Holding Forth

Published on October 13th, 2014 | by Richard Black


A Marriage in the Balance, Thoughts on Family, Finance and Wedlock


Marriage would be so much easier if we could simply bond to a bud coming out of our stomachs…like amoebas do.

I was paying a few bills recently that may have or may not have been a few months past due when I realized that someone else should probably be reviewing our checkbook. I also concluded that person should not be me.

A retarded emu has a better chance of balancing a checkbook correctly than yours truly. My grasp of mathematics pretty much peeked around first grade. I could understand addition fairly well but once the class moved on to subtraction I was stumped. If Sally gave me three apples and I already had two I knew that I had a total of five. Once Sally started taking apples away I had some issues and not just because I thought that Sally was a golddigger.

To be honest I wasn’t particularly fond of apples in the first place but she seemed to enjoy them and when I thought about whether or not Sally really liked me or was just using me for apples I got a little upset.

My issue on that particular subject may have something to do with the fact that I was friends with a girl named Sally at the time who happened to like apples and then found someone else who had more apples but that’s beside the point.  It was the principal of the matter that upset me rather than the math and one I chose to focus on as a result I barely understand the concept of subtraction to this date.

I had a similar issue with making change at the grocery store when I was just a bit older. I remember getting remarkably pissed off at the age of seven or so when I gave Lois (the cashier with a mole the size of Philadelphia, a set of teeth that heralded from the UK and a mustache large enough to bridge the two) a dollar for change to play Galaga and didn’t get eight quarters in return.

The way I figured it I was two dollars down.  I’d forked over one buck and then dumped another four quarters into a fucking video game with a crappy joystick that didn’t move to the right half the time.  I could have been a contender.

Of course some thirty years later I understand that Lois of the giant mole and lengthy mustache gave me a dollar in return for my dollar in the form of four quarters thus debiting her account one dollar. Apologies to those of you with a better mind for math than myself. It’s really taken me up until this point to truly understand exactly what had happened with my two dollars.

My understanding of the interplay of numbers has evolved a bit since those days but not much.

The fact is that I haven’t balanced a checkbook since Bill Clinton was in office and even then I didn’t do it well. After countless hours and perhaps days of frustration pairing the entries in my checkbook with the unassailable statement that arrived from the bank every month I just gave in. I’d occasionally check the balance of my account at an ATM when I had the presence of mind to do so but that was about as far as my diligence went when it came to bookkeeping.

My discomfort with numbers in general has a long and twisted history and one that I will not impart at this particular time. Suffice it to say that I blame my mother. Mama Black kept tabs on her checkbook the way McCarthy kept tabs on Commies in the 1950’s. After balancing her checkbook dutifully for more than sixty years she found that the bank had screwed up once, just once, and that her account had been debited for something like thirty bucks.

Call me batshit crazy but if thirty bucks is the opportunity cost for some sixty years of not having to balance a checkbook then it’s one I’d happily pay.

Of course the argument could be made that if no one balanced a checkbook then the banks could do whatever they wanted with our money but if history is any measure then some of them are pretty much doing that anyway.


A very nice hammer and wrench but one not worth $500. Then again I don’t really know much about tools.

Fortunately we have government agencies and committees that oversee such things. Unfortunately these government agencies are populated with public officials who run for office and might, or might not, receive funds to run for office from the very institutions they are charged with overseeing. I should also note that the same government tasked to regulate the intricacies of the banking system is also the same government that pays $400 for a hammer and $800 for a toilet seat on a regular basis and can’t manage to send my incoming mail to a current address.

I suppose it all comes down to personal responsibility which is a prospect I loathe.

In order to keep the banks on the level everyone with any sort of account should probably keep tabs on their money. There’s also a critical mass involved, at least from a mooching perspective. If 99% of everyone with a bank account balances their checkbook every month then I probably wouldn’t have to balance my own. That said you people need to buck up. Take some measure of accountability with your finances.

Unfortunately my approach to bookkeeping differs markedly from my wife’s and that’s probably for the best. We’ve developed a system in which she makes the money, I pay the bills, I update the checkbook and then I nag her to balance the whole thing every few months or so, a period of time that always seems to coincide with her suggestion that I enter into some sort of remedial math program.


This magnificent animal has a better chance of balancing a checkbook than yours truly

All in all the system works pretty well. The only hitch is when Laura doesn’t have the time or mental strength to decipher the cryptic entries I’ve made into the checkbook while watching My Little Ponies as my daughter jostles my arm every four seconds. It’s not a fun job and one I don’t envy my Laura in the least. Still it’s one that needs to be done and one that I have been explicitly told not to perform.

I’ve actually been asked to “never, ever attempt to balance the checkbook” after one truly horrific attempt that resulted in thousands of dollars in accounting fees and a few years of work from my wife to straighten out the mess I’d made over the course of just one month.

Through marriage counseling and our faith in alcohol we managed to make it through that difficult time. It was a tough stretch but I believe that it’s made us stronger as a couple. Of course therapy has revealed a whole host of other issues we need to address and our dependence upon Pinot Gris and Microbrews will undoubtedly place one of us on the waiting list for a liver sometime in the near future but in the meantime I say “let the checks bounce as they may”.

It’s for the sake of my marriage after all.

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