A couple months ago Westi and I bought a new house. Because this house was such a great opportunity, and this neighborhood so hard to get into, we decided to buy our new house without having sold our old house first.
In order to pull off the feat of buying a new house before selling the old one, we had to take out a bridge loan to assist with the down payment on the new one. So, the week before we were supposed to close on the new house we showed up at Premier Members Credit Union (PMCU) to sign the paperwork for this bridge loan. We sat down, we looked at the paperwork, and we discovered that they’d listed Westi as the borrower and myself as the co-borrower.
Immediately I was annoyed. It’s not that it makes a functional difference, I know that it doesn’t, but I deeply resented the fact that I had initiated this loan, done all the legwork and contact with PMCU, and yet still they had made the huge assumption that OF COURSE my husband should be listed first on the loan docs and I should be listed second.
And even though I was annoyed, and surprised in that “oh for the love of God” kind of way, the truth is I wasn’t really surprised. Not in that shocked “I honestly have no idea how this happened” kind of way. I know exactly how it happened. It happened because the loan officer who handled our paperwork just always, reflexively, for no reason and without asking, puts men first on applications. I know this is what happened, because my whole married life in both marriages has been an exercise in being the “co”. On loans, on titles, on shared accounts. My husband is always the owner/applicant/borrower and I’m always the co- version of the same. If not for the fact that my father is my accountant I’m pretty certain I’d be the “co” on my taxes too.
I seriously considered making them change the loan docs before signing, but then I would be “that woman”. I’d be the shrill feminist who can’t keep her eye on the ball. I’d be the person they all roll their eyes about after work. I’m sure there are people who don’t mind being that woman, but I’m not one of them. I don’t want to make a scene everywhere I go because the patriarchy has, yet again, reared its head. I just wanted to sign the stupid loan and go.
Maybe I’d have made a bigger deal out of it if I was going to be annoyed by this once a month for the next 30 years, but we were only keeping this loan until we sold the old house. So I let it go. About 6 weeks later we sold our old house, this loan was paid off, and I mentally wrote the whole thing off as “some jerk in their processing department.”
Then today one of my coworkers mentioned her recent discovery that the reason she couldn’t access her mortgage information through her online banking account was because the bank had put everything exclusively in her husband’s account, even though her name was also on the mortgage. She also mentioned that the same institution put her husband’s name on her car lease even though it was her name on the application.
Then another coworker piped up about a friend of hers, who discovered upon showing up to sign the paperwork to rent her new apartment that only her partner’s name had been put on the lease. Never mind that she was the only source of income between the two of them and had handled all the paperwork up to that point, she had been left off the rental agreement completely. It was explained to her that this was fine because if they broke up in the future her partner could sign the lease over to her. (!!!!!) She pushed for them to change it and they responded by threatening to not rent the apartment to them at all.
Then another coworker admitted she’d experienced a car dealership only putting her husband’s name on the title even though they went together to buy the car.
Then another coworker admitted a car dealership had taken forever for their lease and when asked what the hold up was they admitted it’s because they ran her husband’s credit first, found it wasn’t great, and then ran hers instead. Her husband’s name is still listed first though. On both of their leases.
Story after story was tumbling out of my coworkers, about how “him” is the default pronoun and how rage inducing that is, about how husbands and male partners are always listed first (or are the only ones listed at all), and even a story about a local library that wouldn’t allow married women to have a library card in their own name into the 1970s.
So you know what? This is shocking. It is. Not because it’s unexpected, but because it’s fucking outrageous. We are all grown-ass-women with well paying, full-time jobs who are every bit as competent to borrow money, buy cars, rent houses, and otherwise run our lives as the men we have chosen to share those lives with. In some cases we are demonstrably more competent to do so. But still we are treated as the after thought. Our male partners come first, we have to settle for being the co-person. Over and over and over and over. Far too often for it to be a coincidence or an accident.
I don’t know how to wrap this post up, because I don’t have any tidy suggestions for how to fix the whole damn world. I don’t understand why any of us should have these stories, let alone all of us. So I’m going to end this rant with a suggestion from another of my amazing female coworkers:
We need to scream loudly enough that they will hear us in 1952.
We really fucking do.