Posts Tagged ‘privilege’

An Explanation for my Disappearance

November 23, 2014

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?

franceshaI 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.



May 31, 2014

Two separate but oddly similar issues have been converging for me recently. The whole #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen internet storm has been amazing to watch, though I haven’t had much to add to the conversation. I’ve loved seeing my friends share their stories, and seeing people struggle (and often succeed) to explain exactly why #YesAllWomen is important.

I wondered, though, how many men (nice men, men who really are #NotAllMen) were convinced. I wondered… until I realized that the lesson was one that I needed to absorb as well.

Gentrification is a very tender, but resonant, subject for me. About a year ago, Oakland Local (who still does great posts on the subject) and the Bold Italic ran an opinion series the topic, and I went back and forth on whether to add my own voice to the mix. In fact, there’s a blog post titled “Nothing New to Add to the Conversation” in my drafts, never published.

I realized this week that it’s more than the fact that I had nothing new to add — it was that my place in this debate is to listen, not to convince you that #NotAllWhiteWomen are gentrifiers. I had so many “buts” — but I was born in Oakland, but I was displaced myself, but I’m poorer than most of my neighbors, but, but, but…

Doesn’t matter. I’m still a white lady living in a historically black neighborhood, one that struggles with poverty and crime. I’m the privileged one in this situation, and I need to swallow all my “but”s and just listen. Just like #NotAllMen need to. Recognize your privilege, witness the pain on the other side, and speak only when spoken to. Or, you know, if you have to speak, do so without hijacking the conversation (like quietly on your own little blog where only your sister and one stranger in Ohio will see it 🙂 ).

sun setting behind skyscrapers, lake merritt in foreground



(PS: If you read only one of the posts in that above link, read this one. Although actually, you should read two, and add this one.)