If I were to give advice of any kind, it would be this: Don’t let people make you feel like you are not good enough. You are good enough.
By the time this blog drops, I will have removed you from my life. You have been a source of lifestyle-related anxiety and shame for years. I endured this nonsense for longer than I ought to have, because I thought that maybe you were right.
Shopping at Walmart was bad, and I should be ashamed of going there, right? But my budget said “take your ass to Walmart.” So I started avoiding going on shopping trips with you, because we would go to Target or Meijer. The prices might only be a few dollars difference, but on my budget, that’s a hit I had to plan for.
Fast food was out of the question. The food was not food, and I ought to be ashamed for even thinking of eating it. Well, unless it was Panda Express, where I could find nothing I wanted to eat. We ate there a lot.
I felt like I had to save up if you wanted to eat somewhere with me, or suffer the shame of having to tell you I couldn’t afford it so you could offer to pay for me. I felt grateful to have someone pay for my food, but I feel like I was your poor friend.
I look back on our friendship and remember all the shit cars I’ve owned, from a 1987 Buick Century to my current lemon from a buy here pay here lot, and I wonder how many times you secretly made fun of me for driving a craigslist beater or a buy here pay here vehicle? I think back on all the times I insisted on driving and I feel sick, and that’s not okay. I should not have to feel bad for spending within my means.
I have been on my own, more or less, since I was 18 years old. In December of 2018, that will be 16 years. In that time, I have been largely responsible for providing my own food, utilities, my own place to live, and choosing a car for myself. I have been a fully capable and mostly functional adult for 16 years. I had parents who were not big on helping their kids financially once they were living on their own. I learned not to ask people for money or help of any kind. What I have, I got on my own.
My life is not defined by owning a new car, eating at fancy restaurants, shopping at Target and believing that all of this equals transcendence from poverty. My life is defined by experiences, emotions, and time spent with friends and family.
My time spent with this you has been defined by my sense of shame at admitting that I bought something at Walmart, that I drive an American vehicle almost 10 years old that came from a bad credit lot. My time spent with you has been defined by budgeting around your refusal to eat anywhere with reasonable prices, your need to show me how much you spent on something and refer to it as “affordable,” a real slap in the face when I’m struggling to pay off debt and keep food in my kitchen at the same time. I’ve realized that I am your poor friend, the one who stands in contrast to you and makes you look better. I feel like my efforts to get ahead in life are amusing to you. I feel like you kept me around for the entertainment value, and I am done feeling like that.
The last time I was shopping with this person, we went to Target (of course) to buy fans to help the AC cope with the heat. I went for the poor people $16 box fan that was $14 at Walmart, and he went for the $80 bullshit Tornado fan, which he promptly returned and replaced because it had a minor defect in the blade that caused an almost imperceptible noise during operation. I am just glad my fan turns on.
There is a huge difference in how we approach life, and I owe it to myself to separate from this kind of attitude, at least online. I am over being ashamed of where I grew up, where I shop, the car I drive, the apartment I live in, the place I work, the friends I have, my family’s religion, and the fact that I currently have no desire or need or means to leave this god awful state.
I am done feeling ashamed of spending within my means. I am done leaving your house and crying on the way home because of something you said to me that made me feel stupid and inferior. I do not need that in my life. I deserve to feel proud of myself. I have a place to live, a car, a job, and I am alive.
If you really want to know my opinion, I think you spend way too much money on stupid shit. $25 is way too much for one person for a casual meal, and I refuse to participate in that hallucination of reality anymore. I think that Walmart, while not as clean or trendy or fun to shop in, has a wider selection of things in my price range than Target. I think that spending $80 on a fucking fan is actually really stupid at any income level. I think that Panda Express is overhyped, Americanized bullshit that I would never eat on my own. I think that paying $100 more per month than I do for the same size apartment just to live next to a busy highway with no swimming pool and no amenities is the definition of reckless overspending. I also think that buying a new car for the novelty of it is idiotic. Most of all, I think it’s really confusing and enraging to see memes about Trump voters and overthrowing the rich interspersed with pictures of expensive looking food that I would only be able to eat at a wedding or an awards dinner, if I were lucky, but that you just happen to have the budget to make at home. To me, that seems like you have no point of reference for what it’s like to be poor, and I find that sad.
Just because someone can't afford better doesn't mean they don't know any better. It doesn't mean they're stupid, or that there's something wrong with them. It's the reality of having a prohibitive budget: some things are just not possible, so you make due.
If you feel like your friends are there to make you look better, you’re misunderstanding the purpose of friendship. It hurts to think back on all the times we spent together and realize that I was viewed in such a negative and unflattering light. I am done being your poor friend who makes bad financial decisions. I am free to live my life the way I want to, with or without your commentary.