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LJ Idol, Topic 11: I Fought the Law -- Bubbles Burst

I'm the girl who talks to the cops. Which means I have an inordinate number of really boring stories about getting people out of moronic scrapes (e.g., my ex cutting across 4 lanes of traffic because his car was little and fast) by batting my eyelashes and acting both responsible and vengeful.

Which is why this post is about my relationship with the IRS instead. Except, of course, it's not really about that. It's not like I got audited and they won, or really anything. I owed taxes, couldn't pay them, and have been on the previously alluded to payment plan for years to get it all cleared up. They have been remarkably nice, professional and non-stressful in the entire affair.

No, when I say I fought the law and the law won, the law I'm talking about isn't tax law, but the law of bubbles. Bubbles burst. If you've been reading the business section lately, you know this, perhaps intimately.

I am a dot.com refugee. I have worked for companies you've heard of and those you haven't, and I've been through more than one IPO. And I can't say I regret it -- it would be a shame not to have stories from the heady '90s, but ultimately, other than my monthly IRS bill, it's mattered almost not at all.

Which is a little grim, when you think about it. After all, there were moments in time where I was worth almost seven figures on paper.

Oddly, that fictional wealth was often convenient, even as I found it shudderingly crass. I merely submitted the IPO prospectus for one company I worked for when I wanted to sublet a ridiculously expensive studio in a co-op that then worried about my kind. I, I assured them, was an adult, and not about that beer and hookers partying of the dot.com mania. And while I was a quiet tenant, I do recall a handful of nights involving decadence of dubious taste and modes of achieving it of dubious legality.

And, of course there was my own mania, fueled with the help of my ridiculous ex-, who was a lot of things, including a perfect companion for the end of the '90's boom. I think it's something we both have a pretty big sense of humour about these days. We've chatted about it once or twice over sushi -- slightly pricey, but minimalist.

But back then it was us laughing at my hesitation at buying a $500 leather coat when the money was negligible with the options I was sitting on at the time and the absurd salary I was then drawing from my latest landing pad that would, of course, run out of money three weeks later.

Out of boredom one night we ordered a $200 bottle of wine at Gramercy Tavern to see if we could taste the difference. We could, and I suppose Michael already knew that -- he had Wall Street friends and was my education in pretty much anything refined that Hewitt had somehow missed. Truly, I think back on that time, and I have him to thank for skills -- like ordering wine -- I had been trained to leave to men.

One night he even decided to buy a DVD player on-line and it was delivered to his house in Brooklyn shortly after midnight.

Parts of this were as exuberant and wonderful as they may sound; we laughed a lot. But most of it involved him trying to keep up with an image of himself and me trying to keep up with him. I burned through about 50K of option money in less than a year, and just didn't worry about putting in savings anything I cashed out -- I'd cash out more in tax season and pay the bill that way.

Of course, before that moment came, the bubble burst, the stock tanked, my options were under water, and thank god for my vesting schedule or I would have owed the IRS a shitload more than taxes on 50K over my salary.

Like an idiot, I avoided the whole thing for longer than I should have, but eventually the letters got scary enough that I called the IRS and sorted it out. I've been paying $200/month ever since.

For a while, I could barely afford groceries or rent, but was surrounded by all the stuff Michael and I had bought. The stuff I still have -- well, other than the DVD player that eventually died -- although nothing else in my life remains the same.

Not because of the money drama, but because my life changed, my heart saw other countries. In the end, neither he nor the IRS got to be the worst thing that ever happened to me.

The corporate world, though? Maybe.

I had wanted to be a vice president before I turned 30. But before that ever happened I realized that people thought me crazy because I had no tolerance for their "Nice sweater, where'd you get it? K-mart?" politics and because I refused to be a cheerleader for dumb ideas or dress in a way so bland I was attractive only because the eye would have nothing in my vicinity to focus on.

I didn't understand how to succeed by making the world slide away from me.

I couldn't hack it, because I was smart, but also because I was weak.

And so I ran away. Quitting from stress and losing jobs because companies folded. I collected unemployment, I freelanced, I learned to act, I dabbled, as we know, at being a whore.

One company I had options in went out of business. Another was sold, and I forgot to fill out the paperwork to transfer what shares I had remaining. To this day I still haven't done it. High six figures, now worth about $800, and I don't even know how to go about dealing with it, nor, truth be told, do I much care.

I fought the law, and the law won. Because bubbles burst, and I was made for many things, but none of them were ever these.
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