The Women in My Family Had to Be Good With Money
How my mother, grandmother and I saved, schemed and sacrificed to gain independence from our controlling husbands.
Of all the stories we’ve published over the past decade at Narratively, this deeply personal piece may be the one that has resonated with readers the most. We’ve heard from so many different people who empathize with what Dena and the women in her family have been through — and who of course have similar stories of their own. If you haven’t had a chance to read this one yet, take a few minutes out of your #MemoirMonday to spend with this very special story.
“If you write the check for five dollars over, they’ll give you cash back,” my grandmother told me, scrawling her name and ripping the paper out of the checkbook. “Then you can get some money for yourself.” She took the five-dollar bill the clerk handed her and tucked it into the inside pocket of her purse, between the coupons and crumpled tissues. “Just make sure you do it every time, so your husband thinks that’s really what the groceries cost.”
I was twelve, in that liminal state between childhood and womanhood, still playing with dolls but also shopping for training bras. Eager to soak up lessons about what it meant to be a woman, I watched, and learned, never once questioning why a woman who had a job had to hide money from her husband.
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