I Don’t Know How to Money
Poverty has taught me to be resourceful — but it might be time for a new lesson
I am about to make a huge financial mistake. Probably the biggest one of my entire life. Just like other chronically poor people, I have always made huge financial mistakes. I have overdrawn my bank accounts, not had bank accounts (Western Union isn’t a bank?); I’ve never had a credit card or any credit at all. I’ve dealt with constant teasing from friends and family: “How do you not even have a credit card?” I know they’re joking and don’t really expect an answer, but I’m always trying to explain myself in earnest. “Oh, you see I was married for a long time and my husband just handled everything so I didn’t know…” It always trails off to “I didn’t know.”
Though I really don’t know how I got here, I very much feel like I’ve never been anywhere else. Struggle is intimately familiar to me and those who are woo-woo minded would say it’s my comfort zone. They would say it’s where I keep myself because I secretly like it. I don’t know if that’s true, but I would agree it’s definitely familiar territory. I’m good at being poor. I’m good at surviving. I wasn’t raised poor but I did instinctively know to switch the electricity check with the water check, to say I paid it but oh, look at me, fiddle-dee-dee I’m so silly sorry for the mix up… I wasn’t paying the bills as much as I was borrowing time till payday.
I figured out how to make my own dog food before it was on chi-chi websites because for some reason, you can’t buy dog food with food stamps. A man once told me, “Get rid of your dog. If you can’t afford dog food, you shouldn’t have a dog.” First: fuck that guy. Second: brown rice, chicken, and mixed veggies all blended together for a few weeks every now and then is pretty good for a dog. Ruby lived to be 17 years old.
I learned how to make soups out of all the leftovers so my kids wouldn’t know we didn’t have food. I knew how to sell or trade drugs I didn’t want for the things we needed. I knew how to steal my neighbor’s internet just until mine was turned back on (OPI, Other People’s Internet, is never a preferred situation). I knew how to fix bus passes so we could reuse them. I knew how to get by.