Tonight was not the first night I’ve cried during a phone call to a 24 hour banker. It wasn’t even the second or third time.
Look, I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m bad with money. I’m bad with money, and I have no shame. A lot of people in this world think pride is bad and shame is good, but those people are idiots. It is the exact opposite. Pride is the thing that makes you feel like a lion, and shame is the thing that makes you feel like you just got squeezed out of a lion’s butthole. We like shame here in America. We have lots of shame, shame to spare. We feel shame about sex and about our bodies, we feel shame about farting and burping, the things we eat and the way we spend our money.
Now, don’t go confusing shame with guilt. Guilt is fine. Guilt is acceptable. Guilt means we are human beings with feelings and responsibilities towards other human beings, and not empty, scary robots. Guilt means we recognize the difference between right and wrong. The important thing to remember about guilt and shame is that guilt is something we put upon ourselves, but shame is something put upon us by other people.
Anyway, I’m pretty sure I don’t have any shame because otherwise I’d be feeling pretty bad about myself right now. Because I’m going to share a secret with you.
Did you guys know that if you call up the bank and ask them nicely and with logic to please oh please get rid of at least one of those three overdraft fees that is on your account, oh please pretty please, they will always always tell you no? Because they will always always tell you no. I bet at least some of you did know that, but maybe not. It takes a special kind of shameless person to call up a bank and ask them to refund an overdraft fee. I will freely admit that I’m that kind of person. I want my money back and I don’t care what the person on the other end of the phone thinks of me, and as my mama always told me, it doesn’t hurt to ask. So I ask and they say no, and I still have $105 in overdraft fees.
But that part isn’t the secret. The real secret is that you don’t stop there, if you’re me. You ask to speak to a manager. And because you’re desperate and you have no shame, you give your sob story for the second time that night, only this time instead of being angry and righteous and sort of annoyed at being a pawn in the system, you just flat out start crying because you’re sick of having no money, and yeah some of it is your fault because you’re stupid, but some of it isn’t, some of it is you still paying for old mistakes, and some of it is arbitrary rules and guidelines and dates and times and fees, and more fees on top of the fees that cause more fees that start breeding with one another until you’re drowning in fees and your only lifeline is some guy in a 24 hour bank call center who hates his life and his job and his only pleasure comes in telling people “no” . . . but this guy’s never dealt with you before. He’s so clearly flustered by what’s going on, your broken voice and incoherent words — it’s an ugly cry, this one — the documented evidence of a truly pathetic life is staring at him from the words and numbers in your bank account on the screen in front of him, and they’re screaming “FEEL SORRY FOR ME.” So he tells you, “Okay, just this once, as a special consideration . . .” just so you’ll stop crying.
I know I promised you some advice, but truthfully, I’m not exactly sure what we can learn from all of this. I’m just the writer. Show, not tell, remember? I showed, now you tell. And please don’t think that I’m condoning false tears here, or instructing the lady folk to use the biases against our gender in sneaky ways, in order to manipulate a system created by and for men. I’m not even telling you that you should call up your bank and cry on the phone. Because let me assure you, I didn’t plan on crying to the anonymous customer service man, or begging him for my $35 back, please. It just happened. That’s probably the real secret: you have to mean it.
Mean what, now? I don’t know, I’m just saying things. Figure it out yourself. I’m going to eat a cookie. And I’m not going to feel bad about it.