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Poverty Blog: So Sad Its Funny

Poverty Blog: So Sad Its Funny

The recession is no laughing matter. Writer Stephanie Schroeder knows that as well as anyone. What's a talented feminist and lesbian writer to do when the recession hits her piece of humble pie in New York City?

My current situation isn't funny, but it is laughable. I'm a freelance journalist who used to have a day job as a publicist. I got "furloughed" in June. Actually, two weeks prior to my layoff, I filed for unemployment and told my former employer that I considered myself de jure unemployed because he had paid me late for the past six months. At that time I hadn't been paid for my prior two weeks work and it was three weeks later.

My unemployment claim was rejected because I have another employer: myself. It's not funny, but as I said it is laughable, because the money I make freelancing doesn’t cover my rent every month let alone my bills. I live modestly in an inexpensive studio apartment in Flatbush Brooklyn. I accumulate few material possessions and don't shop for clothes --or much of anything --very often, only out of necessity. I don't impulse buy, or spend money on sweets like cupcakes or chocolate or vices like cigarettes or booze. I do get my hair cut every few months, which I think is pretty fair since I wear it short and it really needs clipping every four weeks to look as chic as I would like. I got a mani-pedi last month for my sister's wedding, but I don't indulge in that luxury regularly though I wish I could.

I know the country--and world-- is in a financial crisis even though some high-level government official on TV said a few weeks ago the recession is over. At least that’s what I heard—I don’t have a television. But, that doesn’t mean anything to me or dozens of my lesbian and feminist friends and acquaintances, particularly in NYC, who are struggling to get by. I feel like I need to chronicle my trials and travails--and triumphs-- to preserve this time in herstroy: A lesbian-feminist’s attempt to support herself in a depression that is not a recession that is not over and probably won't be for a long, long time.

I know U.S. society is premised on the heterosexual, nuclear and dual-income family (well, modern day version). But lesbians have always been at a disadvantage--we have only ourselves to support us, we can't get married --or haven’t been able to until recently-- and as an anti-assimiationalist I never want to. So, making our own way in what is still a man's world is not easy, especially when women still make 67 cents for every dollar a man makes. And, lesbians make less that straight women and Black women make less than white women and so on and so forth.

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It's the beginning of October, I'm over drafted by over a 1,500 bucks. My rent bill arrived the end of last month and I have no clue how to pay the rent because I have only $38.37 in my online bank account. Yesterday I applied for a no interest, open-ended loan for my October rent from a writers union I belong to. It will take 2-3 weeks to find out whether I am granted this loan, at which time I will pay my October rent or tell my landlord I simply don’t have the dough. At that time I will again wonder where next month’s rent is coming from. Today I also got a gig cleaning apartments for $15 an hour. I have a four hour shift this week, to see if I work out. It may turn into a semi-regular thing. Its honest work and I welcome some physical movement in a job, but this is not what I imagined my life would be at age 46 when I graduated from either undergrad or law school.

I’m going to pen a weekly chronicle of, as I mentioned, my trials and travails and triumphs as I wander through 2009-into-2010 depression-era USA with little-to-no financial resources. It might be a bit sad, yes, but mostly I aim to find the humor in the horribleness of it all.

Find more from Stephanie here!

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Stephanie Schroeder