Saturday, February 21, 2009

Reverse vanity : a love story

Inspired by Jane Smith's blog post on reverse-end vanity presses, here's a story I wrote.

For years now, you’ve wanted to be in a committed relationship with someone who loved you for yourself. It’s never happened, though. Everyone you approached has declined a date with you, and you’re feeling lonely.

Then you meet someone. Without much hope, you suggest a date but to your surprise, your request gets an immediate acceptance. Before the end of the evening, your new friend has not just paid for dinner but has told you that the two of you belong together. No playing games, no leading you along and then rejecting you. Delighted, you agree to move in together.

Most of your friends congratulate you, but one of them wonders about the speed with which this relationship has progressed. You tell him not to worry – you’ve never been happier in your life. Besides, obviously your lover isn’t one of those people who are in it for the money, since absolutely no financial demands have been made on you. Heck, your lover even paid for dinner on your first date. Things couldn’t be better.

The first week the two of you spend together is wonderful. At the end of it, your lover says, “Honey, would you like it if I cooked a special meal for the two of us?”

“Sure!” you say happily.

“Then I’ll need money for the groceries. Do you have $300?”

That seems a little expensive, but you did agree to the special meal. And besides, great food isn’t free. So you take $300 out of your wallet, and feel happy that you have someone who loves you enough to make special meals for you.

At the end of the second week, your lover says, “Sweetheart, do you think you need a new coat? This one seems a bit shabby.” You agree, and your lover asks for $600 to buy your new coat.

The second request for money makes you feel a bit uneasy, but again it’s to buy something for you, not for your lover. So you write a check. The new coat looks a lot like the old one, but you find that your lover has sewn your name into the lining, which is so sweet that you forget about the cost.

At the end of the third week, your lover suggests that you’ve been working too hard, and the two of you should take a nice vacation. “Don’t worry about it. I’ll handle all the arrangements. And it’ll only be three thousand dollars.” This time you have to put it on a credit card.

One of your friends – the same cynic who originally questioned your relationship – asks about this. You explain that since your lover took care of the cooking, shopping and holiday arrangements, you don’t expect financial contributions as well. You don’t mind paying – that’s an investment in your relationship.

“But doesn’t it seem as though you’re being used for your money?” your friend says.

“No way!” you say. You won’t sit and listen to your lover being bashed like that. “I wasn’t asked for a penny upfront! And each time I paid, I got something back. How is that being used?”

Your lover agrees when you repeat the conversation. “People who say things like that are just jealous of what we have together. You weren’t under any obligation to give me money, were you?” That’s true – each time your lover just made a suggestion, and you agreed. There were never any demands. “By the way, darling, next week is your birthday. If you’d like a party, could you give me a little to spend on it?”

After a month more of this, you start turning down the requests for money, though of course this means no more special treats or events for you. In fact, your lover seems to be drifting away, though that’s all right since you have to put in longer hours to make up the strange deficit in your bank account.

Sometimes you read in the paper about couples who work together to build their own business or to become financially successful in some other way. But those people had connections or were lucky. Everyone else has relationships just like yours. And once you have enough money, perhaps you can do it all over again.


Rafael said...

So the lesson of the story is that you don't need anyone else to pamper you?

Anonymous said...


Great story analogy on how vanity presses use authors. "We publish you for free. But if you want to see your lovely book you must give us XXXXX money."

Merri said...

Well said!

Marian said...

Thanks, all. :)

It's often difficult for new writers to see how a press can scam them way down the line if it's offering them something free today.

Barbara Martin said...

Interesting analogy that fits. Well done, Marian.