But You Have Nice Things

A couple of my coworkers have a tradition of going to a certain restaurant for lunch every Wednesday because that particular restaurant hosts “free pie Wednesdays.” Basically, you get a free piece of pie with your meal. Good times.

Sometimes I go with them to enjoy the pie. Sometimes I don’t. Often times when I don’t go it’s because I always end up eating too much. Lately, though, I haven’t been going because money is tight.

When asked if I would be going to lunch this past Wednesday, I declined. There was then a sarcastic comment about me not enjoying their company. I explained that I didn’t have any money.

In truth, I probably could have afforded it, but if something comes up between now and payday I’ll regret spending that money today. However, one of my coworkers seemed incredulous upon hearing my announcement.

“No money? But you’ve been wearing all these nice hoodies and pullovers.”

The items in question are a Nike hoodie and Adidas pullover I’ve been wearing since the cooler weather has moved in. And, yes, they are nice. They are, I explained to him, not items I recently purchased. I bought the hoodie close to four years ago, when the University of Michigan changed from Nike apparel to Adidas. I bought the pullover two or three years ago. I also bought both items when I was married and could afford to do so.


The offending hoodie.

I make enough money to support my children and I, but just barely. I shop at Aldi for groceries instead of a more reputable chain. When the kids need clothes I go to either Goodwill or The Gap outlet store, which has The Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic clothes for ridiculously low prices. Of course, you have to check the clothes for defects first. There’s a reason they are so unbelievably cheap.

I often pass up invites to go out because I just don’t have the money to enjoy myself. I have friends who barhop often. I don’t ever go because I just don’t have the money to do it, my decision to stop drinking notwithstanding. And being the lone sober person among a group full of drunks is the suck. I don’t really get to take the kids to do fun things either, other than playing outside or going to the park. We go to the movies occasionally, but only on Wednesdays because the local movie theater has discounted tickets on Wednesdays. I haven’t been able to put the twins in any sports since my ex and I split up because sports are insanely expensive. They are playing football this year only because they are on the high school team. There’s no way I could afford an organized league.

But I have nice things, so I must have money, right? I have some nice clothes, most of which were bought when I was married, or given to me for Christmas by my father. I have a nice, big-screen LCD TV, which I bought when I was married (see a theme here?). I have a nice computer, which was paid for by selling old shit I no longer wanted on eBay. I have a decent car, which because of horrible, horrible financial decisions involving both ex-wives, I just made my final payment on – almost nine years after it was purchased. I have a smartphone. It was free with my contract.

I’m not exactly rolling in the money here because my shirt has Nike’s patented swoosh on it.

My coworker’s comment bothered me, because people are always bitching about those on welfare having nice things, and until that moment it had never occurred to me to look at things from their point of view. You hear it all the time. They have iPhones. They have Nikes. They have a BMW. They have this. They have that. Are poor people supposed to dress in rags when they go out in public? Do they have to be unshaven, wear unclean clothes, and drive a hoopty to stop the criticism from those more well-off than them and prove that they are, in fact, actually poor and in need of financial assistance?

The fact is, you don’t know how that man or woman with food stamps got an iPhone – it was probably free with the contract. Those Nikes could be second-hand, or bought from Goodwill. That BMW could have been salvaged or bought through some program that helps those less fortunate than you. You just don’t fucking know.

I have no doubt there are people abusing the welfare system. Every system gets abused by nefarious people. But there are people out there struggling to survive and challenging their struggle simply because they have one or two nice things disregards their very real struggle. Until you know about, and understand, a person’s circumstances you have no right to judge their decisions or lifestyle.

Believe me, I don’t want money (or lack thereof) to be the reason I’m not going out to lunch. I’d much rather decline lunch because that pie is unhealthy for me. Or because your company sucks. But I don’t have that option. So I’ll sit at my desk while you guys go out, and enjoy this Hot Pocket. NOM.


About Twindaddy (337 Articles)
Sometimes funny. Sometimes serious. Always genuine.

39 Comments on But You Have Nice Things

  1. Not forgetting that most people with very little spare cash tend to be very careful about putting a little away each month or pay period to save up towards nice things. Mainly things like Christmas presents for their children. Or they work hard to sell things on ebay (as you have done) as well as looking hard for the bargains.

    Life is just too expensive at times.


  2. I’m in much of the same situation…. We hardly ever go anywhere because it is just too expensive. When we do it is when my husband has some extra money left from working too much overtime….

    People say I’m stingy. But it was just the way I’m brought up. I don’t like buying expsive cloths because the cheaper ones are just as good. My father always used to ask me “Do you really need that” when I wanted something. I guess his voice is still stuck in my head when i go shopping. I buy what I need.

    As for wellfare…. we don’t have that here. If you have no money you are in deep shit.


  3. Just admit that you’re a welfare queen so that the Republicans can use you as proof that the economy is broken.


  4. A valuable reminder that we should never make assumptions about people based on outward appearances.


  5. I’ve been where you are, and it does suck from time to time. I’d say that hot pocket has got to taste a lot like “I Love My Kids, with Cheese.”


  6. The lack of empathy or even actual *thought* put into the comments people make about those on welfare continue to astound and sicken me. Do they think that the moment you can’t make ends meet all your things disappear, to be replaced with crap that makes you “look” poor so they can identify you? Gaaaahhhhhhh!

    I often say no to lunches with co-workers and I don’t mind telling them that I have other plans for my money. Shrug. The only way to have money is to hang on to it and use it for the Important Stuff, not waste it on a lunch you’ll regret. If there was free pie, though…

    Also, at least in the college town next door, Goodwill is full of designer clothes and shoes, some with the tags still on, for silly cheap prices. What does that say, not about the poor in the area, but about the spoiled college kids who discard all those clothes?


    • “What does that say, not about the poor in the area, but about the spoiled college kids who discard all those clothes?”

      It says a lot, actually.

      I can normally find really nice clothes for the kids at the Goodwill here, too. We live in an area where there are quite a bit of affluent people and they donate their clothes to Goodwill once their children outgrow them.

      Sadly, I can’t find things for myself there. Most men are like me, I assume, and keep their clothes until they are unsuitable to wear in public and must be thrown away. Oh, well.


  7. I know I have cheered over others of your posts, but OMFGYES to this one. I try to keep my responses to most things even keel, but this relates to one of my biggest pet peeves: expressions of the idea that poor people are lazy and ought only have “poor people” things. I wrote a rare really impassioned rant on this point on FB, but I haven’t been able to find it in the thousands of posts on my page there. Argh. So I give this three cheers and give my great big middle finger to the idea that all poor people should suffer for some kind of moral shortcoming because of a fraction of system abusers. My mom’s life was a million times harder than it needed to be due to this kind of community thinking.

    I could be feeling a little extra heated on this due to my own life circumstances. Pennies are about to be tight here as I will–intentionally–be spending a little while not working. I get recruitment calls daily, hence the decision, but will be doing even more staying in until I’ve lined up my next gig.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You gotta do what you gotta do. And it’s maddening what kind of flash judgments people make based on your attire, your car, or even your phone, isn’t it?

      Until you’ve walked in my shoes…or some other such cliched saying.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. I loved your last sentence in your second to last paragraph….it feels like the wisdom that “To Kill a Mockingbird” sent to me the first (and second!) time I read it. Until you have walked a mile in someone else’s shoes…you just don’t know.


  9. Kristi Campbell - findingninee // October 23, 2014 at 11:57 am // Reply

    So so true. We don’t know anybody’s life circumstances and people don’t have the right to assume or judge anybody. It’s not fair and it’s not right. Some people are just stupid angry dicks who like to think they’re better than others. But they’re not. Like you said – we never know the circumstances in anybody else’s lives.


  10. This is really, really, reallyreallyreally good. And thank you SO MUCH for writing it.

    I’m lucky, because we’re not poor any more, but we have been, and it sucked. I grew up quite poor (though we were never on welfare) but I still try to be kind of frugal in my shopping habits. We shop at Lidl just because the food is as good for cheaper.

    But I think what you say about brand names and smartphones is really good – thanks for the thoughts there.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Well said Scott.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. It feels like I have lived most of my life the way you describe above. When my family & I used to exchange gifts, my mother would buy me one nice outfit every year for Christmas. These were always my best clothes (usually worn mostly for special occasions). But because I hated to shop & didn’t have the money to shop I took very good care of my clothes to make sure they lasted me a good long time. Because I usually looked quite nice, very few people knew how financially strapped I really was. After I separated from my first husband, there were times I had to borrow bus fare from my parents to get to & from work; I pawned my wedding rings twice to buy groceries – but most people would have had no idea because of the way I looked.


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