Sunday, May 16, 2021

The Squawker Returns: "The Poor...Is Separated From His Neighbor"

<"The Dividing Line":
The Reckoner>

Wealth maketh many friends; 
but the poor is separated from his neighbor.
Proverbs 19:4 

"It's the story of my life, paralyzed in the headlights
Looking out from the inside, same old story of my life
Vice Squad ("The Story Of My Life")

Want to know how your friends, or even your enemies, are really doing? Just look for them on Facebook. If they're flush with cash, they'll let you know. If they're struggling, you won't find them. Like ghosts, they drop out of sight, ducking any attempt to capture them on film or video. 

That's the conclusion I've reached after seeing what happened to a friend of mine, who retired from the administrative job that she'd held for 30 years. We used to see each other at one of the churches we'd periodically visit for food, whenever our own resources ran out. Judging by her Facebook posts, she really seemed to have it all.

There she was, trotting off to Chicago for ball games. There she was, hosting large parties of 50-plus people at the height of COVID, without a mask in sight. I always took her for a Republican, but that told me, loud and clear. There she was, going out with this friend or that one, to places that the Reckoner and I couldn't afford. Where'd she get all the money for that stuff?

These days, I don't know, because she dropped off the social media radar about eight months ago. I barely see her on Facebook anymore, and when I do, it's usually terse updates from her book groups. I wondered what was going on, until I heard what happened through the grapevine. She lost her retirement when the corporate bully changed its mind, and walked her benefits back. What looked like a great sendoff evaporated overnight.

If she's not on Facebook, I understand why. Seeing people out visiting all their friends and having fun can be difficult as hell, especially during a pandemic. How'd they afford that trip to Tennessee? Look how much fun they're having with their families and friends. I was struggling with this stuff even before COVID, seeing people caught up in a whirlwind of gatherings -- graduations, parties, weddings -- that take MONEY to pull off. Gas needs to be bought, hotels booked, meals taken out. How do these people afford all that?

Poor you has paid your bills for the month and there's only enough money to buy a Burrito, yeah, there's your "fun" for the month, aren't you thrilled? Post that burrito with those lettuce and tomato slices on social media! Time passes by and the memories everyone else makes are lost to you.

Poverty hurts relationships. You can't afford to visit people and your relationships ebb with time. The Reckoner and I haven't been able to afford a trip to our old hometown since we left over a decade ago. (He did make it back a couple times to play there, but I don't count them, since I didn't get to go along.) 

Now that we finally have a working van, and some discretionary money, what happens? We can't go far, because the anxiety of using public bathrooms and spaces, plus the stress of playing human dodgeball, is too nerve-wracking to think about.

It's a continuation of my pre-COVID struggles, when I went without seeing some relatives for too long, and those relationships withered, as well. I became a stranger. Would they have loved me if I had money? It eats like gall within my soul. A rich, spoiled Baby Boomer mother, too embarrassed to even have you around. Years of being made to feel like pond scum, because, for some reason, others in your family were loved enough to get good jobs and a chance and a place to belong. Not you and yours, though.

Who wants to be around people who always have their hands out and never have any money? Who wants a friend who can't even afford a Greyhound to come and see you? Even if you hide your desperation, it shows. People hate when you are poor. It makes you boring. You can't go out to eat, or go on trips, you are always in need. You are the "mooch". Your clothes don't fit right, you get too fat, they are tight, you lose a little bit of weight, your dress keeps sliding off your shoulder, it sucks.

Normal people make goals. But goals cost money, too. And there's that elephant in the room, COVID-19, getting in our way again. The Reckoner and I haven't made it back to the gym since all this madness started, but for now, we're just letting the bank deduct our $30 memberships per month, until we figure it's cool to return.

People suggest solutions for you to fix your shitty life, and "get it together" instead of being a disabled "loser". All of it costs money. The stimulus checks have interrupted that groove a little bit, at least. Before COVID, we'd pay our rent, medical bills and the little bit of food that would run out in a week. Even then, it took tons of cooking from scratch to stretch our budget. 

Once we paid the cable, electric, Internet, insurance and rent, by the 15th of the month, we'd barely have $50 between us, and we might still have to shell out seven bucks for a prescription co-pay here, or 10 bucks, to buy some hearing aid batteries there.

You'd feel like you were circling a never-ending drain, as you wondered, what's gonna happen the rest of the month? Oh, wait, maybe we have a few more books or records we can sell. Let's try that again. But why doesn't anything sell on eBay like it used to? Maybe because everybody else has the same idea, I guess

Being disabled means you burn with shame, and despair inside at what has "become of your life" and wake up every morning in tears. What else is there to do, but sit at home, and live vicariously through "Better Call Saul" and "Fargo," and reality TV shows? You do the housework, dying a little bit with each wipe, remembering all the richer ladies you made the mistake of showing your apartment, who went off twittering among themselves about how little you owned.

I thought of my friend when the Reckoner and I were running errands around town today, and we happened to drive past a food pantry. I craned my neck to look more closely. It's all the usual stuff, lots of milk and potatoes, sugar and carbs by the truckload, because they really think that's all we want to eat.

I swear I'm not going back to food pantries, either, because I'm allergic to most of the stuff they hand out, or it doesn't fit a diet that's turning partially vegetarian, so i can avoid the horror of kidney stones. 

Also, I'm not a Christian anymore, and I'm not comfortable with what the established churches are pushing. It's the same reason I don't go to my friend's book groups anymore, because it's gotten too awkward for me to dodge the whole issue. It's the same reason, I'm sure, my friend has vanished from Facebook.

But that Bible quote says it all, doesn't it? Money drives a wedge between us, and it's not hard to figure out why. I wonder how many people are having conversations like mine, and if my friend is joining them. Or if she's finally figured out the red thread running through it all. --The Squawker


  1. Thankyou for this rant , i too am the poor relation , the embarrassment that hasnt got every new phone and vehicle , who shops at thrift shops and buys the cheapest food brands , who goes nowhere and does nothing due to partners disability . Slowly you lose friends that you can no longer afford and they just dont want the reminder that this could be them . Up since 3am running a government form through my head that if i get a single word wrong thats half our income gone goes on , but its a sad shadowy existence

  2. Yep, being on a tight budget, the gimmee-fe$t$ had to be scratched off the list - which doesn't really break my heart. Frankly, most "friends" aren't worth keeping to begin with. Btw, just saw a boomer-post about the financial struggles of grandparents parenting their grandkids ... meanwhile, other boomers brag on about their cruises and such - with no regard to life in the real world.