Crime and Punishment
When I married Chris he told me I no longer had to be a working mom. He said we would be full partners in everything. I was thrilled to, at long last, be able to be an at home mom; however, I was also walking away from a very well-paid, prestigious job as an executive assistant to NYC’s top commercial real estate owner/developer who was in the Forbes 400 and owned over 11 million square feet in NYC. My salary was $110,000 a year in 1997 with full executive benefits; medical, dental, eye…everything…paid 100% to which I contributed nothing. It was fine; my children are more important. My boss begged me not to leave; we had 10 great years together and worked tremendously well as a team. He offered me the same salary if I would please stay for just 3 days a week. No, no, I’m sorry….I can’t negotiate my children’s childhood. I gave my boss one month’s notice and I found him, myself, a top-notch replacement. We parted as good friends and stayed in touch.
Chris is an attorney and also has a PhD in finance. He is obsessed with money. I know this; I knew this. This was ok with me. I knew where I fell in the pecking order of Chris’s love….1. Money, 2. His son, 3. Me. This is fine when you are honest and know where you stand. I said it out loud to him, and he confirmed it. That is ok dear; I love my son’s more than myself or you….I get it. However, Chris chose to love money first and foremost.
In 2000 Chris decided we should buy a condominium in Florida. He did some research. He found that the Melbourne Beach area was a place he’d like to live part-time. We both thought it would be a good idea to have a place in Florida for a getaway in cold weather with our teenage sons. Melbourne Beach, Florida is a beautiful town. It is approximately 50 miles south of Cocoa Beach where the Kennedy Space Center is, and you can see the plume of the space shuttle, while in Melbourne Beach, in the sky ….. red, yellow and blue followed by a sonic boom. There were several pluses about picking a place in Melbourne Beach….there was a small airport there, and we were able to fly direct from NJ to Melbourne. It was primarily a family town filled with shops, restaurants and plenty of beach-paraphernalia stores. It was too far off the beaten path for the spring break kids; but it did get a bit crazy even with the locals when schools were out.
We visited Melbourne Beach 4 times looking at properties. We bought our condo on the 4th visit. It was lovely; you could jump from the 2nd floor balcony onto the sand and be on the beach….the beach that we later found out was known as the “shark pit”….the details the real estate broker doesn’t tell you. In Melbourne Beach, unless you are at a public beach, there are NO lifeguards. Hence, there were no lifeguards at the beach outside our condo or for a few miles in either direction. I was scared to death to watch our sons swim. And then I learned…..the fishermen would stand on the shore with reels planted in the sand; giant herons standing behind them waiting to grab a fish head from leftover bait. I like people, so I went over to chat; I asked about the sharks. The fishermen told me how to know when it is safe to swim….1. If the birds are flying low over the water, that means the fish are running which means the sharks are also running after them; don’t go in the water and 2. The surfers know….if the surfers are in the water, it is safe to go in. So those were my new rules for our boys to swim.
We kept the condo for 4 years, but after the first year the bloom fell off the rose and our sons tired of going to the same place every school break; they wanted to stay closer to home to hang out with their friends. We visited less often and less often until we decided it was not worth the cost to keep it since we didn’t use it much.
That is not what this story is about….this story is about Crime and Punishment….because BEFORE we bought the condo on the beach, we visited a property on our 3rd visit to Melbourne Beach with a realtor that Chris really liked and wanted to buy.
Did you ever walk into a place and feel “bad energy?” This condo that Chris liked had so much bad energy it was palpable. It was very, very inexpensive. It needed over $100k in work. Chris said the price is great; we can afford to fix it. No, no, no I said. First, I told him, something very bad happened here, and I can’t stay here and second, it is not prudent or practical to buy a property that needs $100k in work when we don’t know enough about the area to be sure to hire quality, trustworthy contractors, etc.….and Chris it is just too complicated.
We returned to NJ from the 3rd trip to Melbourne Beach. Chris went to work the next day and called me at home early afternoon. “I’m going to put an offer in on that condo.” OMG! “Chris!, we agreed that we would make these decisions together, I told you, I cannot stay there, I told you why it is not practical, yada, yada”….and then BANG! BANG! BANG! He said it……”Well, I make the money, I’m in charge and I’ll do what I want.” I said, I can’t talk anymore…I was fuming, startled, hit by a 2×4. WHAAAATTTTT??????? I thought we were partners? I thought we agreed to make decisions together….uh, I guess not…..so, I guess when push comes to shove, I’m the little woman, huh? Well, let’s see about that buddy.
I left a career on your promise. Chris, you just made me vulnerable by telling me I have no say in our funds. Now, I’ve been self-sufficient, employed, with my own funds since I was 20 by necessity. I am an alpha female….and you think you can put me in the corner like some little woman and tell me you, THE MAN, are going to make the decisions? And you are going to take a big chunk of cash and buy that cursed place?
There’s your crime. You lied Chris. You did more than lie; you tried to make me something I’m not.
Now, comes the punishment.
I want my safety back. I will not NOT be vulnerable. So, Mr. Man, you are in charge of the money? Ok, fine. I go to the bank. There is $75,000 in the checking account. I withdraw $65,000 (leaving something so checks don’t bounce); I open a CD for $65,000 in my name. I open a safe deposit box and put the CD paperwork in the safe deposit box. I also put in the safe deposit box the “Power of Attorney” that we both have…for me to sign on his behalf, and for him to sign on my behalf…..so now, I have the power back. Not all, but enough so that I don’t feel “naked”.
I call him at work. I tell Chris everything I’ve just done. He is incredulous. He starts to laugh hysterically. Ok, ok, ok! We won’t buy that condo! I’m sorry! Put the money back. No dear, I cannot. And no dear, I will not. That is your punishment for taking away my safety…..the most important thing to me (other than my children)….because my life circumstances have caused me to have a general feeling of trepidation….and bang, you brought it all to the surface. So, this is your punishment for treating your wife NOT as your partner but as your concubine.
And that is how it ended. Truth. I never gave the money back. I’m not a bitch; the following year, I used the money to remodel our NJ home kitchen.
We bought our GOOD condo, by mutual agreement, on our next visit.