I don’t mince words. Never have. And trust me, it doesn’t always work in my favor. But while I can be quick and abrupt, I also waste no time with small talk. I’m willing to lay it all out early on, and if you do too, we’ll likely hit it off.
The key to that kind of authentic connection is vulnerability (as Brene Brown will tell you in her famous TED talk). Getting to know someone, whoever it is — a colleague, new friend, first date — is a veritable peep show: I’ll show a little of mine, if you’ll show a little of yours. And yet, even the most forthcoming, open and self-confident people I know are more likely to confess to sexual dalliances long before they say what they pull in a year. If they ever do.
I’m no different. I don’t mind telling you how I lost my virginity (in the Hillsides dorm at Boston College my senior year with a man I’d known my whole life). I’ll admit whether I ever had a one-night stand (yes). And I have been on the receiving end of even far more personal (and unwelcome) queries into my life choices from people I barely know, as to why I’m not married or whether I want kids.
But when it comes to money, everyone clams right up. Very few people are willing to discuss what they charge or earn because putting a number on anything reduces us to a number. It says, This is what I’m worth. A male colleague remarked recently, that on a scale of 1 to 10, my butt is an 8, especially for “a woman of my age” (no, I’m not kidding). That is his opinion. It’s up for debate. But few will cop to quantifying their net worth, annual salary or hourly rate — because that’s a fact.
In a recent piece on this very topic, Emma Johnson says that we risk a lot more by not talking about money (um, do you know a better way to keep women from demanding fair pay?), and that we maintain that taboo by “padding” our money talk out of embarrassment and shame.
I couldn’t agree with her more — and yet I still feel that tiny tug of fear when I’m about to broach the topic with someone new. I’m afraid of a few things, not the least of which is what that may make me: money hungry, nosy, cheap? Women in particular are raised believing that it’s unseemly and unladylike to concern ourselves with money. Maybe that worked during a time when women’s purity depended on never dirtying their hands with either the money itself or the act of earning it. But this is not the world in which we live now.