-nonsense way that my periods are arriving–and departing–now that I’m 30 lbs thinner and exercising regularly. And if I ovulated when I think I did, I’m back to at least an 11 day luteal phase, if not 12. Which can’t be a bad thing, can it?)

Ok, so on to the actual story–

There is a guy, let’s call him R, that I knew through academic channels many years ago–perhaps the last time I saw him before catching up again recently was in 2002, right around the time I met and started dating G. Back then, R and I were friendly but not friends, had some mutual friends in common, but never spent much real time together, beyond a few intense, thoughtful conversations at conferences. I felt very drawn to him, but not exactly in a sexual way (although not exactly not, either), just something almost mysterious or cosmic, like I’d known him in another life or something. But we lost touch, and stopped running into each other, and I pretty much forgot about him for many years.

Enter my recent trip to Savannah for another related conference, where I saw R (and lots of other old friends) again, after all these years. Turns out, he just got a new job in NYC and is moving here soon with his partner, and is already in and out of the city a lot preparing for that. While we were in Georgia, R and I and a bunch of other folks had a grand old time hanging out and catching up. Then, when I got back, R and I ended up exchanging a few friendly emails, and planned to meet in the city for drinks, and then, well, things took a turn for the flirtatious. Nothing explicit or particularly scandalous, but once we realized in the course of conversation that there had been a mutual attraction many years ago (for some reason we’d each been unaware of the other’s thoughts back then), things got a little complicated.

This might be a good point to interject that I am HAPPILY married. As in, beyond happy, as in, I sincerely believe G is my soul mate, and quite possibly the only person on earth who would put up with me, the real me, and certainly the only person that I could love to this degree. I also feel like my relationship with G was fated to happen (more on that later). Naturally, I felt incredibly guilty about this situation with R, and so I did the only thing I could do–I confessed to G. Given that he is the most incredible, wise, and laid back man on the planet, he responded with something along the lines of: “Oh please, that’s your big confession? It’s natural to feel attracted to other people, and also crazy to think that getting married would mean you never thought about anyone else besides your spouse.” Cue big sigh of relief on my part. G also said that it would be silly to cancel the drinks plans with R, which I had thought maybe I should. He made it very clear that he trusts me, just as I trust him. I feel very lucky to have a relationship that is so solidly built on trust and honesty and mutual respect, and I want to make sure that I continue to merit that trust.

So, like most things that start out as serious “issues” with G and me, once it was out in the open this became a pretty hilarious joke between us–G would tease me about my “boyfriend” (almost literally a boy; did I mention R is about 4 years younger than I am?) and we plotted together about what kind of sexy-but-not-trashy outfit I should wear on my “date”–and finally yesterday, the day of the big date, arrived. And it was fun! R and I flirted, yes, and had a great conversation, but it was always very clear that I didn’t and don’t intend to do anything that would cross a line. R drove me back to our place, so I even brought him upstairs to meet G.

Ultimately the reason that R and I like each other, I think, is that we are a lot alike. Not only are we both Capricorns, birthdays within a week of one another, but (and probably more importantly) we’re both academics, looking at the world in a certain way, talking and thinking in what G, who is not an academic, calls “parentheses and italics.” R’s partner–whom I haven’t yet met, but hope to, although she’s practically a mewling infant, at eight years younger than I am–is also not an academic, and I wonder whether R and I both like the idea of relating to someone of the opposite sex with whom we can really connect intellectually. Half of our flirtation is philosophical discussions over email of things like Freudian versus Lacanian desire. That is not the kind of conversation I can have with G, and that has always been okay with me. G is an incredibly intelligent person, and that’s not at issue here–he just doesn’t perform intellect the way that we academics sometimes do, with all of the jargon and posturing and unnecessary obfuscation.

I had always, not just with G, but really ever since I started trying to escape the “nerd” label as a 17 year old college freshman, compartmentalized my intellectual performance side and my social side, doing my jargon-y academic thing in the classroom and later, in professional settings, but putting it aside, for the most part, when I was “off the clock.” R made me realize how fun it can be to let Academic-Performance-Cityprof out of her cage in the off-hours too.

But I came away from my platonic date with R feeling even happier about my life with G. The more time I spend talking to/hanging with R, the more clear it is to me that I chose my husband well. One reason of many: R has no sense of humor. Or, well, that’s not entirely accurate. He has a passable sense of humor, meaning he’ll laugh at what’s humorous, but he’s not CRAZY FUNNY, like G is. I could go on for pages about how and why G is so freaking hilarious. He’s an incredible mimic, and can capture almost any accent or pattern of speech in an uncanny way, which makes for amazingly funny impressions of people. He is incredibly observant, and both of us love to people watch and crack jokes on strangers (does this make us mean? we make sure we’re not overheard, though). Plus his wit is sharp, way sharper than mine, which means he can play the dozens like a champ–not so much with the Yo Mama jokes, no, but sweetly barbed Seinfeld-esque quips, oh, yes. And isn’t that the language of love? I cracked one little joke* at R while we were out and he practically fainted, poor thing. Intellect without sarcastic humor is like peanut butter without jelly, as far as I’m concerned. Tasty, but kind of dry and sticky if you get too much of it.

So after R got the tour of our place, chatted for a few, and took his leave, G and I ate a little dinner and hung out, and somehow we ended up pulling out some old photo albums from my college and grad school days. And there, in a series of photos from 1998 or 1999, several years before I’d officially met G, there was a photo of him in my photo album! Maybe this doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, but I was so amazed–I have always claimed that I’d met G once, briefly on the street in front of a famous Brooklyn restaurant a few years before we’d really “met,” and that even then I’d thought he was incredibly cute but also thought he’d seemed unavailable.** But G, of course, had absolutely no recollection of said pre-meeting meeting, and I think always kind of doubted that this random guy I had met was actually him. Even I had some doubts in my mind–was my memory really that good, that some guy I had talked to for fewer than 30 seconds back in 1998 was the same guy that I ended up falling in love with in 2002?

Well, ten years ago I was ALWAYS taking pictures, especially of people I found attractive, and it turns out that while I was hanging out with my girlfriend that day in 1998, the day that we ran into G briefly on the street, I had my camera in tow per usual. And snapped a photo–two, actually! One of G alone, and one of him talking to her. And those photos were right there in my old photo album, which I clearly had not opened since at least 2002, because I had no idea. Isn’t that just bizarre?

And it’s probably ridiculous, but that was a crazy kind of confirmation for me of how fated G and me are. We were meant to meet when we did, and probably not before. And we are SO good together, and there was some part of me even in 1998, when I was very far from being ready for him, or he for me, that recognized him and wanted to capture his image for posterity. I think that’s pretty cool. Not to mention cool, finally, to have documented proof that I DID meet him way back in the day, and wasn’t just imagining it to have a romantic/funny story to tell.

So that’s my happy ending. R is a swell guy, and I actually hope we can be good friends, but G is my true home in life. I have the photographic evidence!

*totally a garden-variety tease of the type that G and I trade back and forth all day and night. R had black mitten-gloves on on Wednesday, those gloves that are mostly fingerless but have a mitten top that folds over to cover your fingers in the cold–MITTENS! on a grown man!–and it was 60 degrees out that day, by the way. He also had on a hoodie and leather jacket. (whaa???). Me, joke voice: “What are you, a hobo? You’re wearing fingerless gloves?” Him, smiling, but slightly wounded voice: “Well, I was cold.” Me: “Yeah, I can see that.” (Cue surreptitious eyeroll. I mean, really. Step it up, man, if you want to hang with me. I can’t have a pretend-boyfriend who can’t take a joke!)

**full disclosure: “unavailable”=gay, which he obviously turned out not to be.

100% Cotton

July 8, 2007

Today is our second wedding anniversary. Wikipedia tells me that

Married persons who regard the day of their marriage as important may mark the occasion in some special way.

G and I have no special plans, although we will probably go out to eat. I hope this lack of planning does not make us bad “married persons.”

From Wikipedia I have also learned that the traditional gift on a second anniversary is cotton. If I were the proper sort of married person I suppose I would have gotten us some new flannel sheets (not that G would see the romance in this, especially since it is July), or perhaps some matching cotton pajamas? Hmm. Cotton doesn’t strike me as a particularly sexy gift possibility.

Last year’s tradition, though, was paper–even less sexy, what with all the sharp edges. At least we followed instructions to some degree by exchanging cards. This year, I don’t know. Of course, some part of me wishes we were the kind of people who would have elaborate anniversary plans already made, who when sitting and cooing to each other over the dessert course at the fancy restaurant that requires a jacket and advance reservations, would murmur, “Darling, I have a little something for you,” and produce an exquisitely wrapped box from beneath the table. Instead we will probably go to Houston’s and have a variation on the dinner we have whenever we go to Houston’s to celebrate something, which is fairly often. This would actually make me pretty happy. Houston’s makes a damn good steak.

I wonder what the absorbent tip of a home pregnancy test is made of? Cotton seems unlikely, but another fantasy of mine would be to pee on a stick this morning and present the double line to G as an anniversary “gift” when he woke up. Just ignore the hygienic concerns that this raises and visualize the glamour. Two years to the day after we say “I do,” we get the news that we’re expecting, via a cotton-tipped HPT. We laugh, we cry, we embrace and turn to face the bright future, arms entwined, eyes teary and aglow.

Yeah, I was thinking about how totally cool that would be as I peed away my FMU (first morning urine–I told you there were a lot of acronyms) this morning at 5am, too scared to take another pg test even though I’m not yet bleeding. The box of two First Response tests that I picked up at the drugstore yesterday is sitting in the medicine cabinet right now, waiting for the crackling cellophane wrapping to be removed, the little cardboard box to be broken open, the hermetic seal on each individual test to be breached.

Waiting in vain, because I can’t bear the crushing disappointment of another negative today. The possibility that it could be positive has occurred to me, yes, but the awful risk of a negative outweighs my hope for a positive right now. I’d rather just wait and see if Aunt Flo shows up. If I don’t start spotting by this evening Flo can probably be considered “late,” at least nominally. I haven’t had a single cycle longer than 28 days in the past ten months.

Anyway, tomorrow morning will be a full 72 hours since the last test (well, more like 63 hours, but close enough), long enough for whatever hCG that might be in there to have doubled–that is, if there is a viable little bundle of cells in my uterus at all, and if my period has not arrived by tomorrow morning. So maybe I’ll be brave enough to test again when I wake up tomorrow. That would be a pretty nice belated anniversary gift, I have to say.