The Portland Poverty Song in the Key of Privileged

It’s such a cliché; you win some, you lose some.

Last week my workweek started with what could be seen as one of the most depressing meetings I’ve ever been a part of in my life. Work weak. I got told a lot of things about my experience as a woman in the working world. It conjured images of Mad Men, but I don’t even have the luxury of looking like Joan.

I wasn’t even really that angry. It was so stereotypical that I actually laughed about it as I walked the twenty blocks to my job site afterwards.  A stereotype stereotyped me. I had to be amused.

The truly sad part was when I told my male supervisor about the meeting he very earnestly asked, “Wait, you got told what your experience is and got a ‘pull yourself up by your bootstraps speech’?” He seemed so optimistic that it could actually go any other way.

Of course it went this way. Many women are given this speech everyday. Many in my generation are told that if we just put our nose to grindstone, things will finally come to us. It should be looked at as a privilege to work our asses off year after year. Don’t worry– our time will come.

Hey, but on the bright side after four months of lollygagging and screw-ups from the State, my food stamps finally got approved. If anyone needs anything for their upcoming spring barbeques, give me a call.

My supervisors at work ask me a lot what my career goals are. I refuse to say anything out loud anymore, much less keep any silent in my head. It’s not that I am unmotivated or unambitious; it comes from a place of knowing that dreaming big for this dimension of me is not going to end in anything other than disappointment.

I think I’ve also come to a place that can be seen as very mature, or alternately that I have my priorities out of whack, depending on who you talk to and if they were born before 1975. Others might just say I’m defeated. Regardless, unlike what I was told, if I work my ass off, am a good girl, and do all the right things, I will not get that security I was promised. That means no home ownership, no extended health benefits or sick time, no pets (which is why you find roommates with them), and no twice yearly vacations out of town.

Drop those standards and dreams like a limbo bar.

I really want my next tattoo to say “seventy-seven cents for every one of your dollars”.

I was talking to someone (who is much smarter than me) and they broke open that spot in my mind where all those expectations had been. They literally crumbled them and left me feeling so sheepish for feeling so let down by the world.

They told me that regardless of gender, sexuality, abilities or anything else if you are a white person and you don’t get that promotion at work, get fired, or lose your dream home, you feel like you’ve been utterly betrayed because our system has been set up so you are usually not the one those things don’t happen to. You are supposed to be the one that reaps all the rewards. When those don’t come, you truly feel you are flawed.

Institutionalized racism affects everyone, literally.  It makes me think I’m better than I am.

They told me that they learned that this concept of “fairness” is a very privileged one and when you realize you are in fact entitled to see the wrong righted 100% of the time but you actually won’t, you start to really realize how lucky you are.

There are still so many doors open for me that will never be open for so many in this city.  That doesn’t mean I haven’t beat my head against the wall a few hundred times, but it will be a few hundred less than others. I’m glad my concussion is less severe.

So let’s talk about those other dimensions of me for a moment, and not in a small talk, must justify my adultness to the world at a dinner party, so you can judge my value on this earth kind of way.

I like my job.

I like where I live.

I feel relatively physically safe– way more than I did a year ago.

I have good friends.

I have a small, but very lovely family.

And no, I’m not married, have kids, own my home, a decent car, or the other things you expect me to have to grant my adultness. But I am very real. I am very alive.

Stop trying to break my spirit. Despite all your attempts, I’m still here.

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