Help People Gift You With Nice Things By Not Being Obnoxious

Yesterday evening I spent a few glorious hours doing almost nothing. Lazy? Yes. Gleefully so.

Well, I’ve done the usual house proud things like thinking really hard about finding the broom and dustpan, washing the dishes, feeding myself, doing a hell of a lot of loads of laundry (effort that will be for naught if I don’t actually put the clean stuff away…like, today), supervising a three day long house power wash that seems to have literally knocked the old shack askew (all doors are now sticking and are a potential “will die in a fire” hazard because they are hard as hell to open and close), and trying to gently urge new-by-marriage family members I only talk to once a year (but like a lot) to please, for the love of Santa, make out a frickin’ Amazon wishlist so I don’t give up in disgust and go buy them all oven mitts and candle baskets and singing penguins to make a point.

They refuse to do this for Christmas, they refuse to do it for anniversaries, they refuse to do it for birthdays. Why is this? I know I’m poor, but I’m trying, here. (If someone is offering to get you EXACTLY WHAT YOU WANT for a gift, then throw them a frickin’ bone and put at least two or three items on a frickin’ list, OKAY? Is that so wrong? It’s not gauche or vulgar if someone begs you to do it so their gift shopping is not a pain in the ass! Honest! Do you WANT a Chia Pet? Don’t make me get you a fruitcake for Christmas, because I’ll do it, people. Sigh.)

Here’s another annoying thing you shouldn’t do: My mom has this “don’t spend your money” whenever it is coming up on a gift-giving event, and says shit that translates into an “I would much prefer you to spend three weeks sweating over an original painting that will cost you $200 in supplies, not that you have that kind of cash, and will require elbow room and space in which to actually paint, space which you do not have” routine that ruins the little joy I get out of, for example, the ONLY THING I LIKE ABOUT CHRISTMAS, which is giving other people stuff they want. I like birthday giving and Valentine’s Day giving and holiday giving in general, but I don’t like not having anything to give, no money to get anything to give, and suggestions made in a combination of innocence and ignorance that basically ask me to spend hundreds of dollars and days of time on an Easter basket gift or something equally minor. I get that it is supposed to be a compliment, but when you’re told that art supplies aren’t cheap, when you have helped me buy not-cheap art supplies, and when you know it takes hours to do something half-way decent, your suggestion that I “just make something, you know, with your art skills” is thoroughly annoying.

So cut that shit out.

But I digress. What else did I not-do while enjoying a rare respite from constant stress and an over-booked schedule? Well, I’ve read a lot. And taken a nap. A nap! What luxury!

Okay, I’m not done with the gift giving thing. Bear with me.

Helpful hint: if you tell someone not to spend money on you after they already have, or you reject all offered gift item suggestions (there’s a reason you were being offered a limited list, probably due to finances or the estimated ease of getting you what you want in time for the event), or profess to hate and refuse to use “we sell everything” online wishlists (like Amazon) to suggest instead a gift that was NOT offered and which would be a huge pain in the ass, expensive, and time-consuming for the giver, you are not being courteous and polite, you are being a jerk. Stop that. Did I offer you a damn pony? No. No, I did not.

Just for that, you are getting a fruitcake, and I don’t care if it is February. (It was stale in December, it ain’t getting any less stale.)

Likewise, if someone has made a point of saying that they never, ever shop at Wal*Mart or K-Mart, do not think you’re being cute if you gift them with a $15 Wal*Mart gift card that forces them to look at all the overpriced, limited, lame items on the Wal*Mart website, because the recipient is still not going to drive across town and suffer Wal*Hell. I got one a few years ago, held onto it for months, not knowing WTF to do with it, and almost just threw it out. HOWEVER, did I complain to the giver and remind them that I’d told them (OFTEN!) that Wal*Mart is on my “never give this company a dime” list, or that their gift was thus unappreciated? I DID NOT. I was very grateful, and very appreciative. The thought, however passive-aggressive, was probably well-intentioned. I suspect that my birthday snuck up on the givers and they bundled the gift in with the weekly groceries, because they DO shop at Wal*Mart, frequently, and their Wal*Mart has a grocery section. See, as I didn’t expect anything at all, I was glad to get what I got. I just didn’t know how to use it, and that took some thinking.

This, however, is why I don’t want to just randomly run out and buy giftcards. I personally may love Target. Do you? Not everyone does. Some gift cards I get if I can afford to celebrate Christmas in Atlanta every year require that I shop IN Atlanta before driving home, because the stores DO NOT EXIST down here and the cards expire in a few months, and there’s either no website or the cards have to be used in person in a store.

Which brings me back to my earlier gripe: FILL OUT AN AMAZON WISHLIST, PLEASE. Some of us do not like going in person to a store, be it to buy something for themselves or to buy gifts for others. Don’t make us do it. I was 100% more happy when I figured out that I could do most of my Christmas shopping online and even get stuff wrapped and shipped for me. Now I can’t afford to even buy a candy cane in the penny bin for someone, but back when I could, online shopping was SO much better than dealing with parking, crowds, limited store hours, thieves trying to steal your shit, crying kids, horrible Christmas music and traffic. I will never set foot in a mall again if I can help it.

I LOVE AMAZON DOT COM SO MUCH.

Anyway, while surfing around, struggling to figure out what these almost-strangers actually like, because they have failed to respond to my emails and calls thus far and time is running short if I want to get all this stuff shipped to me in time to wrap it and travel up there with it, I found a lot of nifty (and cranky) blogs and journals talking about holiday hell.

Not everyone enjoys the frickin’ holidays. I am often depressed and unhappy until March. I don’t enjoy all the pro-debt advertising and expectations and etiquette concerns and headaches. I struggle to be civil and positive while suffering an onslaught of holiday crap music and religious advertising from local Jesusland businesses and TV stations (!!!, no attempt whatsoever to be respectful to the large Jewish population here, for one, or to people who simply don’t want to see adverts where Le Grand Fromage of the TV station PRAYS and reads Bible verses in front of a Nativity scene during nearly every commercial break, forcing you to remember why you have cable and never watch local channels in the first place), and poorly-planned roadways that make it a pain in the butt to shift lanes, and family sulks (like how my mother is angry that I do not want to fly or drive up to Atlanta with her, even though I need my car to get from the opposite side of town to my brother and SIL’s house and back while there and am not likely to be arriving or leaving at the same time, and do not wish to be bothered with anal probes at the airport, and like how family members are often being nasty to and about my pet, and other crap).

It makes me all so tired that I get, like, TOTALLY parenthetical!!

Need MOAR semicolons. And brevity. Yup.

That said, it is nice to have the option to see family during the holidays. Since I couldn’t this year, as even buying a single tank of gas was out of my price range, my Christmas may have been a lot less stressful, but it was also really, really quiet. I didn’t hear from my family until almost 9PM Christmas night.
So, there’s that.

What Being Poor Is Like

It’s worth revisiting this piece now and then.

Being Poor, by John Scalzi

Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.

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

Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, 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 hoping the toothache goes away.

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

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 living next to the freeway.

Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching that box of Raisin Bran you just bought and trying to think of a way to make the kids understand that the box has to last.

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.

Being poor is a heater (or air conditioner) in only one room of the house.

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 stealing meat from the store, frying it up before your mom gets home and then telling her she doesn’t have make dinner tonight because you’re not hungry anyway.

Being poor is Goodwill underwear.

Being poor is not enough space for everyone who lives with you.

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

Being poor is your kid’s school being the one with the 15-year-old textbooks and no air conditioning.

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 an overnight shift under florescent lights.

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

Being poor is a bathtub you have to empty into the toilet.

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 goddamned difference.

Being poor is people angry at you just for walking around in the mall.

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

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

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

Being poor is hoping you’ll be invited for dinner.

Being poor is a sidewalk with lots of brown glass on it.

Being poor is people thinking they know something about you by the way you talk.

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 six dollars short on the utility bill and no way to close the gap.

Being poor is crying when you drop the mac and cheese on the floor.

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

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 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 a box of crayons and a $1 coloring book from a community center Santa.

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 a cough that doesn’t go away.

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 a $200 paycheck advance from a company that takes $250 when the paycheck comes in.

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

Being poor is a lumpy futon bed.

Being poor is knowing where the shelter is.

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

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

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn’t leave.

 

 * * *

A powerful book I recommend is “Nickel and Dimed” by Barbara Ehrenreich. If you’ve never worked dead-end jobs and struggled to get by, it is eye-opening. If you have, and have managed to break out of that life, it will provoke a kind of melancholy nostalgia. If you’re still dealing with being nickel-and-dimed, you will get angry…but, wait, you probably can’t afford to buy the book so you could read it. Never mind. Maybe the public library has it.

I know how that goes.

Here’s some “being poor” observations:

Being poor is knowing all the staff folks at the public library by name, because you can’t afford to buy books.

Being poor is buying most of your kitchen utensils, furniture and clothing from a thrift store.

Being poor is hoping you don’t get sick or have a car accident.

Being poor is hoping your pet(s) won’t need to go see the vet.

Being poor is hoping nothing important breaks.

Being poor means riding on bald tires.

Being poor means that delivery pizzas, ibuprofin, eyeliner, desserts, batteries, pantyhose, tampons, toilet paper, basic cable, chocolate, soap, razors, pet food and hair care products are luxuries.

Being poor means living without cable TV, or not having a TV at all.

Being poor means darning holes in your socks and underwear.

Being poor means re-using teabags.

Being poor is not having a savings account…or a checking account.

Being poor means having four or five crappy part-time jobs with no benefits, some of which are paid “under the table.”

Being poor means turning bottles and jars upside down to get the last drop, or adding water to the shampoo or face soap to eke out a few more uses.

Being poor means “re-gifting” and making homemade presents and cards.

Being poor means you can’t afford the supplies to make homemade presents or cards.

Being poor means not being able to be with your family on Christmas Day.

Being poor means that when you feel sick, you panic, because you have no medical insurance.

Being poor means you never buy “Dry Clean Only” items.

Being poor means knowing a hundred different recipes for rice, pasta and potatoes.

Being poor means knowing which food items in the grocery store are the cheap brands.

Being poor is having nightmares about unwanted pregnancies when you haven’t even had sex in months.

Being poor means being scared to go outside when it is wet or icy, because if you fall and hurt yourself, you can’t afford to do anything about it.

Being poor is cutting your own hair with nail clippers.

Being poor means you examine pennies and hope one is a rare coin.

Being poor means paying the minimum on your bills.

Being poor means not paying your bills and having utilities cut off.

Being poor means getting non-stop calls from creditors until the phone is cut off.

Being poor means “the ugly frames” at the optometrist.

Being poor means ignoring that three of your teeth are sore and sensitive, and trying to scrape plaque off your teeth with a paperclip because you can’t afford to go to the dentist.

Being poor means not wearing make-up unless you have to, because you can’t afford to buy more when it runs out.

Being poor means not going out, not dating, not even considering meeting new people, because you can’t afford to go anywhere or do anything and you’re too depressed to even try to be sociable.

Being poor is wanting to volunteer to help others, but being unable to afford the cost of gasoline or the time away from job hunting. 

Being poor means you can’t afford to adopt that abandoned cat in your neighborhood.

Being poor means waiting for three hours at a government office just to be treated like crap by someone who doesn’t care that you can’t afford to buy food.

Being poor means that a hole in a t-shirt means your available wardrobe has just been decimated.

Being poor means that you consider swiping toilet paper rolls from businesses, but instead buy something for a dollar at McDonald’s so you can grab more napkins than you are entitled to. 

Being poor means that you don’t recover from the last ten economic disasters before new ones happen.

Being poor means just sitting and staring into space for long periods of time because you’re so hungry or sick that you keep spacing out, and don’t have the energy to do anything.

Being poor means eating food that is bad for you, and then overhearing people complaining that fat people can’t really be poor because they aren’t visibly starving to death.

Being poor means not having a working phone.

Being poor means duct-taping your shoes together.

Being poor means considering selling plasma.

Being poor means that you don’t have any pens in the house that haven’t run out of ink, and can’t afford to buy a $1 notebook in the drugstore.

Being poor means that you are expected to give up every nice thing you were ever given or bought before you were poor, just so people don’t treat you badly for not looking as poor as you are. Yet.

Being poor is to be considered lazy or addicted to something or stupid or unmotivated, because surely you wouldn’t be poor if you weren’t those things.

Being poor is skipping meals.

Being poor is dreading “having a talk about finances” because that means more bills won’t get paid.

Being poor is avoiding the neighbors so they won’t catch on that you are as poor as you are.

Being poor is wishing you could just cease to exist, because everything costs money you don’t have and can’t earn, and you’re very tired and depressed and worn out, but you’re also too poor to pay for a funeral.

Being poor is considering watching the news on the TV to be a high point of entertainment.

Being poor is being thankful you’re not much of a drinker, because you couldn’t afford a beer even if you wanted one.

Being poor is being sick of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee, Michelina’s, Buddig wafer-thin cold cuts, grocery store processed cheese, and ramen.

Being poor is considering any brand other than store brand soda to be a luxury.

Being poor is wishing for pet supermarket, grocery store and drugstore gift cards.

Being poor is parking your car so people don’t see the dented side when you go to a job interview.

Being poor is having to borrow pantyhose for a job interview and praying you don’t snag them.

Being poor is giving into the temptation to eat cheap comfort food until you gain weight.

Being poor means going without prescription medicine and not telling anyone when you have a fainting spell or are nauseated for five days straight or when your headache or ache or pain doesn’t go away promptly.

Being poor is being thrilled to get a new toothbrush and toothpaste in your Christmas stocking.

Being poor is not having the energy to do chores on a regular basis because you feel so bad and are so tired and it will only get dirty or disorganized all over again.

Being poor is what happens to other people…until it happens to you.

The Truth Is I’m Not Fine

Warning: I’m in a bit of a mood tonight. You may want to read a happier blog.

I get all kinds of shit from my family for answering honestly when they ask me things. Like, “How are you?”

Well, okay, then. Don’t ask me anything if a less-than-bubbly response is going to chafe your serenity. Because you are going to get the truth, and nothing but.

Usually my answer is “busy, tired, but alive,” or some variation thereof. They don’t like that. They want to hear “GREAT!” with lots of smiles and pompoms and confetti…this, despite the fact that “bubbly joy” hasn’t happened, ever, not once, since I was born. You’d think they’d clue in eventually that it isn’t part of my programming. I can be joyful, but bubbly isn’t ever going to happen.

*sigh* Even rats eventually change their methods when the established method is FAIL; humans seem to get stuck beating their heads against one kind of wall or another because the method worked once in the past or they have hopes it will work in the future, or because they have rationalized that it SHOULD work. I strive to be smarter than a rat.

I love my family, but the constant shit I get for being honest, even though I am polite and tactful and soft-spoken in my honesty, just leads me to believe they prefer pretty lies that sound nice, and my actual state of wellness or infirmity is not important. I wish they’d stop asking if they don’t want to know the answer, but they never do. Attempts to fake a bubbly response to forestall the inevitable shit are also full of FAIL, as I am apparently not so great at lying.

Yep, I’d say I rate pretty high on the “T” end of the Myers-Briggs “T/F” scale. Funny how I have no trouble making and keeping friends (some of which I’ve had for decades)…it’s just my family who resent not being lied to in order to make them feel warm and fuzzy all the time. They all rank high on the “F” scale, and I have to remember that and be more kind.

Truth is, I am miserable, folks. I haven’t been feeling well for a long time. I don’t sleep well at night. My innards are troubled, and most days I feel like I’ve been kicked in the ovaries or kidneys or both.  I have a bad back, and it has been acting up. My hips have been bothering me. Nothing tastes good. I’m eating hardly anything, since my appetite is nearly nil, but somehow still gaining weight. How that works, I have no idea.

Some of this crap is due to non-stop, grinding stress. I feel like I’m being pressed between two giant millstones, and some days I don’t even have the energy to try to push them off. I just lie there and let them grind. I don’t even have the energy to be defiant (“Is that all you’ve got?”) or whiny about it. I just feel like a rag doll being slowly squashed flat.

I’ve been out of work, and send out job applications regularly, and thus I get told “no” on a daily basis. That’s if the job advertisement isn’t a scam (all too often it is, and I’m too tired to even feel angry about that any more), or if I don’t get a robo-response and then hear nothing for weeks or months about the job I applied to. I’ve revised my résumé multiple times; if they don’t like it like this, maybe they’ll like it like that. I’ve tried for jobs that pay minimum wage, and I’ve tried for jobs I’m not entirely qualified to do (but willing to learn) and I’ve tried for so-called “good” jobs in both fields I might like and fields I know I won’t ever like even a little bit. I love working, but at the same time, I am getting this hopeless feeling that I won’t ever be hired again. Or, if I am, it will be to a minimum wage job I loathe, which will keep me from ever saving enough money to get ahead and break the cycle of abject poverty.

I have no income, and my SNAP (food assistance) benefits ran out on New Year’s Eve, and I’ll need a job to get them renewed. Yeah, I’m working on that one. The reason I asked for help with food in the first place is because I can’t get a job. No one wants to hire me. In the meantime, it would be nice if I could eat something. So, whatever. I don’t qualify for any other assistance.

Unemployment ran out months ago. My medical insurance is gone, and I can’t afford prescriptions I need (not even a bottle of ibuprofin). My eyeglasses need upgrading, my teeth probably badly need cleaning, I’m overdue for a follow-up mammogram after a breast cancer scare (I didn’t have any, but it cost me thousands I didn’t have to make sure of that and my medical insurance doubled in cost overnight). My pet needs shots and a check-up. My bank account is gone; the medical insurance company ignored my request to stop auto-debiting my account and boom, overdraft. Every little bit of cash I got, I threw it into my bank account but it wasn’t enough fast enough. I have no savings left, no retirement fund left, no 401k or other  investments left, nothing I own is worth selling. I don’t use credit cards, and wouldn’t use them if I had them, since I have no income to pay for any credit I’d borrow. My car is 20 years old and falling apart.

I’m looking into selling plasma for a buck.

I was not able to spend Christmas with friends or family, and didn’t get a call from my family until 8PM that night. It was rather lonely. I was unable to buy anyone any Christmas presents. (I then felt like crap on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, but I’m starting to get used to feeling awful.)

I borrow library books or watch cable news on TV for entertainment, and when I can’t afford to pay the cable bill for the cheapest cable package anymore, they’ll cut that off. I had to forego borrowing books for a while, because when my car was in the shop for a while, my mom promised to drop some library books off, dawdled about it, and I racked up a six dollar fine I couldn’t afford to pay, meaning I couldn’t borrow any books. I have no phones. My land line is cut off. My cell phone is about to be cut off, and I can’t dial or text out. I do have the Internet, until I can’t pay for that. My laptop is on its last legs, but a very kind person donated me an old computer, so as long as I have Internet, I won’t be totally cut off from the rest of the world if my laptop dies.

I don’t own any game systems, not that I’d feel good wasting time playing games instead of looking for a job or doing homework.

I have to beg for help buying toilet paper, tampons, pet food, and soap.

I don’t drink much, so I don’t miss not having any alcoholic beverages in the house.

I’ve been eating cheap food for months and I suspect that has a lot to do with why I’m feeling bad, but it is better than not eating at all, which I suspect would make me feel worse.

My mother and I are clashing–we get along much better at a distance, and have been forced into close proximity for almost a decade and it is difficult to deal with the casual emotional abuse and verbal beat-downs, and to hear myself being unpleasant in return; let’s just say that I am not allowed to have any personal boundaries established whatsoever at any time and there is nowhere I can go to be guaranteed to be left alone for any length of time (mother doesn’t ever call before dropping in, and will get me out of the bath, interrupt any work I am doing, or wake me up from an all-too-rare sound sleep if necessary, and will also rearrange everything in the house to her liking and leave it that way for me to put back).

I’d give anything to move back to Atlanta since other family members and friends all live there, but I can’t afford it. In fact, I’ve been stuck here for eight years. EIGHT. YEARS.

I will need to get a job that earns enough to pay the bills and my school loan debt and so on. I will need to earn enough to save money so I can move: first and last month’s rent, a deposit, a pet deposit, the cost of moving all my stuff. Buying necessary things to set up a new household. Since I can’t even get a minimum wage job, I assume it will take me a long time to do that. If you have NO income, then it will NEVER happen. That feels…awful. I don’t want to die down here.

I’m begging my school for a work study job. Again. So far, I haven’t had a nibble. Having even a part-time job, just twenty hours a week, will help me reapply for food assistance, and help with paying some of the most important basic utility bills. I’m continuing to apply for jobs, and am getting all As in all subjects in school (I’m trying to get an AS Paralegal; my current three degrees, including a Master’s, have failed to get me a job so far). I’m not allergic to working hard.

If I get the AS Paralegal, then maybe I can get a job as a paralegal, which I’ve been assured I can easily do, once I have that precious piece of paper. I hope my friends are right. Will still need to somehow save up the money to relocate.

I have two friends down here, both very good to me, very good people. They are busy, I am busy, we don’t hang out much. I’m naturally an introvert, and being poor means I can’t do anything that costs money (not even a dollar), and am feeling more and more like a hermit anyway.

Some days I really have a difficult time seeing the bright side and feeling hopeful. It’s been years and years of one step forward, two steps back. I no longer can really visualize the ultimate goal. I don’t dare dream, even small dreams.

Once upon a time, my big dream was to have a little house of my own, in Atlanta. Not a large one. Just big enough for an art studio, my books and a place to get online and write, a guest room for friends and family to use if necessary. Maybe a porch or balcony or both, for when the weather was nice enough to just sit a while outside, maybe on a porch swing with some tea and a book. Stairs, because I like stairs in a house. A small yard, as I’m not big on gardening. Friends would come over, we’d do art projects, or watch a movie, or just talk or eat a meal together. I’d have a cat, maybe two.

I have no idea how to make that dream work out, even though it seems so pathetic and small. I can’t even get a job at McDonald’s. I’m sad and depressed all the time, and creditors are calling me. My mom was going to help, but she finds more and more things she doesn’t want to help with each month, and more bills go unpaid, and more creditors call. I have NO income. What can I do?

I’m relieved I have no children. I couldn’t afford them. I can barely afford my pet.

I’m tired. I feel hopeless. Some days I am so exhausted from lack of sleep, and my back is so sore, and my digestion is sometimes so out of whack, I just want to cry. I don’t cry, because I feel bad feeling sorry for myself when other people have it far worse in life than I do (though fewer and fewer do, I suppose). I ache. I’m so tired.

My self-image is in the toilet. I feel old and fat and useless and worthless. Other people don’t see it like that, but I suppose I have a lot of free time to insult myself every day and find things to feel bad about. Some days I do, and feel helpless and unlovable and useless. Some days I don’t, but I remember how I felt on the days when I did. It lingers.

I think my laundry detergent is eating holes in my shirts. For the past couple of months, every shirt with a design on it has come out of the wash with the ink feeling crumbly and cracked. At least ten shirts have suddenly developed holes; most were so destroyed they weren’t even good enough for rags and had to be thrown out. It’s the damndest thing. Why didn’t any of my clothes ever get holes in them when I could actually afford to go buy a new t-shirt? It’s like even my laundry soap knows I am too poor to fight back. I can’t even afford to buy a different brand until the rest of the jug is gone, and even then, without help, I’ll be hand-washing everything in the sink. Maybe with a bar of Ivory soap. It’s just…here’s another thing. You know? Normally a hole in an old shirt is a non-event. Maybe you are sad because you liked the shirt, but you can get a new one. You shrug it off. Except when you can’t, because you’re running out of shirts to wear at all.

The worst part of feeling bad is that I do occasionally earn a dollar now and then editing and writing articles for a website, or doing some web work, but when I feel crappy, I can’t even concentrate long enough to edit or write or be creative. I can’t live on what I earn doing that, but it is at least something I enjoy doing, and it helps a little. I don’t have to beg for a few bucks to go buy some shampoo if I write enough to earn a few dollars.

I suspect that I need to have a good cry and a good night’s sleep. Maybe a good meal. I bet I’d feel better.

In the meantime, if my family asks me “how are you?” then they should not expect me to smile and lie and say I feel fine. I have been in some low, depressed, down places in life, but nothing like this, nothing that has lasted this long. So I’m not fine, and I won’t lie about it.

I’m stubborn, though, and I guess I still have a shred of hope left. I’m not going anywhere. The grindstones are really doing a number on me, but until I hit absolute rock bottom and can’t afford to eat or keep clean, I am just stubborn enough to keep breathing. Other people might be sad if I didn’t persevere. I’m too tired to have an opinion on the subject right now.

Maybe one day I’ll write a book about it.

Bad day. Sad day. Exhausting day. I had a dream where I fell into a coma and a magic fairy godmother made a few things go right while I was unconscious, while I wasn’t struggling about something in every single area of my life. Maybe I won the lottery or something. I don’t know how she did it. I was comatose in the dream. Then I woke up and was so relieved not to be in a coma. Then I was frustrated, because life doesn’t work like that, and clearly my subconscious wants a break. Just a small one. It’s not like my imaginary fairy godmother took all my problems away. I think she just did stuff like fix my glasses or get the car valve cover repaired, or fast forward through all the paralegal classes I have yet to take so I already had my AS degree. It was little stuff, not a mansion or Prince Charming Enough or whatever. Even in my dreams, all I want is some rest and fewer troubles.

I’ll be OK, eventually, I hope…but right now, I’m not. All I can do is not be boring about it. I won’t whine about it every day. I promise. But, no, I’m not fine.

What Suze Orman Keeps Trying To Teach Me

Some money management tips I learned by reading and watching Suze (pronounced Suzie) Orman. Please note, right up front, that I consider myself to be financially-challenged. I’m not a stupid person, but money management professionals and banks and investment companies all seem to delight in using terminology and obfuscation and Scary Big Numbers and Percentages and I get intimidated. I’d say I’m at the level where I know enough not to make mistakes I’ve already made, or those that are glaringly obvious (or cons), but not savvy enough to guarantee that I won’t blunder in the future if I chose not to take advantage of the free advice and education available to me.

In short, I am a Money Moron. Right now I am making a mistake that Orman warns against: going back to school (in this case, for an AS Paralegal) when you are not 100% sure what you want to do once you have that degree in hand. Point being, I’m racking up big expenses and loan debts, am not currently employed full-time, have no job offer lined up for me on graduation day, and so on. On the other hand, not knowing what I want to do and NOT having a degree that might get me a decent job while I figure that bit out…that isn’t much smarter. Career counselling didn’t clarify things. So here I am.

I’ll share what I’ve learned, but I am telling you (in the equivalent of nine-foot-high flashing neon letters) that it behooves you to check into these things yourself. Dude! I’m a stranger on Teh Intarwebz. Keep that in mind. All I can do is promise that my intentions are good and that I hope to help, or to spur you to get someone professional to help you. Consumer Credit Counselling services are, I believe, absolutely free. Or, if your parents are money-wise, ask to talk to their assets manager about planning for your own future. (Imagine how proud the ‘rents will be of you!)

First thing you need to do is utilize what’s called the FACT act. You can get your credit score FREE once a year. There are three main credit score reporting entities (e.g., Equifax). Your score may vary slightly between the three, and there may be errors in your report. To be frank, I’m not entirely sure if you can ask all three bureaus for a report free per year or if you must choose one and pay for the other two, or if you should poll one the first year, the second the second year, et cetera. That’s up to you. Your credit score should range between 450 and 850. Some banner adverts wanting you to give them click-through commission money set the lowest rung at 300, which I assume only makes those with 450 (the worst possible score) feel better about themselves…surely some poor schmo has an even lower score, right? As an example, 740-780 is a very decent credit score to have. A score in the 600s or lower? Not so good.

Why a credit score is important:

* The higher your score (better), the lower the interest rates you have to pay on loans and lines of credit. Interest rates basically require that you pay money that you will never get back and cannot profit from. Often they are unavoidable if you cannot buy a house, car, piece of property outright. You may find the convenience of having a credit card, even one you do not use, is worth paying an interest rate. Car loans and student loans have interest rates.
* Your future employer can see your credit score. A good one implies good things: you are frugal, careful with your money, responsible, prudent. These are qualities a boss appreciates. A bad credit score implies the opposite. This is particularly vital if your job requires you to deal with company funds, a corporate account, billing, taxes, et cetera. Even creative types may get a job that requires responsible use of funds to purchase office equipment, or a corporate credit card for travel. If you can’t handle YOUR money….
* Your relationships. In most cases, debt accrued prior to marriage remains your problem. The sticking point is, it indicates that you are not a responsible person. No matter how much in love with you someone is, hearing that you have severe debt or credit score issues is not a turn-on. If you want to buy a car or house together, your low credit score is averaged with your partner’s high credit score (or, in worst case scenarios, the higher score is actually thrown out altogether when determining what interest rates you’ll pay). Banks are less eager to issue loans to you and, by extension, your family. And who is going to pay the bills if you have learned nothing from your money misadventures and continue to use credit irresponsibly? You may think you’re too young to be bothered about worrying about getting married or buying expensive things. Okay…imagine the crimp in your spontaneity if your credit score is so horrendous that when you try to open an account at Hollywood Video (when you and your schmoopie decide on the spur of a moment to have a movie date night at home) and you are turned down.
* You contest a bank error or identity theft purchase. Your poor credit score will be considered relevant, and it will take longer for your complaint to be checked out, because, naturally, you could be desperate enough to be trying to pull a scam.

The most basic problem with having a crap credit score is that you’ll end up paying thousands or tens of thousands of dollars more (than someone with a decent score) for life’s necessities. If you can find a way to get them financed at all. In essence, you’re going to be fined repeatedly for carelessness, ignorance, poor money management, financial disaster you couldn’t do anything about, whatever it was that precipitated your credit score problem. In short: FIX IT.

Suze Orman also urges young people to invest in the only truly undervalued resource available these days: the young people themselves. Stocks, property and land are no longer undervalued, generally speaking, and buying low and selling high and making a fortune is far more difficult, if possible at all. You, however, are your own best, and a unique, asset. Orman urges young people to focus on Career Building.

One way to improve your credit score is to manage credit offers wisely. Conventional wisdom says that you should close all cards but the one you use. Because of something called a credit-to-debt ratio, this can be deadly. Let’s say you have five credit cards, all with $2000 available credit. You’re only using one, and it is maxxed at $2000. You may think it would be wise to close the unused four cards now. It’s not. As it stands, you have $10K in available credit, and are only using $2K. That gives you a credit/debt ratio of 20%. If you close the other four cards, your credit/debit ratio is suddenly 100%. You now have only $2K in available lines of credit and you are maxxed out at $2K. Bad idea.

Another trap to watch out for is closing older lines of credit in favor of newer ones. Let’s say you got your first $2K card ten years ago, the next 8 years ago, the next 6 years ago and the last two four and two years ago respectively. If you close down all but the most recent credit card, you have erased ten years of your credit history on your report. This assumes that you established a credit line at all. Just having a card doesn’t show credit worthiness. You must use, pay off promptly, and then LOCK AWAY cards you plan to use to establish a good credit rating. Don’t carry them with you. If you want to go so far as to rent a safety deposit box (good for passports, heirloom jewelry, birth certificates, copies of car papers and house papers, et cetera), or a fireproof home safe, you can put the unused cards in there so you don’t have to fear impulse spending or theft. You should NOT carry them all around with you.

Another pitfall is applying for too many credit offers in a short amount of time. This raises red flags to people looking at your credit report.

Lastly, getting cards just because you can and collecting them is a bad idea. Not only do you risk financial ruin if the information is stolen somehow, a large, unused line of credit, after a certain point, is not in your favor. This is especially foolish if these cards require an annual fee.

Invest In Yourself as an Asset

If you have a job that you want to turn into a career, you must bite the bullet and put in your dues. That means coming in early, leaving late, not abusing lunch hours or breaks, not calling in sick all the time, coming in on weekends, dressing appropriately (as if you had the job you want), doing everything you are asked to do, looking around for other things you can do for the company, keeping office politics at bay by avoiding socializing while on the clock, avoiding chronic complainers, and by becoming indispensable. Know where the bodies are buried. Network laterally within your industry as well as upwards: seek mentors both within and outside of your company. Brainstorm new ways to make your boss or company look good. You must make your boss dependent upon you before you, as an undervalued asset, become valuable. Prove yourself and continue to prove yourself. Love what you do, and focus on that rather than solely money. Working in hope of a reward is never going to satisfy as much as working at a job you feel competent at and which you care about and enjoy more often than not. The goal is to see work as being separate from your play time. Net surf at home. Call spouses and partners at home or when outside of the building on your lunch break. When at work, work. That is how you become an invaluable asset and you will be rewarded for it by rising within the ranks in a career you love.

Know, too, the difference between a Job and a Career. Jobs will feed, clothe and put a roof over your head, but they are not necessarily soul-enriching like careers are. Treating Jobs like Careers can burn you out. You must not make a decision about whether a Job is or isn’t a Career for at least six months or so, though (unless the fit is grossly wrong for you): work as if it IS a Career.

If all of this sounds deadly to you, that’s a sign that you are working a Job, not a Career (or Calling). Time to re-evaluate what you want, and what you feel you are meant, to do.

How To Invest Your Paycheck Wisely

One thing you should try to do is maintain your current standard of living even when your pay grade improves. This requires discipline and sacrifice. Obviously, if you are living below subsistence level and you get a pay rise, adjust to that. Once you have a decent, if non-extravagant, lifestyle, however, treat future pay rises as more money to invest in your future.

If you have an opportunity to put money into a 401(k) or 403(b) plan (403(b) is for non-profits), DO NOT PASS UP FREE MONEY. If your employer is generous enough to provide matching funds, contribute up to the level they will match. Then stop. If your employer does not offer matching funds, there are better investment strategies.

If you’ve contributed to your 401(k) or 403(b) up to the level of what your employer will match (remember, they are giving you FREE MONEY when they match what you contribute), consider paying down or paying off your credit cards. Start with those that charge you the highest interest rates per year. Do NOT close them if you want to establish a better credit/debt ratio.

After you have contributed up to the level of matching employer funds and paid down your highest interest rate credit cards, it’s time to consider a ROTH IRA. If you choose not to touch the IRA until you are 59 1/2 years old, then wait another five years, you can take out that money TAX FREE. If you have an emergency, you can withdraw WHAT YOU HAVE CONTRIBUTED penalty-free. You can’t touch the interest you have earned, but you can claim your contributed funds.

After you have funded your IRA to the maximum, consider saving for a down payment on your own home. Property is the best investment you will ever make. It appreciates in value, in general, far better than do stocks or interest-earning savings plans. It is perhaps foolish to do this without funding your 401(k), paying down your credit line debt and funding an IRA, as those are solid foundations for future investment healthiness and houses can be money pits if you aren’t careful. Establish your base first.

Buying A Home

The typical down payment on a home is 20% of its market value. Many people choose to pay 10% of that and finance the rest. “Normal” homes in “normal” real estate markets gain 4-5% / year in added value. That can be up to 40% / year return on your investment (if you are paying 10% down). Once you have owned the home for two years, up to $250,000 of appreciation is tax free gain. If you co-own the home, up to $500,000 is tax-free appreciation in value. A half million dollars. After your first $250-500K of tax-free appreciation, any further added value is taxed at a capital gains tax rate.

How do you know if you can afford to buy rather than rent? Many people make the mistake of thinking “if I pay $700 in rent, I can afford a $700 mortgage.” Often this is incorrect. (See: foreclosures.) Suze Orman recommends that you “Play House” for six months to see what you can afford. The first thing you should know is that hidden costs (PMI–more on this in a minute, insurance, property taxes and a fund for emergencies / basic maintenance / home repairs) typically add up to 45-50% to your monthly costs. So if you are paying $700 now in rent per month, assume you’ll be paying $1050 a month with a $700 mortgage. There are other hidden costs (your car insurance rates may go up, depending on circumstances) and not-so hidden (maybe you just can’t WAIT to get a new living room suite and TiVo now that you’re a Big Grown Up Person With A House). Some property owner headaches don’t reveal themselves until time has passed: a tree with roots that grow into your septic system, inadequate weather management requiring a HVAC system to replace window unit air conditioners and space heaters, dead birds in your chimney, pest control, lawn and garden maintenance, replacement of major appliances that die unexpectedly, chances in zoning or community regulations that require you to erect or tear down a fence or shed on your property, and so many more troubles you wouldn’t believe it. This is why a house fund is vital; ditto an inspector checking that your desired home is up to code and has no hidden problems (some you may opt to address when negotiating for the price of the house, choosing to accept a lower price in return for you taking on the burden of fixing the deficiency yourself or requiring the current owner to address problems before you sign on).

So. What can you afford free and clear? You’ve learned that $700 per month rent does not mean you can afford $700 per month for a house mortgage IF you’re struggling to survive on $700 rent now. Yes, you’re paying yourself, in essence, when you own rather than rent, but if you fall behind on your mortgage payments, the bank can seize your home and foreclose. Bad juju when that happens.

PMI, as mentioned earlier, is Private Mortgage Insurance. If, like most people, you don’t have $20 to put down on a house, you have to have PMI. Currently this runs at about $45/month PER each $100,000 you have financed. There is a little-known way to deal with your PMI in advance. More on this in a second. What you should NOT do when financing a house you can’t pay the full 20% down on is a piggyback loan. Many people finance 80% of thir mortgage through one lender and another 10% through another. (This doesn’t add up to 100% because it assumes you’ve paid the minimum 10% down typically allowed.) As interest rates are rising, a piggyback loan is a dangerous way to finance just to avoid the PMI. A smart way to deal with the PMI is to pay it up front. On a 30-year mortgage for $200,000, PMI up front is $2000. So, by offering to pay PMI up front, instead of a $200K mortgage, you have a $202K mortgage which adds only about $14/month to your mortgage as opposed to the traditional way, paying as you go, which would, in this example, be $90/month. As a bonus, it is tax deductible if you pay upfront, so pay it up front and be done with it.

I mentioned Suze Orman advising folks who want to move from renting to owning to “Play House” for six months. Essentially this is a low-risk way of proving to yourself whether or not you are ready for home ownership and can afford your dream house.
1. For six months, pay your rent on the first of the month. No exceptions.
2. For six months, put half of what you pay in rent into your savings and do not touch it.
That’s it. If you do it for six months, are NEVER late, even by one day, with your rent payment and if you don’t feel overly pinched in your lifestyle (ou can afford your basic needs as well as a reasonable amount of wants every month and are still socking money into retirement plans, paying off bills, socializing as you normally do, buying the same amount of groceries you normally do, and so on) then you are ready to own your own home.

Lastly, after you have your home and have lived in it without financial distress for a year, it’s time to start an emergency savings fund. This is an account, perhaps separate from your normal savings account, where you sock away enough money to live on for at least eight months. This protects you in case you are seriously ill, in case you lose your job, in case your family has a crisis, and so on. This isn’t your normal savings fund, it isn’t your household maintenance fund, it’s a separate fund to be used only if you need to keep your head above water during an emergency. For most of us, this is a pipe dream at the moment, but it is what Orman recommends once you have dealt with your retirement savings, your credit cards and other debts and have purchased a home.

Education and Debt

Is it worth going into debt with student loans to get an education? In most cases, YES. It’s getting so that even the most basic and menial and lowest entry-level positions require you to have a bachelor’s degree even to be considered. Even some blue-collar positions require advanced degrees and special training.

Get your degree to invest in yourself as a valuable asset. Become more marketable. Caveat: don’t go to school IN LIEU OF building a career just because you don’t know what to do. Why accrue more debt? (I’m guilty of this!) Some student loans are tax-deductable up to the first $25,000 you pay.

Social Security

In short, you shouldn’t count on it being there for you. If you retired tomorrow, it would still not be there for you. It does not cover even the most basic survival needs. How do you save if you aren’t earning any money? First, invest in yourself, get a good start on your chosen career track and become indispensable. If the problem with Social Security worries you, consider taking a stance politicaqlly on what affects your future. BE AWARE of things that AFFECT YOU. Be proactive. Be informed. No one will care for you when you are older, or it is at least something you should not count on, so if you don’t get involved, you revoke your right to complain about the state of things later on in life.

Bankruptcy Doesn’t Make You Bad

You managed your money poorly or circumstances beyond your control led to your financial ruin and you had to declare bankruptcy. This doesn’t mean you are a bad person. You must not punish yourself for your mistakes. On the other hand, most people who declare bankruptcy once, declare it twice. Don’t be that person. Learn the financial lessons you need to know, ask for help from qualified professionals, and change your way of thinking about money.

A mindset that often leads to bankruptcy is feeling deprived. You feel you are entitled to nice things. You shop to fill emotional voids within, because you are sad, or feel ugly, or feel lonely or feel “less than” peers who have expensive toys that you do not have. You have to fill emotional voids in more self-affirming ways and practice delayed gratification. Frills and thrills in the now should not cost you security and luxury when you are older. Buy quality when you buy things that are intended to be around for a while. Cheap furniture, cheap bedding, cheap towels, cheap electronics: the cost of repeatedly replacing cheap quality goods is far more than buying a good quality, sturdy item at the start. You don’t have to have it all at once. Buy good quality pieces in stages. Consider reducing your possessions and collections. Shelving to house collections takes up space and costs money you could spend on other things. Anything you collect that is not worth the aggravation it would cause to move it to another place should be reconsidered. (I’m guilty of this: I hold on to a sizable collection of vinyl albums, for one.) Scale your possessions to the available storage you have, rather than buying more storage to house your possessions. If your collections don’t mean as much to you as they once did, but you keep them out of sentiment, consider selling or giving away all but a few of your favorites or most valuable. A well-chosen arrangement of things is more pleasing and has more impact than mere quantity of items, and is easier to display and enjoy and dust around.

Charity

When should you give? How much should you give? Do you consider yourself a charity?

When you give, it is a reflection of your values and a way to give thanks for what you do have. As a bonus, giving feels GOOD. Givers get a feeling of pleasure from their own generosity, and acknowledging that you are in a position to help others contributes to a feeling of personal power. That feeling of power and the warm glow that comes from helping the less-fortunate will color your inner views about your own situation positively. Decide what you can give each month, open-heartedly, and make a commitment to sit down at the first of the month when bills come due and make your donation to a charity you care about the first thing you do. The feeling of abundance you will have, giving to others in need, will make paying bills feel like less of a drudgery. You may not yet be rich, but you can still help others, so you can’t be poor, right? Your monthly donation does not need to be extravagant. If you can spare a dollar, give a dollar. Resist the temptation to give only when major disasters strike. Do it consistently. Also, don’t do it via automatic bank transfers. Physically write out a check every month and send it yourself, from an open-hearted desire to be helpful to others. If you can’t give money, give of your time. Donate clothes to the Salvation Army, books to the public library, pet toys from a deceased pet who can’t get any use out of them anymore to a rescue group, old computers and printers to non-profit groups, feminine hygiene supplies and new diapers to a battered woman’s shelter, board games and yarn skeins and knitting needles to nursing homes…use your imagination. It feels good helping others, and that good feeling, associated with money matters, will help you associate fiscal responsibility with positive feelings.

Cynical misanthrope? There are plenty of animal preservation charities, charities that fund the arts, Public Broadcasting, charities that help the homeless regain their dignity and shelter, charities that support your college or high school, charities that help with historical preservation, charities that promote literacy…whatever ignites your passions, be it politics, or children, or abused animals or certain environmental causes, there is a charity you will feel good about supporting. You can even donate anonymously if you fear getting spammed by requests from other charities. Buy a money order each month and sent it off anonymously. Pick a different charity each month and drop money orders in collection baskets, or library donation boxes, or buy canned food for food drives, pet food to animal shelters, or toys for holiday gift drives. Pledge to yourself to spent a certain amount each month and be true to your promise and do it before your money goes towards less life-affirming places (such as the cable company or utilities). Increase the sum total of joy in the world by doing small, but vital, things to help.

Investing in Markets

I won’t go into this, because it’s all new to me, but essentially you make a commitment that you’re going to invest $500 a month (or whatever) into certain mutual funds or investment groups. It’s recommended you get an advisor to help you when you first start doing this. Say you have five investment options you pay into each month. Resist the urge, at least for a while, to try to guess the direction of the stock market.

Assume you have a 14-year mortgage and a sudden windfall of $25,000. Your mortgage has a fixed rate (one hopes). It is likely that the interest on your mortgage loan is far lower than other expenses you could make. Assume also you plan to stay in your house. Take your windfall, talk to an investment counselor, and then chose the groups you want to invest in. Don’t invest it all at once. Divide your windfall money into equal amounts and buy the same amount of investment fund shares each month. This will average out better for you than if you paid off your mortgage.

Mutual funds and stock groups you can buy for $100 minimum:

iShares Dow Jones US Basic Materials (IYM)
iShares Dow Jones US Real Estate (IYR)
iShares Lehman Aggregate Bond (AGG)
iShares MSCI-EAFE (EFA)
Vanguard Total Stock Market UPER (VTI)

(I had Vanguard shares before and currently have a lot of Columbia shares, which aren’t available for $100 minimum buy-ins. Vanguard performed well at the time, if that makes a difference to you, and tends to be conservative (e.g., low risk, moderate potential reward, probably the best potential for maintaining portfolio value over the long haul).)

Let’s say you invest $500 a month into these five share groups (asset classes). The goal is to invest about 20% of your total 100% investment per share group / asset class. This means that each month you should rotate which asset class you buy stock from, trying to maintain a 20% division of funds per asset class. Don’t try to guess what will be “hot,” discipline yourself to rotate through all the asset classes. (This information comes from MSNBC financial information articles, and you can read more about each asset class and what you’re buying there. For example, basic materials (IYM) includes buying precious metals like gold, and others include foreign stock offerings along with US-only stock offerings.)

Lastly, MSNBC Financial wizards recommend investing inPIMCO Community Real Return Strategy Fund(PCRDX) once you can afford to buy in $2,500 minimum amounts. As with all stock advice, consult an expert, preferably one at your bank. I have merely the barest clue what’s going on with all this, I have not yet had a sit-down with my advisor to get educated (beyond the basics).

When you feel financially free, your spirit is free. You remove a huge area of stress from your life. I’m not there yet, but I’m striving to learn. I figured I’d share what I’ve recently read. Typing it in here helps me retain the information and makes it feel more accessible and understandable.

The Happy Fun Joyousness Of Menial Labour For Pay!

There are some jobs every teen should have before being unleashed upon the world as an adult. I’ve been of the opinion for years that parents should make their kids have three kinds of jobs while they are still in school, and they shouldn’t work for their family members.
They need to:

1. Babysit

Caring for children smaller than yourself teaches patience and compassion. If parents don’t think that their kids are capable of babysitting alone, they should be close by, but the kid has to take responsibility for entertaining, bathing / changing diapers for, teaching basic information to (alphabet, rhymes, numbers, colors, etc.), feeding and comforting a small child. A good controlled environment is a nursery school at a church or synagogue or secular school with pre-K that allows volunteer students to help out.

Character-building experiences:

  • You will probably have something vile horked onto you or be responsible for cleaning up some disgusting mess at least once each time you babysit.
  • You will most likely not be able to enforce rules or discipline the children in any way (especially corporally!), whether or not they would benefit by it.
  • You will have to read the same eight children’s books over and over and over again.
  • You will want to kill Barney, Blue the Clue dog, the Wiggles, Elmo, Dora the Explorah and Diego, the Disney Princesses, the Veggietales, Mr Rogers and every other goddamned Muppet on Sesame Street. (Amazingly, I don’t hate every Muppet in the universe, but you’d probably understand if I did!)
  • You will know far more about Pokèmon than any adult ever should.
  • You will experience the joy of getting dried baked beans out of a shrieking child’s hair.
  • You will marvel at the poo that somehow wound up on the ceiling.
  • Vegetables that the children are supposed to be eating will end up everywhere but inside the child’s stomach. PROTIP: Look in the hutch and sideboard drawers after every meal.
  • The remote will always be lost, and finding it is vital, as otherwise the child(ren) will not stop crying.
  • You will watch way too many Disney videos. WAY. TOO. MANY. You will become enraged by the sexist messages being drilled into small impressionable children’s minds.
  • Some toy will break and be unfixable or require batteries you have no idea how to find. This will ruin someone’s entire day. (Hint: It’s you.)
  • There will be fights over personal space invasion (“s/he’s touching me, s/he’s staring at me, s/he’s looking at me, s/he’s making a face at me, s/he’s on my side of the sofa, s/he’s in my room, s/he’s not sharing, s/he’s not supposed to play with my (whatever thing it is), s/he’s farting”, “I’m telling”, et cetera ad nauseum).
  • An infant that does not wish to wear a certain item of clothing will go boneless, writhe around, wail, and grow nine or ten more appendages, none of which will go through the sleeve or pant leg they should go through.
  • You will have to referee or resolve fights over bed time, brushing teeth, brushing hair, wearing nightclothes, dinner time, TV time, and more.
  • You run the risk of being sued or arrested if the child hints to his or her parents that you were overly rough or overly affectionate with them, so you have to constantly monitor your every movement every waking moment.
  • You have to be a good example, so no smoking, no cursing, no drinking, no adult TV, no adult music, no guests, no adult phone conversations, and no Internet surfing.
  • Children will find their parents’ drug stashes, alcoholic beverages, medications, lighters or matches, pornographic material and so on, and you run the risk of being blamed for it if you can’t get the little devils to tell you where they found it (or put out the fire in time).
  • If there’s a pet, you will have to make sure the pet isn’t tormented by the children, and that it doesn’t get out or on the furniture, and that the children don’t eat its food instead of theirs. You also have to try to befriend the pet lest you get bitten or barked at or clawed. You will probably have to feed, walk, and clean up messes for the pet as well as the child(ren), and you won’t get paid extra to do it.
  • You’ll have to have a lot of extra energy to keep up with children who are playing on a playground, roller skating, biking or just running around in circles shrieking. Someone may get hurt, so you have to know CPR and first aid and the numbers for the police, doctors, the fire department, and a nearby responsible back-up adult or two. Considering that bros and bro hos breed like rabbits, being solely responsible for someone else’s baby/babies or small child(ren) MIGHT encourage them to use birth control regularly and responsibly.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s no chance for career advancement.
  • You also run the risk of deciding to have your tubes tied.

2. Work in Retail

Dealing with the public while they attempt to haggle over, steal, damage, hide, relocate, stain, or otherwise mistreat merchandise you are responsible for is a useful growth experience. In addition, they may get a merchandise discount, and will have to learn to manage money responsibly in the face of tempting short-term-gratification outlets like new electronics or fashions. Even with registers, clerks tend to have to learn basic arthmetic to answer customer questions about taxes, discounts and rebates. In most stores, a basic level of courtesy and efficiency is demanded of employees, so you can’t be a rude, surly brat.

Character-building experiences:

  • Your feet and back will usually hurt after a long shift.
  • You will typically despise most of the items you are asked to be enthusiastic about selling.
  • You will grow to hate folding, hanging things up, and the wrinkle-steamer.
  • You may never willingly do any of these three things for the rest of your life, actually, because they become such a pain in the ass when you have to do them for 7 hours a day.
  • You will probably be given, begrudgingly, a half hour to procure and eat lunch or dinner.
  • You will have to push credit cards on customers who don’t want them or shouldn’t have them, as the state of debt in this country is already ridiculously high.
  • You will be forced to maintain a certain dollar amount in sales, meaning that your coworkers will do their best to steal your customers, ring up your sales under their employee ID numbers, or neglect other required tasks in order to meet their quotas, meaning that you will have to do the shit work they won’t do.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stuff from other stores for returns and demanding cash back.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stuff they have worn or damaged for refunds.
  • You’ll have customers bringing in stolen items for refunds.
  • You’ll have customers letting their children use the store racks as a kindergym.
  • Customers will leave tags, food trash, dirty diapers, and worse in the fitting rooms.
  • Customers may have sex in the fitting rooms. Yes, really.
  • Customers may use the fitting rooms as bathrooms. Yes, really.
  • Customers will monopolize you for two hours by having you run all over the store fetching them stuff in different colors and sizes and styles and then end up buying nothing, because they are just bored and using shopping as a hobby.
  • Customers will ruin clothing with sweat, urine, perfume, makeup, dirt and food stains.
  • Customers will pop zippers and buttons and straps.
  • Customers will leave clothes on the floor of the dressing rooms after tromping all over them.
  • Customers will ask for items you do not, will not, and never have sold.
  • Customers will stash accessories in pant pockets, purse linings, socks, haits, umbrellas, shoes, and you wouldn’t BELIEVE what else.
  • Customers will ignore the health code laws and try on pierced earrings, bathing suits, underwear, hats and hosiery.
  • Customers will have horrendous body odor.
  • Your bosses may be younger than you, but if they aren’t, they are unlikely to be much smarter than you are or over 30.
  • You won’t get paid much, and the work can be extremely stressful and extremely boring in turns.
    This also teaches patience, and that the world does not conform to your preferences.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s little chance for career advancement.

 

3. Work in a Restaurant

Preferably as a waitperson, but bussing and dishwashing have their own challenges, too. Food delivery doesn’t count. Fast food restaurants do not count. Working in your colleges’ cafeteria doesn’t count. We’re talking about a real restaurant with a wide variety of customers coming in every day. You’ll have to earn your tips, and sometimes work your ass off for little reward.

Character-building experiences:

  • You’ll earn a staggeringly pathetic $2.01 an hour (plus tips) in most places AND have to declare taxes up to the current minimum wage, which means that you will sometimes be working for free…or, after taxes, actually PAYING for the privilege of working. Yay!
  • You will reek of food odors every day.
  • You’ll ache and hurt every day.
  • People will be rude to you every day. It will suck.
  • Normally you will earn less than nothing, but some days you’ll earn a living wage, and having cash in pocket also requires learning money management in order to save enough to pay bills and rent and for groceries.
  • Many restaurant workers keep terrible hours (most everything is closed when you are off duty) and many drink excessively and do drugs to kill the innate despair of their job, and that’s another temptation you need to avoid.
  • Restaurant work also appeals to people who can not do any other kind of job, so expect most of your coworkers to be practically illiterate, ill-informed, un(der)educated and possessed of bad taste.
  • Your bosses will typically have no idea what your job is like, as they have never actually waited on the public before, so expect little useful guidance or support if a problem customer turns up.
  • There will be rules that make no sense and work counter to the stated goal of providing customer service. For example, cheap-ass-bastards tend to require customers to pay for soft drink refills (notably, even most fast food chains will give you a refill if you eat in their dining area, and fast food chains are notoriously cheap), despite the fact that, even factoring in the cost of the soda, the equipment costs and maintenance, and the hourly fee to pay someone to wash a rack of glasses, it costs the restaurant pennies to give someone a refill.
  • Angry customers who resent paying for refills–not your choice, mind you!–will not tip you.
  • Cooks are usually surly bastards who like to maintain an adversarial relationship with the waitstaff, even though they earn 4-5 times more an hour (even after you factor in tips) and work fewer hours.
  • Half of the waitstaff typically does 85 percent of the work while the other half skives off early, is lazy, does it in a half-assed fashion (so that someone else has to finish or redo it), or skips out of sidework.
  • You will probably not be fed often (if at all), or, if you are, you will get something far less exciting than even the cheapest item on the menu or you will probably have to pay for all or half of what you eat. This means that your meals will typically consist of stuff you can filch between tables, like crackers, dinner mints, tea and soft drinks.
  • Customers will not want to sit where you put them, and you’ll have to shuffle them all over the dining room, which messes up the hostess’ system and means that someone gets overloaded or waits on fewer people (which means less money potentially earned).
  • Customers will rarely want the food served “as is”, so you will have to make endless adjustments and variations and service alterations for Sallies (as in “When Harry Met Sally”, with Meg Ryan portraying Sally as the typical high-maintenance nightmare who can’t just order food as it comes).
  • Children will play with or gum their food and leave crumbs and mush in a five-foot radius.
  • Customers will use condiments as art supplies.
  • Customers will refuse to help you out by getting all their requests in at the same time, meaning you will inevitably run back and forth across the restaurant three times more often than you otherwise would have to.
  • Customers will often touch you inappropriately, or ask you for a date, as if buying a $15 meal means that you are included in the deal. Fail to respond with a minimum of feigned delight and you will most likely not get a tip.
  • Customers will poke around ordering and then be in a huge hurry for their food, as if it is your fault they took 25 minutes to decide what they wanted to eat.
  • You’ll have regulars, and you’ll want to do something nice for them to encourage them to keep returning, but it is likely that the rules your cheap bosses have set will make it impossible for you to give them anything as a fillip or reward for faithful patronage.
  • You typically get no health benefits and there’s little to no chance for career advancement, unless you consider it an advancement to become head server, a position with increased responsibility, longer hours, and the same pay rate.

If every teen and young adult had to do these three things, rather than have their parents hand then an allowance, there’s be less bullcrap from people when they dealt with those in the service industries.

Or so I believe.

Adversity also builds character, and in our “Everyone’s An Entitlement Bitch” society, a little more built-up character couldn’t hurt.

People might learn some patience.

They might value hard work and achievement more than material trappings that, if bought, will result in horrendous debt and associated msieries.

People might not act like non-housetrained, loud, rabid, smelly wolverines in public. It’s possible. Really.

And the concept of working for things is never a bad value to instill in your kids. If you hand them everything on a plate, how do they learn self-reliance and responsibility? The first time they mess up as adults, will they say “I messed up” and work to fix their error(s), or will they say “It’s not my fault, I’m special, I have an excuse, I am a victim, you must give me a break” and call an adult to bail them out of their mess and, additionally, learn nothing from the experience?

Just wondering aloud.

What were the most character-building (or, conversely, just describe the worst overall) jobs you had as a young person?

I Survived Being A Waitress

Submitted by Lanie [Last Name Omitted], server at Buca di Beppo restaurant in Encino, California to a bitter waitresses forum:

“Dear customers at tables 15-16:

I’m not sure if you remember me…I was your waitress last Monday night. I just wanted to drop you a quick letter to show my appreciation.

I was really thankful, customers at table 15-16, that rather than being the fourteen people for which you had made the reservation, you were in fact four adults and five small children. The way you managed to spread yourselves out to fill a ten top and a four top table rather than freeing up the four top was really quite a testament to the spirit of elbow room. Although you easily could have fit at one table, it was nice that you noticed how I, like so many of my fellow servers, often hate having tables used for things like paying customers when we could have a four top used for holding up slobbery crayons, diaper bags and shredded place mats.

Thank you for the workout I got fetching you four solid wood highchairs even though none of your children remained in them. It’s really nice to see children so active. I agree that more children could benefit from less TV and more running laps through a crowded restaurant. Way to help hone my reflexes as well; dodging children with a scalding hot plate of ravioli is great practice in case I ever decide to try out for Riverdance.

Thank you also for allowing your children to scream their heads off. Many people have never had the chance to experience what a whale call sounds like. But why am I telling you this? I can tell that you already realize the educational value of your offsprings’ squealing since you made no attempt to control it.

I’m sure we also see eye to eye about the Blue Man Group tribute your two-year-old was performing with six sets of silverware: dinner and a show!!

Thank you customers at table 15-16 for changing your infant’s dirty diaper at the table. I can’t even begin to tell you how tired I get of the smell of fresh garlic and basil. Rotten baby poop is really a nice change of pace during dinner. I’m sure table 13 only asked to be moved to another section because they were feeling overwhelmed by the cuteness of it all.

Lastly, I just wanted to let you know that I don’t hold the 11% tip against you. I was a little upset at first, but then I thought of all the money I’m saving by not having to get surgery since my tubes tied themselves in a knot.”

Lanie is my heroine of the day.

I have to say that dining with my (very young) nieces is, conversely, a pleasant experience because my brother and sister-in-law have trained them to behave politely in public, and do not allow them to run amok or scream in restaurants. Some parents understand. Also, remember: it isn’t the kids’ faults. They haven’t been taught how to behave. Reserve your stink-eye for the parents, and for kids who are darn well old enough to behave themselves properly but do not.

If you have ever worked as a server, you become very familiar with certain customer types.

“Who are you waiting on?

The Thirsty Jerk—-As much as you don’t want to deal with this customer you are continually forced into multiple visits back to the table to refill their glass. Often identified as you greet the table by asking the eternal question: “Are there free refills?” This coupled with a bad attitude results in one thirsty jerk.

The Struggling Comedian—-A particularly annoying chap who truly believes they are always on stage. They are tired of being shunned by friends and family at home and feel they’ve saved their best material for you. Are mainly driven by the possibility of a talent scout in the restaurant that might be interested in some dumb jokes that aren’t funny.

The Quick Orderer—-Frequently heard saying: “I knew what I wanted before I got here.” Or “That was easy, are you ready?” This beauty generally orders as they are sitting down or shortly after thereby forcing the other diners into a hurried ordering frenzy which often leads to something they don’t like. Their only chance is for you to rescue them with long drink times.

Grazed at the Bar–S/he dipped his or her nasty, dirty, unwashed fingers into the bartender’s drink garnish supplies tray and casually ate a pound of cherries, oranges, olives, and whatever else wasn’t nailed down. Do they offer to pay? They do not. The minute these people finally leave the bar to go sit down at their assigned table, the bartender is going to have to slice another pound of fruit or go down into the basement or up into the attic (restaurants always put stuff in the most inconvenient locations) to fetch more pearl onions and olives, and will also have to do so while slammed with customers, some of whom will get pissed they have to wait all of three minutes for another drink and will take it out on the bartender by not tipping worth a damn. Their server will also be delighted to hear that they aren’t hungry anymore and just want some bread or an appetizer.

The Low Talker/Mumbler—-Appear to be comfortable going through life with nobody being able to hear a single word they are saying. If, by chance, you happen to get the rare low talker/mumbler combination, I suggest nodding politely and ringing in the most popular dish on the menu since the odds are in your favor that that is what they ordered anyway.

The Modifier—-No doubt enjoyed games such as Rubik’s Cube and jigsaw puzzles when a child, this person gets a kick out of mixing and matching entrees, side orders, and sauces. Other than occasional harassment from the kitchen, they are generally not a real threat to your good mood. However, they often wonder why their “flounder marsala over lentils hold the garlic” doesn’t taste good. The all time best modification three years running: “house salad hold the lettuce”.

The Name Dropper—-Although many of these customers believe they have a resemblance to real movie stars, they’re about as famous as the 11-year-old who played the lead in my 6th grade rendition of Oliver. These faux stars and starlets will usually feel they are entitled to special privileges like preferred seating or VIP treatment from food servers. Yet, ultimately their true identity comes forth and we discover they are really the boss’s second cousin, twice removed, hairdresser’s neighbor.

The Lying Dieter—-Regardless of the chair screaming “help me!” when they sit down, this customer’s typical meal will include: fried calamari for starters, with fettuccini alfredo for the main course and carrot cake as a light dessert and invariably a Diet Coke to drink. Somehow in between scoffing the fresh mozzarella and ganosh cake they manage to ask for Sweet and Low, truly a sight to behold.

The Intolerable Intolerants—-These customers have decided to look death in the face and leave it up to their server to keep out any ingredients that may result in their demise. Food allergies ranging from dairy to shellfish to anything with seeds keep you guessing and usually lead to you not even ringing in the modification. The fun only really begins when 6 different people run your food to the table only to have the Intolerable Intolerant’s special dish get lost in the auction.

The Straggler—-Timing is everything with this punctual customer. What is first dismissed as a strange coincidence of a customer coming into the restaurant as you are about to eat your lunch, quickly becomes a regular nuisance that NASA can set their clocks by. Many believe they wait outside until 2:00p.m. exactly before coming through the door. Others feel they have people working on the inside to tell them precisely when the employees put their lunch orders in so as to have their opening of the door correspond exactly with my ass hitting the chair. Note: If they can’t make it in person, they will usually call around the same time.

The Campers—-Also known as the marathon munchers or squatters they love living up to their stereotype by taking no less than three hours to eat a Caesar salad and a bowl of pasta. Have no qualms about reminding the food server that they are in no rush tonight or that they’ll wait before giving you their entrée to ensure plenty of time. Short of sweeping under their table while they’re still there, there is not much that can be done about these all too powerful diners. The worst of the breed are just under the wire campers who feel that once they are seated they have us where they want us, keeping the restaurant open later than usual. Dropping a check with the meal may counteract this… or may not.”

I ran into all of the above, and some Very Special Customers that deserve their own list:

White Trash Lemonade Maker. Patron is too cheap to buy the Minute Maid Lemonade restaurant sells (for $2, in a BIG bottle). Instead, Patron runs server to death asking for (free) lemons, (free) sweetener-of-choice packets, and constant (free) refills on water.

200 Questions. Patrons peruse the menu and ask about every single entree and then decide to order, for two adults, one kid’s portion meal with Ice Water And Extra Lemon. And get annoyed when you point out that they cannot, as they are not, chronologically speaking anyway, children.

Church Group In Tour Bus. Your ‘tip’ will be TestaMints, Jesus Cards, Jack Chick tracts, and / or declarations that you will be prayed for enthusiastically…and NO MONEY. They are the WORST.

Ranch Dressing Dunkers. Table orders ranch dressing and pours it all over everything possible. Ranch dressing = no tip.

On The Side. So incredibly picky, they can’t have any two given ingredients in contact with each other. So concerned about portion size that they order the largest thing on the menu, have it parted out into 13 different components, then mix it alltogether into glop and eat every molecule.

Prom couples. They are so frequently cheap (out of ignorance, mostly, as it may be the first time they have ever gone to a restaurant on their own without adults) that one restaurant I worked for began a Prom Tip Tax policy. If a couple were under 25 and came in to our semi-formal restaurant with a flower tied to the girl’s wrist, a girl wearing a wearing floor-length satin ballgown, a girl in a tiara, or a guy with pimples wearing a rented tux, you got Prom Taxed. It was even on the menu.

Screaming Baby. Parents of Screaming Baby let SB shriek, spit drooly half-masticated cracker blops all over the walls, carpets, seats, high chairs and tables, and occasionally think it is acceptable to change their SB’s diaper ON THE DINING TABLE. DURING DINNER. IN FULL VIEW (and smell range) OF THE OTHER PATRONS. Occasionally SB’s mom makes a political statement by openly breastfeeding her baby. Breastfeeding is natural and all, but some people don’t want to see it while they are eating, and life is unfair and I don’t want to hear any angry lactivist comments about it. Just realize that some people don’t want to see it while they are eating, and that no judgment is being passed on whether they should get over it or not. Oh, smoking or drinking alcohol while nursing are not out of the question. Bonus points when the diaper, as is inevitable, is left on the dining room table. That’s your tip. Some e.Coli and nausea.

Buffet Moo-cows. Since they get their chow for themselves, the fact that someone seated them, refilled their drinks, checked on them frequently to make sure they were content, removed dirty plates all night and had no way to recoup income on the table at which they lingered for hours never enters their tiny minds. They think that since they grabbed a plate themselves that it’s only fair that this someone get no tip.

Low- or No-Carb dieters. I’d be cranky, too. Carbs are delicious. But I wouldn’t order insanely customized food that no longer has any chance of tasting palatable and then throw a fit when the butter-soaked garlic bread isn’t rushed to the table immediately. And then they order a lot of alcoholic beverages. Bread and booze = carbohydrates.

Kiddie Rodeos. Undisciplined, unrestrained and unnoticed by any adults who might be forced to claim them, a pack of rowdy sproglets galloping all over the restaurant signals indifference on the part of their adult caretakers to the feelings and welfare of others (or the kids). You may receive no tip. In fact, they would love to ask you to pay for the privilege of being their unappreciated and unacknowledged babysitter for the past hour and a half.

Fake Bling. Danger, Will Robinson, danger! Fake Bling and his / her companions will be appalled to find out that dinner-sized salads and refills on sodas are not free. Will ask for a dozen bread baskets and think nothing of packing bread into pockets or purses “for later”. No judgment. Times are rough. I would never narc anyone out for pocketing a biscuit. The problem is that they will often be loud and foul-mouthed and unable to understand polysyllabic words. Worst Fake Bling offenders are Caucasian males with baseball caps. Please dine at Krystal or Hooter’s and leave us alone.

Bad places to work: anywhere involving nudity if you are female but not inclined to get nude, places that serve chicken wings (especially buffalo-style chicken wings), places attached to shopping malls, places with carnival games (Chuck E Cheese, Dave & Buster’s, et cetera), places with sports shows on multiple televisions all day, places that do not have metal utensils or cloth napkins, places that make servers wear rollerskates or sing, places that require servers to wear revealing or humiliating polyester uniforms, places that are open 24/7, et cetera.

I miss the money (I actually always got above-average tips), but I am too old and crabby to deal with the general public anymore, and my fallen arches made it an exercise in torture every single night anyway. Be nice to your server. It is a crappy job.

Republicans Think Unemployed Women Need Ladylike Manners and Charm School Lessons

New York State Senator Marty Golden wants unemployed women to take “Posture, Deportment and the Feminine Presence” classes. Yes, he is a Republican. This is what he is promoting, rather than “equal pay for equal work” or job-creating legislation. I am guessing that this is because he is a big misogynistic idiot, but maybe I am just not in touch enough with my Feminine Presence to understand his manly wisdom and brilliance.

 

 So. Is this the new Republican “thing”? Thinking that ladies need to know how to walk around with books on their heads more than they need equal pay for equal work, the right as adults to make their own healthcare and reproductive choices, or not to be deemed a “pre-existing medical condition” because they have vaginas?

As a PROTIP, Republicans, I WAS brought up with “deportment classes” because I was supposed to be a debutante. I never mastered the “book on head” thing, but I know how to properly comport myself at a formal dinner and which arcane bit of silverware to use when, how to introduce two dignitaries to each other properly, how to cross my ankles and get into and out of cars in a lady-like fashion, ballroom dancing, all those old fashioned rules about what not to wear when, how to curtsey, when to remove your white gloves and when not to, and all those so-called “lady skills”. I own several etiquette books and I read them all. Guess what? THIS STUFF DOES NOT GET YOU A JOB, and, in fact, will often make your bosses and co-workers uncomfortable if you behave like an old-fashioned, mannerly, etiquette-knowledgeable lady these days.

Look, guys, “Lady Skills”–much like insisting upon speaking correctly and using proper spelling and grammar–often make your bosses and co-workers feel uncomfortable. It is sad but true. Consider these skills to be nice “cherry on top” life skills, but don’t pretend that people are going to understand or appreciate your new “Proper Lady Graces”, because they are going to think you are fucking weird. Trust me on this. I have gotten more shit from my peers for behaving properly and with respect towards others and following etiquette and deportment rules than I have doing anything else in life. THEY DO NOT GET IT. THEY THINK YOU ARE A NUTBAR. THEY DO NOT APPRECIATE IT. Sometimes it even makes them feel bad about themselves. How does this help you get a job, really? Do you think balancing a textbook on your head is a life skill someone is willing to pay for? It isn’t.

About the debutante thing: I told the Cotillion / “debutante mill” people to go fuck themselves and refused to make my debut because they did not allow non-white or non-Christian debutantes. If my friends weren’t allowed the same privileges and Society didn’t deem them presentable or want to meet them, then I had no time to waste on being presented to that Society. It was and is not a Society I want to be a part of. Fuck them.

Look. It is an accident of birth that I qualify to belong to Colonial Dames or Daughters of the American Revolution, and I don’t meant to disparage those groups at all. Truly, I am not. I’m just saying that it doesn’t make me “better” than anyone that my ancestors got here earlier than someone else’s, or that they did so as wealthy landowners or businesspeople and not as someone’s “property.” It is an accident of birth that my ancestors made a mark on history (for instance, my nieces are going to grow up knowing they are related to Meriwether Lewis and John and Abigail Adams and people that several counties in Arkansas and Georgia were named after, just as a small sampling, and maybe it will inspire them to be excited by history, as a bonus), and I am proud of them too, but I can’t take credit for their accomplishments, if you know what I mean.

I do not consider it my greatest accomplishment in life to have the accidental fortune to be born white and upper-middle class. I can take no credit for those things.

Anyway, fuck these people and their Feminine Presence classes bullshit. I’m living proof that it is just a distraction and something that will NOT help you get employed, especially if there are NO JOBS. It won’t help women get fair pay. It won’t do anything but annoy and insult a bunch of unemployed women and teach them skills of dubious value in this day and age who would be better served using that time applying to more jobs instead.

Thus endeth my rant.