The problem, ultimately, is capitalism. It is a system designed to channel goods to the people willing and able to pay the most for them, including real estate.
At 37, I frequently find myself talking with people about whether they should have kids. This is an understandable dilemma, with the sands running out of the biological hourglass and all that, and the key issue always seems to be, “Will I regret not having kids?” or, “Will I not love having kids as much as I thought and thus, regret having them?” (Here’s a letter to Dear Sugar that lays out the general script.)
I met David Melito a few weeks ago when I was on vacation in Los Angeles. We were talking about our shared interest in money, mine because—well, you’re reading The Billfold right now, aren’t you?—and his because he’s a production accountant in the film industry.
The summer I was 18, I worked at an amusement park hotel as a housekeeper. The system worked something like this: every morning, we picked up our clipboards from the front desk with our list of rooms for the day, color-coded by what kind of service they needed. Pink was for occupied rooms that just needed a little spiffing, or “makes,” and green for just-vacated rooms that had to be cleaned for guests the following day, or “turnovers”.
I am 24, with no health conditions. Under fluorescent lights, my doctor, smelling like foaming antibacterial hand sanitizer, tells me that nothing is wrong. But my neck is sore, I didn’t sleep enough last night, ringing phones make me anxious, my hips are tight, and I’m always cranky. I do not like the way I look. I am not at home in my body.
So, what have you been up to?
I went to Big Bear Lake, California for a bachelorette party. Twelve of us stayed atThe Moose Lodge at 209 Elgin Road, which another friend had found on VRBO. It looked great—cute cabin, moose stuff everywhere, very rustic, close to the lake… And full of bedbugs.
When it comes to grief, what’s meaningful and what’s creepy is often a matter of largely unpredictable personal preference. I recently came across a website selling 12-inch poseable action figures that are customizable to resemble a dead loved one, whose ashes you can also get sealed inside. After an initial reaction that was something along the lines of “oh HELL no” and a swift x-ing out of the browser window, a minute later I found myself back on the page, scrolling through all of the options: “Trendy Male,” “Casual Female,” “Male Grey Suit,” “Nice Nurse,” “Karate Male/Female.”
When I emigrated to the United States from England three years ago in an attempt to salvage my first marriage, I arrived with a duffel bag and less than $500 to my name. I moved into the basement of a house belonging to a married couple who attended my wife’s church. They didn’t charge me rent, but would later begrudgingly accept it when I insisted. 13 days after I arrived, I managed to secure a customer service job in a local print shop, a temp-to-perm position that paid a little more than minimum wage.
My friend Mark is the type of person who regularly reads the business section of the newspaper, and I often go to him for financial advice. He has a well-paying job and owns a house. So I was surprised to learn recently that he didn’t start out being very knowledgeable or responsible with his money. In fact, Mark started out with credit card debt and car payments, just like many of us. Since then, Mark’s way of thinking about money has shifted as he has learned more and entered new stages of life, or “stages of financial development” if you will.
Perhaps most of my time bank’s professionals, however devoted to egalitarianism in theory, still value their professional skills too highly to give them away for mere hours. And perhaps people in genuine poverty are too busy struggling to get by to participate in a time bank that may or may not help them when they need it most. This might be the most we could hope for from a hippie, progressive town that otherwise still runs overwhelmingly on dollars.
As a 34-year-old woman with a college degree and a solid history of being promoted and beloved by supervisors, it’s a little sobering to look back and realize how little of my job history is fulfilling work designed for grownup people. Temp jobs not included.