Friday, February 12, 2010

I got your diversity right here

Did you know there is one section of society that that is truly, fundamentally, completely diverse. Members of every race, religion, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and health status occupy this group without any trouble getting in.

Now granted, there are certain characteristics that make it more likely that you'll be able to join this most diverse class. Be a single woman, or even better be a single woman with children. Be non-white. Be disabled. If you can manage to be all three, then you've hit the jackpot and your admittance is almost statistically assured.

Though I don't think most of y'all wanna join this diverse class. It is the bottom after all. Poverty is the one truly integrated section of society, its own little rainbow coalition of the have nots.

I often wonder why it is so hard for the middle and the upper classes to be as integrated as us at the bottom. We don't even have to try. Poverty doesn't care if you're straight or gay (though if you're a gay teenager that has been kicked out of the house for said gayness, you get a free ticket) or TAB or not (though any disability makes it more likely that you are going to join out ranks, thanks to abysmal employment policies and even more abysmal private healthcare policies).

No, getting in is as easy as being laid off in a recession, or having a health crisis, or ending a marriage.

But getting out is a bitch.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

There has to be a word

to describe the sound of something wet meeting something hard.

For example, I am sitting here and all of a sudden I hear this noise that I describe as "sloucky". It turns out that Other Cousin has her finger in her mouth and the sound I hear is wet finger hitting hard tooth.

Yessss I know I am bothered by weird things, but going through the world wearing dark shades over my eyes (to protect me from bright light) and ear plugs (for weird noises) and a clothespin on my nose (because on random occasions the smell of someone's earwax is so strong it makes me want to gag) is no way to go through life.

Instead I'll just make up words like sloucky.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Halla if you like Challah

The Kid has become the resident baker. This is way awesome, since he has mastered the boxed brownie mixes and we are all regularly treated to "dope brownies" (brownies covered in carmel butterscotch sauce that make you dumb as a stoner).

The other day the Kid pulled out a bread maker (we were broke broke broke and hungry) and made two loaves of bread from a mix. They were awesome and delicious and totally made us forget that all we ate that day was bread.

Today he has gone a bit further in his kitchen experiments and is making Challah from scratch.

Challah, peeps, is probably my favorite bread product ever.

And we have been running around the house all afternoon saying things like "Challah-lueia" and other strange things while we wait for yummy deliciousness.

Can I just say that if teenagedom means a child who bakes delicious treats whenever I want, then I think I will survive it.

There are no souvenirs in Povertyland

I got a bone to pick. (What's new, bone picking seems to be my primary occupation).

See this here horrible Great Recession has inspired a certain class of overeducated white folks to throw off the trappings of privilege a live a simpler life where they mix with the locals and remember what "it's all about".

I call that poverty tourism (cough*Barbara Erenrich*cough).

And just like tourism in third world countries, you're not really helping us by condescending to visit. More often than not, what your doing is giving your voice privilege and precedent over the voices of people who have no choice but to live in Povertyland. You are the reason that articles and opinion pieces and studies and solutions never come from the people who are most familiar with the daily ins and outs of how to live in a world where you are not allowed enough resources to sustain life.

Perhaps you all should hear a story.

My mother and aunt grew up dirt poor in Detroit, the children of a single mother who worked as a waitress. They were really familiar with what real poverty looked like.

My mom met my dad in a commune in San Francisco. The dude who headed the commune was a trust fund brat who had thrown off materialism so that he could experience the pure life of the poor. They didn't eat meat. They didn't drink coffee or use sugar. Mom had about as much of the sanctimonious blow hard's schtick as she could take (and being without caffeine or nicotine- I can just imagine how grouchy she was).

"You never know poverty till you haven't got a dollar in your pocket" (or a trust fund collecting interest from daddy) she told the trust fund brat.

The story goes that she left after that and dad went with her, where they immediately got hamburgers and coffee with milk and sugar and smoked cigarettes.

That's how my parents met. But the moral of the story is that you can't CHOOSE poverty. If you have the ability to CHOOSE, then you are not really poor. Poverty is not a lifestyle choice, it is forced upon you like shackles and makes everything in the world more difficult, not more pure or simple or clear. It weighs you down, trips you up, makes even the most normal of tasks like feeding yourself and your family a balancing act worthy of circus acrobats.

We don't want you to visit us here in Povertyland. We want to throw off our shackles and learn to live without the extra burden. But every time one of you chooses to visit, our struggle is lengthened while you idealize us natives.

Stop it, let us speak for ourselves. Listen when we tell you what we need, it's not that different from what you need, it's just a zillion times harder for us to get.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Whose failure is it

When you've done everything you, everything you are supposed to do, to protect yourself and your child from an abusive ex, and the system fails you at every turn.

First go read this story (triggers, triggers, triggers, peeps) from The Curvature

Then as a wee bit of a refresher, read this old post of mine- Getting Out is Never Easy (also- triggers triggers triggers)

Getting out of an abusive situation is never easy, and the help that is supposed to be available to protect us is not enough. I had to give up on the system and run away. Even after 12 years of no communication, I was afraid that the Kid or I would be hurt at his 8th Grade Graduation. We skipped the public ceremony and went out for Chinese tapas instead.

Katie Tagle did everything she was supposed to do. She left him, she filed police reports and applied for restraining orders. She tried to keep her son safe in every legal way possible.

That system failed her and her child. That system refused to acknowledge the evidence in front of its eyes and chose too rely on make-believe stereotypes of vindictive women and their hard-pressed male victims.

I got lucky, but I also had to leave a city I loved, drop all my friends and only communicate with people who had never met, talked to, or heard about my ex or who were related to me and were supposed to take my side. It's a big sacrifice. Could you pick up on a whim and leave everyone you know? Could you function without access to credit, or references from bosses who smoked pot with your ex every weekend? Without a bank account, or a cell phone, or a forwarding address? Or even a lease in your name? Would you even know how you go about getting a car loan without having it show up on your credit (try tote-your-note car lots. The cars will be crappy and old and the odometer will probably be rolled back, but it won't show up on a credit report). And this was all before Facebook and MySpace and Twitter and blogs. I got way too comfortable and assumed that a decade's worth of absence would make him disappear. I was wrong.

I still, fucking still, get startled by men who resemble my ex in even tiny ways. I still lose sleep when I hear noises, perfectly explainable tree or wind noises, outside my windows at night.

All that and I got lucky. The Kid is alive and safe. I am alive and safe. Any abuser apologists are on my permanent shit list (you know who you are) and don't get access to the Kid or me.

I think I know what Katie Tagle is experiencing right now. I think she is blaming herself for not breaking the law, keeping her son from his father, and running. But she shouldn't. Living in hiding should not be the only option for a woman protecting her child. That tiny family shouldn't have to be the ones terrified of every door knock or phone call or email. She did everything she was supposed to do to keep her child safe according to the Justice System. And the people that really failed her son, the judges and her ex, are free. The judges can hide behind their black robes and superiority and "justice" to avoid shouldering the blame for their accessory to murder. Her ex took the coward's way out.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

About those boot straps

It's nice when facts back up all the complaining I've been doing on this little site.

Such as the American Dream is a load of shit. A child born into poverty in America has a 1.3 percent chance of making it to the upper class. 1.3 percent. That's it.

It's not a question of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps, it's not a question of hard work over laziness or intelligence over ignorance. It is more akin to the odds of winning the lottery, which may explain why so many poor people are willing to put their faith and their cash into tiny games of chance with little likelihood of payoff, the odds are very familiar to them (us, me).

But this isn't a natural human state. The division of haves from have nots is neither normal nor natural nor to be expected. Unemployment doesn't exist in nature. Neither does credit or money. As a species, there are more than enough resources on this planet to feed and house us all, only complex and unnatural ideas of trade and surplus and profit and ownership prevent that possibility. No one really dies because there is a lack of food, but because there is a lack of money to buy food.