I was that girl in school.
The poor girl.
The one whose uniforms weren’t like everyone else’s. The one whose clothes were only new if the store was closing down and had an 80% off sale.
The one who, when all the kids had their names called on the day school portrait orders were delivered, never had her name called.
The one who never got to go on the school trip unless it was subsidized.
The one who always took seconds in the lunch line if there were any extras.
The one who was ridiculed for having greasy hair because her family could only afford enough water to bathe once a week.
The one whose experiences in life were exclusively limited to which ones had a special funding program for people who couldn’t afford them.
The one who stole food stamps from her mother’s pocket when she was asleep so she could buy a candy bar every once in a while because her mom always told her “no.”
The one who, knowing how much it sucked to be poor, sometimes gave those food stamp dollars to the vagrants on the street that looked more hungry than her.
I was that girl, who has never quite understood or got over how anyone could take the backpack she carried on the first day of fourth grade and rip it to shreds along with the expensive floppy disks and school supplies inside, which would mean a sacrifice to replace.
I was that girl who, while everyone labelled her an “over-achiever,” was taking the most advanced mathematics and science classes she could in the hopes that if she tried hard enough, she would get a degree one day and have a job that would mean that when she had a family of her own, they wouldn’t have to know what it meant to be “poor.”
And who, when she fell pregnant at age fourteen, didn’t press charges against her rapist for what he had done to her, but because she didn’t want him to do it to anyone else; Because she had already been shown for so many years that she wasn’t worth much anyway.
Being poor is so much more than how much money you don’t have in your bank.
Being poor is knowing exactly how much everything costs.
Being poor is getting angry at your kids for asking for all the crap they see on TV.
Being poor is having to keep buying $800 cars because they’re what you can afford, and then having the cars break down on you, because there’s not an $800 car in America that’s worth a damn.
Being poor is hoping the toothache goes away.
Being poor is knowing your kid goes to friends’ houses but never has friends over to yours.
Being poor is going to the restroom before you get in the school lunch line so your friends will be ahead of you and won’t hear you say “I get free lunch” when you get to the cashier.
Being poor is living next to the freeway.
Being poor is coming back to the car with your children in the back seat, clutching…
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