Can we talk?
I mean about something so personal you probably haven’t divulged the truth to your very best friend. I’m not talking about sex. Heck most of us know more about our friends’ sex lives than we ever needed or wanted to know.
I’m talking about that thing that we often aren’t even honest about with our spouses — I’m talking about the very verboten matter of money.
No, I do not want to know all the details of your financial affairs. Please, please, please, don’t tell me how much money you made last year, how little/or much you owe on your mortgage, or how much you tithed, or didn’t in the past year.
Honestly, I don’t want to know about your financial standing at all. Suze Orman, I’m not.
You see, I care about you but I really don’t care about your money.
Or whether you have any or not.
Unless you are my son,
In which case, I’m praying you have enough.
The reason I want to talk to you about money is because so many people keep bringing it up to me.
Why is it that perfectly reasonable, educated and otherwise mannerly people feel like it’s within their right to ask an author how much money they make?
I am one of the most curious people you will ever meet. I will ask you a dozen questions upon meeting you. I will want to know if you grew up here, or came from somewhere else. Are you doing the job you always hoped you’d do? Did you serve in the military and if so, thank you very much. I will want to know who your mama’s people are and do you like collard greens or turnips best. I want to know if you have a grandchild and if so, do you have any advice for me? But the one thing I am never ever going to ask you, not even on my death bed, or yours, is how much money you have.
Or don’t have.
I was raised in a trailer park by a mama who failed to teach me certain things but the one thing she didn’t forget to teach me was that a person’s financial doings is their own private business. I couldn’t to this day tell you how much money my mama has, or doesn’t have, and I’m okay with that.
Never when I worked as a journalist did anyone approach me and ask what my annual income was, or how much I had socked away in a 401-K.But I swear to the barefooted Buddha that ever since I became an author, people have asked me every way to Sunday and back how much money I make and have socked away.
I asked my brother, an engineer, how I ought to respond to such questions.
“Tell them it’s none of their dayhum business,” he said.
My brother is frank like that. (Pun intended for those who get it.)
I can’t do that.
Usually, I just smile and say something silly.
Here’s the truth of the matter, I was writing long before I made one red penny for writing and I have more than earned every penny I have ever made from writing. I work dayhum hard at this business. They can’t pay me enough for what I put into it because I put my heart into it.
This isn’t just a job for me. It’s a calling.
It’s what I was created for.
Sometimes I wish I could do something else. My husband thinks I would be great at stand-up comedy. I’d rather be governor one day. Or maybe a nun. I’d like all that routine, I think.
At the very least, I wish I could write the book that everyone loves, but I can’t. God called me to the hard places. He took all the brokenness of childhood and crafted a passion that runs deep in my veins.
One of the highest rewards I have ever received as a writer came to me recently when a former neighbor, a woman who considers herself an agnostic, said, “I can’t think of a more genuine issue for you than as an advocate for children.” It moves me to tears even now, knowing something she saw in me as a neighbor bore witness to all that God is doing in my life and through my work.
She has never asked me how much money I make, or have made off of writing. We take turns paying the bill when we go out to eat.
So if you are the sort of person who would ask such things of an author, please don’t take it personally if when you ask how much money I make, or how rich I am, or if my publisher pays for my upkeep the way some men do a Wall Street mistress, if I just smile and ask in return where your mama’s people are from.
I’m just trying my best not to be rude.