The poor you will always have with you
Poorsplaining: What It's Really Like to Be Poor in America
Poor people are more likely than rich people to smoke. To get fat. To get into hassles with cops and creditors. To have children despite no visible means of support, to lurch from one crisis to another, and sometimes to have very bad attitudes. But before you judge them, just try being poor yourself.
Linda Tirado has been poor, and she doesn’t judge. Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, which goes on sale Oct. 2, is her unapologetic explanation for why she and other poor people do what they do. It’s funny, sarcastic, full of expletives, and most of all outrageously honest.
For Tirado, being poor has meant walking miles to jobs because she didn’t have money to fix her car. Stacking boxes and cleaning toilets. Suffering chronic pain from rotten teeth she can’t afford to have cared for properly. Getting treated like human garbage by customers, bosses, doctors, and landlords. And then, after all that, being asked why she’s not smiling on command. She writes:
I get that poor people’s coping mechanisms aren’t cute. Really, I do. But what I don’t get is why other people feel so free in judging us for them. As if our self-destructive behaviors therefore justify and explain our crappy lives. Newsflash: It goes both ways. Sometimes the habits are a reaction to the situation.
The genesis of Hand to Mouth was something she wrote last year on an online forum responding to a person who asked why poor people do things that seem so self-destructive. “Poverty is bleak and cuts off your long-term brain,” she wrote, while enumerating various things she’s done that might not seem particularly foresighted. Her impromptu essay was picked up by the Huffington Post, the Nation, and Forbes and generated, she says, “thousands” of e-mails.