This place matters

This place matters

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The Fonzarelli Connection

In an episode of Happy Days I vaguely remember, the Fonz takes a disliking to a dude in a wheelchair and decides to fight him. To make it a fair fight, Fonzie hops in a wheelchair himself. Later, Richie tells Fonzie that this would not have been a fair fight, because Fonzie had the option of getting back out. Then Mr. Cunningham solved a murder mystery while dressed as a priest. 

Apparently, Gwyneth Paltrow and the rest of the rich people taking on the food stamp challenge missed that episode. With the food stamp challenge, some rich liberal tries to feed herself on just $30 a week, the amount the average SNAP recipient gets, and then whines about how hard it was. 
While Paltrow's attempt is great for comic relief, it, like all the other games where rich people play at being poor, just misses the point.
What do you even do with that many limes?
Props on warding off scurvy, I guess.
Poverty is not a science fair project. It reminds me of a book I read some years back, Nickeled and Dimed. In that book, an upper-middle class woman, Barbara Ehrenreich, made a ton of money by writing a book about the year she pretended she was poor. She fannied about from crappy job to crappy job, making painfully naive observations, talking about how shockingly civilized poor people were, and concluding that -gasp!- being poor is hard. Poverty isn't insufficient lime money. Poverty is the bile-churning stomach drop when you realize the engine's not gonna turn over. It's the jagged humiliation of the bill collectors coming after you at work. It's when you hurt so bad you can't get up the stairs but can't afford your meds, or to even go to the doctor for a prescription. It's the roiling self-loathing of being sure you did something to dig this hole, but that nothing you can do will get you back out. That this is your life now. Conservatives grouse about designer bags and financial priorities, but I gotta tell you, when you're pretty sure you're never gonna be better off than you are right now, sometimes you give in to the temptation to escape into a manicure you can't afford. 
And even though all that's from personal experience, I was only playing at real poverty too. I had a stable job and lots of family members who wouldn't dream of letting me starve to death or sleep on the street. And my mental health situation made it seem way worse than it was. Though I do deserve props for not giving up after half a week of limited lime access.  

Funny, but I think in the end this post is gonna change just about as many minds as Paltrow's four-day ordeal because anyone with a mind should be able to suss out that being poor isn't fun. I can't imagine there's anybody who really thinks poverty's a cake-walk despite all evidence to the contrary; I think people are gonna believe the narrative that supports their world view. 

Oh and by the way, chances are pretty good the bag's a knock-off. The manicure was bartered. And that expensive phone isn't a bad deal when it's a phone, camera, television, GPS, watch, alarm clock, and e-reader.

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