About Me

Twenty years ago I asked a Tarot card reader what would I be doing when I was 50. She replied, “I see you doing something so wildly creative, it defies a job title.” Only recently did I realize that was a slick way of saying, “I have no idea of what you’ll be doing.” But that prediction kept me charging ahead to the fifties with zeal and anticipation. Now that the future is today, I’m ready for anything!

The Poverty Blues: or, Why Your
Blues Ain't Necessarily Like Mine

Image from www.vivaboo.com: Blue Wins Out As The
Most Popular Crayon and Colored Pencil.

Open up a 120-crayon box of Crayolas – you know, the deluxe kind with the built-in sharpener – and you’ll find over 40 shades of blue. There’s Cornflower and Indigo and Midnight Blue and Navy Blue and Wild Blue Yonder, and of course, just plain old Blue.

This analogy comes to mind after reading the responses to a post by Linda Tirado, a/k/a KillerMartinis. Unless you’ve been living under a rock or have gone off the grid, Linda wrote a post in Gawker about what it’s like to live at the poverty level. Why people make bad decisions, the connection between poverty and mental health, the loss of ability to think long term.

The post went absolutely viral, with the most surprised person of all being the author. Readers wanted more. They asked how they could help. After receiving offers of cash, Tirado set up a gofundme account so she could take care of needed surgery and expand her poverty thoughts into a book.

Many of the commenters have lauded her for having the guts to speak up about a taboo topic. For giving voice to struggles they face daily. And for her clear, Studs Terkel–style of writing. Others decried her as being a fraud for setting up a gofundme account and having a LinkedIn profile and for being an alumna of an illustrious private school.

A Reader’s Digest version of those comments:
  • You had this planned all along.
  • You wouldn’t be poor if you didn’t smoke cigarettes.
  • You can’t be poor if you attended Cranbrook.
  • There are people who are poorer than you.
  • For someone who works and goes to school, you sure spend a lot of time on the internet.
  • You’re a fraud and a shyster (and words so foul I won’t repeat them here).
The gist of many comments: anger because what Tirado called poverty didn’t match the commenter’s definition of poverty. But there are as many shades of poverty as there are shades of blue. To some, the definition of poverty is settling for a $2,000 refrigerator instead of a $3,000 refrigerator. To others, it means buying your refrigerator from Craigslist. To still others, it means living in a refrigerator box.

It’s not easy to define poverty and even harder to write about it -- to put yourself out there and to face the judgmental comments you’ll get. But Linda Tirado has pulled it off, starting a conversation that’s long past due.  Her book, which many believed would not materialize, is due for release this fall. 

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  1. i dare say that it's doubtful ms tirado will be spearheading such discussions any longer. but you make it easy for her if she indeed plans to continue with her charade, or not; either way. but let's get back to your discourse on poverty,

    "But there are as many shades of poverty as there are shades of blue. To some, the definition of poverty is settling for a $2,000 refrigerator instead of a $3,000 refrigerator. To others, it means buying your refrigerator from Craigslist. To still others, it means living in a refrigerator box."

    Really? I would suggest to you that if someone can afford a refrigerator at $2k.then a view that even comes close to thinking empoverishment would be considered blithe at best; at worst, ignorant and stupid. it is precisely this kind of thinking that enables someone like ms. tirado to come along with a semblance of an idea that perpetuates the stereotype of people who really live in poverty; co-opts this into a form of mass consumption; and then commodifies her charade by seeking out $100-150k. truly, her entrepreneurial zest has won some over.

    however, i will give credit where due. what i believe she accomplished was to enable people who actually do live in poverty (like some who actually do buy refrigerators on craigslist, or live in their boxes) a platform that seemingly didn't exist before. for that she gets kudos. however, accomplishing this in what could be construed as fraud--not so much.

    1. i've only used the moniker "fava" in limited application quite a few years ago. my name is dominic and is used for the comment posts at ms tirado's blog page. thanks.

  2. Dominic/Fava, thank you for reading. However, I am not sure how to respond to your comment. Are you referring to me as ignorant and stupid for presenting the $2,000 refrigerator as an example? Or are you referring to a person who thinks a $2,000 refrigerator is economizing as ignorant and stupid? Believe me, if John McCain had to downsize from seven houses to three, he would be crying poverty. So do celebrities who file bankruptcy because they "only" have $40,000 in assets.

    Perhaps the refrigerator example detracted from my main message: poverty comes in all shades.

    1. Bravo Susan. . Love your writing! And I love the 120 shades of blue. This is so true.

      I was talking with a friend last night who has just bought a house.. and is doing fairly well.. and she was talking about how poor she is. Not just for a minute. . 2.5 hours. And here I sit with $9 in my pocket.. Rent due and Christmas right around the corner. HA!! I really hope this Christmas is full of miracles, because I really need one. And the more I listened (which was @ least 2.25 hours of this one-sided conversation, the more angry I got. I wanted to tell her to kiss my ass.. Because when I mentioned something, her response was .. Well, we deal with what we have.. Christmas is not about presents.. Blaa blaaaa blaaaa. Her point was how some people whine about not having a Christmas Tree. And how if you will wait til the day before Christmas, you can get a discounted tree for 'nothing' .. NOTHING??! SERIOUSLY?! I doubt that.. a $200 tree might be $50 .. but to someone like me, it may as well be $1000 .. I still cannot buy one!

      Poverty DOES come in many colors.. although I find it hard to feel sympathy for her.

  3. Thank you, Cyn! And thanks for raising an important point. The holidays are a time of spend-spend-spend, and there are plenty of people who struggle-struggle-struggle.
    BTW, I read your blog about being a single mom and enjoyed how you talk about tough times gracefully and with humor. Much like Linda!


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