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Support Payments
by Flora Jardine

We are formally separated, but not divorced. I'm not ready to take that final step but we do live under separate roofs, both of which are paid for by me. I'm trying to make us less mutually-dependent. WG's accommodation is more expensive than my own, which is ridiculous. Who owns whom? I bought, or was given, WG, yet as the years passed I realized that I was the one being owned. I was enslaved, for ownership is slavery.

By “WG”, my previous but now-expelled house-mate, I mean my Worldly Goods. Some people say de-cluttering is easy, but that's not true. It can be easier to down-size human relationships than material ones. Not yet ready for complete divorce I've set WG up in a separate home, also known as “storage”. A storage unit can cost more that an apartment. It's big business, storage. So many years of conspicuous consumption by successful bourgeois people has meant enormous accumulations of material possessions which have to be housed, somewhere, by someone. Anyone who foresaw that, who invested in storage depots decades ago, was an astute businessperson.  

It all began, historians tell us, during the prosperous post-World War II years when people had good jobs and enough disposable income to buy lots of things. They bought furniture, appliances, fashionable clothes, cars, second cars, garden accoutrements, gifts, art, chinaware ... Then they passed away and left these WGs to offspring who didn't want them, and grandchildren who wanted them even less but who couldn't for sentimental reasons bear to reject them. Each generation added new dimensions to WG: yoga mats, kayaks, computers, climbing equipment ... Next they'll be adding robots and another wave of WG-spouses will have to be cast off, or housed in separate quarters. One's own house simply isn't big enough for both past and present wordly-goods partners.

I know this promiscuous poly-amorous relationship with ex-WG is inappropriate. The mature thing to do is to say goodbye to an ex, but that seems heartless. We were together a long time. We're still friends. I tried to hook WG up with new partners and sometimes I succeeded, by holding speed-dating yard sales. But WG as a whole still hung about the house, watching me accusingly from corners and cupboards. I had no space of my own; every nook and cranny was occupied. These places became hard to clean, and I'm tired of being the caretaker in the relationship. As I said: ownership is slavery.

No wonder WG retirement homes – storage lockers -- are so popular. Most of us would never have predicted when we fell in love with longed-ed for consumer goods and knick-knacks, that the romance would ever die. Who would have guessed that the object of desire would one day seem unattractive? Sometimes there was a long courtship (the saving up of funds), while other times the knot of ownership was tied on impulse. Either way one didn't foresee a future when the love-object's beauty would be marred by dents, scratches, stains and other signs of old age.

Sometimes, on an anniversary perhaps, I'll visit WG meaning to end the relationship once and for all, but when I arrive at that sad unit in the warehouse in a shabby part of town, I feel uncomfortable. A strange nostalgia stays my hand. So far. Even though the support payments are killing me.

I try to hand the problem over to my human ex. “Hey! Would you like me to give you those ...” Bursts of laughter erupt, drowning me out, knowing and final. We really are friends, the human ex and I (and neither gives support payments to the other), but at times like this I remember old resentments. Why did I end up with WG?

“Sell them then.”
“But ... they're family.”
“Keep them then.”

Thanks a lot. Ex-spouses can be so disloyal, while ex-WGs are ever-constant, and just won't let go.