Tuesday, June 9, 2009

8 Days a Week

I've worked in personal finance magazines for about six months now. And in that six months, my guardianship of my own personal finances has swelled--if not in quality, in quantity. I check my bank balances more frequently even when I know nothing has changed; I peruse my decimated 401(k) account; I idly poke around to find favorable money market rates. I'm not doing anything that differently than I did before working in personal finance mags. I'm not even thinking that differently about my finances--I've never been an out-of-control spender, nor miserly, and my interest in investing in anything beyond the rudiments is roughly equivalent to my interest in, say, bass fishing.

The difference is that I'm thinking more frequently. Money has been added to the treadmill of mundane questions that take up space in my mind: what am I doing tonight; what will I eat for dinner; should I go for a run later; what's my bank balance. It only made sense--I was suddenly reading about IRAs and financial solvency all day long, for my job. During my breaks from reading, my mind didn't easily make the switch to reading the headlines or composing an e-mail--it needed a transition, and checking my own financial solvency provided it.

A few months into this, on a day when I was checking my checking account balance for the third time that day, it hit me: If my new gig brought about a sudden uptick in my financial self-awareness, what had ten years in women's magazines done to me? A decade of reading about "loving your body" next to diet tips; of the assumption that whether to pain ourselves for beauty is not the question, but rather how much; of staying within the comfortable universe padded by birth control and makeup removers and 12 blouses I needed now.

Granted, what brought me into personal finance publishing was being unexpectedly laid off--hardly an event that brings out my financial devil-may-care side. And it wasn't like I had no idea that working in women's magazines had done a number on my head. But I didn't realize how insidious the damage could be until then. As a feminist I consciously strained against several tenets of women's magazines; I read relationship columns with a wry eye and treated beauty pieces as foreign-language copy as much as I could. But that's just it: as much as I could wasn't ever going to be enough to truly shield me from absorbing the messages I read all day long.

Hmm, could I get therapy bills for body dysmorphia covered under workman's comp?

No comments:

Post a Comment