House projects were all on hold this week, as both Professor Furious and I came down with Campus Crud. Please don’t go to school/work sick. This is not elementary school, you do not get a pizza party for your perfect attendance. You just get cursed for your germ spreading ways. Happily, my apathy towards perfect attendance means that I slept it off and bounced back pretty quick, as did the Professor. A couple of years ago I got pneumonia sort of out of the blue in the middle of summer, and my lungs still don’t feel like they’ve recovered completely. If I get sick and don’t take care of it, it very easily becomes a thing of the sort that requires antibiotic shots in my butt. Shots in my butt are my least favorite kind of shots. (Most favorite? Tequila.) So hell yes I am cancelling class and sleeping for two days because I feel a bit sniffly. Ounce of prevention > pound of cure.
(Mini Furious didn’t even sneeze once. Everyone assured me she’d always be deathly ill once she started going to school because she hadn’t been exposed to infection factory that is daycare. Child has been sick about five times in her life. Either she is a mutant, or being exposed to terrible illnesses as a very tiny child is not as good for kids as most people think it is.)
But we’re better now. Which means I can start tackling the things that need doing. Fairly top of the list is buying a dresser. Dressers are expensive, y’all. And surprisingly hard to find. The Craigslist for our area is pretty worthless, as, for some reason, it’s full of listings from Houston. Which is on the other side of the state. Sometimes there’s one from San Antonio, which is only 5 hours or so away. I’ve joined the relevant garage sale groups on Facebook, but still a lack. The thrift stores haven’t had any in. I looked at new ones online, but I feel like a bit of a failure for paying more than about ten dollars for a dresser. It seems like every home blogger I follow is always all, “Look at this fantastic midcentury modern piece I found. Nobody knew what it was, so I got it for a song.” Maybe I’m a bad thrifter. I know a lot of it is patience. And I’m bad at that. In this case, my lack of patience mostly comes from a place of being tired of not being able to put away half of my clothes. Putting things “away” in a laundry basket is getting frustrating. I’m about to drive the hour up to Walmart and buy whatever they happen to have on the shelf.
But it’s not just about feeling like a bad thrifter. It’s feeling like a bad poor person. We spent the last four years on SNAP benefits, aka food stamps. Money has been stupid tight for so long I feel like I should just live with my clothes folded in a laundry basket forever. Eighty dollars on a particleboard set of drawers from Walmart? I can pay bills with that! Or buy groceries. Or not be selfish by buying a thing for myself and buy something for Mini Furious instead. Plus there’s the gas money to even get to Walmart. I’m used to thinking in terms of any trip outside of our normal routine means a big dent in our budget because that’s extra gas money. Gas is for going to work and school, and I have to make sure my grocery trips coincide with one of those things, because making a special trip in the middle of the day is a frivolous waste of gas. Everything that isn’t food and shelter is an unnecessary waste of money. Clothes for myself are a waste, because up to this point I’ve worked from home and as long as I didn’t look too terrible when I took Mini to school, then it was fine. One pair of pants is fine. My tshirts are mostly older than my kid, but they don’t have too many holes, so it’s okay. Clothes without holes are for people who aren’t on food stamps. That’s what society tells me. That’s what people who are my friends tell me when they post things on Facebook about how entitled poor people are. (But of course they tell me I’m different. I’m not like those other poor people.)
Now I can buy groceries without worrying that someone will notice I’m using an EBT card (food stamps work off of a debit card style system now. If you see someone using paper check things, they are on WIC, which has ridiculously precise restrictions on what can and can’t be bought. Extremely stressful to use, and so even though we qualified, I usually didn’t bother with them.), and judge what I’ve got in my cart. The defenses are always at the top of my mind. I know I got too many fresh veggies; I should have grabbed frozen, but I hate the texture and won’t eat them, except for frozen corn. It’s my kid’s birthday, that’s why I’ve got cake mix and frosting and ice cream. We ate a lot of ramen and lentils last week so we could afford steak as a special anniversary dinner this week. I haven’t eaten yet today and so I grabbed a candy bar to eat before I pick up my kid so I don’t yell at her because I’m hungry and it’s making me angry. Let me explain. I’m a good poor person. But I’m not a poor person anymore. I get to be a person. But that mindset is really hard to shake. That lack of self-esteem is hard to shake. I have money now, but what if I don’t later? What if I buy something nice now, and then later we lose our jobs, and then we’ll have spent that money AND people will see we have something nice and will be angry at us for buying it. “How can they have a phone like that AND be on food stamps?” “You dress too well to be on food stamps.”
So I’ll keep using a laundry basket instead of a dresser until I feel like I deserve drawers, even though it’s something that frustrates me every time I walk into my bedroom. Because in my mind I’m not quite a person yet. And I will never let go of those defenses for the checkout aisle. I may not need them, but somebody else will. I will forever be there to stand up for the person with the EBT card. Because they are a person, no matter what society has to say. I should know, I’m a person now, too.