I got married for the first time when I was 23 and still recovering from a bad heartbreak. The man I married was eight years older and well-established in his career. He dressed beautifully. He had polished bookshelves filled with important books. He wanted to marry me, and I was pleased that someone like him was interested in me. If I noticed his cheapness at the time, I think I must have convinced myself that he was a “good saver,” which therefore meant “good provider,” something my generation of women was always told to strive for. And since my father was someone who’d lost his 30-year business after leaving my mother and going on an outrageous spending spree, these qualities seemed reassuring to me.

I don’t know how long we were married when I realized the “good saver” was simply an outrageous cheapskate. Possibly it was the moment when I called him at the office while on maternity leave with my first child to ask him to pick up some diapers on his way home from work. “Sorry,” he replied. “I don’t have a dime on me.”

This became the phrase I most heard emerge from his lips during our seven years of matrimony. “Sorry, I don’t have a dime on me.” We had separate bank accounts and basically, my salary covered everything although we split the mortgage payments. I paid for the groceries and all the bills because the man seemed to equate opening his wallet with certain violent death. At times I wondered if it went beyond just being Scottish, but if there was some mental illness at play.

Then again, maybe not. The Miser would spend $1,000 on a suit for himself but argue that my daughter’s shoes, with gaping holes, didn’t need to be replaced. He would pay for expensive tennis lessons for himself but balk at coughing up $50 to enrol the kids in the local ball hockey league. Needless to say, the strain and misery that resulted from living life with a miser most certainly played a very large role in our divorce. We shared custody 50/50, but as the kids got older, they became so sick of his cheapness that they basically refused to go to his house anymore and were with me full-time. And yet getting him to give me any money for their upbringing has been a long and constant battle, one I haven’t taken to the courts simply because he did, in fact, save up all the money for their university education.

The Miser just spent a week here helping us get set up, and living under the same roof with him again brought it all back. There were three adults here for a week — my friend Kim also came to help — and at one point The Miser went to the corner store and brought back TWO CANS OF BEER. He never once offered to buy some groceries. While at Target, the blood drained from his face when I insisted he buy a new bike for his son in order to facilitate his getting around in our new town. It was $128, less than The Miser would spend on a Banana Republic shirt for himself. He refused. I shrieked in the middle of the Target: “JUST BUY IT FOR HIM, FOR THE LOVE OF CHRIST! YOU AREN’T GOING TO HAVE TO SPEND A DIME ON THE KID FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS!!!” People stopped and stared. One woman gave me the thumbs’ up.

Cheapness — I would argue it is one of the most unattractive qualities a person can possess. This might explain why my next husband was a major over-spender, something that came with its own set of major problems. As always, I remind myself: I really know how to pick ’em.

Buttercuppers, please share your own up-close-and-personal experiences with a miser.

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