What’s That Smell? Poverty

by Cecily Rodriguez

cecily poverty blogThink of something you know little or nothing about because you haven’t experienced it – the taste of spoiled milk (did you just gag?), getting a flat tire, losing sight of your toddler in a

store, losing your phone.

Even without having experienced these, you know it would suck because you’ve eaten a bad piece of fish, had a fender bender, lost your kid in your own house (those little buggers can hide in places you didn’t know existed!), or lost a favorite watch. You get it because these things are in fact very similar.

But even if you haven’t had those experiences, you may still know that others have and you’re incredibly fortunate for having escaped it.

I recently was part of a conversation where it was suggested that no one today could live on less than $100,000.

If you know me, you know my brain exploded and then my mouth followed and of course, I had to apologize after. If you don’t know me, this is basically the story of my life in one sentence.

Why did my brain explode? I’ve been poor. Like, lived in a trailer, was on food stamps, didn’t have a car, poor. I’ve also just felt poor because other people had bigger, nicer stuff.

BEING poor and FEELING poor are two very different things.

I think those of us unfamiliar with what it is to be poor could use a gentle reminder of just how f#$%&*g lucky we are. And, yeah, I’m using the word luck because you bet your ass you’re lucky that despite all your hard work a medical condition didn’t force you into bankruptcy or being laid off didn’t cost you your house.

I don’t want you to feel judged or guilty for what you have or blamed for others not having enough but I know some of you will. So, let’s just get this out of the way. I’m not to blame for your feelings Brenda. If what you read stirs any of that up, go find a mirror and do some self-reflection because this chick is not interested in listening to you defend your weekly manicures. I don’t give a shit how you spend your money.

I would however love if during your manicure you realized that ~40 million people in this country would love to be in your shoes. They would love to worry about what you worry about like taking a more economical vacation this spring so you can send your kid to a $5000 summer camp. If this is you, don’t feel bad about that. Feel f#$%&*g grateful AND be aware it’s not the norm. Know that many people will never have to worry about that because they’re just trying to afford food and medicine.

In case you’re unfamiliar, here are some examples of FEELING poor vs. BEING poor.

Feeling poor is when you’re in college, live in a small apartment with roommates, eat ramen noodles (the ones wrapped in plastic, not the delicious fresh ones) and walk to classes because you don’t have a parking permit. That’s not poor – you’re in college, you live in an apartment that’s close enough to campus to walk, you have a car. Not poor.

BEING poor is when you can’t afford college so you take out loans AND work full-time while taking a full class load, live at home because you definitely can’t afford an apartment or the ramen noodles unless you get them from the food bank, and even if you could afford a car you couldn’t afford the gas, insurance, and maintenance so you ride the bus. Even this isn’t absolute poor, but it’s closer.

Feeling poor is when you wish you could buy all new but instead you buy clothes at consignment, kitchen appliances at garage sales, furniture in the very back on clearance, and you buy your brother’s old car when he gets a new one. That’s not poor – you have a house to put all this stuff in and you have the car and gas money to drive to all these places to buy all this stuff. Not poor.

BEING poor is when you get clothes, appliances, and furniture donated from all the people who just Marie Kondo’d the shit out of their lives and you don’t have a car or if you do, you can’t afford to waste the gas driving to all those places any way.

For my numbers people. BEING poor in the US means a family of 4 makes no more than ~$25,000 (aka live at the poverty level) and are therefore eligible for government assistance like Section 8 housing.

$25,000 or $2083 a month.

Do a tally of your monthly spend on shelter, food, clothes, education, health care, transportation, leisure, retirement, and lip balm (seriously, where do they all go?)…how far did you get before you hit $25,000? I got to shelter and food.

There are days when I FEEL poor but me not being able to afford a vacation and having to live vicariously through my friends’ Instagram feeds…(BTW, shout out to everyone who takes amazing vacay pics). Not poor. I am simply uncomfortable and sometimes, I admit, envious.

What I also am not is unaware of my status. I have a fridge full of food, live in a safe suburb, drive a reliable car, send my girl to a private school. And, I’m incredibly, incredibly thankful for all of it because I know so many people can’t afford these things.

If you still need a little convincing that you’re one lucky lady (or guy), then my last shot at it is this…close your eyes and tell me what it smells like to be poor.

You are an incredibly fortunate person if you just said to yourself, “being poor has a smell?” Yes, it does and ~40 million Americans know what it is. Please be thankful you don’t.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s