Wednesday, February 24

An Over-steeped French Press of Words

There are fierce rumors circulating my office that our jobs are soon to become extinct. As higher-ups head steadily for the door (with smiles on their faces) and remaining managers tuck quietly into corners to whisper to one another, the rumors become more believable.

Coworkers talk about their plans of paying off debts and tucking away paychecks to soften the blow. Talking about it seems to help them; for many women planning is the comfort food of life.

I don't think I'd do very well in poverty, so my only option is to make gobs of money doing something new.

I should mention that I'm writing about this against my better judgment; my parents always taught me that it's bad form to talk about personal finances... but then again, they also told me that publishing a diary online was the stupidest thing they'd ever heard.

Anyway, my options are clear. Visions of freelancing at a breakfast table in fuzzy, pink socks dance in my head. I've decided that I'm not blonde enough or good enough at holding my tongue to be a trophy wife. And I would rather dry shave with a ten cent razor than go to law school right now.

But I wonder how secure it would be to freelance full time. Last night, I was told that a very popular blogger had the heat turned off in her home. I was confused - "she couldn't pay the bill?" I am still confused. How could that happen? How could someone so popular with so much traffic be that poor?

My friends and I are all isolated from the economic crisis; we all have jobs and perhaps don't understand the plight of those who do not. My concept of poverty is rooted in a childhood constantly being told by my mother that we were on the brink of packing our bags for the poor house... and then being told by my father that we were not. I don't think my mother knew of any better way to instill in us a respect for financial responsibility than to make us think we were always at defcon 1.

I was raised with an acute awareness of where my parents stood financially. They were (and still are) small business owners. My grandparents paid for the piano lessons, gymnastics, trips abroad; my parents homeschooled and balanced their checkbook religiously. I always go back and forth trying to decide if I should resent my mother for making me worry about things that I could neither understand nor control... or if I should thank her for giving me a clear understanding that every time I turn on a dryer it costs $5.

To this day, every time I sign my name on a $50 lunch tab I am ashamed of myself knowing that my parents would take absolute joy in a special trip to a restaurant to share a meal together and would talk to the wait staff like they were old friends. When my mother and I drove together to New Orleans for a funeral, she told everyone how "cute" it was that I'd ordered a gin and soda with Bombay Sapphire at dinner as if it was the most natural thing in the world... because she didn't realize that it was the most natural thing in the world. But it shouldn't be. While my parents struggle every month to pay for my little brother's college, I buy silly dresses that I'll never wear more than once and fly to warmer climates for vacations. I should be ashamed of myself.

In the six months I spent unemployed between graduation and landing this sweet little job I never once considered bartending or (making the sign of the cross) waitressing. The very notion that I might have to bring a new glass of sweet tea to a colleague made my stomach turn. Not this girl.

Where did I develop such pride? In college I woke up a 5am, opened a coffee shop, drank espresso while reading Wordsworth, headed to class, wrote papers on library computers until midnight and then went home and repeated the process day by day. I was resilient. I never had panic attacks or cried because I had two papers due and only four hours time to write them. I sallied on.

Where did that girl go? And how can I get her back?