Being Poor in America

7 mins read

Back in college, I was known for writing—sometimes for the student paper, but mostly on a handy widget called Facebook Notes. Many of the Notes are a decade old now, but some still pack a punch. The first one up is “Being Poor in America,” which I co-wrote with Troy Rose.

Being Poor in America (link to original)

• Being poor is being told as a child that you can be anything you want to be because your mom didn’t want you to have a negative outlook on life.

• Being poor is possibly being told as a child that you’ll never amount to anything.

• Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because that’s all you can afford (since there’s no public transit), and then having the cars break down on you because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.

• Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

• Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all that crap they see on TV.

• Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually stupid.

• Being poor is people surprised to discover you’re not actually lazy.

• Being poor is hoping your toothache just goes away.

• Being poor is thinking of excuses for why you can’t attend those [expensive] lunches that your college-peers have every day after class.

• Being poor is people angry at you and your kind for shopping at Wal-Mart.

• Being poor is never being able to see the new Disney movie until it comes out three years later on ABC.

• Being poor is never being able to afford to go on school field trips

• Being poor is not talking to that girl because she’ll probably just laugh at your clothes.

• Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.

• Being poor is not taking the job because you can’t find someone you trust to watch your kids.

• Being poor is being told that putting water in your cereal is normal.

• 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.

• Being poor is wondering if your well-off sibling is lying when he says he doesn’t mind when you ask for help.

• Being poor is off-brand toys and hand-me-down clothes.

• Being poor is knowing you can’t leave $5 on the coffee table when your friends are around.

• Being poor is hoping your kids don’t have a growth spurt.

• Being poor is feeling the glued soles tear off your supermarket shoes when you run around the playground.

• Being poor is thinking $8 an hour is a really good deal.

• Being poor is relying on people who don’t give a damn about you.

• Being poor is finding the letter your mom wrote to your dad begging him for the child support.

• Being poor is stopping the car to take a lamp from a stranger’s trash.

• 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.

• Being poor is believing a GED actually makes a g**damned difference.

• Being poor is the police busting into the apartment right next to yours.

• Being poor is needing that 35-cent raise.

• Being poor is your kid’s teacher assuming you don’t have any books in your home.

• Being poor is $6.00 short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

• Being poor is crying when you drop the mac-n-cheese on the floor.

• Being poor is knowing you work as hard as anyone, anywhere.

• Being poor is a six-hour wait in an emergency room with a sick child asleep on your lap.

• Being poor is never buying anything someone else hasn’t bought first.

• Being poor is picking the 10 cent ramen instead of the 12 cent ramen because that’s two extra packages for every dollar.

• Being poor is having to live with choices you didn’t know you made when you were 14 years old.

• Being poor is getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.

• Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.

• Being poor is checking the coin return slot of every soda machine you go by.

• Being poor is deciding that it’s all right to base a relationship on shelter.

• Being poor is knowing you really shouldn’t spend that buck on a Lotto ticket.

• Being poor is hoping the register lady will spot you the dime.

• 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.

• 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.

• Being poor is four years of night classes for an Associates of Art degree.

• Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be.

• Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

• Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

• Being poor is people wondering why you don’t just leave this hellhole.

First posted on Baxter and Friends. Re-posted with permission.

Husband, Dad, Elder, All-Around Nerd, Financial Coach, and Contributor for, @aldotcom, @TDAlabamaMag, and @DailyPS.

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