Editor's Note: You've seen Steven Colbert's "Better Know a Lobbyist," but our version is so much gayer! Each weekend, we spotlight a different TBP contributor. In case you've missed any of our previous interviews, I've got links at the end of the post.
This week we're talking to Nina Smith, who is the editor of Queercents, a personal finance blog for the LBGTQ community. By day, Nina sells software, but her real estate investments have grown to become a significant part of her financial plan and also a great passion. She has owned and lived in four homes from varied eras (three of which she upgraded and sold for tidy profits, one she occupies now). She also owns investment properties and flipped a fixer a few years ago in Palm Springs.
I've really enjoyed getting to know Nina through her posts here at TBP, as well as at Queercents. I really appreciate that she makes the topic of finance seem less intimidating. Follow me after the jump to read about her coming out experience, and her views on money and living in Southern California.
1. How did you get involved with TBP?
I don't recall exactly, but I think Bil found me.
2. What was your coming out experience like?
I was twenty-eight at the time and already out of the closet at work and with friends. The year was 1995 and I was in love with Partner #1. We were going to be together forever (of course!) so I felt it was time to come clean with my parents. I wanted to be true to myself, live an authentic life and the closet was holding me back.
So I came out. How? I sent my mother an email. Actually it was addressed to both parents, but it was my mother's inbox so she read it first. She didn't email back. Instead she called... crying. It was incredibly painful to hear my mother cry. I've only seen her cry once or twice in my life. She's a strong woman. I felt her disappointment, her embarrassment, and then a sense of panic that she couldn't control or make me something that I couldn't continue to be. The tears were fleeting though before settling into crisis mode: within days the airline ticket arrived in the mail.
"I just want you to come home so we can talk about it," she said.
I was living in Connecticut. My family lives in Ohio. It's a long trip just to have a talk. Partner #1 was convinced she was organizing an intervention - of the white paneled van variety - to whisk me off to Exodus International. Everyone in my family is born-again and I half wondered if they were going to gang up on me.
Surprisingly it didn't turn out that way. The talk was more like family therapy and of course it was facilitated by my mother -- who is not a licensed therapist, but thinks she can play one on TV. My parents invited my adult sisters and brother over to the house and we spent the next 4 hours talking about the childhood dynamics of the Smith household. They wanted to understand what went awry and why I turned out to be gay. They needed to blame something because God couldn't have made me this way.
Once the focus was off me and my gayness, the conversation was actually cathartic for everyone. After all, how often do families get to come together and vent all their baggage from the past? It's amazing what you learn in this forum. I could write a book... perhaps someday I will.
My father concluded the day by saying that they didn't agree with my "chosen" lifestyle, but they loved me. Throughout the years all have continue to live by the "hate the sin, love the sinner" principle and we get along in a healthy and respectful manner.
3. When did you first get excited about finance?
The obsession began in childhood. Perhaps this "excitement" stems from fear. Fear there would never be enough. A therapist once explained I overeat for similar reasons. Store up... since you can't guarantee when the next meal will come. Good approach when it comes to my bank account. Not so great for my waistline.
4. What is it about finances that makes people so uncomfortable? Why are financial issues so difficult to talk about?
I find people are often more willing to talk about their sex life than offer up details about their finances. It's a shame really, that the topic is still so closeted. On many levels, money is riddled with issues but it doesn't need to be. If people would just be honest about their fears, habits, desires, and expectations then they would likely be less burdened with credit card debt, overspending, under-earning, etc. If someone is looking for inspiration, they might want to start by reading the Wealth Consciousness series at Queercents.
5. What's your favorite thing about living in Southern California?
75 degrees, sunny, ocean breeze. Rinse, repeat.
6. What's your favorite way to pamper yourself?
There are people who like to spend money on things and others who spend money on experiences. My preference leans towards the experience category and typically, food is always part of the indulgence. Refer back to question 3.
Check out previous interviews with TBP Contributors
Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore