Are you in Good Hands?

The other night at dinner a group of thirty somethings told a horrific antidote about their dog having some sort of ailment in his limb, which impeded him from relieving himself with ease, and was thought to be the culprit for a recent splurge of binge eating Alpo: “and he usually didn’t really CARE for dry food, to tell you the truth.” After the couple took their little “love muffin” to the vet, a host of tests were arranged. Blood, radioactive scans, even allergy evaluations….everything came back negative. Over the course of that nail biting week (“we thought it was cancer one day”) the dog’s leg gradually returned to baseline. When they had their final consultation with the vet the expert opinion was “depression, most likely.”  And sure enough, the man was surely eating pans of brownies and reluctant to take a shower after receiving a pet bill that cost more than spring break vacation to mexico.
“So we got pet insurance.”
Now, I am a girl who finds it odd that I now use dry cleaning at least 5 times a year (wait a minute…do I still have something waiting to be picked up MONTHS ago?) and I’ve been known to stash a tea bag from the conference break in my pocket for “later.” We all know that I am frugal. But Pet insurance?
It feels like we are living in a culture of depravity. All to aware that there’s aren’t enough blue ribbons, American Idol Titles, gourmet peanut butter blog giveaways, available bachelors who do not have video game addictions, to go around for all the well deserving lasses out there.  The notion that there “isn’t enough” easily leads to the fear that “I won’t have enough” or “I’ll be screwed” in the future by some depravity, if I don’t put in a little chunk of change now.

So we invest in our future, in PROTECTING our assets, by paying a little forward now. I get it. I save 10% of my annual salary, in a few places. I put on sunscreen. I refuse to smoke (unless in a Paris Jazz Bar or offered one from a James Bond look-alike on a yacht in Monaco). I can’t fall asleep easily without munching on a Tums. These are all things I do now to prevent disastrous results in the future. Not to mention all the philosophical habits I do to assist my peak performance in the present (think early bedtime, loads of water, fiber, and a heavy dose of Downton Abbey).

And sure, I have car insurance. and medical insurance. I support these programs because I not only value my health, and the health of others, but more so, because I know that in the course of human history there has always been greedy buggers who take advantage of our desperation to receive last rites, obtain a salve for a painful infection or perform devil possession extraction. And I don’t fault my friends for getting pet insurance. Fido deserves to take a piss without limping to his 6 by 6 domain.

I find the notion of insurance programs absolutely fascinating. At the STATED core, these companies provide consumers with a sense of relief that they will cover you when the unpredictable, those chaotic demons of life, rears its ugly head. “You’re in Good Hands.” Funny, as I was jogging the very next morning these words were pasted on the window display of a bailsbond. We need some one in our corner to rescue us. What they do is convince us that if we pay just a small amount now, IF, something does occur, IT WON’T COST YOU A THING. Really, the fear then, is if SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS, it won’t COST you…..or your wallet at least. The sense that we are constantly out to protect our assets in hopes that should the unthinkable happen, a least I won’t be bankrupt, well, doesn’t that somehow undermine emotional investments? or even psychological assets?

I argued a few things: 1) I am not sure I believe in pre-nups. They are financial boundaries and insurance that IF something crazy [Angelina Jolie/economic depravity/incontinence/a chronic lack of attention to detail or a paltry sense of humor] happens, that I should get what I had BEFORE you happened. Hmmmm…. In this situation, it’s like Germany and France boundary lines “this was mine! No, mine!” it’s a blurring of boundaries, perhaps, and yes, it makes great economic and legal sense, if that’s all it is about. Should you stay with someone because you would be taken for half of your worldly possessions? NO. But leaving the relationship in the LIGHT of such a loss takes more courage than if you didn’t have a pre-nup to begin with. And the pre-nup doesn’t really give people emotional security, either.

Oh my god! what would happen if??? Well, when those ifs do occur, are you so depraved, so unresourceful, so disconnected from a community, that you wouldn’t be able to rally? “wouldn’t you be SUPER sad if your house burned down??” a friend asked. YES! Of course. I would lie in a fetal position and sit Three days of SHIVA in grief of RUBY, or my VITA mix and MAC. And all those thousands of dollars I put into my made-in-china wardrobe, and the recent spanish furniture I bought. But having 50K to cover them all doesn’t psychologically ease my spirit. They are priceless. AS spending my time is priceless. and that very meal with those particular people was passing, and priceless.

Money is not going to make me feel better. And besides, couldn’t I come and spend some time at your house, and wear your Chuck Norris T-Shirt?

However, the concept that insurance alleviates our fear of loss permeates our cultural zeitgeist. We want a net to catch us, as if we were relational trapeze artists. Does it make me sleep better at night to know that I have paid almost 30 K (the price of my Harvard Master’s) in car insurance and have never had to use my own? (I have had other people pay out….one dude hit a parked car that hit my hatchback and it cost about 3K). The point is….does insurance make you FEEL better?

Insurance plays on this illusion of culture, and the throat tightening worry that BAD THINGS WILL HAPPEN AND IT WILL SUCK FOR ME.

And, I assert, that  the above WILL happen and insurance doesn’t prevent that. HOwever, I also don’t put it out of my mind that if my hypothetical fiancée leaves me at the altar to start his own goat herding excursion company with a bar dancer from Cuba) i wouldn’t mind cashing in my dress insurance and taking the ladies to the wine bar…for the weekend.

The whole conversation made me salivate to research the concept for a nonfiction book….and consider how I attempt to protect my assets, prevent calamity at a cost to my present resources. In the meantime, I must remember to pick up a new tube of sunscreen. I am sure there is a 12 month shelf life on these tubes of life saving grease makers.

(FYI: I’ve been in the USA on business/pleasure….sorry it’s taken a while to post and follow you all! I am returning soon!)

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3 thoughts on “Are you in Good Hands?

  1. Very interesting thoughts in this post … We live in a prevention focus society, don’t we? In fact, thinking about the future used to give me anxiety for most of my life. Now it’s gradually getting better. I still don’t have the possibility to set money aside right now, but I’ll get along somehow (or at least hope so, and then don’t think about it anymore).

    I really like how you pointed out the psychological dimensions of feeling secure, (somewhat) independent of money. I rather think about things like that, whether I’ll have a relationship and a good network of friend and family, and whether I’ll do a job I like and how to pursue my dreams, not so much about financial aspects.

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