Here are a few gems from 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 knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours…
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 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 getting tired of people wanting you to be grateful.
Being poor is knowing you’re being judged.
Not everything is of the same quality. You can read the whole list for yourself. The one about worrying about the price of a lotto ticket seemed the worst (i.e. I have no sympathy whatsoever). And even of the ones I quoted… why would anyone want to buy more expensive ramen? (We get it from Save-A-Lot across the street).
There are also much more serious items. Like hoping a toothache will go away. (Since I started this blog post I’ve started the practice of hoping a car noise goes away.)
But on the items above and others similar to them, I have a couple of suggestions. It seems to me the real problem is two-fold 1. being within the reach of the media and 2. having middle-class friends.
Start with marketing…
One of the most damaging marketing tools in the United States media culture is the one that establishes “normal life.” Because there isn’t one normal life.
There are kids who, if their parents are wise, need to be raised to never expect to see the inside of a McDonald’s. Never. All right, maybe if they ask for their birthday.
And if that is the case, there are many more who need to never care about a brand-name ever.
Advertising is a great thing. States that don’t allow advertising for certain products are states where those products cost more for consumers on average. You would think that the lack of advertising costs would make the products more affordable but it doesn’t work that way….
But lower prices are meaningless if you still can’t afford the item. For certain economic classes, families need to be impervious. They need to understand that those ads are for other people and other people’s children.
And that means understanding that they don’t belong to their peers if they are being raised in a middle-class environment. They are among them but they are not of them. Get used to it. Get over it. Move on.
I am pretty sure there are a lot of advantages to being in a middle class environment rather than a lower-class one… but you have to be prepared. Your head should be made of flint and your heart of stone.
Being poor (probably not Scalzi-level poor) is wanting to weep in frustration when you get the note your child brings home from class requesting $10 for her teachers birthday present. You love her teacher and the school is great but you already can’t really afford the tuition and you know groceries are already under-budgeted this month. And no one thinks twice that you wouldn’t have a couple of fivers lying around the house to dump in an envelope to send back to the school.
The constant message is you don’t belong. You are outside looking in. You are the nose pressed up against the glass of the restaurant window.
And yet you can get by. And you should be grateful to God.
And you can be.
Once you realize that He is not middle-class.