Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Pursuing Pleasure While Poor

It's bitter, but not surprising, how the creative, creek-stomping, count-your-blessings good life breaks down when there's not enough money to pay rent. The world is so skeptical of under-employed college graduates, artists, and low-income stay-at-home moms. At least once a week I read or hear a digital tirade against people like myself. You know…us parasites on food stamps? We unemployable college grads. who majored in English? We moms who simultaneously undermine capitalism and feminism because we’re raising our babies on less than $50,000 a year.

I confess: I made that number up because I’ve been poor so long I don’t even know what kind of income supports a household that can pay the bills every month.

So even on the best of days, it’s hard to justify the good life. It’s like you only get a ticket to live the dream once you’ve crossed some socio-economic threshold I don’t fully understand. It makes me wonder how the holistic healers of the world make ends meet. It makes me wonder if those brilliant women who post crochet tutorials ever have to pick up groceries from the open door.

I also find myself trapped in a double standard. I am compelled to make the world beautiful. I’m honored to give back to my community. I am often presented with opportunities to make connections and a little money from my hobbies.

But I’m broke and in my shame, I feel unable to give. I feel unable to pursuit those opportunities. On one level it’s a material problem. I can’t promote my hoop-dance classes at a local event if I don’t have printer paper to print flyers or am uncertain I’ll be able to swing the bill to rent a space. So there’s one opportunity lost under the proverb “you have to have money to make money.”

I understand the limitations created by the material-financial aspect of the struggle, but it’s the shame-component that’s insidious.Making connections, making art, stomping in the creek, that’s what life is made of. That’s free. That’s beautiful. That’s all I fucking have. Yet still the regular raging bombardment against the poor, like we’re villains for pursuing pleasure while poor. The glaring, continually cited, examples are cell phone, tattoos, and cars. The media starts screaming, “How DARE she walk into family services wearing nice jeans” like every poor woman should wear rags. Hypocrites hide their credit card debt under bottles of prescription anti-depressants while they condemn the 2% of Floridian food-stamp recipients who failed drug tests.

So I’m here to make class warfare. I’m proposing a key component that all my brush-ins with Marxism seem to ignore. I’m talking unpaid labor and beauty as cultural capital. Play every week at open mic.? You’re rich, my friend, because you give. Raising smart, beautiful babies? You’re a teacher, girlfriend, and deserve the status given to teachers. Keep a garden that showers your loved-one with tomatoes and zucchini. Yours are the hands that build society. This is my anthem to the volunteers, the storytellers, and the folks who know where the best creeks are. This is my anthem to folks who fill their time with the works of hand and mind.

You are worthy. I am worth. We are rich. We are generous. We are living the good life…with or without the permission granted by little pieces of green paper.


  1. the more I learn about you and your family the more I love you guys,we are rich in the compassion and the love of life

  2. "Rich in compassion," I love that! Have a glorious day!

  3. I love this!