So I was driving my son and his friend home from karate the other night, and his friend asked if he had some new violence-laden video game.
“No,” my son said rather emphatically. “Haven’t I told you we’re poor?”
“Honey, I wouldn’t buy you that game because it will turn you into a felon,” I explained. But I gulped a bit before that. Because the truth is, we are poor. Well, not poor in the sense that my kids don’t have enough to eat or a great place to live. Poor in the sense that there isn’t a penny to spare.
And it pretty much sucks.
I am a college educated professional who makes a decent – but not great – living. Back in the married days, it was fine dining and massages at least once a month. About the closest I get to that now is a really yummy lean cuisine and the neighborhood cat rubbing against my calf. Between extracurricular activities, clothes for kids who just won’t stop growing and counseling they need because of the divorce, I’m broke.
When I get paid, the joy of having money in my checking account lasts for about 3.5 seconds. Money is so tight for me, my accounts can’t even squeak.
I have bartered for karate fees and begged to post date checks so my daughter can still go to gymnastics. Mostly, people are nice about it. I am creative with my budgeting and most of the time, most of the bills get paid. When my cable gets turned off for non-payment – god forbid my children miss an episode of ICarly – I exclaim with disgust that the television is malfunctioning – inexplicably – once again. Even when my books are balanced, all it takes is the cost of school pictures to send me into the red. If my car breaks down, I’m screwed.
My ex is remarried. That means income times two. That means fancier clothes and big vacations and Christmas presents that Rockefellers would wish they had. Bitter? No. Envious? Perhaps.
I’ve toyed with joining one of those sugar daddies online dating websites just to make ends meet, but it occurred to me a 40-something mother of two with ripped up jeans is probably not the hottie they’re looking for. I’ve borrowed from friends right before pay day and I’ve pretty much abandoned the notion of shopping sprees – or even a pedicure. My artwork is so old it’s back in style – remember the Erte alphabet? I’m relatively sure I’m the only woman on the planet who goes to a hair stylist who charges on a sliding scale. God bless him. I once emailed one of the super rich guys – ya know the ones that started the billionaire club – and asked if I’d count as a 501(C)3 non profit so they could funnel me moolah. Never heard back.
This is not what I planned for myself.
On the upshot, I’ve learned that kids will relish playing in the rain almost as much as going to the zoo and that hide-and-seek is practically as entertaining as an amusement park. I’ve learned that rich folk take seriously nice clothes to consignment stores – or even Goodwill. I discovered dollar stores – did you all know everything in there only costs a buck? Crazy.