It rolls off the tongue ‘Sorry I can’t do that I am so broke/skint/poor right now’-actually in my case saying no to things doesn’t roll off the tongue as easy as it should.
It’s a phrase that many say, and it means different things to everyone. Our understanding of what ‘being poor’ is can vastly differ and can also cause great offence, because it is used so lightly, so easily. Implying that maybe being poor is easy-when to some its life and survival.
Let me be totally upfront here-we do not have loads of cash and we often live out of overdrafts/credit cards (please God don’t let me parents ever see this) and I have got royally peed off when other people have moaned about lack of funds when I know they are so much better off than me. Most critically here I have said those words myself enough. I have pitied myself a number of times, I have felt many a time ‘woe is me I can’t afford..’ (usually straight after feeling like I have had an epiphany on the emptiness of stuff haha). But we are not poor.
I used to think we were poor growing up, mainly because when I asked for things my parents said we couldn’t afford it. So in my head the connection was made between lack of things and poverty. We were poor because I didn’t have a pound puppy/a sylvanian family house/ 7 Easter eggs before Easter Sunday/ an Umbro jumper/ sketchers trainers/ SKY TV…
As I later found out we were nowhere near poor-and then I was outraged because we could afford the things its just my parents didn’t want to spend the cash on them. They then explained that they couldn’t afford them because they prioritised other things…at the time this didn’t seem like a reasonable answer.
But then I started to see a similar story emerge all over the place-friends not coming on nights out, or not tipping at a restaurant (a particular bug bear of mine), not chipping in for a joint gift. Most of the times people could afford it they just had chosen to spend the money on other things. ‘I can’t afford it/I’m broke’ became a nice way of saying I am not that bothered about it.
So the words lose their value, and then what happens when you are in dire straits financially? How do you communicate this without causing everyone embarrassment or not coming over aggressive about your situation? All the polite terminology has been claimed.
Being poor in reality is crippling, it becomes about survival, about obtaining the bare basics. It shouldn’t be but it is shame filled and often silenced…
- It’s the fear of losing your tenancy because you know you can no longer afford the crazy rent hike that’s going on in your area.
- It is wondering how you are going to make school lunches and tea for your kids when you have nothing in…(yes sometimes you can be working but not earning enough to cover all your needs)
- It is isolating yourself because you know that park trip will include a coffee and you haven’t got any money.
- It’s scrabbling together to make birthday gifts and cards not because you are good at homemade stuff but because you have no option
- It’s walking everywhere because you can’t afford the petrol, and living in fear that you might need to get public transport because the bus ain’t cheap
- It’s having no-one to ask to bail you out, because you’ve exhausted your list or no-one was there in the first place.
- It’s not sleeping at night because worry plagues you.
- It carries a legacy that often taints your future even if financially your situation improves.
I am not poor.
I have never been poor.
I have moments where some of the above has been my reality-but ultimately I/We have always had people/family who help us out. We have been strapped for cash a fair bit but we have always been community rich. We are so fortunate that is our situation-and it is not down to our skill/talents it is what we have found ourselves in.
But this is not the same for everyone around us.
Chances are some of my friends/neighbours/members of my community are struggling.
Chances are they will not tell me, and they will not ask for help.
But what I can do, and you too if you are of similar ilk, is stop bloomin saying we are broke if we are not. We can stop hiding under the ‘we are poor’ and just be honest about it ‘I can’t go out to that thing because I want to…’
I have recently started following @cashcarraway on Instagram because I heard about her through @mumsmental blog. (Both are excellent)
I will be honest I found it difficult viewing/reading at first, confronted with her reality of what it is to be a working class single mum. But what is so vital about her approach is she is sharing her situation without shame…and challenging us all to rethink our understanding of class and poverty is.
I would love to hear what you think about this, maybe your own journey with money.
Not an easy subject I know.