Do you know what I hate paying for? Everything. Because I’m a tightarse.
Obviously, paying for some things is unavoidable. Like shoes, underpants and Ant-Rid, since I can’t make these things myself. (Although, traditionally, I bypass the expense of underpants by not wearing any, as I’m generally wearing outer clothes anyway, and the whole concept is a scam if you really stop and think about it.) But everything else—food, most cleaning products, even one’s own home—can and should be fabricated from raw materials purchased at minimal or no expense. Because what am I really paying for? The majority of the time: literally nothing.
Of course, when I go out, I accept the fact that drinks and movie tickets are marked up by a thousand percent in order that the business in question can afford to operate, make a profit and not spit in my Coke. Yes, I even tip.
“But why am I paying a surcharge in order to pay on card?” I say. “I’m paying money, so that I can pay you money.”
“That’s the way it is,” they say, with a shriveled up smile that’s meant to be sympathetic, but reads more like trapped wind. Which, let’s face it, it probably is, since their job is to man an EFTPOS machine. My bowel would be irritated by that career path too. (See? We’re on the same team.) But at some point, it just becomes ridiculous, somebody has to say something and it always comes down to the tightarse. Because that’s what a tightarse does: publicly complain about rip-offs, which are actually affecting everybody, but other people don’t want to acknowledge for fear of coming off as “cheap”. Why? Did I miss something? Is this pre-revolutionary France? Are you Louis the Sun King reincarnated? No. You’re eating a kebab from a truck, deal with it.
I wasn’t always like this, with my dead-eyed stares and shouting about blood hungry capitalist reptiles (mostly at TV, because it listens). My tightarsery was forged in the flames of the new year, when the government informed me that unless I get private health insurance before my forthcoming birthday, I would be charged an extra two percent for it, every year, until I die, which is hopefully sooner rather than later, since the only form of insurance I can afford is a package called “Scrape Me Out Of The Gutter, Please”, which is not its actual name, but realistically should be, since it doesn’t even cover dental, because dental is an “extra”, which makes chewing a privilege.
I know. I should be grateful. At least I have teeth. At least I have access to a healthcare system that doesn’t harvest my organs. And believe me, I am grateful. There’s no one more grateful than a tightarse. Because the tightarse knows and appreciates bargains. The joy that explodes through every vein of my barely insured body when I find a two dollar dungeon or unexploited op shop is the closest I will ever get to a heroin high (hopefully). I find second-hand designer jeans and celebrate for weeks, telling everybody, demanding they check out my arse, the snug fit, the perfect stitching, the barely worn-in crotch.
“No one ever even wore these,” I say. “And guess how much I paid.”
I don’t wait for an answer, because usually nobody cares. But I care. Because I won. I smashed the system. I broke the cycle of sweatshop abuse. I recycled. I saved the planet. And aren’t these extremely desirable character traits? If the tightarse must be admonished, then she must also be acknowledged for her ethics, honesty and resourcefulness. And if you really stop and think about it, isn’t that an ideal human being you would definitely want to spend time with? I would. I’d love to spend time with me. And you should, too.
By the way, you’re paying.
This article first appeared in frankie magazine issue 67 (Sept/Oct 2015).