I buy used clothing. I watch the amount of packaging we buy. We reuse things to the nth degree. I walk or take the bus-I don’t own a car, or even know how to drive. I’m buying a push mower this weekend, after my lawn has eaten a gas and electric mower. We don’t eat much meat. I’m planning a garden when I get the money to finish my backyard, and the time.
We buy most toys secondhand. Same goes for books. We rarely eat out these days. We keep the heat to a minimum, use only fans in the summer, covering and closing windows. I seal windows in the winter, firmly shut. We don’t run the water while we brush our teeth.
I buy local eggs, veggies when time allows a market run. I read labels when I shop, try to avoid MSG, Salt, sugar. I make gifts when I can.
So why do I feel so bloody useless if I buy a box of Kraft Dinner, or cannot afford to spend 25.00 on shampoo and conditioner? Why do I so keenly feel my monetary value so keenly when I walk past organic food or handmade goods? Why do I feel the locally sourced, organic rice pasta glaring at me in silent judgement as I reach out instead for the made somewhere in the US in a factory wheat pasta that’s on sale for 4/5.00?
Why does it always feel like revolution is really only for the haves?
Grocery shopping these days hurts.
I stare sometimes at the peppers, at 3.99/lb, and gingerly take one or two, relying on the fact that my father always buys oodles anyway. I have become parsimonious with the cheese. We never have ice cream or popsicles, unless the sale is really good. I keep a tight rein on the milk, ration the bread.
Ever get to a cash, and have to put something back, usually something you do actually need, but buying might mean not paying a bill, or getting someone a haircut or shoes?
Ever pick up a box of something salt and chemical laden, and realize that hey, at least the kid will eat it and it won’t be money wasted?
Ever become completely terrified that you won’t be able to properly feed your children because it costs a bloody arm and a leg, and all that natural food, all that cooking from scratch? You don’t have time for it anyway and you then worry about scurvy or vitamin deficiencies..you worry.
And then you go to the local store, or talk to some mothers you know, or fathers, and feel completely bloody deflated because while you worry about food in mouths, any food sometimes, everyone else is worried about where it comes from and if it’s natural enough (whatever THAT means these days) or if we’re doing enough home cooking or avoiding runoff into resevoirs.
I don’t dare walk into the hippy store anymore, where they carry my Bragg sauce in a spray bottle and have the soap I like. I feel like they can smell the chemicals on me, the sodium, the carbs.
In a nutshell, it becomes blatantly obvious that I am not good enough. I cannot afford what they’re selling-this glistening purity, this sanctity in cloth, security in biodegradable cleaners. I have hit lower class-where the solid thunk in my belly means more-where good deals in used clothing will soon be held up against the siren song of the 12 year old who doesn’t want them used.
Where once it was who had the biggest car, it’s now who has the one with the least emissions. Where it used to be which house always has kool-aid, now it’s the one where juice never enters. Another contest. Another competition. So and So only shops here, only buys all natural, blah blah blah.
So and So generally has a net worth that I will never attain.
And that’s the crux of it for me. I make all sorts of sacrifices in daily life, big ones too, that impact my life, the lives of my children, the air we all breathe. I make concious decisions about how I life that for me, is more impactful than not buying McDick’s once in awhile.
But it never feels like it’s enough. It’s like this invisible hand behind me, nudging me that I’m not doing enough, that I should be willing to sacrifice more more more.
But should I? I live in a city because I refuse to own a car, so I can walk or take transit, with the odd cab. I work with many people who commute from out of town “because they can”, running multiple cars, recreational vehicles. I conciously limit the amount of animal protein in the house, even if I cannot afford the 30.00 roasting chicken raised on the eyeballs of angels. I can’t afford it. I just can’t. And my kids generally won’t eat beans or tofu so where does that leave me? How much more do I need to sacrifice at the altar of what others expect from their neighbours?
I adore conciousness. I love the fact that my daughters are aware of why we shouldn’t litter, what the cow really is, how things grow from sprouts and are hard to keep alive. But I grow increasingly sickened by the fact that in so many circles, the inability to support and afford this lifestyle is seen as a failing, looked down upon like something stepped in. How dare I feed my children chicken nuggets! Don’t I know what’s in those?!
I’m very aware. Food is in them. I work full time while juggling a life and a house and school for them and a lawn that will.not.die. I don’t have time to make them by hand. I barely have time in a week to spend quality time with my kids. They win. Sometimes white bread wins. Sometimes even, GASP! a chubby wins too.
I’ve railed against the class asignations of food and lifestyle before, how organic and local source labels seem to be weilded as weapons in classroom and chatrooms. Another opportunity for some to feel important and better, always better. A step ahead.
I say no. I just can’t. I can’t afford it. I simply cannot find the money, anywhere in my budget. I’ll clean with vinger because it’s cheaper. I won’t water my lawn because it’s a waste, I’ll replace my appliances a I can to save energy. But I am done with the constant pressure, nearly as bad as the skinny models parading in bras I’ll never wear, that I am a lesser person for not being able to afford to buy into this organic natural movement.
I remind myself often that nightshade is natural too.
I hate this. More than anything else, I hate that I am closer to rock fucking bottom poor than I’ve ever been, and that it alienates me, more and more, from the people I know. Because it’s not a circle I can keep in. Because if the choice is between 11.00 milk with no weirdness and 6.00 milk, with weirdness, then cheap wins. Because it’s all I can afford, whether I like it or not. Because I AM poor, even if I hate it and it gives me a fucking ulcer at night. Because I live in absolute stark terror that the roof will cave in, and we won’t even have a house, let alone free range, organically fed and petted chickens for dinner.
Because my revolution would involve no one ever HAVING to choose between milks. Mine would never add cachet to a method of farming, or coolness to having read “that” book.
Mine would, simply, make sure everyone could eat without worry.
(Look-I’m not trying to make anyone feel like shit-but how many times can a girl get that raised eyebrow at buying food at Walmart before she gets really freaking defensive and annoyed? Constantly trying to make the best decisions I am able to make for my family, and yet always having this nagging feeling that it’s not enough.
It’s not about any one person-it’s about this first world culture of one-upmanship that seems to extend to food of all things. I want change! I don’t WANT to buy lettuce that scares me. But I do. Cause, you know, they haven’t made that pill yet.
I just wish the answers were easier, the food cleaner, and my wallet fatter. The events of the last 6 months have really brought home a lot of things for me, and made ME realize that shopping at Walmart? Sometimes a sin I can’t avoid.
And that sucks too.)