The stigma of being poor.

It’s funny what kids think is important in life. Back in seventh grade, your clothes made you who you were. Isn’t that stupid? I don’t know what happened. One day clothes were just clothes; they served a purpose. But then the next day, clothes became socially important. A little fucking leather patch on the back of your jeans suddenly became the symbol of higher social status. If your shoes weren’t made of leather, you just didn’t make the cut. What the fuck was it with leather back then? Leather jackets, leather shoes, leather patches on the back of some over priced denim. The vanity would only get worse as the eighties rolled on. How freeing it must have been after Nirvana came and changed everything! Wash that shit out of your hair! Thrift store clothes were now in! You just bought a whole bag of flannel for 8 dollars? Let’s go put on some Blind Melon and coat each other in patchouli! Shit, I was grunge before everyone else. But like most pioneers, I was ahead of my time, even if I was left back socially. Fuck it.022

Grief.

That’s when I experienced real grief for the first time. Not only had I lost my father, but now I had lost my friend, my BEST friend, or some ‘boys will be boys’ stupidity. I didn’t have a lot of friends, and George was the only person I ever really talked to about my feelings and my life. It’s hard to describe how despondent I was. Eleven years old, and I was to take on the burden of a grown man. I had to put away the toys and pick up a rake.It wasn’t my Mom’s fault. Oh no. I complain about what I went through, but I can hardly imagine the Hell that she had to endure. I can see now, looking back, that we were all experiencing grief over the loss of our patriarch. We had nothing but questions and doubt. I’m sure each one of us blamed ourselves at one point. I blamed myself. I blamed myself for being fat and not liking sports. But that’s fucked up. As a father myself, I know that your kids aren’t going to like the same things as you, and if you want to maintain a relationship with them, you do what it takes. you start to get interested in what they like. My son dislikes Star Wars. What?!?! That movie changed my life and you hate it!?!? So be it. What do you mean you don’t like comic books!?!? Fine. He likes historical non-fiction and he likes woodworking and metal working out in the garage. So I do it with him. I encourage him and I have no problem getting him the supplies he needs. It’s amazing to see him grow, and the incredible things he creates with tools. My Dad wasn’t like that. It was either get into what he liked or go be by yourself. So maybe I really was part of why he left. Of course I was. You don”t just leave your wife. You leave the whole package.021

Poor Man’s Chow Mein

My Mom could make a dinner out of anything she could find in the cupboard. This is a skill that should be taught at school. Unfortunately, it’s a skill developed under poor circumstances; no one wants to be a master. But there was one meal that we used to eat quite a bit, and I still make it ot this day once in a while. Poor Man’s Chow Mein. You see, our favorite place to go eat when I was a kid was  little Chow Mein place in Forest Lake called Bing Louie’s. To this day, in my opinion, the food is unmatched. But we would only get the Chinese food on special occasions-usually when my Mother’s round of overtime shifts had ended. As an adult, I can see that as a valid cause to celebrate! That being the case, to my sister and I, Chinese food became a kind of comfort when things weren’t so great. My Mom therefore, came up with her own, cheap version: A pound of hamburger, 2 or 3 cups of rice depending on how much you needed, some celery and onion, and some cream of chicken/celery/mushroom soup with a spoonful of soy sauce mixed in. That’s it! She would serve it to us in a bowl with the crunchy noodles on top and we would eat every last bite! Did we know that it had a psychological component back then? Hell, no! But I can see it crystal clear today.

016

Fat shaming.

I loved my dad. Isn’t that funny? He kept pushing me away and closing himself off emotionally and I just kept trying to get to know him better and to try to please him. He really was disgusted with me. I became a ‘fat body’. I remember him measuring my waist for new pants and him just being so angry at how fat I had become. It still fucks me up.013