High-End Co-Dependency Page 2

Second, you must harden your heart, if you expect to have any money left for non-stereo items such as groceries. It doesn't matter that your audiophile is the world's greatest bargain-hunter, that he or she never pays retail for anything, that he or she balances your checkbook to the penny. This is an addiction we're talking about. No matter how large or small your budget, there's equipment out there to tempt any audiophile, of any income level, to overspend. And there's more coming out every day.

I was tough. When we first moved to New York, my rule was trades only, no cash spent---not that we had any, but that wouldn't have stopped him. This meant that, when I caved in and let him trade up to a new amp with his old one plus $50, I got all kinds of credit for being so understanding.

I made the same rule about records---not just because of cost, but because we had no space. If he brought home records, he had to sell or give away as many as he'd bought. He used to sneak records in late at night (he thought I wouldn't notice that another foot of shelf space was filled up), but we did manage to keep the increase under control.

Finally, don't make any comments or answer any questions about what you're hearing. It's easy to get suckered in when he says, "You've really got good ears, tell me if you can hear a difference." I warn you, it's a trick. He knows there's a difference, he can hear it---that's the nature of his disease. You hear nothing, but you're flattered that he's asked for your opinion in his area of expertise; besides, you don't want to be impolite, so you mumble, "Yeah, I think I can hear it."

Big mistake! When you ask about that unidentifiable charge on the next credit-card bill, he'll say, "Don't you remember? We agreed to get that diggley-squatter---you said it really improved the sound." Same thing with music. "What do you think of this CD?" he asks casually, as you're relaxing with the Sunday paper. "It's okay," you answer, having been, in fact, completely successful in ignoring what's playing. "See?! I knew you'd like Talking Heads!" And next thing you know, you've got a boxed set of some group you despise.

Still, while observing due caution, let's not forget the advantages. I, for one, get introduced to lots of great music which I'd probably never run across on my own. And we do have good sound. Sometimes I even notice it and, despite all my good advice to myself, comment on it. I still never touch the hard stuff: Wes makes the connections, fiddles with the settings, plugs-in new components.

Would I go out and buy components myself? I don't know. The sound can definitely be seductive, but there's much to be said for a nice, simple system where all you have to do is plug-in one power cord.

Married to an audiophile, I have the best of both worlds: great sound and no aggravation. Does that make me co-dependent?