Being a poor…

Monday, 12 September 2005

The writer known as John Scalzi posted a piece on his site titled, “Being Poor.” I don’t know how in the world it’s getting linked around—I guess I’ve fallen into the trap—but when I saw my good friend Amo, amas, I love a lass as a cedar tall and slender, as well as my investment broker at Iron Black Cruller, had posted it! It was time to act.

Original is in bold+italic. Response to the call in plain text.

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
No, that’s being fiscally responsible. The assholes who don’t know what everything costs are the ones saddling the US with credit debt that will never flush.
Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.
No, being poor is not having a TV. You’re describing being a shitty parent for not monitoring their viewing and then getting upset at the result.
Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.
No, that’s being short sighted. You could take the bus for a year till you can afford a good used car. My 14 year-old Honda Civic runs perfectly, gets better mileage than almost everything coming out of Detroit, and its street value is about $1,000.
Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.
No, that’s paying for not brushing and flossing. You can have dental insurance for the cost of just one 40oz beer a week. Yeah, I said it.
Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.
No, your kids are just embarrassed by you and their friends have an Xbox and M-rated games.
Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.
Okay, that’s one.
Being poor is living next to the freeway.
Pfff. The 700 square foot places next the freeway where I live start at about $300,000. Or $1,200 a month if renting.
Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.
No, that’s being a moron who doesn’t know how to shop and is willing to spend 90¢ on gasoline to buy $3.50 in food. Breakfast cereal is expensive. Raisin Bran® is a brandname cereal; being poor means brandnames don’t enter into it.
Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help.
No, that’s being insecure because of your craptastic upbringing and personal insecurity. It’s also being blind to the way your sibling broke the cycle and got well-off.
Being poor is off-brand toys.
No, being poor is no toys and the occasional used toys or toys that were returned to the store missing pieces so are on sale at 80% discount.
Being poor is a heater in only one room of the house.
No, being poor is no heat. Or only heat in the front seat of the “house.”
Being poor is knowing you can’t leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.
No, that’s having fucked up friends.
Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.
No, that’s shopping badly and not buying gender neutral clothes you can hand down.
Being poor is stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway.
No, that’s a fantasy you saw in a Lifetime Network movie or something.
Being poor is Goodwill underwear.
Goodwill doesn’t seem to take underwear today if they ever did. Underwear is too dangerous to reuse as some VDs and pubic parasites are notoriously hard to kill. They don’t list it on their online store.
Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.
No, that’s being too lazy and stupid to get the free contraceptives they hand out at the family planning centers.
Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.
Supermarket shoes? Gorilla Glue and Shoe Goo cost almost as much as a pair of sneaks on sale at Payless.
Being poor is your kid’s school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.
No, that’s living in a bad neighborhood. And some textbooks were better 15-30 years ago when they didn’t have as much politically correct compost jammed in them.
Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.
No, that’s reality. What you’re describing is thinking you deserve things you can’t earn and aren’t worth. What you’re describing is why the steel and garment jobs left the US.
Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.
No, that’s Socialism.
Being poor is an overnight shift under florescent lights.
No, that’s earning a wage; and I don’t know the range of all possible salaries for working under those conditions but it does include $42K and I liked it fine.
Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad, begging him for the child support.
No, that’s a bitch who let a deadbeat fuckwad impregnate her and isn’t smart enough to get the authorities involved after the fact.
Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.
No, being poor is doing your only bathing at the YMCA and not even knowing what a bathtub is.
Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.
No, that’s called reuse.
Being poor is making lunch for your kid when a cockroach skitters over the bread, and you looking over to see if your kid saw.
No, that’s being a shitty homeowner. Cockroaches don’t live in poor houses, they live in dirty houses where food is left out. Dirty != Poor. Pretty bigoted to suggest a correlation.
Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a goddamned difference.
All education makes a difference. The people who think the piece of paper matters more than the knowledge it is supposed to symbolize aren’t poor, they’re misled and none too bright and Harvard is churning them out by the long ton.
Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.
What?!
Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.
Split the difference. It’s not exactly poor as much as having kids you can’t afford in a situation where you have no support.
Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.
No, that’s living in a bad neighborhood or just bad luck. If you’d said, “Being poor is the cops hassling you without probable cause any time you’re out after dusk,” I’d have gone for it.
Being poor is not talking to that girl because she’ll probably just laugh at your clothes.
No, that’s being an insecure jerk-off who lets your mom dress you. Worthwhile women don’t even consider that sort of thing. In fact, they dig it often enough for it to have a name. It’s called the savior complex. If women are still laughing, it’s not the clothes.
Being poor is hoping you’ll be invited for dinner.
Whom by? One of your rich friends or relatives you mentioned, I guess.
Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.
Move, idiot. There are plenty of neighborhoods without porch bums and shooting galleries.
Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.
Everyone does reveal personal things by the way he talks.
Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.
Yeah, okay. Being responsible is making sure you earn it.
Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.
No, that’s your teacher picking up on your ignorant brat’s lack of literary awareness.
Being poor is six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.
“No way?” You mean like turning the TV off and using less water?
Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.
No, that’s being clumsy and bipolar.
Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.
No, that’s being self-deluded. People who work hard get ahead. Period. Maybe it’s not far ahead but it does move you forward. Moving forward is all it takes to get out of it.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.
Being stupid is being unable to change your circumstances while expecting someone else to do it for you.
Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.
No? Oh. Well, then the drinking problem isn’t such a big surprise. No? Oh, well then the GED you thought mattered didn’t magically confer the ability to type, fix a car, or care for the infirm. I am surprised.
Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.
No, that’s just a trip to an urban ER in general. They don’t queue by tax return. Guess how long the waits will be when you fix the problem by socializing medicine to help the poor.
Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t bought first.
Whatever. It’s reuse and it saves your own resources for more important things than whether or not someone else’s eyeballs defiled the words in your used book.
Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.
No, being poor is knowing you’ll get malnourished on that shit and that bulk beans and rice are cheaper.
Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.
Again, that’s having lousy parents and trying to get out of responsibility for yourself. Are you still 14? Then grow up.
Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.
No, that’s realizing other people are shitty and that how much money they have doesn’t alter it in the slightest.
Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.
No, everyone is judged and should be. Saying “knowing you’re being judged,” is itself a judgement of the alleged judges being implicitly smeared in the statement.
Being poor is a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.
Okay. That’s two. However, being a good parent is being with your kids instead of letting them raise themselves. Kids don’t care about any of that material shit if they don’t have present, loving parents. Poor != Bad Parent.
Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.
If you’re that poor, you should sell the TV and cars you brought up before.
Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on shelter.
Okay, three. As much as being poor, it’s being insecure.
Being poor is knowing you really shouldn’t spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.
No, that’s being enlightened for a brief moment in an otherwise self-retarded existence. Lotto is for suckers and you have a much, much, much greater chance of dying from lightning, bees, or a fall in the shower than you do of winning.
Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.
No, that’s using emotional manipulation to try to steal what you can’t afford. A 10 minute walk around the parking lot would turn up a dime and then you wouldn’t have to try to extort it. And “register lady?” The job is called cashier and some women don’t appreciate the term “lady” being used in a context that suggests sexism.
Being poor is feeling helpless when your child makes the same mistakes you did, and won’t listen to you beg them against doing so.
No, that’s being a shitty parent who is so fucking deep in your own ruts that you can’t see your behavior has never altered so you’re naturally conferring it onto your children rather than face the self-examination that might lead you to the conclusion that you’re responsible for where you are. Good parents never, ever beg.
Being poor is a cough that doesn’t go away.
No, that’s another literary fantasy left over from Dickens. Or perhaps it’s real tuberculosis which they will gladly, in fact, at otherwise threat of police intervention, treat gratis.
Being poor is making sure you don’t spill on the couch, just in case you have to give it back before the lease is up.
Leasing? No wonder you’re poor. You’re a fiscal retard.
Being poor is a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.
No, that’s getting in too deep with your pot dealer and starting to make the dangerous choices that signal “All Clear Ahead” on the way down.
Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.
4 years for an Associates degree? You don’t like studying much, do you? Art degree? You don’t mind being poor much, do you?
Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.
Jesus, you’re tedious. I’m glad my grandparents and great-grandparents will never read this.
Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.
Being rich is knowing where the shelter is. Nice when we have things in common.
Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.
The percentage of Americans who experience poverty and stay there for most of their lives is small. The percentage of Americans who think that people aren’t responsible for their own lives is growing every year.
Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.
Being an adult is knowing that no matter how hard something is, if it needs to be done, you do it.
Being poor is seeing how few options you have.
No, that’s being short sighted and willfully ignorant.
Being poor is running in place.
Ibid.
Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.
In this case it’s just a person wondering why you didn’t stop writing at 10 of these or at least edit it down a bit.
Or are you talking about New Orleans? A town at the bottom of the biggest river delta in the hemisphere. A river which floods almost every year. A town below a lake. A town which even the founders were warned by engineers in the strongest possible terms against building because of the lunacy of the location. The inevitability of a natural disaster hitting it given enough time.


In Cato’s ghost,

Ashley da Quint1
1 Ate on food stamps more than once as a boy and at the kind whim of friends more than once as an adult. Sat firmly below the poverty line for 10 years post-emancipation. Scrapping with the IRS today because he doesn’t know how to handle the income he has now after getting tired of living on art and part-time minimum wage.
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