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Merry (heteronormative consumerist misogynist) Christmas!

24 Dec
Artist’s interpretation of my gayyyy
Christmas tree to go with my gayyyy scarf.

Hey! Today is Christmas Eve! That means it’s time to celebrate queery feministy socialisty things, right? No? It’s time to sit around and celebrate buying stuff and eating animal products, you say? Bah. My version of Christmas is awesomer than that, cuz it has rainbows.

Seriously, though, we actually do have a Christmas tree this year, and it has a faaaaabulous rainbow tinsel garland. But you’d never know that Christmas is an equal-opportunity holiday. Why? Because it ain’t. That’s right, kids, Christmas isn’t for everyone. And it excludes lots more people than just non-Christians.

For starters, Santa gives more presents to rich kids than poor ones. Santa’s kind of a dick that way. Illustrative anecdote:

In the third grade, Cole Slater, sporting his flat-top haircut, came up to me on the playground and asked, “What’d you get for Christmas?” I knew it was a trick, so I tried to avoid answering. “A few things,” I said (reality: A heap of stuff – probably a dollhouse, some footie PJs, more candy than a full-grown adult, let alone a 7-year-old, could ever possibly eat, an assortment of various other trinkets). “Why, what’d you get?”

“DIDDLY SQUAT!” he screamed so vehemently that his face turned red and blotchy.

Then he ran off to retrieve a basketball so he could spend the rest of recess hurling it at my head. Man that kid was pissed. Although in his case, he didn’t get any Christmas presents because he was a gen-u-wine jerkalope, there are plenty of angelic little sh*ts out there that do, indeed, get diddly squat for no other reason than Santa is not a fan of the Great Unwasheds. Christmas is for the rich.

Christmas is also for the straights. Specifically, straights with kids. And in particular the holiday is FOR children, not adults. Woe be to ye who is:

a)    Queer
b)    Childless
c)    An adult
d)    All three

Don’t believe me? Turn on your TV. Watch the onslaught of happy (white upper-middle-class headed by heterosexual couples with two point five tow-headed children and one golden Labrador) families (read: children, because everyone knows a family ain’t a family without kids) tearing into boxes stuffed with goodies from your favorite Holiday Retailers.

Even non-humanoid
illustrations are heteronormative.

Try finding an illustrated Christmas card that has humanoid figures on it that are not either of children (children ice skating! children looking hapless! children raptly gazing into Santa’s pedo eyes!) or families with children (the classic nuclear family portrait with surrounding sun-ray beams and matching outfits) headed by, you guessed it, one man and one woman. Man is center-frame, with his incubator wife and minion children around him.

What if you’re the adult female part of that hetero-happyland? Well then lucky you! You get to do all the work:

It’s the lady of the house’s job to make her kids happy – nay, enchanted – on Christmas, because kids that aren’t absolutely over the moon on Christmas get taken away by child protective services here in Amerikuh. Also she’s in charge of mailing all the cards to her family AND her husband’s family, as he certainly can’t be bothered with such niceties, as well as cooking, cleaning, and arranging the familial obligations and travel plans. He will carry the tree in, though. What a mensch!

All that being said, I do enjoy Christmas (particularly the excuse to mail stacks of cards to folks). It’s not my favorite (that’s my birthday, naturally, followed by Halloween), but any reason to gather with the three Fs (friends, family, food) is OK in my book. Passover, Christmas, Tuesday night potluck, pub crawl debauch, whatever, I dig it. What are your favorite holidays/holiday traditions? Do you notice the homogenous target demographic of “The Holidays,” and how does it make you feel? And what are you doing today, tomorrow, and the day after?

Stick figure families, chill’uns and dolla dolla bills, yo

29 Sep

There was an excellent post over at Sociological Images yesterday on the topic of those stick-figure family bumper stickers/window decals you see on the backs of automobiles nowadays. One of the illustrations for the post is a comic from XKCD, which I enjoy thoroughly:

Via

Yes, yes, yes, I know that children do not equal money (except, you know, statistically). It’s still funny, especially because these stickers drive me bonkers. “Look at me!” the stickers seem to shout. “I’m a cisgendered able-bodied person in a heteronormative socially-sanctioned relationship with an appropriately structured nuclear family unit! I feel the need to proclaim my privilege with a set of pseudo-personalized stickers, because my luxury minivan is not enough of a status signifier for the strangers driving past on the highway!” Of course, even in the comic version, man + woman = the norm, although I suspect that was chosen for contrast more than anything else (the comic would’ve been a different sort of commentary had the cartoonist chosen to swap out additional standard-issue family members).

It’s also funny because, every once in a while, when friends/acquaintances/coworkers email me unsolicited pictures of their children, I get the urge to respond with an unsolicited picture of my paycheck, or something equally inappropriate and totally unrelated to whatever it was we were emailing about. It’s one thing if I ask, “So, how are the kiddos?” and get a photo in response; it’s another thing entirely if we are discussing, say, the political climate in Uzbekistan and the response is something like:

“I don’t know about those Uzbeks, but aren’t my kids just too cute?!”

Yes. Your kids are cute. And so is my paycheck (zing!). But let’s have appropriate segues, okay? There’s no excuse for non-sequiturs in email communications.

Lopsided relationships

22 Sep

(Or: How I learned to love micro-power dynamics)

Ever noticed in human relationships how often one person or group of people have more power than the other?

It’s true on a macro level – in the US, whites have more power than others as a whole. Men have more power than women. Adults have more power than children. The rich have more power than the poor. The Global North (first-world nations primarily located in the Northern Hemisphere) has far more power than the Global South (developing nations primarily located in the Southern Hemisphere). And so on.

But it’s also true on a micro level – one neighborhood’s residents have more power than another’s, a manager has more power than an employee, etc. The power dynamics populate on down to the supermicro level – in one-on-one human relationships. You all know what I’m talking about. The relationship power struggle can be romantic – she changes her tastes to suit his or he swaps his social group for hers – or platonic, where one friend makes the decisions about where to go and what to do, while the other simply tags along.

Among friends, who often keep up a pretense of not “keeping score,” it can be seen in who extends the most invitations. Who goes to whose house? Who is put out the most the majority of the time? Who crosses bridges and rivers to visit the other? Who chooses the movie, the bar, the restaurant? Who leads the conversation? Who do the two of you talk about the most? The power dynamics often fall along class lines – when there is a class division in a relationship, whether it be romantic or otherwise, the member with the higher class gets the power. Usually without much of a struggle.

You can read some of this
highly worthwhile book
at the New York Times.

I first learned of this phenomenon when I bought a book called “Class Matters.” There was a whole chapter on marriages formed of two people from different classes and the power dynamics of their relationships – those of the upper echelons controlled the couples’ finances, among other things. It’s interesting, once you know about this, to observe how your own friends’ and acquaintances’ backgrounds affect their personal dynamics. An inherently outgoing friend may become shy around certain others because of his or her perceived inferiority, or a naturally quiet type may become bossy and outgoing around friends whose perceived socioeconomic status is lower.

Fascinating, I tell you. Sick, but fascinating. Have you ever noticed this in your own life? At work or in a romantic relationship or a friendship? What do you think would happen if you tried to bring it up in conversation? And, to my sociologically-inclined readers, is there an official word or phrase for this phenomenon?

Fat dudes up, fat chicks down

13 Sep

Commenters! This week’s unicorn award for best comment goes to… every last one o’ ya! Why? Because y’all made me think Very Hard Thoughts on a Sunday.

Here is a smattering of observations from readers:

I feel more stigma now for my weight than anything I wear. 

… society continues to undermine women, despite our (relatively) newfound career freedom, by severely objectifying our bodies – fatness being the ultimate stigma.

But of course everyone knows that only women who are capable of keeping their bodies in check are capable of anything beyond the most rudimentary tasks. If you can’t keep yourself thin, you can’t do anything, can you? -Nanifay

Turns out, this issue has ACTUAL SCIENCE behind it. Did you know, for example, that overweight women earn less, while overweight men earn more? How is that fair? Answer: It isn’t. No dice if you’re “average weight,” either – you have to be RAIL THIN (25 pounds below the median, to be precise) in order to reap the salary benefits. If I lost 25 pounds, I would no longer be able to support the weight of my own head. But hey, I’d make an extra $16K!

And lest we forget, it’s not just women’s weight that is policed by the patriarchy Gestapo, it’s also our faces:

I recently learned that not wearing make-up was making people thinking of me as less professional. Sad face. – Kate Dino

Sadface indeed. We all know that having wrinkles, acne, uneven skin tone, flat eyelashes or mussed-up hair is directly correlational to job performance. AMIRITE, ladies? Who here finds it hard to think when her lipstick shade is a bit off? Can I get a hell yeah? Ugh.

Meanwhile, there are definite benefits to looking the part (besides being seen as professional and getting paid more):

Most of my life I’ve tried to appear as anonymous as possible, probably following the example of my Communist Dad who thought you should dress for rallies and demonstrations in such a way as to give you time to dodge a blow while the cop was momentarily unsure if you were a dirty Red or a respectable bystander. – John Burke

Smart thinking, those Red Diaper babies. I get pulled over way less now that I have brown hair instead of pink. A friend of mine quipped that when she quit driving a hippie car, and started strapping a baby in the back, she was harassed a heckuva lot less by the coppers. Although it’s not surprising, it’s still kind of shocking. “Racial profiling” is in the news a lot, but that’s clearly not the only kind of profiling that goes on.

Thanks for being a bunch of smartiepants, guys! And keep those comments coming – I get a wonderful surge of a feeling I can only describe as “validation as a human being” every time someone comments.*

*Unless you are a crazy person who is threatening me ‘cuz darnit, who told ladies they could have opinions anyway?! Then I just mock your poor grasp on grammatical conventions and picture you drowning in a lake of fire.

Klondike bar ads are insulting, lazy

19 Jul

Have you guys seen this crap? Apparently I’ve been hiding under a rock, or at least eschewing prime-time network television, because Klondike’s effort to re-brand was going mostly under my radar until recently. Peep this horribleness:

Oh ha! I get it! Women are boring! Especially if you’re married to them! It’s like torture to listen to them! BAAHAHAHAHA! Hilarious. /sputter Oh yeah, and did we mention gay people are just … icky?

It’s a generally-accepted fact that the very last thing a straight man would ever want to be caught doing is something gay-seeming! Although it might be worse to actually care about the person you committed to spend your life with – hard to tell from these commercials.

Sarcasm aside, it is possible to be funny and sell ice cream without implying that women are insufferable bores and being gay is wrong (and straight men can never show affection). This is lazy work, plain and simple. The Via Agency, the ad agency that Klondike hired to put together their re-branding campaign, should be ashamed.

I complained, I hope you do too. Tell Klondike you won’t be buying their products because of these spots. If you’re an advertising nerd like me and you’re opposed to the ads on multiple levels (not only are they sexist and homophobic, they’re unimaginatively so), you can also scold The Via Agency. Humor ain’t hard, people. Wise up or lose business.

Do you think these ads are worse than normal, or just more blatant? And who decided that all mint flavors must forever come in fluorescent green anyway? Technicolor is for TVs, not food. Sheesh.

Weekend open thread: Google Plus! and other news

15 Jul
Just because Rebecca Black is a fan of Friday doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be, too. Everyone loves a good Friday (even if Friday isn’t your Friday, and you don’t celebrate Good Friday). And in this new tradition of copping out of having to write a real post by opening the floor up to y’all, it’s time for a weekend open thread!
Today’s topic is Google+! Mostly ‘cuz I want you to be my pal on there. It’s boring without interesting people to talk to. You can find me by looking up adventuresinmediocrity@gmail.com. I think. I’m still a little fuzzy on the details. If you need an invitation I’ll give you one. Oh yeah, and here’s a Google Plus-themed picture to replace the usual adorable animal one (adorable animals to return next week):

From someecards.com

ANYway. If you’re stuck for things to talk about, here are some starter questions:
  • Are you a social networking junkie? Why/why not? If you are, feel free to expound about the Google+ thing. If not, you’re probably not going to comment anyway, amiright?
  • Does your online community differ significantly from your real-world community? (my answer is below!) How? Why do you think that is?
  • Why won’t Google+ make it so we can merge accounts? (rhetorical, although feel free to answer if you’re a Google developer)
  • Do you ever worry that Google is going to one day grow spindly little arms with spikes on the ends and then implant itself in your brain, controlling your every move and thought, turning you and millions of others into little Google-borg-bots?
  • Are some social networks more “safe spaces” (by this I mean prejudice/patriarchy/violent threat-free, or at least as much as possible) than others? Which ones?
I know that my online social network differs a whole lot from the real-world one, mainly because I know for a fact that most of you reader-types are feminists and “get” the feminist-y (and sociologicalish) stuff I write about on here (the rest of it is just drek. I mean really.). In the real world, I may not find out a friend’s thoughts on feminism – or any other ism – until the friendship is well-developed – which is fine. Just different. Both realms serve their purposes quite well – without real world interaction I’d go bonkers. But without an online community of whip-smart people like you, I’d probably think the whole world was out to get me and never leave the house.

Beware the Insidious Honorifics: Mr., Mrs., Miss, Ms.

13 Jul
From here.

Did you know that honorifics, seemingly applied equally – and equally respectfully – to men and women, are not, in fact, equal, nor equally respectful?

There’s a very interesting post from dictionary.com, a useful word-nerd web site, on the topic of the etymology of Mr. and Mrs. According to the folks over there, the origins of “Mr./Mister” are as follows:

“Once used to address men under the rank of knighthood, by the mid-18th century mister became a common English honorific to generally address males of a higher social rank.”

Here we see that “Mister” does indeed have its roots in a term of respect (or alternatively, fear and control. Either way, not too bad of a deal for the recipients of the prefix).

On Mrs.:

“Mrs. is a contraction derived from Middle English maistresse, ‘female teacher, governess.’ Once a title of courtesy, mistress fell into disuse around the late 14th century. The pronunciation, however, remained intact. By the 15th century, mistress evolved into a derogatory term for “a kept woman of a married man. … ‘Miss’ also derives from ‘mistress.’ ”

Both “Mrs.” and “Miss” derive from questionably neutral (female teacher, governess – it could be argued that these were servant-class occupations back in the 17th century, hence why neutrality is questionable) and outright negative (kept woman of a married man) origins.

So while the use of the term “Mr.” is straightforward, the use of any honorific for a female is not. Even the use of the quasi-neutral phrase “Ms.” has alienating potential in certain fundamentalist/antifeminist circles. Nowadays, “Mrs.” simply means “married.” Which is pretty darn problematic in and of itself – defining women by their marital status, but not men, is so far beyond the pale of how modern society should be functioning that writing more on the topic seems redundant – it’s why “Ms.” was coined.

Sure, maybe it’s just a question of semantics – and I’ll admit I’m overly sensitive to such things – I do, after all, cringe every time someone abuses an adverb (“Eat Local”?!? No, it’s eat locally! If you’re going to be snobby about your food, you may as well be snobby about your grammar as well. Sheesh.) and have to bite my tongue when I overhear someone saying “There is five options …”

But I’d argue that the use of honorifics of any sort is damaging not only to women, but to society in general. Look closer and you’ll see they’re more insidious than simple grammatical gaffery. The use (or conspicuous lack of use) of honorifics is a way to editorialize – just like the use of modifying words like said/claim. Extreme case in point? The NY Times stopped using “Mr. bin Laden,” switching to just “Bin Laden” at some point, but kept the honorifics for everyone else. Although no one will argue that criminals ought to be accorded extra social niceties, it’s easy to see how the subtle drop of an honorific prefix could be used as a lexocological weapon.

It remains interesting to me that the New York Times continues to insist on using honorifics – with notable exceptions. Gender-neutral outs exist only for people with Ph.Ds and religious credentials, which is yet another way to subtly reinforce class striation from within the confines of the printed word.

What do you think – does being called Mr/Mrs/Miss/Ms or ma’am/sir connote old-fashioned respect or outdated snobbery? Is this type of thing done in other countries outside the US?

Read the full Dictionary.com post here.

Children and taxes: A Mother’s Day Special

8 May
No babies for me, thanks. No, not even turkey baster babies.

No babies for me, thanks. No, not even turkey baster babies.

This mother’s day, let’s skip the adorable kitten greeting cards and bunches of roses bred to within an inch of scentlessness, picked by fourth-world residents working in inhumane conditions, trucked halfway across the globe and sold at ridiculous markups, shall we? Instead, let’s talk about the politics of child-rearing! Or, more specifically, the politics of taxes for child-education and other kiddo-focused expenses.

I recently heard a new-to-me, somewhat shocking opinion on the topic. Here it is in summary:

“People who make the responsible choice not to have squalling brats should not have to pay to educate and feed other people’s mistakes.”

Harsh words, no? That’s not quite how it was put, but that was the basic premise.

As a properly trained tax-and-spend liberal, I like having lots and lots of social services, some of which I use, some of which I don’t: Maintained roads, public libraries, rest stops, Medicare, social security, food stamps. And I’ve seen the contrast between public schools in well-heeled communities and those in poor towns: I have matriculated at some of the west coast’s best-funded and highest-performing public schools, and also attended the educational equivalent of Siberia in the state’s poorest county. But still, it got me thinking.

As an adult, my senses and my pocketbook are constantly assaulted by pleas for the children. Stop domestic violence … for the children. Build new libraries … for the children. Fund high school sports teams … for the children. Build shiny new after-school facilities with free classes in underwater basketweaving and Tae-Kwon-Do and other oh-so-useful life skills … for the children. Build cushy juvenile detention and drug rehabilitation facilities … for the children, dammit!

It makes one wonder – who is looking out for the old people while we’re busy babying the babies? Social services (in this state, at least) are almost exclusively focused on children, or people with children. As an example, kids under 18 can get subsidized health insurance, but adults cannot (the one notable exception being pregnant women).

This makes a modicum of sense. Faced with a choice between cutting the service entirely or funding it for kids only, it’s a no-brainer. But still. There are a lot of very sick, very poor adults out there not getting the care they need. Why? Because they don’t have cute button noses and tiny little hands. They’re not helpless. Poor children, they just can’t help being born poor! It’s not their fault their parents made such terrible life decisions like being born poor themselves. But once they’re adults it is 100 percent their fault that they’re still poor. What’s changed, other than 15 years, give or take? Nothing but society’s attitude toward them.

And don’t even get me started on the blatantly pandering marketing campaigns around school-funding measures. It’s voting time here, and The Hizzy is being hit with slick upon slick, all featuring pictures of cherubic, well-scrubbed white kids with pleading, watery eyes in grayscale. Turn the slick over and you’ve got the skinny white moms, looking concerned and wearing North Face sweaters, standing sternly with crossed arms next to bulleted lists of reasons why their little Madisons and Jacobs need music programs, shiny new cafeteria platters and better insulation.

So my opinion is wavering. I don’t have kids. I’m not GOING to have kids. Why should I pay to polish the silverware at the elementary school in my neighborhood? Those children having their school spiffed today will be the bitter, abusive high school dropouts that will wipe my nose at the health-code violating old people’s home I’ll live in during my infirmity. If I want care that minimizes humiliation in my old age, I’ll have to shell out for a private facility, since wrinkled faces with watery, pleading eyes just don’t test well with the focus groups.

Grown-ups, especially those with lots of wrinkles or otherwise socially undesirable characteristics (like poverty or disability), get the short end of the stick. They work their whole lives paying taxes to educate and care for the next generation, only to get tossed aside once they can no longer care for themselves. Where are the direct-mail marketing campaigns advocating for safe wheelchair routes and better elder-care facilities? Where are the ballot measures begging for community education and outreach programs designed specifically with old fogeys in mind? And what about crime – why does a 17-year-old get leniency and a clean record, when an 18-year-old in the exact same circumstances gets prison and a lifetime of employment discrimination?

Cutting services to young people can’t be the answer, but a more balanced approach to public policy is certainly worth a look-see. What are your voting habits? Does your having or not having kids influence how you vote on school tax measures and the like? Or are you an across-the-board voter in one way or the other? Any tea party types out there? If so, do you make an exception for social services for youngsters? Any socialist types out there who’ve sworn off baby-having? How do you vote? No name-calling in the comments, please – but do tell me your opinions!

Into moving pictures? Here are some amusing parent- or mom-themed videos you might like:

Happy Mother’s Day, pedophobes!
Pregnant women are smug
Hipster parents: The perfect target market

To have and to hold: The hidden meaning of last names

11 Apr
Cool surname map courtesy of National Geographic.

“Because I love him.”

This is the main reason most straight women give when they agree to take their husband’s or fiance’s last names. By that logic, the following must also be true:

  • Women who don’t take their husband’s last names don’t love their husbands; and
  • Since men don’t take their wives’ last names, men don’t love their wives.

Of course, some men DO love their wives (although one would never guess from The Lockhorns,) so clearly, that reason is a load of horsepoop. So what other possible reasons could there be for women trading in their names in exchange for a “Mrs.”?

“I want to have the same last name as my children.”

Image courtesy some lame stock image service. Please
note the wedding ring. If you spend any amount of time
working with stock art, you’ll soon notice the only
time women’s hands are pictured with wedding rings are
when the image clearly has something to do with weddings
or motherhood. Interesting, no?

This is quite easily solved by just giving your children your last name. Easy, peasy. Did you know that you can, in fact, give your children whatever last name you damn well please? There’s no law stating that one or both parents must share a last name with a child. You could name your kid “Steve Lil’Hokomoke” if you so chose, or “Belinda Cheesedoodleface,” even if your last name is Jones and your husband’s last name is Johnson. Not particularly kind, but completely legal. Say your or your husband’s last name was “Cheesedoodleface” — is a name so ripe for schoolyard-teasing really one you want to pass on?

So if last names have nothing to do with love or the law, then what gives? Power and patriarchy. Don’t believe me? Spend some time reading about family structure and patrilineality. The easiest way to explain patrilineage is that any society has to figure out a system for passing on property, how its children will be socialized, etc. Most societies have chosen patrilineality – this means that the property is passed from father to son, women and their children take on their husband’s last names, leave their families of origin to join their husband’s families and raise their kids according to the customs and traditions of the father’s family of origin.

In societies where patrilineality includes women (and often, young girls) leaving their family of origin to live with and care for their husband’s family of origin, this leads to yet-further devaluation of women and girl children – the most well-known example is probably female filicide in China and India.

Patrilineality is a big part of patriarchy – which basically means “a system run by males, not females,” wherein males are the heads of the household, have authority over women and children, and dominate the government and social and cultural systems. The United States and most countries/societies existing today are patriarchal systems, and this is the primary reason — not love, not money, not law — why women are born with their father’s last names,  trade them for their husbands’ names when they get married, and give their children the husband’s last name instead of theirs.

But before you get all panicky, readers: Just because you have your hubbie’s last name doesn’t mean you’re a Bad Person perpetrating an Evil Conspiracy. The last name gambit is just one of many manifestations of the patriarchal superstructure undergirding our everyday lives – from seemingly innocuous activities like wearing makeup and heels to more insidious things like eating disorders, rape, wage discrimination and domestic violence. We all participate in patriarchy, whether we know it, or like it, or not. The best we can do is become aware of, and make conscious choices about, our participation. We should be able to assert a modicum of control over how – and how much – we kowtow to convention, although in an ideal world, we wouldn’t have to at all.

Those of you with your hubbie’s last names, how do you feel about it, and were you aware of the history of patrilineage before you got hitched? Lady readers without husbands – do you plan to change your name when you marry? What’s driving that decision? Those of you who aren’t planning to marry, or aren’t legally allowed to marry in your country, how do you approach the last name conundrum? Do you think society’s expectations are different for you, or the same? Boy readers – how do you feel about your wife, or future wife, taking your last name? Please post a comment and tell me your story!

    Passing for the Ruling Class

    28 Mar
    Via Patrick Martinez

    The grocery store nearest to my house resides on a street of ill repute. The building is run-down and ugly, the produce is always wilted and overpriced, and the beers in 40-ounce bottles outnumber other beverages 5 to 1. Their shoplifting problem is so bad that they keep the baby formula under lock and key. Were it not within walking distance, I’d probably avoid the whole place and its often smelly, drunk patrons altogether.

    All this is to say that I don’t really fit in there. Not to say I necessarily fit in with the pretending-to-care-about-organics crowd over at Whole Paycheck (har har), but still – I don’t have a pimp or any crackbabies so there’s not much to talk about with the other denizens at the grocery mart.

    I was surprised when, as I carefully picked my way past seven or eight screaming toddlers on my way to the ice cream aisle, I was accosted by a wayward checkout clerk. Her tap on my shoulder startled me in the way I am always startled when a stranger talks to me in a public place, so I was careful to put on my patent-pending city face before turning around to face my molester, wherein I was presented with the following perplexing question:

    “Ma’am, do you use food stamps?”

    Taken aback, I dumbly shook my head. This lady sure was nosy!

    “Well I just need to let you know that the EBT machine is down today. So if you need to pay with food stamps, you can’t do that here.”

    “OK, thanks. I think I’m good.”

    She squinted at me suspiciously as if to say, “Yyyyeaaah right. I know you. I know all about you and your baby-formula stealing ways. You’ve got a secret Oregon Trail card tucked away in that greasy little mitt of yours, and after you’re done loading up your cart with Pampers and tallboys, you’ll saunter through my aisle and try to swipe that welfare-queen card of yours, and when it’s declined you’ll make a run for it. I CAN SEE IT IN YOUR EYES!”

    After a few minutes of this squinty standoff, we turned in opposite directions, suspicious gazes last. All this left me wondering: “Am I not doing a good enough job of passing as a member of the Gin-U-Wine middle class?” Sure, I have been known to run a few errands in my pajamas, but who hasn’t? I shower regularly, I speak with a newscaster accent, I recently got a real, actual haircut, and goshdarnit, I was brought up quite well! 

    Then, of course, I immediately started waffling about my feelings. Why should I care that the checker thought I might use food stamps? It’s ingrained thinking for most people that poor = bad, and clearly I’m not exempt. And this has come up before – I’ll be wearing a J. Crew sweater and someone at work will make a joke about me shopping at Goodwill. I don’t get it, it bugs me, and it bugs me that it bugs me. Looking rich, or at least not destitute, seems to be a mysterious club into which Mr T. and I are both barred entry.

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