I remember being a young girl and learning at church that I ought testify to others about my faith—ask them about their beliefs after we die. I learned in scorned looks and rolled eyes I might want to shut up. What you do after you die is none of my business. I learned in German class that the German culture does not engage in small talk and I became even more endeared the language that sounds so harsh yet can be so forward.
I gathered and collected norms about being polite through mistakes. Always the kid to be embarrassingly shuffled off for asking questions regarding subjects that were taboo. And now, it seems we are a bit more open as a society. I constantly overshare in my blog, spurred on by pictures of dogs and engagements on Facebook, opting to friend folks on social media instead of gathering the courage to talk to someone in person.
I think I’ll do it again. I’ll speak about that which is not talked about out-loud. Money. I want to talk about the hushed subject that influences every minute of my existence. I’m at a conference right now in Indiana and end up in a per-conference session about moving from working class roots to middle class. I experienced myself chatting about my trip with the woman across from me because I had never been able to say these things outloud expect to my sister or close friends. And it’s very hard for me to get close to folks so you can imagine how that works out.
I had to ask my employer to front my per diem for meals and use the purchase card to take an Uber cab to and from my hotel. I generally run out of money by the second week of each month and freeze food to be sure I can eat. If something comes up I take the risk of bouncing a check because I doubt I will ever fix my credit. I drive a 2004 Ford Focus with a cracked windshield that breaks on the regular. I wear shoes with holes and have two bras that fit. My sister and I often joke about how we wear yoga pants because they often have built in underwear. That shit costs money. Its superfluous in our world.
Even as I talk about money I find myself in a cycle of guilt and shame because oh well this isn’t poverty. It’s this unbearable space in between where I feel I’ve lost my street cred in a professional exempt job but still live in a studio apartment with stained, ripped up, carpet and dated sinks. I’ve never lived in a space with a dishwasher in my entire adulthood. Despite my salary my student loans will continue to cripple me for decades. In gaining more education I did gain social mobility but also debt. Trade one shit sandwich for the next.
I sweat and shake with anxiety the first time I have to bring a date to my home. I’m embarrassed about what they might think about my tiny place with Rubbermaid containers as furniture and my bedspread I’ve had for over five years. How might they perceive my closet with one pair of jeans and a few dresses? The last gentleman I dated commented on our third date how little clothes I have. He had two closets of dress clothes. He owned two homes. I feel I can’t date professional men and so I end up with twenty somethings working at restaurants. At least I feel I can be myself but find I’ve nothing to talk about with them, we are simply in different spaces developmentally yet fiscally matched.
In typing this I feel a huge relief to detail how I live each day. Its gets easier as I get older because I’m not worried about how my shoes look held together with shoe glue. I’m not afraid to ask anyone for help when my car breaks. I don’t mind riding the bus. Some man’s insecure comments about my wardrobe are just that. The day might not arrive anytime soon when I don’t take extra helpings of free food at events or have more than the mandatory minimum of five dollars in my savings account. Now it’s known. I’ve named my working class roots and I will continue to work just as hard as ever.
“He who is not capable of enduring poverty is not capable of being free.” -Victor Hugo