July 10, 2008

Yesterday I made three pans of lasagna — one for us for dinner, and two for new parents at our church.  Putting together three pans of lasagna is a formidable task, and it takes some time.  So I turned on my little kitchen TV to the only channel it can pick up.  Oprah was on, and she was talking about money.  I left it on, hoping to get some good pointers.

A stay-at-home mom to six children with brilliantly white teeth was talking about her spending habits.  The more I heard, the more my idle curiosity turned to horrified shock.  She buys entirely new wardrobes about every two months, and regularly holds yard sales where she sells the $50 shirts she has bought for $1.  She’s spent thousands of dollars on hair extensions, manicures, and tanning, but her children are not getting the medical tests or dental exams that they are supposed to have.  Her home is also a source of big spending — nearly every room has a mural in it, for which she paid between 2 and 4 thousand dollars.  The silk plants she bought to decorate her home cost $5000.  It just went on and on.  (You can read the show’s official summary here.)

Her poor husband shared his hurt over the situation.  He said he feels hurt and disrespected. “You give your wife responsibility to take care of the family with the funds that have been given to her and then she’s spending it frivolously on things that really are meaningless because she’s wanting to make an impression of what she looks like,” he says.

But as bad as it was, I felt positive about it all when the woman acknowledged the nature of what she was doing.  She said, “It’s total selfishness. My kids mean the world to me and I should be putting them first, but I put myself first. … It’s shameful.”  I figured there must be hope for her if she’s realized this much.

Enter Suze Orman, the “expert” who’s going to get everyone straightened out.  I tend to avoid watching Suze Orman on TV because, although she hands out sound financial advice, quite often she muddies the waters with amateur psychoanalysis and new age blather.  Her appearance on the Oprah show was no exception.    So, what does Suze say to the woman who has made such horrible mistakes and is starting to realize the selfishness and disrespectful nature of her actions?

“I personally don’t believe you’re selfish. I think you’re selfless. I think because you don’t have a self, because you don’t know who you are…that is why you’re doing these things that you are doing. You are just simply trying to find yourself,” she says. “You are trying to define yourself by the things that you buy rather than you define the things around you. And you keep buying new and new things because you can’t find the definition of yourself.”

And to the husband?

“Don’t you dare sit here and act like she has been deceiving you because you have been deceiving yourself. You are a father who sees that you have six children. You knew you didn’t have insurance for them,” Suze says. “But you say it’s disappointing because your wife, you’ve given her this responsibility to pay the bills. Where were you in this? Why didn’t you show up knowing what she was doing? Was it easier for you just to stick your head in the mud and blame it all on her? No wonder she doesn’t feel good about herself either. Because her husband wasn’t even reaching out to say to her, ‘Stop it. Stop it,’ and putting your foot down, so you [Felice] just kept doing it. So we have a totally dysfunctional relationship with money, and we have a dysfunctional relationship with each other. But where does it all start from? A dysfunctional relationship with ourselves.”

Now, maybe it’s just me, but I think she totally missed the boat.

FWIW, she did give the couple some good advice — move to a less expensive part of the country, mom needs to get a part time job with health benefits, get a life insurance policy for the breadwinner hubby, and more.  I just think she dished out a generous portion of incorrect psycho-babble with it.


One comment

  1. 1) this is why I don’t watch or listen to Oprah! plus she’s gone wacko-jacko with her new “religion”

    2) you have Suze Orman pegged right

    3) did I say this is why I don’t watch or listen to Oprah?

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