Book Review: The Secret Currency of Love-The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money and Relationships edited by Hilary Black


Even in tough economic times, women have a difficult time discussing money. Women will talk about their sex lives, tell you who they voted for in the last Presidential election and go on and on about their weight. But when it comes to money, women usually keep their mouths shut. However, Hilary Black has found women who are willing to write about money and what it means to them. She has published their stories in The Secret Currency of Love: The Unabashed Truth About Women, Money and Relationships.

The Secret Currency of Love covers not only how money plays a part in love relationships but also the relationships between parent and child, among friends and with near strangers. Joni Evans writes how a high-profile divorce from a very wealthy man didn’t only shake her personally, but how it also affected her professionally. Dani Shapiro’s mother uses her money to control Dani. Love could be bought, even if it was from your own flesh and blood. Sheri Holman deftly describes her relationship with a drug addict and homeless man and how her own ambition never quite rubbed off on him. Sometimes money wasn’t a part of a relationship, it was the relationship.

These stories, written by notable journalists and novelists, are extremely well-written and interesting. I found myself turning page after page, wanting to find out how their stories played out. However, I was also left wanting. Except for a handful, a majority of them live in New York City. They received excellent educations, many at Ivy League schools, usually paid their parents. Their parents often helped pay their way through even after these ladies reached maturity. The writers are pretty much working in careers they love; no low-paying McJobs for these broads. And if attached, their husbands are also flush with cash. For the most part, these writers aren’t living paycheck to paycheck. They aren’t waking up in the middle of the night, worrying about paying the rent and the bills. Their children are thriving and want for nothing.

Yet, a majority of these writers couldn’t be happy with that. I found myself thinking, “You have more than most of us. Quit whining!” Bliss Broyard kvetches about not being able to keep up with her wealthy friends. I wish for once she could have been grateful for what she does have and appreciate the nice things her friends do for her. A very smug Leslie Bennetts tells us that unlike the offspring of the rich parents at her children’s pricey private school, her own kids don’t get whatever they want. What Ms. Bennetts doesn’t seem to realize is the friendships her children have cultivated with families she likes to disparage have given her son and daughter opportunities we can only dream of. Given a chance to spend the summer in France? I wouldn’t bitch.

Fortunately, some writers truly understand how money can really transform lives. A scholarship helped Veronica Chambers escape an abusive childhood, and now she donates money to help other students at her alma mater. After dealing with an abusive relationship, Kim Barnes understands how money can be a means of control and escape.

But sadly, stories like these are in short supply. I wish Ms. Black would realize women beyond her Rolodex of upper-middle class professionals do have interesting stories to tell about money. For instance, Jennifer Wolff Perrine has the means to adopt a child from a poor couple. But what about the woman giving up the child? Doesn’t she have a story to tell? What does this money mean to her and her family? Is it because she’s poor and uneducated that her story is deemed unworthy? I don’t think so. Waitresses from the Midwest have their stories to tell. So do mothers making the precarious leap from welfare to work. And a woman who used to donate to the local food bank but now gets donations from the local food bank might have an interesting story to tell. Sadly, The Serect Currency of Love doesn’t contain these type of stories. I wish Ms. Black and her coterie would look beyond their own privilege to find another unabashed truth about women, money and relationships even if they don’t wear Manolo Blahniks.