Author: Diane di Costanzo

The Grinch Had It Right: Presents Ruin the Holidays

Not to brag, but I was something of a step-aerobics queen in the 1990s. (Don’t remember step classes? Think Zumba but with a plastic riser, here it comes, to step on.) Perhaps that’s why my mother-in-law — who otherwise had unerring style — gave me an all-in-one, boldly floral Spandex leotard-and-capri-leggings get-up designed specifically for “steppers.” I know this because “Steppers!” was written across the butt. It even came with a matching headband. There is a photo of me wearing it, dutifully, while standing in front of a Christmas tree, wrapping paper strewn about my ankles.   That was my moment of clarity: holiday gift-giving is not great because of the gift-giving. The December holidays, birthdays and Valentine’s Day are all preceded by a mad scramble to find “something special,” or in my family, increasingly irate texts: “What do you want?” “You haven’t told me what you want!” What I want is to not exchange gifts.  And this year, engaging in activities guaranteed to deepen our debt and increase our stress seems almost masochistic. That’s COVID’s job! …

61% of Women Would Rather Talk About Their Own Deaths Than This Topic

My trigger to stop being so secretive about money occurred in a Palm Springs hot tub, while my sister and I were parboiling ourselves under a clump of shaggily glamorous palm trees. She is 61, I’m 59 and we were talking about money for the first time since the days when our “salaries” came in the form of weekly allowance from someone we called Mommy. Which is to say, we were having a meaningful money discussion for the first time in a half century.  “How much do you make?” she asked. I told her. I asked her the same question.   She answered it.  “Oh, O.K.,” we said simultaneously.  And then, as if we had walked through a heretofore unseen wall, we started talk openly about all sorts of money matters: how much money the family lost after the IRS caught up with some early-80s tax-filing shenanigans; “Mommy’s” financial situation; how much we had saved for retirement.  It was an inexpressible relief to discuss our family’s complicated relationship with money. The short story: my mother’s father made …