A Sybarite with Imposter Syndrome

I will never take luxury for granted.

A friend told me recently that I was turning into a Sybarite. I had to look it up. It means, essentially, a person who is addicted to luxury and pleasures of the senses. Heck yeah, I’ll take that description.

But there is a reason a word-lover like myself was reduced, in this instance, to scrambling for the dictionary. For the first 50 years of my life, I was sunk way down in the bottom of the massive heap that is the lower class. Luxury and sensual pleasures are few and far between for those of us who are simply struggling to survive. You can’t be addicted to something you’ve never had.

But in the past 6 years, thanks mostly to having lucked my way into a union job, I’ve climbed up to the point where I actually see daylight. I’ve clawed my way into the ever-shrinking middle class, and I’m doing surprisingly well. I recently realized that just maybe, barring any unforeseen catastrophes, I’ll able to retire someday after all, instead of working until I drop dead as I always assumed that I would.

And it feels really, really weird.

It’s a relief, yes. It’s exciting, yes. But it kind of feels as though I’m living someone else’s life, and that at any moment, that person will walk up to me and say, “Right. I’ll have my life back now. Back to the slum with you.”

Imagine this: I actually have a hot tub that I can use any time I want. Every once in a blue moon I can treat myself to king crab legs, and when I do, I want to crawl up into the shell and let the meat surround me. Sometimes I experience the pure joy of being able to help someone else out. And I can travel without sleeping on a hostel bunk bed or in a tent. Five star hotels are still not in my financial comfort zone, but hey, I can have my own room with sheets provided by the management. That’s a luxury indeed.

Pre-pandemic, I actually experienced my very first massage. More please. (Maybe someday.) And I no longer have to sacrifice groceries in order to buy a set of tires for my car, or sleep in a sleeping bag while wearing a coat because I can’t afford to heat my home. And check this out: I actually have health insurance! Imagine.

So when luxury or pleasures of the senses come my way, I have to admit that I do revel in them. I enjoy all the delicious aspects of life that used to be so far out of reach. And because of my past history, I am incapable of taking these things for granted, so in a way, it’s the best of both worlds.

The Venitian in Las Vegas. I actually got to stay in this room one night. I slept like a baby.

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An Open Letter to White Supremacists

First, let me give you my “bonafides”. According to Ancestry DNA, I’m about as white as a human being can be. That always has, and probably always will give me a leg up in society. I won’t even try to deny it. I also won’t deny that I’ve done little or nothing to earn this leg up. I was born into it, and oh, do I ever take advantage of it.

I can go weeks, months, even years not having to think about pesky racial issues if I so choose. I can live in a white bubble and have absolutely no contact with any minority for days on end. I don’t have to watch “them” on TV, or listen to “them” on the radio if I don’t want to. I can simply close my eyes and clutch my pearls. If I so desire, I can shop exclusively at white-owned stores without putting forth much effort at all. I probably do without even realizing it. I have the luxury of not having to care one way or the other.

People assume I’m law-abiding and honest. People assume I’m non-violent. People assume that I’m supposed to be wherever I happen to be, any time of the day or night. I’m a harmless fat old white woman. I’m as likely to get shot as I am to be struck by lightning. Most people don’t even look at me. I can become invisible. I often feel invisible. It’s lonely, but it has its advantages.

No, I’m not rich. I’m barely middle class, and I’ve only clawed my way up to this precarious and ever-shrinking perch in the past 3 years. I know what it’s like to be down there in that bucket of crabs, where everyone is scrabbling to get out, and just when you think you’ve made it, the other crabs pull you back down. I was there for 50 years. It’s frustrating. It’s heartbreaking. I understand that despair.

But here’s where you and I part company: I don’t assume that all the crabs that have been pulling me down are non-white. I don’t even bother to blame the other crabs regardless of their color. If you’re caught in a crowded, desperate bucket, it’s only natural to want to get your crabby butt out of there. It’s not the other crabs, guys. It’s the freakin’ bucket. There shouldn’t be a bucket.

That bucket was made by rich white people.  It’s the corporations and the politicians and the institutions that are your biggest threat. It’s the military-industrial complex that is using you as cannon fodder and replaceable cogs in the machine.

Railing at your crab-mates is a mere distraction. Glorifying Confederates, who lost for good reason, and Nazis, who lost for good reason, makes you look like fools. Being violent because you’re angry does not further your cause. It will never bring you respect or support or dignity. It won’t get you out of the bucket. Fascism has never benefited the masses, and like it or not, we are part of the masses.

I know it sucks that we’ll never have a delightful and stress-free retirement. I know it’s scary that things are getting more crowded and therefore more competitive. It’s high time you realize that automation is a much bigger threat to your job than other humans are. And most of those machines, by the way, are owned by white people.

If you honestly think for one minute that your crab-mates are out to destroy you or your way of life, ask yourself this: why are all of us striving for the same things? We all want a decent, safe, secure life. A way to feed our children. A roof over our heads. Peace. We have a lot more in common than you seem to think.

Don’t you get it? We are all in this together. And together we are stronger. The very fact that we are a mass is the one thing we have that those bucket manufacturers do not.

The reason you have the day off today is thanks to the labor movement, a movement of the masses. We can do great things if we stand shoulder to shoulder rather than turning our back on each other, or even worse, locking ourselves into mortal combat with each other while the bucket manufacturers gleefully watch from a distance.

Turning on each other is the last thing, the absolute last thing, we should be doing. Don’t be a pawn.


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I’m Sick to Death of the Middle Class

Here’s an interesting little tidbit. There has never been a concrete definition as to what constitutes the Middle Class in America. I think the politicians like it that way. They want you to assume you’re a member of the Middle Class so that you can think they actually care about you without feeling too resentful that there seems to be no positive change for the poor on the horizon.

The median household income in 2012 was $51,017. That’s a sketchy number, too, because it doesn’t really adjust for household size. It stands to reason that as a single person I can get by on a lot less money, but still, I make about 40 percent of that median household income, so I think it’s a fair assumption that I’m not in the Middle Class. I think I have only been in that elite group perhaps 5 out of my 49 years, and then only just barely.

So I am waving hello to you from deep within the land of the working poor. And I’m guessing that a lot of you are here with me without realizing it. That’s fine if it makes you feel better, but here’s the thing. (Yeah, yeah, there’s always a thing.) In the most recent State of the Union Address, the president mentioned the Middle Class several times, and never once uttered the phrase “Lower Class”.

All of us have been taught since childhood that we are supposed to care about the Middle Class and work toward sustaining it and keeping it all squeaky clean and shiny and well-oiled, because their health means that we have a healthy economy.

I get it. The Middle Class is more likely to vote and contribute to campaigns, so they have to be kept happy. But you know what? As times get tougher, I care less and less about what the Middle Class wants or thinks, because heaven knows they don’t care about me. We are most definitely not all in this together. It’s every man for him self up in this mo’ fo’, and I can’t work up the energy to be stressed out about the shrinking numbers of the Middle Class when I’m barely keeping my head above water. Yes, we’re all part of the 98 percent. Go team go. But their lives and mine couldn’t be more different.

I’m down here struggling to survive, and they’re up there debating about whether or not it’s necessary to give someone a living wage. They’re up there bitching about the fact that they might get penalized for not offering decent health care, and I’m down here weeping for joy that somebody, somewhere, FINALLY made it possible for me to have health coverage. I’m down here waking up in a cold sweat because I’m one flat tire away from having to sleep in my car, and they’re stressing out because they feel the need to replace their iPhone with the current version. I’m living paycheck to paycheck, and they’re already dreaming about Black Friday in November.

Why should I worry about the shrinking membership of a club that I will most likely never be allowed to join? Maybe when enough of them are thrust into my world, people will start taking us seriously. If more people focused on helping the Lower Class rise up to join the Middle Class instead of using all their energy to try to keep people who have already arrived there comfortable, maybe then we’d have a healthy, vibrant and viable Middle Class in the first place.

So screw you, Middle Class. Get on your iPhone and call someone who cares.

End of rant.