crewgrrl: (John adams)
Yesterday, John Scalzi linked to his own essay Being Poor. I believe it was written in response to a lot of things people were saying about the urban poor who died in Katrina because they couldn't afford to leave.

Many people wrote in the comments what being poor meant to them. It's an eye-opening read to someone who grew up ensconced firmly in the middle class until my father passed. We were never poor, but we relied on a lot of help till my mom was able to get the insurance money and then a job. But here's my thoughts:

Not being middle class anymore means that your peers don't understand why you don't have a credit card, let alone one that your parents pay the bills on.

Not being middle class anymore means that even though you've begged the money to go on a heritage trip to Poland, the terms of your scholarship to Israel for the year may mean you're not allowed to leave the country.

Not being middle class anymore means listening to people complain that "November is the only month that no one is coming to visit me in Israel" when you know that a) your mom can't afford to come and b) the only reason your boyfriend can is that he's taken on an extra freelance job to pay for it.

Not being middle class anymore means thanking God that your husband makes more than your mother, and you'll never have to worry that hard about money again.

Not being middle class anymore means knowing that your mother can never civilly remarry, because it'll screw your siblings out of college aid.

Not being middle class anymore means creeping into a suite mate's room while she's out to watch a movie on her portable DVD player because you want to see it so desperately and there's no way you'll ever be able to see it otherwise.

It means looking at all of the things your peers have and knowing that you'll never have any of them.

It means knowing that if you got the takeout Chinese using your college meal plan money, the large lasted two meals instead of the one meal in the cafeteria.

It means already having way more life skills than your age peers, who never had to do laundry or cook before they left home for the first time.

It means that even though you have money to do most of what you'd like, you still keep track of how much everything costs at competing supermarkets because that's how your family got through high school and your first crack at college.

It means knowing that if your mom maintains employment with a school district, you pray Obamacare passes unscathed so that your siblings will have health insurance until they are employed and are getting it on their own.

It means knowing the income thresholds for college aid since you were 17, and being grateful when you can earn just enough to get insurance but not make so much that you'll be denied aid.

It means being grateful to the man you will one day marry who thinks that insuring his girlfriend is a worthwhile expense, because now you have health care that's actually worth a damn.

It means knowing just how damn lucky you are that you'll get to be a stay at home mom when the country's economic situation largely prevents that in many families.

It means knowing how much harder it is for the truly poor to get jobs, because you can't even get a secretarial job without a college degree.


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