5 Things That Piss Me Off About People Who've Never Known What It's Like to be Poor
Continued from previous page
They say where you went to school doesn't really matter, it's what you do with your education that counts. But "Where'd you go?" is still a question I'm asked more often than I would have ever guessed in my life. People who ask this question typically, I find, went to really fucking good schools, which is why they are so into talking about it. Hell, I would too if I, or someone I was related to, paid $50k a year for me to do it. But when this tired but totally useful (to people who went to good schools) social game comes up yet again at another party or meeting, you can find yourself silently boiling with your mixer-wine-infused class rage while backs are patted and shared jokes are made.
Your Problem: Either you didn't go at all and have to whip out your tired little "University of Life" joke, or you went to a shitty, thoroughly unremarkable state school that no one has ever heard of, which you also have a really good, tired, shitty little joke about. As a journalist, I often found myself as the only person in the room at work, or among the people I interviewed, who didn't go to a "good school." (P.S. It can feel like this.) Or who didn't have a master's. Or who didn't have a built-in network of contacts from those good schools I could call up to set me up with the most powerful person in town for that lunch of getting to know you. I also can't tell you how many times I watched people get hired through that network — no-good, better-schooled, thoroughly unremarkable people. I got hired by literally hanging around and doing the poor person tap dance of "PLEASE LOOK AT ME, I'M SMART! I'M PERSISTENT! I MATTER! I GOT NO CREDENTIALS, KID, BUT I GOT MOXIE!"
What to Do: It's cliché as fuck but please remind yourself that you've got loads of experience from living the way you have that no degree can ever replicate. You're resourceful, you're street smart, and boy do you have some fucking stories about bologna (question from real person who went to Ivy League school: What's bologna?). Do we all have to be Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting to prove that we are assets, too?
And so when people ask you what school you went to, tell them the truth, and mention that the best part of going there is that you don't even know what you don't know, so they could tell you literally anything about world civilization and you'd just have to take their word for it. Then outdrink them and outwit them, but don't join their trivia team. (Kidding. You know the answers. You just think you don't.)
3. Media/Political Portrayals
When the discussion isn't abstract and academic, it is pitying and sentimental. When it isn't demonizing, it's overly mythologizing. Poor people are lazy, they are dumb, they are the salt of the earth, they are heroes, they are noble. Or worse, they could totally just choose out of it but they won't. When you hear, read or see another safely distant, ignorant take on poverty or struggle, it can make your class rage agitate to a steamy rolling scald.
Your Problem: If you've lived in poverty you've met a lot of poor people, and they have all the same wonderful and abhorrent human qualities as any other label you want to slap on a demographic. What they lack are the resources and opportunities — and are usually from generations of people who lacked the resources, stuck in a cycle — to lift themselves out of poverty. They lack good models of what to mimic. They have to do three times the work to get to college, a notion that is automatic and inevitable for most people with means. They are exhausted. They are possibly depressed. They are not lazy or dumb or dishonest, except when they are just as lazy and dumb and dishonest as any other lazy, dumb, dishonest person you know — that, my friend, has got nothing to do with money.