Once upon a time there was a young girl, who wanted to chart her own course in life. All her life she had been a good girl, always one to follow the rules, did what was expected of her, she was what some would call an easy child. Somewhere around her fifteenth year of life, she got tired of being a good girl, she got tired of doing what was expected of her, and she wanted to be free and wild. So in her immature thinking she thought that by smoking, drinking, drugging and skipping classes she was doing her own thing, instead she was making her life far more difficult than it needed to be. Eventually her choices caught up with her, not long after turning 18, she realized she was not going to be graduating high school with her class that spring, so rather than attend summer school to make up the credits, her first grown up decision as a legal adult was to drop out of high school in her senior year. The girl’s parents were upset but told her she was free to make her own choices, they only requested that if she was to continue living under their roof that she be productive, so that meant getting a job. The girl was more than happy to comply with that request.
Not long after, the girl met a boy and it was love at first sight on both sides. The boy was a bad boy, an only child who had been doted on for all of his twenty years. The boy wasn’t really doing much with his life but living at his mom’s house, drinking, drugging and tinkering with computers. See, the boy had an almost genius level IQ and like the girl he too was drifting through life. In many ways the pair seemed a perfect match, she was dark and petite, he was towering hulk of a young man with build of a football player, though he was never one for team sports…because they required following rules and he hated rules. He was handsome young man, aimless with a temper and he loved to brawl and his hands showed the scars.
Not long after falling in love, the young couple thought it would be a wonderful idea to get married, never mind that he had no job and lived with his mother. The girl had a job, but didn’t earn much, but the young pair was in love and idealistic…so they went down to City Hall and got married. For the first month, they told no one and continued to live with their respective parents. They were young, dumb and in love. Eventually the young man told his mother who while she was not thrilled, did like the young girl. She thought the young girl was respectful and intelligent and in many ways reminded her of her own self. See, the boy’s mother had been born in rural Maine and literally worked her way up to a high level position in the federal government despite one failed marriage and another husband who died on her. So the mother told the young man that he and his bride could live with her while they got on their feet.
The young girl told her own parents that she had married the young man and she left to move in with her Prince Charming. In only a few months of living together, it became clear to the girl that maybe she had made a mistake but by the time she got the strength to voice her feelings, she discovered she was pregnant. Once she discovered she was expecting, everything changed. The young man’s mother helped set the couple up in their own apartment. The girl’s mother got her a job as a bill collector and the girl applied for help from the government as she learned quickly that to have a baby she needed health insurance. Back then in 1991, such assistance was referred to as Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). Since the young family had little income they qualified for not only government health insurance but they received food stamps and a small cash allotment. Between the girl’s small check and the assistance they received, they made ends meet but it was hard.
See, the girl had spent all her young life not wanting to be like her mother, who back then she perceived as a sap as unlike other mother’s the girl knew, her mother had been a stay at home mom for a good portion of her life barring the occasional part time job. Though at this point in time the girl’s mother had started working full time, however in her quest to not be like her own mother who had married at 18, the girl never learned to cook or do anything handy around the house. It was an interesting time.
The girl had wanted fun and adventure and bit off more than she could chew, in a matter of months she went from being a rebellious teen to becoming a wife and expectant mother. She had to learn how to cook, clean and budget. Budgeting was real fun, once a month she received her food stamps and after a few missteps that resulted in a few too many indulgences coupled with days with barely enough food, she figured she better learn to cook. Thankfully her mother and mother in law stepped in to help her. Once a month, her mother in-law would take her grocery shopping to stores where she could stock up on staples, stores such as Aldi’s and Cub Foods. Once a month, the girl would set off with her glamorous mother in law who was dressed to the nines and drove at that time a late model BMW to buy food. On more than one occasion the girl saw people glaring at her with disapproval as she paid for her purchases using food stamps which back in 1992 came in large brightly colored coupon books.
Eventually the girl and the boy split up and for a few more years the girl struggled to survive and raise her son. The girl decided she wanted to change her life and she did.
Obviously I am the girl in that story and the reason I decided to share this story is because of this piece, I read from a Maine college student that has gone viral. In it the student who did time working at a Wal-Mart rails on against the welfare abuses she has witnessed while working as a clerk. Funny thing is what she writes reads like the talking points against all who in these strange and interesting times are against the government assisting folks. Never mind a recent report that says half of Americans are living on $45,000 or less a year and thus low income. Nope the author like many others including Maine’s governor seem to think we just have a lazy generation. Never mind that many who receive some form of government assistance are actually working…hello, does the term working poor mean anything to you people?
Problem with judging those we see using things such as food stamps, or shall I say SNAP benefits is we don’t know the back story in most cases and everyone has a story. I recently had someone tell me they know people who receive XYZ in government help but have nice clothes, a nice car, etc. So what? I can assure you when I was a young mother receiving help, I looked pretty sharp too! My mother and I were the same size so she often lent me clothes or gifted them to me. When I went shopping, I was in what then what was a luxury car and yes my cart was filled to the brim. Do you know why it was filled? Well I received my benefits once a month and I shopped once a month. I know from my work, that many families receiving assistance do the same thing that I did almost 20 years ago, they shop when they get their benefits. Several families I work with have no car. So they either have to take a cab to shop and stock up or get a ride, considering a round trip can ride is $18, stocking up is the wisest thing one can do.
Yet every Tom, Dick and Harry complains about people using the EBT card having full carts. On another note, many people who receive benefits such as SNAP in 2011 don’t get the maximum benefit because if they have some income that income is factored in. So yes you may see someone using a card but they may only receive $100 a month. You don’t know their story.
It saddens me that as it’s getting harder and harder to survive that so many of us are turning on each other rather than to each other. The reality is most of us are only a few checks away from rock bottom but hopefully we won’t get there but with half of us officially fucked, it’s really just a roll of the dice unless we are in that ruling class. Rather than judging a mom for buying her kid a pre-made birthday cake (by the way anyone who begrudges a child having a fucking cake really needs to get over it!) how about we judge all those who have stolen the American Dream and turned it into a nightmare.