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Archive for January, 2012

It’s 7:35pm when I walk into our apartment. There’s a message from Sallie Mae on the house phone. Please call us at 888-xxx-xxxx, the robotic voice commands me. I owe upwards of $120,000. “FUCK YOU, SALLIE MAE,” I shout, and erase the message. Only bill collectors and my mother have that phone number.

I picked up a carton of eggs on the way home so we can have some protein in the morning, to fortify us for our working poor/middle class jobs at which we toil every day. The eggs were $3.99 at the gourmet food store so convenient on the way home. It was a bargain to me because they were marked $4.89.

I only have cash because I just came from an undisclosed public location in Manhattan where I sold an expensive box of beauty product for $50. The fancy cosmetic potion retails for over $350.

I exchanged a small black grocery bag with the sealed box inside for two fivers rolled in two twenty dollar bills. I shoved the cash in my pocket–as I have done many times before, and then stood in the cold listening to the buyer talk about how tough times are here, but also in Russia, where he is from–there it is so much harder. I listen, everyone wants to be heard after all, but my hands are almost numb. “I’m cold and gotta get home,” I tell him. He says he has a New Year’s gift for me. Like I said, I “know” Gregor Samsa from the many times I’ve sold things to him, for cut-rate priced cash deals at our usual undisclosed meeting place.

He hands me a bar of chocolate, manufactured by Nestle, but written mostly in Russian. “For Men” is printed on it and below is a subtitle which Gregor says reads “keep away from women” and then turns it over to show me the icon of a woman figure (wearing a skirt and holding a purse so it’s got to be a woman) encircled in red and with a slash through it. “It’s not even a joke,” he tells me, “they sell it at all the grocery stores in Russia.” He knows I will dig it because I am a lesbian-feminist. He knows this–and appreciates it–because my real name is on my email and he has Googled me.

Finally, I excuse myself and disappear into the subway to count the money and head home.

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I got paid on Friday and now I’m broke. Totally busted.

After securing a bank check for my rent next week, writing a check to my doctor (I don’t have health insurance) and giving a token fee to an attorney for advice about defaulting on my approximately $120,000 worth of student loans, I have $1 in the bank. And I don’t get paid again for two weeks.

People everywhere are living paycheck to paycheck, many don’t even receive a paycheck. werkinggerl 2 has been underemployed for 4+ years, so have an army of my friends, many with graduate degrees and others with major skills and credentials in various fields.

I’ve got several cans of chicken broth, one can of beans, two cans of tuna and a grand selection of teas in my cupboard. Other than that…nuthin’ at all.

I’m part of the working poor. This exciting, fast growing demographic includes: military personnel, many minorities, a good number of women, and a growing percentage of the former middle class. What makes us poor?  The ol’ 9-5, when we have it, and its biweekly pay schedule keeps us balancing not our checkbooks, but  rather weighing the worst possible options against even worse options: choosing groceries over prescription medication, paying rent over dental care… It’s a bad place to be.

I know, of course, that many in this country have it  worse – I’m just telling my own story.

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werking… We will post more original content soon.

Meanwhile:

 

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werkingergerl 2 makes $81 “too much” to continue qualifying for Food Stamps. She is cut off as of this month (Jan 2012) It’s a real blow. She doesn’t make enough to front the rent and pay all her expenses, too. So the $200 food stamps she received to buy groceries was a real saving grace.

Without the $200 worth of food stamps, she not only is down $200, but down another $200 that she now has to spend out of her paycheck, such as it is, that is not even double $200 a week. She’s in the place I was a year and two years ago and I’m feeling her pain big time! She will receive a $25 HEAP subsidy for heating this winter, that’s something…

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