Dear E. Jean: My boyfriend and I have been together two years. In the beginning, he asked me to give up my job, come work part-time for his company, move in with him, take care of him, and run the house. Well! We recently had a fight, and he said he was going to “make my life a waking nightmare.” He stated he was going to “sue me and garnishee my future wages for all the money he wasted supporting me,” which he estimates to be $25,000.
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He promised me that he’d get back every dime he spent on me and all his exes!
Frankly, it scared me. I did not sign a contract with him of any kind, but he did pay some of my bills. He’s a very smart man who will be a successful attorney someday (he’s going to night school). I don’t have any money saved. My family is not wealthy, and I certainly don’t have the money to pay him back immediately or hire a lawyer to defend me in court. Now I’m out of a job! What do I do? —Am I Just Screwed?
Miss Screwed, Sweetheart: Nothing but an extreme love of nonviolence hinders me from taking this guy outside and lashing him with stinging barbs. However, I read your letter to the illustrious Dallas, Texas, contracts attorney Sherlyn Wiggs, and she assured me that you may rest easy. Here’s Miss Wiggs’ advice:
“Your boyfriend will find out in his first-year contracts class that his threat is legally unenforceable. Furthermore, he cannot garnishee your wages without a court order. Nor can he recover any money that he gratuitously spent on you or other girlfriends. In short, his bark is much worse than his legal bite.”
Note: In the future, if you ever waver at a boyfriend’s job offer, remember these numbers: The $25,000 Mr. Night School claims to have spent on you (i.e., did not actually pay you) to work in his office, clean his toilets, vacuum his carpets, run his errands, cook his meals, wash his dishes, and entertain his business associates breaks down to $12,500 a year, and (based on a 10-hour day and five-day week) bottoms out at $4.81 an hour. So if the scoundrel ever again dares mention garnishee anything, smile, hand him an invoice listing each category of task you performed for him accompanied by dates and times, and tell him: “But darling! What a marvelous coincidence! I’m turning you in to the U.S. Department of Labor for paying less than the minimum wage!”
The best thing that could have happened to you was being “fired” by this addlepated jerk.
This letter is from the E. Jean archive.