Wednesday, October 16, 2013

When Buried Secrets Are Unearthed, Disaster Ensures

Dear Tazi:

I am sick, sick, sick of my sanctimonious aunt telling me how to live my life! “Aunt Clarissa” is the youngest daughter of the eldest son, and I am the eldest daughter of the youngest son, so we are only separated in age by four years, but we are ages apart when it comes to seeing reality.
Clarissa grew up with all the privileges because her father had all the privileges of being the eldest child. He had his life settled when his parents passed away, and used his inheritance to start his own business; my father on the other hand was in college when my grandparents died and had to use the small inheritance he was left to pay his way through his last two years of school. These fortunes found their way to the next generation, with Clarissa going to exclusive private schools and having her college tuition paid for her (Ivy League, of course!) while I wet to public school and took out loans to pay the balance of my tuition that wasn’t covered by financial aid (at the state college).

My whole life I have had to deal with Clarissa telling me what to do and how to do it if I wanted to succeed in the “upper circle” in life. She would criticize my clothes, my hairstyle, my friends, my study habits – you name it! By the time I got to college I was used to her “guidance” and could tune her out whenever she tried to “advise” me on what courses to take. She didn’t even have the same major as me!

After graduating college, Clarissa went to work for her father’s company in a job tailor-made for her. She was given a huge salary and a corner office. When she decided to go out on her own, it was with her father’s blessing – and start-up funding! After a rough first year she managed to get her business on track and is quite successful, and I am happy for her. I really am; I am not so aggravated that I would wish failure upon her.

I graduated college two years ago, and am ready to leave the entry-level job I have been working but am having trouble finding the right job in this difficult economy. While I would love to eventually open my own firm, the time is just not right – I still owe around $20,000 in student loans and I need a new car. I would like to pay off my student debt, buy a car, and have some savings to cushion me before I take on a business loan and a new venture. I made the mistake of mentioning these goals to another (older) aunt at a recent family get-together when Clarissa swooped in with her advice.

In front of my whole family, Clarissa started to lecture me on how you need to seize the moment; that if you wait for the perfect time to start a new venture you will never begin it. She then used herself as an example of someone who “made the leap of faith into the world of entrepreneurship” and how it was the best decision she ever made. Tazi, I am embarrassed to say that I lost it on Clarissa. I told her that she was nothing more than a spoiled little rich girl who has always had everything handed to her; I pointed out that she graduated college debt-free, accepted an overpaid job with her father, and then took his money to start her own business, risk free. It was at this point an uncle spoke up, and things got even uglier.

“Uncle Joe” accused Clarissa’s father of taking advantage of their parents’ finances in order to “fleece them blind” before they died. Apparently he had borrowed quite heavily from them to purchase his first home, which he flipped for a whole lot more money; when Grandma and Grandpa died (in a car accident) nobody knew about the debt until several years later, long after the estate was settled and it was too late to seek reimbursement. Before too long, it became a free-for-all with everyone attacking Clarissa and her father – Clarissa for her attitude, her father for his dishonesty. I felt like a jerk for starting it all and quietly slipped out of the party and went home.

It has been three weeks since the blow-out, and Clarissa has not been seen in public. She has not shown for work and her business (an exclusive boutique) has not been monitored. Her salesgirls say that the books have not been balanced because the registers have not been cashed out and that sales are down because popular inventory cannot be replaced because suppliers have not been paid. Much of what she sells is hand-crafted by local artisans who sell on consignment! The salesgirls have actually had to take money from the registers to pay themselves; leaving slips in the drawer with the amounts they were owed!

I would like to call Clarissa and at least offer to get her store back in shape (I am an Accountant) but I am afraid of how she would react if she hears my voice. I have asked other family members to call, but they have said that what Clarissa does it her business, and that they are far too upset with her father to do anything about the situation. One uncle is talking about suing Clarissa’s father for repayment of the loan he took all those years ago, with interest and penalties. The whole situation is such an embarrassing mess for Clarissa that I can see why she doesn’t want to be seen in public; ours is a small town, and gossip travels fast. Should I call Clarissa? Walk into her store and take the reins until she is ready to return? What?


Regretful Niece

Dear Regretful Niece:

I think the first thing you should do is call the police and ask them to do a welfare check on Clarissa. The fact that she has been incommunicado for the last three weeks – neglecting her business and her bills – screams for an intervention. With any luck, she had just been hiding and has not done anything to harm herself.

I think the second thing you should do is stop by her house and tell her that you are sorry that you blew up at her, that you had no idea things would explode so horribly all over her and her father, and to tell her that her business is in need of attention and that you will see to it until she is ready to face the world again. Seeing someone else take charge of her business may be what Clarissa needs to be jolted out of her shock and depression. If it is not, follow through and see that the registers are cashed out, the books balanced, the payroll completed, and the artisans paid. You may need to take some vacation time if you cannot complete all of this in your down time, but that is all a part of being a family – making the uncomfortable sacrifices in order to come together during hard times.

Try to understand Clarissa’s point of view: this princess has been knocked off of her throne. She has just discovered that her father is a thief who built his fortune on the rightful inheritance of others. Her entire life has been built upon that theft; everything she thought she knew about her father and herself has been tossed about like confetti into a strong wind. Until now, she has had the cushion of her father’s money to soften life’s blows; now, even that is poison to her. I know it will be difficult, but try to take the high road and find it in your heart to feel some kind of compassion for Clarissa; she is going to need it.


Ask Tazi! is ghostwritten by a human with Bachelors degrees in Communications and in Gender and Women's Studies. Tazi-Kat is not really a talking feline.

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