I’ve decided that on Thursdays, I recommend books. I’m starting this week with Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America by Linda Tirado.
Standing desks really piss me off in a way I find hard to articulate. Other than working as a receptionist in high school, I have always had to stand for work. That includes standing at times that are actually completely unnecessary, and oftentimes while wearing heels. Take this past week, for example. I worked 11.5 hour days, and was expected to stand for every hour, on concrete, with minimal breaks. It sucked. I had shin splints. My left knee was on fire by the last day. So why do people with good white collar jobs want to force themselves to suffer by standing for 8 hours? Did they look at minimum wage earning cashiers, forced to stand for gross amounts of time for literally no reason, and think, “gee, wish I could keep my salary but also role play as a poor person?” Like I’m actively trying to change things because it’s shitty to make someone stand when they could be sitting if they wanted, and here comes this standing desk craze.
The standing desk craze hit a speed bump when it was “unexpectedly” revealed that standing all day is actually pretty bad for you. “Shocking,” said exactly 0 of us who are forced to stand at our jobs. It’s not like I thought the throbbing in my legs after a long day was a sign of healthiness pumping through my muscles.
It’s little things like that divide people who have lived in poverty versus those who have not (and I’m not saying all standing jobs are poor paying jobs, but I am saying that lots of people who are unnecessarily forced to stand all day are not making a lot of money). No one who has had to stand for work for years needs a stupid study to tell us it’s fucking horrible for us. And that is why Hand to Mouth is amazing: for people who haven’t been poor, it’s a great eye opener. And for those of us who have, it’s refreshing to read relatable content, because these aren’t things you really talk about with people.
Tirado’s experiences are obviously hers, and she doesn’t claim to speak for all poor people. But even though we are very different people, I found so much of what she wrote to be relatable — either to myself, or to people that I know. I’ve been uninsured for several years, and reading her writing about how refusing to use modern medicine is a luxury of the rich almost made me cry. “Someone gets it and is telling a huge audience!!!” was all I could think (almost all harsh criticism I have ever received over being uninsured comes from well intentioned liberals, who have always had healthcare through their jobs).
Perhaps the part that stayed with me the most was the following:
According to a study published in Science magazine, which is a place I trust about science things, your brain actually has less capacity when you’re poor. The theory is that so much of your brain is taken up with poverty-related concerns that there’s simply less bandwidth available for other things, like life.
PREACH. Perhaps I would write a lot more if I wasn’t constantly consumed with things like, “if this client doesn’t pay me by Thursday, maybe I’ll be able to borrow money to pay my phone bill, because this other client owes me money but they usually pay 30 days later than their states terms, so I guess what I can do is donate platelets until they send a check?”
Whoever said money can’t buy happiness had plenty of cash.
I’ve been broke as shit, and I’ve made damn close to $100k a year. I’m very aware of how things are different depending on what your income is. I’ve lived a life where dropping $100 on a meal and drinks on a Friday out wasn’t a regular occurrence, but also wasn’t something I thought twice over doing. I’ve also made $10 stretch a week. Tirado’s book is the best example I’ve ever seen of a way to explain the difference to people.
Hand to Mouth is an easy read – I finished it in a day. Tirado’s writing is engaging and easy to follow. It’s not a book full of statistics and studies about being poor; it’s just a book about real life experiences of being poor. It’s also the book I’m going to start throwing at people when they ask why I don’t have health insurance, or why I don’t buy in bulk. Overall I’d give it 10 stars, 5/5, two thumbs up.
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