5 Things That Piss Me Off About People Who've Never Known What It's Like to be Poor
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Your Problem: Being poor sucks, but until you're old enough to really process it, it's all you know. You adjust to it, and learn some valuable lessons from it, like what a savings account is. Later, you're able to unpack some of the assumptions that come with having grown up this way, as beautifully illustrated in this list of things the writer on this Class Rage Tumblr thought were just "for rich people" growing up — like butter, umbrellas, and cable TV. You can laugh at this stuff later, and in many ways it makes you stronger. At the end of the day, your experience is a valuable one, and it should be listened to, not pitied. Also, fuck, it's your life. It's what you know. If you can't talk about it, what the hell are you supposed to do? Constantly trot out other stories so that everyone around you can feel better about themselves?
What to Do: Sometimes you have to just talk people through it and spell it out real-obvious like: "I see you are looking at me with the pity eyes like I just told you I watched my dog get murdered, but maybe you could ask questions about my upbringing or talk to me about it like it's a story I'm sharing, and not a case of shingles. I've had a lifetime to unpack the way this has affected me, and I tell you this as a point of biography, not to fish for pity. I will however, take any extra money you might have on you."
There's so much more it would be nice to help non-poors understand about the world the rest of us live and have lived in. I love this list of "Nine Things I Wish Economically Privileged People In My Life Knew." It's a humanizing, illuminating explanation of the experience of poverty, the shame and stigma you carry no matter how much you improve your lot. My favorite is number 9:
If you can't deal reasonably and respectfully with me being poor, I'm not going to be able to keep you in my life. I've said this before and I'll say it again: I can never forget that I'm poor, or behave like I'm not poor. It is with me every moment, in everything I do and every decision that I make. If you constantly lean on classist stereotypes, if you insult my background, if you patronize and pity me, if you yell at me for "making you feel bad," if you won't let me talk about my financial struggles or get too uncomfortable to let me continue, if you forget every time that I can't afford to do the things you want to do or don't share your experiences and perspective- well, I'm sorry, but you're not worth being around. I have no interest in spending time with someone who will not give me the space to be myself, or who cares more about their own zone of privileged comfort than respecting another human being.