There’s a scene in Martin Amis’ novel Money that really took me by surprise. I’ve gone back to this book after a year or so and I’ve skimmed through it three fucking times, but I can’t find it in the 400 pages of the novel. I’d SWEAR it’s in there and I’m not imagining it, but, whatever. The particular moment in the novel has stuck in my mind since I read it a year or so ago.
John Self, cockney-wide boy, hooligan in his youth, now a 35-year-old film producer wheeling and dealing between New York and London, fills his body and his time with food, prostitutes and drugs. He bangs all of this on expenses and staves off the fear of the impending bollocking these will incur with hilarious arrogance. In the middle of the chaos he creates, his employer eventually reigns him in.
To my memory, Self is nervous for the first time in the novel. He braces himself for a roasting. The manager tells him his expenses are disgraceful. He’s an embarrassment to the whole company.
Self fidgets. He thinks of ways to salvage his career.
His manager says, You’re making us look like paupers. What’s the matter with you? Go out and spend some real money, for fuck’s sake!
He walks out, confused but relieved, and checks into a smarter hotel and orders a bottle of champagne. Or something.
I can’t be imagining this, can I? Anyway, I didn’t blog this because I couldn’t find it- I started this post because I’m having similar issues.
I have some pretty damning mental problems that are holding me back a lot, and always have. I’ve fought really hard to find the people in the NHS that can help me with anxiety, organisation, sex, porn addiction, staying focussed and not drifting off, insomnia and a whole host of other ailments. Along the way I managed to receive Disability Living Allowance. This is all, for the record, totally legitimate. There’s more to me that I really shouldn’t tell you about.
I’ve only had DLA for a couple of years, and it’s a huge help. My wage covers the majority of my bills, but the remainder I have to use the benefits for. After the essentials are taken care of, I’ve got a bit left over to play with- something that should help me go out and meet people.
That bit left over, though, is always a little more than I think it’s going to be. I can’t shake off the frugality of my pre-benefit life. I get nervous when I see anything pricey. I’m plagued by buyer’s remorse. I still by dented reduced cans in Tesco. Value chicken. Supermarket fuel in the small car that I share with a relative. I’m a stingy bastard, and yet I don’t need to be. In fact, psychotherapist JM has told me from the start of our sessions to be kinder to myself, to treat myself more and enjoy myself in a range of ways- i.e. not by watching porn. On the flipside, when I met Baa Bar girl, I shelled out and bought drinks. She would never have come home with me if I hadn’t.
But then again, I might be able to buy my home in a few months if I save enough. That way I can stop paying rent and the price of my property will more than likely rise. The car I share won’t last forever, and it’s a woman’s car anyway so a serious blow to my street cred. So maybe frugality- at the risk of lengthening my depression-could be blessing in the long run…