Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America

Brilliant look about what real life is like as a struggling poor person in America, scattering the cockroaches with piercing daylight. One minor slip up or ticket or car towed and boom! you’re jobless/homeless. She makes great points that you can only save money if you have money – all those ideas of saving money by buying in bulk only work if you have the upfront cash to do so. And forgive her the one indulgence – smoking – it gives her necessary energy after 10 hour shifts on her way to her next job. The inhumanity of scheduling two jobs, trying to balance that plus school plus family, if a car breaks down, if someone gets sick, always being a thread away from out on the streets. Having to work shitty jobs where you have a script you can’t deviate from, no braincells required, forgive the zombie-attitudes of the retail or fast-food workers– they are simply trying to survive. One by one she eviscerates the myths– no one is having welfare-babies, it’s impossible to eat healthy when you’re snatching meals from the various restaurants/bars you wait tables at, health care in this country is still way too expensive. She shares one playground story where her daughter skins her knee and Tirado kisses it then sends her back to play, another woman asked if she wanted to borrow her antiseptic but Tirado dismissed her, the woman wishes she could be so nonchalant about her baby being hurt… “my brain started demanding I cross the vast gulf between ‘not making a big fuss over a skinned knee’ and ‘nonchalant about my child being hurt.’ They’re different things.”
Tirado starts by breaking down the definitions:

Poverty is when a quarter is a fucking miracle. Poor is when a dollar is a miracle. Broke is when five bucks is a miracle. Working class is being broke, but doing so in a place that might not be so run-down. Middle class is being able to own some toys and to live in a nice place – and by “nice,” I don’t mean fancy; I mean that you can afford to buy your own furniture and not lease it and that while you still worry about bills, you aren’t constantly worried about homelessness. And rich is anything above that.

She has major dental issues as a the result of a car wreck years ago:

I don’t allow people to take my picture anymore because nobody can ever just take a picture. Everyone wants you to grin like an insane person. They will cajole and wheedle and bring the whole group photo to a screeching halt until you finally, shamefully, admit that you can’t, that you don’t want a picture of you like this to exist.