I have disappeared on many of you. I promise, it’s not because you had a baby. (Even though you’re right, I don’t really care for babies.) Or because you moved. Or because you have a new girlfriend/boyfriend/wife.
I am broke.
I just entered the final year of a massive debt repayment plan. Most of y’all are aware, at least up to a degree, but…
I’m never sure if I talk too much about this, or too little. But I think I’m on the “too little” side, from a lot of of the conversations I have. Because I live with this every day, it bugs me when someone doesn’t understand why I can’t just rent a car and drive up to visit. Or come out to dinner, or a show, or any other million things that cost money. It’s unfair, I know: it’s my circumstance, not yours. Of course it’s not on the top of your mind. And even if it is, you might not understand exactly what I mean when I say “I’m broke.” Because I try to make it seem like I can go to a show on a whim, and I never mention the hours of budgeting and tweaking said budget that makes it happen.
There’s this whole mixed-up cocktail of feelings that make me want to never, ever speak about this. Today, as I looked at the $10 in my weekly budget and at my undies drawer that’s down to the granny panties and I realized (not for the first time) that I would be wearing every hideous pair and maybe hand-washing a few to get me through to payday, I wanted to talk about it again.
So. What keeps me from speaking up?
I just watched Frances Ha (on the Netflix that I was sure I could again afford the $8 a month on two months ago, and that I will be canceling again this month), and this movie, this movie is my broke-ness. (See this article in Slate that talks about money in the movie.) In response to Frances calling herself poor, a friend says “You’re not poor, that’s offensive to real poor people.”
I am not poor. I know I’m privileged, and I see all the advantages that I have had and still have, and the fact that I have made many choices (both wise and unwise) that have brought me to my present state of broke-ness. My being broke is not a life-crushing, perpetual thing. When I talk about my broke-ness, I’m not asking for help; I have a great support network that I clearly communicate to when I need help. Neither am I asking for pity; my life is pretty good, actually.
I don’t even like to admit to myself how broke I am. That can mean I end up doing things like eating at a schmancy burger place with friends when I know I don’t have the funds for it that month. There’s a deep shame, that I’ve done something horribly wrong with my life, to the end that I cannot afford the same luxuries my friends and peers can. I want to hide my bad choices, make them invisible – except I’m pretty sure that’s the whole feeling that leads to a nation full of debtors. Ignore the problem, just charge it.
Shame’s connected to another feeling, one that’s harder to put a name to. The feeling that makes you fly to Paris on a credit card. To feel, for just a moment, like it’s something you can do. To show to others that it’s something you can do. Like buying a designer handbag, it can be a survival mechanism to present yourself as coming from a place of strength. Never admit a weakness. Always put on your best face. Fake it ’til you make it. I recognize my privilege here, as well, even while feeling a feminist desire to transmit the fact that I am strong, that I am capable of providing for myself, that I am at your level.
I’ve had bouts of depression that I didn’t understand in the past, and that led to me being a person who made excuses. I would make plans to go to a party – then the night would come, and I’d find I simply couldn’t face people. *cough cough* sorry, so sick. I’m also a terrible liar, so it was pretty obvious to my friends that I was just making something up.
I’ve come completely about face on this; now, when I can’t face an event, I’ll tell you flat out. I’ve come so completely around in the other direction that making an excuse of any kind, even when it’s a legit reason, makes me feel guilty. So I stay quiet.
Part of this is because the money thing always feels like an excuse, and not legit. My budget always has a little bit of wiggle room; after food and housing and debt payments and utilities, I generally do have $100 or so to play around with. But then my dog (adopted when I still had my head in the credit card sand) gets sick. Or she doesn’t, but I desperately need to get a carshare to take her to the dog park so she won’t jump on my head at 5am. Or I made a stupid choice on a schmancy burger or a cocktail yesterday. Or I broke my glasses/computer/toe. Or I wore out the soles on my last pair of boots.
Some of these are things I could have avoided. Yes, I probably could have prioritized seeing you. But I didn’t. Something that I didn’t plan came up, and this – which I can and must plan – is withering as a result. I’m sorry.
That’s really what all this is about. I’m sorry. I miss all of you, and I’m sorry that I haven’t prioritized our friendship. I’m trying to come up with ways right now to make this better – you may be getting a skype date request from me very soon – because I’m sorry. There are reasons I disappeared, and if I didn’t make those clear to you from the very beginning, if you think I just don’t care to hang out with you any more, I am very, very sorry.
Because of this mixed up slurry of emotions and my deep desire to avoid the topic, I tend to avoid reaching out to you. I can’t offer to visit you, and it doesn’t seem fair to make you do all the work, plus I know you likely have reasons that make it hard to visit me, so I just avoid the awkward conversation all together, and the “we should totally hang out”s that invariably start to feel disingenuous.
Okay, I started this in kind of a light-hearted place, and it just got all serious. So… in case I can’t see you soon, please enjoy one of life’s free (if you have the privilege of internet access) pleasures: slow lori GIFs.