My rich, beautiful girlfriend makes me feel like a loser

In the great stock-market lottery, she won and I lost. I love her, but it's hard to hold my head up high.

Published June 14, 2005 7:39PM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

This may not sound like a problem, but it is: My girlfriend is too rich. In a nutshell, I basically feel like crap all the time. We both worked in the same industry, only she's a stock-lottery winner while I was unemployed for almost two years, went broke, and finally moved in desperation to work in the city we both live in. She will not have to work for a very long time (or ever, as far as I can tell), dines like a queen, has a gorgeous house. I live in a small apartment and am ever the exhausted corporate cog, still financially making up for two years of having no money plus living far from friends and family. She travels everywhere, gets plenty of sleep, and generally has/does everything I've ever wanted or dreamed of. She is endlessly kind, smart, hilarious, and I absolutely adore her. But all the while I feel like a Grade A Loser, not to mention not much of a man. The envy and sadness eats at me rather constantly -- she has no idea how badly. Am I just a whiner or what? Please advise.


Dear Cashed,

The way we feel has a lot to do with what kind of story we tell. You could tell a story about a loser, for instance, who's always been a loser and will always be a loser. Fate identifies him as a loser by his loser looks and his loser walk and his loser tone of voice, and fate ensures that nothing this man ever does will come to anything because he is a loser. That's fate's job -- to identify losers and send them appropriate catastrophes. But just doing that is not enough for fate. Fate also toys with this man for amusement, sending him a beautiful and wealthy woman who eventually will leave him, breaking his heart. The killer part of it is that even when she's loving him and naked and all aglow he can't enjoy it, because all the loser can think about, even when they're making love, is what a fucking loser he is.

Fate sits on the bedroom dresser and chuckles noiselessly at all this.

There is another story in which an ordinary man is trying to live an ordinary life but meets an extraordinary woman. He encounters obstacles and struggles to overcome them. He doesn't know why the obstacles occur. He just knows he has to fight them. He doesn't know if he's a loser or not, but he figures there's a score being kept, so he tries not to lose more than he wins. Sometimes he wonders if the universe is fucking with him, because it often seems rigged. But he deals with problems as they come up.

He's trying to get somewhere. He doesn't know exactly where, but he thinks it's someplace better than here. He knows he has to keep moving forward through the fog. Boulders fall out of nowhere and narrowly miss him and he thinks, wow, I could have been dead. Jets crash into buildings. Businesses fail. Thousands die in bizarre fashion. The future is veiled and inscrutable. Meanwhile, the beautiful woman he is in love with seems to float through life with mysterious ease, almost as if she were a goddess. He thinks about that now and then, but he keeps going. He's not particularly cheerful, but he seeks pleasure in simple things. It seems to him that we're all shooting craps against a crumbling wall, and there's no rhyme or reason to who wins or loses, but he keeps going, trying to pay the bills.

The beautiful woman also has a lot of money. He treasures her company. He feels giddy in her presence. She seems to love him too, but sometimes he's not sure. He feels nervous when she pays for everything. He wonders what effect his lack of money will have on the relationship. So he finds things to do that don't cost any money. He finds ways to take her places. If she wants a cab, he says no, instead, I'll give you a piggyback ride and he trots down the street with her until his legs give out. If she wants flowers, he grows them in a window. If she wants to go to the theater, he finds an insider with tickets, he does somebody a favor: He finds a way to get in. If she wants to travel, he finds a way. Or he doesn't go. If he doesn't go, he's there for her when she comes back. He makes a kind of home for her in his little place, so when she comes there she doesn't feel like it's a dingy little hovel, but like it's a little home for her, with some of her things there, and a nice smell that she likes, and an object or two that's inexpensive but meaningful to her.

Sometimes when she travels away from him, or when she's doing something expensive in which it would be imprudent for him to join her, he sits at home under a lamp and ponders his fate. He just keeps doing his thing, sometimes optimistically, sometimes with fear, sometimes in despair, going to work, pushing forward, trying not to fall into a pit, trying to live honestly, carefully and well.

And maybe eventually he marries the girl. Or maybe not. Maybe he just lives a careful, unpretentious life in his small apartment, taking pleasure as it comes, wary of grand illusions, wary of self-pity,

Both stories are loosely based on the few facts available. Either one is plausible. I like the second one.

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