Monday, November 27, 2017

On Being Broke

Author's Note: I'm submitting this to The Sun magazine in hopes that it will be included in the "Readers Write" section.

            In the late 70s I was employed as a shop girl and I rode my bicycle to and from work. The income from my job barely covered the rent and sometimes I had to scrimp on food. There came a day when all I had to eat was a head of iceberg lettuce. That day I was hungry and more than a little desperate so I looked in my roommate's cupboard and found things to eat that I didn't think she would miss. Later on I would carefully replace what I took when I got a little money ahead.
            After my divorce I was the sole support of myself and my daughter. My ex didn't feel the need to send child support money. As a matter of fact, he thought I owed him financial support. He was angry and he'd always been good at punishing me for whatever infraction he decided I had committed. Why stop now? Punishing someone gave him power and in his mind he was justified.
            I thought about going down to the food bank but pride kept me from doing so. What would these people think of me? I was convinced they would look at me and wonder "what is she doing here?" It's a very strange circumstance to be working yet not able to make ends meet. I wanted to pin a sign on my chest that said "I honestly need this!" but I couldn't overcome my self-consciousness. Soon after that it looked like I would not make rent so I decided to have a rent party.  I made spaghetti and invited my friends and they were supposed to come and put money in a jar by the door. I don't think they understood what they were supposed to do and I was too embarrassed to press home the point. So we had a really good time and I made a few dollars but not enough to cover the rent. I had to sell some of my furniture and I also asked a friend for help which he was only too happy to give. Later on things changed and my financial picture was  better. Even so I'm still a penny pincher and I guess I always will be. Being broke so many times has made me a very cautious person.