Sometimes I walk blocks to save pennies and nickels. Walking is healthful, so why is my frugality eccentric? What makes a scheduled marathon better than a brisk walk that saves a quarter – or even a dime? Money? One grade school-girl habit I do try to resist is storing chewed gum behind my ear for a second chew later. It grosses people out. But the tricks of youth stay with me, and they still give me rare pleasure. There is no disputing the fact that I am close, tight-fisted, frugal, exceedingly prudent, indeed, PARSIMONIOUS!.
I am simply, as I have always been; to put it succinctly, a stingy miser, one of the few acknowledged such. Stingy miser is not a grammatical redundancy, but was the actuaI descriptive epithet in common use when I was a child.
It will be helpful for the reader to know right here that at the beginning of my life nothing I wore ever matched anything else and as a result I have never cared one iota about clothes.
Age cannot wither nor custom stale the collected infinite variety of my wardrobe or its sources. Biology created me without a GOESS TOGETHER gene. Style, therefore, has not afflicted me for I do not recognize it. I wear what is easily accessible and comfortable. And mostly, if possible, what is washable. Recently, I made a critical decision.
I am too old to wring out a waterlogged Loden coat. Since I abhor dry cleaners, I shall simply throw out the soiled Loden veteran coat and say, “Goodbye, old friend!”
Born in 1927, a child of the Depression, I never got over it. My family was desperately poor, on Home Relief for years. I grew up thinking poor and never learned to aspire stylistically – and people have always found this strange, particularly once I began to earn a decent living! It was as though my unconcern was some rare lingering malady. All my other relatives passed as normal. Indeed, many became BIG spenders. SPORTS! How it pleases them to shower money about!
In early childhood, I had my own small shopping pleasures. I was joyous when I got my grubby fingers on a penny! Pennies may be the keys to this whole enigma. Before adolescence when I left home, I dealt almost solely in pennies. I remember multi-colored gumballs in the candy store machine and penny sheets of orange peel shoe leather, as well as foot- long sticks of licorice, also one penny each! Pennies bought joy!
Actually, I’m thrifty. That’s the polite word, but frankly, I’m downright stingy. Cheap! I still actively mourn the five cent subway fare every time I swipe my fare card. I walk miles to get bargains. Closefisted, I am always reluctant to shell out cash, and I am exceedingly prudent.
Parsimonious, c’est moi. I watch my wallet diligently. I do not enjoy spending large sums of money. Never did. I hate to part with hundreds much less thousands and would like to leave my legacy for my heirs, who of course protest that they don’t need my money. There may be nicer ways to say this. Anyway, parsimonious certainly beats stingy any day. It has a rather lavish ring to it!
Relatives and brave well-wishers who try shopping with me, invariably end up wondering, “How can she be so cheap?” They’re full of euphemisms: frugal is what they actually say. Economical. Practical. Whatever. I learned early to settle for any evasive synonym that came my way.
“But you have plenty of money now to buy good things,” I’m constantly reminded.
“True,” I agree, “and when there is something I really want or someplace I really want to visit, I’ll spend and I’ll go.”
But I have to really really want it. The problem is that there is not so much I really really want.
Still – I went to the Metropolitan Opera and saw and heard a glorious “Falstaff” a couple of weeks ago. And before that there was “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”
I pilgrimaged to China in my shabby Loden coat and walked on The Great Wall!
In India I ate delicious hot curries and roti! And I saw Sai Baba, who many people believe was the living god.
I prayed at the Wall in Israel and left a message for God.
I visited Stratford on Avon and saw much glorious Shakespeare.
No one ever noticed me or my mismatched clothing in Paris.
Who knows where I might turn up next?
Shabby little old ladies don’t ever need disguises! Life has already carefully concealed them.