My husband and I went to a tax preparer a few days ago. It was a pretty standard interaction for us, since we had gone to the same office for the past three years. We were well-practiced in what to bring, what to deduct, and how the appointment would proceed.
The day was cold and gray, my husband in jeans and a zippered sweatshirt, and me in yoga pants and a zippered top, our hands smattered with dry latex paint from home.
We waited patiently to be called, during which time my husband helped himself to the ‘fresh’ coffee, later remarking that fresh was a bit of a stretch.
When we were finally called, we followed a darker-skinned, bespectacled woman back to her desk. My husband and I arranged our paperwork.
“I’ll take your W-2′s,” she said.
My husband handed her his W-2, and my 1099. The woman looked down slowly at the papers, and then looked up at me.
“Where’s your…uh, W-2?” she asked, with a hint of calculation.
“I don’t have one,” I was forced to answer.
“Oh. Just this then?” she held out my 1099.
“Yes. Just that,” I responded.
I looked down at my fingers, found some paint to scrape, while she entered the information.
She then asked for our mortgage documents, which we provided, and waited some more.
When she was through, she looked up at me.
“What do you, um, do?”
“I, uh, write,” I stuttered, “Write things, and I have a website, and I get paid for both writing and the advertising.”
She looked down, clearly unimpressed.
She asked us to sign a few things on a magical tap pad, and, as I raised my left hand to sign, she said, “Those are beautiful rings you have.” You gold digging, spoiled brat of a useless housewife.
“Thank you,” I said quietly, skipping my usual, ‘You should tell him! He’s the one with the excellent taste!’.
We got midway through our paperwork, when the woman realized we had three children.
“Oh!” she exclaimed, “You have three children! I thought it was just the two of you!” By that point, I was ready to leave. I was sick of looking at her face, at hearing her assumptions and absorbing her judgments. So, of course, I, almost reflexively, launched into the obligatory apology for my existence.
“Well, you see, I used to work…” I began, knowing deep inside this woman deserved no explanation.
“What’s your Master’s in?” she asked.
“Mental health,” I responded. “Counseling Psychology. I used to teach at night.”
“Hmph,” she spat. “My daughter’s a Radiologist. I really want her to get married so I can have some more grandkids, but she’s lonely, you know? Hasn’t found anyone. She’s thirty.”
No wonder, I thought to myself. If you’re as consistent with your mixed messages at home as you are here, you’ve probably got a long wait ahead of you.
I clammed up for the remainder of the appointment, allowed her to finish what she was doing. She asked me a few more questions along the way, but talked over me when I answered. I was not terribly interested in talking to her further.
We had finished filing, signed our names fifty or sixty times, when she outstretched her arm to hand me back my 1099.
“I think you should, um, leave this for next year. You know, calculate this into your startup costs. Just save it for next year.“
I nodded solemnly. I felt like a first-grader being handed back a paycheck written in green crayon.
“It’s so good to stay at home with your kids,” she vomited, “but when you’re ready, when you’re ready, you’ll go back to work.”
“Yeah,” I managed.
She folded, stapled, and methodically clipped our paperwork, took our payment, and sent us out the door with a weak, “See you next year!”
I complained about the interaction the entire drive to pick up our kids. I was flustered about the fact that, in a span of about an hour, this woman managed to invalidate my work, marginalize my choices, and belittle my decision to stay home with my children, while, in the same breath, defend them.
I know not all people think this way, but this woman managed to tap dance on the insecurity of every former career-having stay-at-home mother, every writer, every blogger, every aspiring anything, with her blistering commentary.
What I took away from the interaction? I shouldn’t be home and what I do is not a real job. This interaction, to me, exemplified exactly what we all struggle with daily. The defending, the justifying, the if you could only understand how much daycare would cost for three children age three and under, the lack of understanding or acceptance of others in different situations.
And it made me angry. That appointment was a highlight reel of everything I worry about and fight against and try to make right every single day, packed in a pretty little gift box with a shiny purple bow. And if you don’t feel vulnerable enough being questioned about your life choices, imagine how it feels when your entire financial life is spread before you as well.
Needless to say, I didn’t like it. We won’t go to her again.
My only hope is she is able to experience all that which she judges and may someday understand what it’s like to be someone other than herself.