Fresh graduates aren't usually rolling in money. Au pairs aren't usually rolling in money either. I am a fresh graduate. I am also an au pair. Funnily enough, I am not rolling in money.
The people I work for on the other hand... Let's just say that I once witnessed a (small) €36 cheese being consumed chez E.V.P.'s mum. Not for any grand occasion. Not even particularly as a big blow out or a luxurious treat. Just on a school night. Just on a very ordinary school night during a very ordinary meal. (And not that this enhances the story in any way, but I genuinely prefer the €2 brie from my local Franprix.)
Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is this: my employers are hardly strapped for cash.
And yet... I act as though they are in the exact same boat as me - and in that boat we count coins and scrimp at every turn. And for this (entirely fabricated) reason, I can never bring myself to ask them for money. I'm not talking monetary gifts, I don't mean an outrageous pay rise, I'm simply referring to money that they owe me.
It's a disease really.
Before I arrived in Paris there had been vague talk of a contract of some sort, but what with one thing and another, and moving into P.P.(E.V.P.'s daddy)'s spare room, I just never bothered insisting. Silly, silly, silly, spineless Silv. A.V. (E.V.P.'s mummy) once told me, quote, 'we have a very organic attitude towards these things.' So.
Organic or not, it initially took me 5 weeks to muster up the courage to nervously remind A.V. that she had yet to pay me my first month's wage.
'Why was I having to remind her?!' I hear you ask.
'Because she is the most scatterbrained professional business woman I have ever encountered. She loses her house keys twice a week, never pays with cash, and doesn't believe in carrying a bag,(not sure that this is an appropriate place for atheism, but...)' I answer you.
Now, for some wildly inexplicable reason I was wracked with guilt when I had to ask her to pay me this money (money that she was late in giving me, let's just remember.) I asked her once, and she assured me that it was on its way. Another few days passed and it seemed to gave gotten lost on said way. The second time I had to ask her for these basic wages I was almost apologetic. Yet she wasn't. She'd merely forgotten, and would give them to me the next day. But then the next day she unexpectedly went to Mexico to shoot a film, (yeah, bitches be cray) and I had to more or less insist via email that I genuinely couldn't afford to live in this city for one more day unless she found a way to give me 'some' money (I'd long since abandoned the idea of her paying me the lot. Desperate times...)
She found a way eventually, (P.P. handed me a stuffed envelope on her behalf) and I relaxed for the next couple of weeks.`
But then another pay packet was due, and the whole charade started again.
The thing is, I don't blame her. She has a lot on her plate or whatever, and I understand why she would be in no rush to pay me unless reminded. Which is where I come in. Or at least, should come in. But I often don't. Because of this aversion to talk about money. C'est ma faute, but I don't know what to do about it.
I've only been here since October, so I've only had to beg to be paid three times up until now (the last time being two days ago.)
But luckily for this blog post, the fun doesn't end there.
My tiny tot has grown accustomed to certain luxuries during his short, privileged life. To mention but a few, he expects a snack to be waiting in the paw of whoever meets him from school (which is me, 9 times out of 10), and he often can't be fucked walking when he can take a taxi. So. These things cost money. And it's me who pays for these things. A few weeks of daily pain au sucres and rides to his house around the corner soon add up. A.V. once told me that I should tell her how much I spend on these little things so that she can pay me back. She hasn't mentioned it since. Neither have I.
There's ways around that though. I soon learned that. Now I simply run E.V.P. home to the fridge before he has a chance to notice that I'm empty handed and that we're using our feet to get to our desired destination.
But the plot thickens further.
My working hours are as follows:
Mondays- 4.30-bedtime (his)
Tuesdays- 3.00-bedtime (his)
Wednesdays- 11.30-bedtime (his)
Thursdays- 4.30-bedtime (his)
Fridays- 3.00-bedtime (his)
And a few late nights when his parents fancy having a laugh.
So I have quite a bit of free time, not to mention that I'm not exactly enhancing my CV with my current 'career path', (if we can call it that) being as I have absolutely no intention of working with children (or even hanging out with any for any extended period of time until I have my own.) So, I help P.P. and A.V. out with fun shit that needs doing for their work - editing, transcripts, translating, letter writing and the like. It's alright, actually. Oh, apart from the fact that I am so far doing it all completely FOR FREE.
A.V. has a sneaky way of calling me into her office and making it seem like we're hanging out as gal pals rather than me doing her a favour. So I've just made an internal decision to never mention the money that I was promised. Just because... I'm really not willing to bring it up. So I guess I'll just carry on working for free until further notice.
With P.P. it's not so easy to avoid the subject. This is because he is painfully professional, and when he asks me to do stuff for him, it'll be full projects- shit that takes a good few days to finish. He suggested that I make a note of how many hours I spend doing whatever it is that he's given me, and then to let him know. So I did. (Well, I made a note of my hours. The letting him know part was another story...)
I painstakingly kept a little tally of the time I'd spent doing research for this new film he's doing, and it came out at a neat 15 hours. I emailed him all of my findings and various book summaries, and he was happy.
However, the next time I saw him in person, we had to have that conversation that I so dread, that conversation that makes my blood run cold and makes my eyeballs sweat. The Money Conversation.
It started out kinda okay.
'Silvia, I need to pay you for the project you just did.'
'Oh ha, yeah... erm... ha ha, well, I mean, yeah, I just... ha!'
At this point I backed away and started to put my coat on.
He followed me and said, 'we really do need to sort it. How do you want to do this?'
'I don't know... erm...' And I backed away more.
After lots of stuttering and avoidance I said that I'd made a note of how many hours I'd done, so maybe we could do it hourly. He was on board (as I knew he would be.)
'How many hours did you do then?' he politely asked.
Well that you can answer at least, Silv! We all know I did 15, because I worked it out and wrote it down that I did 15. Remember? I did that little tally. There was no mistaking how long I'd spent working on his project.
But shit that should be straightforward is never straightforward with me. Instead of just uttering the two easy syllables, 'fif-teen', what did I do? I lied. Just completely lied. Made it up.
'Ten and a half,' I said. WHAT. What the fuck is wrong with me?! Not only did I lie, but I lied to my detriment. I give up. I don't even deserve to be paid.
The poor man even insisted, 'we need to be professional. How much do you charge per hour?'
EUGH!! I don't charge anything, I have no idea about anything, I'll pay you if you want!
He's asked me a number of times 'how much I charge.' And every time I blush and mumble something unintelligible and then scurry off with my tail between my legs. I always try and turn it around by saying things like, 'well, how much do you pay?' When that fails (which it obviously always does), I then desperately say, 'whatever you think is fair!', and hope that he doesn't think €1 an hour is fair.
Last time I left with promises of researching how much others charge. I've looked. But I don't feel right asking him for the pay that I've seen EVERYONE SINGLE OTHER PERSON WHO DOES THE EXACT SAME JOB AS I'VE JUST DONE asks for.
The thing is, as much as I would be mortified if I accidentally asked for too much, I'd be equally mortified if I short changed myself. And yet, at this rate, I'm going to get nothing.
In conclusion, I will never be rich, because I am utterly incapable of even saying the word 'money.'
My future looks bright.
Oh yeah, I should probably take this opportunity to urge you to contact me if you have any odd jobs that need doing. I charge very competitive rates. (And by 'very competitive rates' I mean that I'll work for free. And thank you for it.)