There are an astounding number of people who go hungry in the U.S., despite the imagery we see on TV and the hollow lies of our government. There is a stigma attached to hunger. People do not go around talking about it. To do so prompts immediate judgment from the middle class regarding laziness, stupidity, and other classist stereotypes. Because of this, you may work with single parents who are going hungry so they can feed their kids and never know it. Minimum wage does not cover rent plus childcare costs, much less food demands.
For the last couple of decades I've been under the impression that I possess a tendency toward cyclical depression, otherwise known as Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD.
The proof of this would be a tendency toward winter hibernation, and a sort of poignant despondency around my birthday. Which, if you recall, is also the anniversary of my terminal cancer diagnosis and (forevermore) the usual and expected time for me to trudge back to the specialty clinics for more treatment and evaluation.
One of the features of London Library membership is an induction, a hurdle sufficiently alarming that I would have cancelled the whole plan to avoid the ordeal. But alas, my charming companion knows my tricks. He called and arranged the appointment before I could weasel out.
This is the second year in a row my old friend KTS has materialised on my birthday - though both occasions were coincidental to him I consider the visits a rare and splendid gift.
He & his wife stopped by on their way to Paris via Istanbul and it was great fun to show them my daily routine and take them on jetlagged walking tours: Bunhill Fields, the Barbican, the Tate Modern, Two Temple, Prufrock.
When I was small I would beg for a ride to the regional library, far away across the bay. My father, muttering about the inconvenience, would sometimes take me there on the way to his job. This was fine because I didn't need to browse: I was working my way alphabetically through the stacks.
Last night I went to an industry party, which means I spent the entire evening dodging strangers.
Why? Because I can predict exactly when it will happen, and what will solicit the remark. I make great efforts to steer the conversation elsewhere, but tedious verbal gymnastics only delay the inevitable:
"You look too young to be a mother."
Sometimes this is a compliment, or a pickup line. But more commonly the sentiment is accompanied by crossed arms, puzzlement, dismay, and often, extremely rude questions.
"Really poor children in really poor neighborhoods have no habits of working and have nobody around them who works." --Newt Gingrich
I was born and raised in poverty. Both of my parents worked full-time, over-time, and extra jobs from my earliest memory until the present. They have never accepted government aid or charity. They just work, and work some more.
The other night we were watching videos from the 90's, and I remain amazed.
Now that my daughter is 21 I have had many opportunities to test my theories in a practical environment. Summary findings: I would never treat anyone the way I was treated in my youth. The fact that there is a filmed record of those years is fantastic because it demonstrates that I wasn't crazy. I was just in a very bad situation.
"This is a war between the people and the government."
--kid on the street, London August 7 2011.
Four nights ago London erupted in spontaneous violence, rippling out from a council estate north of my home to gradually encompass every borough. Riots and looting were widespread. Cars, buses, and buildings have been torched.
The other day I was wandering around Paris with my daughter in search of the perfect patisserie.
We were talking about completely random topics when she suddenly erupted in rage over a passing implication that she might one day have a baby of her own.
"I will never have children! I don't know why everyone keeps telling me I will!"