This is going to be a long one guys and it isn’t about love or heartbreak. Sorry about that. I am going to put in a break for your dashboard. Feel free to scroll, but please click the read-more if you have the time.
The first time I read Linda Tirado’s essay, “Why I Make Terrible Decisions, Or, Poverty Thoughts”, on Thought Catalog, and the outpouring of love and money at gofundme, it moved me. I actually cried.
I also felt a little bit like an asshole.
Here I was with great health insurance while being able to stay home and write. My fridge is full. My bills are paid. I have a car that is only three years old. Not to mention I just went to Paris for my 32nd birthday on a trip I was able to save up for, on my own, over the past few years. I am living a pretty sweet life until I have to go back to work at the end of December.
Poor, poor me.
In Utah there was Linda Tirado—working two jobs, with two kids, sharing a car with her working husband, taking a full course load to better her life. She’d lived in a hotel and she had bad teeth that held her back. She was the intelligent, hardworking face of the modern white family of poverty and she was laying it all out there.
As someone who lived in destitute poverty in one of the richest suburbs in America, The Hamptons, I know what this kind of life was like.
I knew the kind of stress Linda Tirado, her husband, and her children went through on a daily basis: the fear of not knowing if you can pay your rent that is due in tomorrow; the sadness of the empty fridge and the empty pantry; the embarrassment of your broken down car or your four channels of TV that wave like a flag in the wind or your hand me down clothes.
As someone who writes about her own destitute poverty, I also know what kind of shame comes with that kind of story. Telling people you are poor, is like the whole world finding out you have an STD. They want to blame you, shame you, and even if the STD is going to kill you—it’s your own damn fault for getting it in the first place.
As an adult, I carried that shame with me into my writing. It was hard to talk about the things I saw, the things I lived, the horror that was being a poor kid, with a good memory, living in poverty. Every day I sit down to write about it, I get a little sick and sad.
I applauded Linda Tirado. She was telling her story—a story much different from mine—but from the same place.
A few days later, I found out there was a gofundme for her, so Linda could quit her job to stay home and write. These people were investing in “Poverty Thoughts — In Book Form”. As someone who saved up for a few years to be able to stay home and write, 50,000 dollars was a lot and I’ll admit it—I didn’t donate because I thought she had enough money.
Moreover, to be 100% honest, I didn’t think she was a very good writer. This isn’t sour grapes, but her original essay was disjointed, not to mention there was no proof on the internet that she actually knew how to produce what she promised to produce. As someone working on a novel, I know having good intentions doesn’t give you the tools to create something.
Many people think writing is something everyone can do. It’s not. Sorry. Yes, people can put words together and form coherent thoughts, but good, convincing writing is hard. It’s like waking up one day and wanting to build a boat. I might have been on a boat, really like boats, know a lot about boats, but unless I know how to actually build a boat, there is a huge probability that I will not make it very far.
Not to mention that unlike Kickstarter, my donation to her promise to write this book didn’t even get me a copy of it. By not holding someone to create a thing, I believe it usually ends up in him or her not creating anything.
However, I was happy for her.
Maybe she didn’t (doesn’t) really have the tools to write a book, but she is obviously smart and determined and, even if she doesn’t have all the skills, I guessed she would learn them and I wished her well. The more stories about the lives we lived out there in the world, the better.
Then on Saturday night, I found out that Linda Tirado wasn’t 100% who she wanted us to believe she was.