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Human Parts
A publication about humanity from Medium: yours, mine, and ours.

Money

In Human Parts. More on Medium.

Express Yourself

It took me three years to realize not every hobby needs to bear a dollar sign

A dimly lit photo of a woman cooking on the stove top in her kitchen.
A dimly lit photo of a woman cooking on the stove top in her kitchen.

I live to eat. I have few photographs from my childhood, but there’s one of me whisking eggs, preparing to fry up chicken cutlets. I am 10 or 11, which year I can’t remember, wearing a purple sweater with white hearts. Begging my mother to get an action shot — me and the whisk. Me dredging the cold chicken in breadcrumbs and flour. Me laying them down gently on the frying pan. Me smiling at the hiss and spit and smoke rising out of the pan. Then there’s one of all of us, tucking into our food. …


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. …


How I went from married engineer to bus-dwelling writer

A few muffled decibels of sound traveled from my chest cavity to the surface of my skin, through a stethoscope, and into the ears of a doctor, who interpreted the signal and broadcast a report.

My infant heart was making a whoosh where there should have been a thump.

Two of the three leaflets in my aortic valve were fused, impeding blood flow out of my heart. My condition, aortic stenosis, was expected to worsen as I grew older, leading to reduced aerobic capacity and possibly chest pain, fainting, or even sudden death.

I grew up making annual visits to…


No travel, lots of privilege, working weekends, and avoiding adulthood

Ok, boomer, we’ve heard you: Millennials are the worst. We’ve murdered the napkin industry in cold blood. We told Big Dog Food that our precious fur babies deserve more than kibbles or bits. And we’re not giving you grandchildren for selfish reasons like being too broke and also not wanting to bring children onto a planet that doesn’t have enough clean air for everyone.

Sociopaths, all of us.

But you’ve got to admit, Old Economy Steve, that one way millennials have been uniquely burdened is student debt. These numbers don’t lie. Members of my generation are more educated, more productive…


Lived Through This

After overspending the advances on my books, I needed a strategy

Just looking at this title makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my stomach roil. That said, merely wanting to puke when I declare my debt is progress. Six months ago, I couldn’t have typed that sentence, especially not for publication. I wouldn’t have even said it to myself, let alone to others. My debt was something I stared at in horror every time I opened my bank’s online interface, before I averted my eyes.

Out of sight, out of mind, right? Of course not. My debt was always there, like a funky mole between…


In the early ’80s, I got a fake job working for a fake person — and exposed his house of lies

I was a slasher. That’s how I’d describe my early 1980s self, when I was cute and young and scrambling to make a life. I was an aspiring journalist-slash-student-slash-model-slash-waitress. The more slashes, the more chance I had of eking out a living.

I’d modeled in retail ads, fashion shows, and a couple of decent-paying television commercials. So when my agent offered me a part as an executive at business downtown, no audition required, I assumed she meant for a commercial or corporate film. Turned out, the client actually wanted actors to pose as office workers to impress his clients. It…


‘Are the rich really different from the rest of us?’ I ask myself while wrestling with my billionaire younger brother at 3 a.m.

For most of the last decade, my brother Mark and his family lived in a house with a moat.

The house — a four-bedroom French villa in Bel Air previously owned by Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony — is pretty impressive even without the moat, but that unnecessary protective trench gives the house a certain surreal charm. It’s nice to know that when you visit your family for the holidays, you don’t have to worry about Spanish conquistadors.

When I tell people about my brother’s moat house, they usually ask, “Is he rich or something?” …


A new understanding of money empowered me to make a lot more of it (without the guilt)

You may have played this game before: You can be the wealthiest, most talented, smartest, or most attractive person in the world entire world. Which would you choose?

This was always a fun conversation topic amongst my college friends. We would ask clarifying questions to explore the logic of the game: Would we need to sacrifice other traits in exchange for being the best at whichever we choose? Would my existing attributes change based on my choice? Wouldn’t I automatically become the wealthiest if I was the smartest, most talented, or most attractive because my skills would also be lucrative?


That life looked pretty good until I realized what I was giving up

It was a joke. The kind of joke that’s actually true, but you laugh about it in the hopes of deflecting that truth. A thing you bring up first, before anyone else can. “Haha, she’s my trophy wife! Aren’t we funny!”

I was in my early twenties when we met; he was already over 40, 17 years older than me. And 17 gazillion times wealthier. He had a nice house and a lucrative business partnership and a 401(k) and an Audi. I had student loans and a toaster oven and two cats.

Well, I soon had just one cat. It…


“Folks of privilege don’t understand how $17 can ruin you”

I met this woman named Mae. She’s a van driver for a production company. She works 14-hour days but says she doesn’t mind, says she keeps one eye on the road and the other on the prize — a paycheck that has to last through the dead months.

We’re driving through a poor stretch of Atlanta. Dirty streets. Old houses. Plastic toys upturned in front yards, no kids though. The neighborhood is quiet. I live in L.A., land of nannies and gardeners where the hills are alive with the sound of toddlers and leaf blowers. I prefer Atlanta. You can…

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