The Privilege Walk [TMI time]






Beauty isn't an age, shape, size, color.
Beauty isn't what you wear on your body or face.
Beauty is compassion, love and self-expression.
Beauty comes from within!

(Photos taken at Bombay Beach, The Salton Sea, CA)

...

There is a lot of talk about privilege, right now, on the internet. 
Privilege is a multi-factoral issue. 
I took the "Buzzfeed Privilege Walk" test recently and scored a -6. 
I recommend you take it, too!  Heck, if you're feeling brave you can leave your score in the comments and tell me about your life (I'd love to hear about you and what you've dealt with and overcome if you feel safe and brave enough to share). 

...

I think that people get the wrong impression of me from photos they see of me online. 

I came from very humble beginnings.  My mother and biological father got married when they were 18.  They fell in love because they were doing a lot of drugs together.  They lived in a bread truck for a while in Oregon. 
The day I was born my paternal aunt had given my biological father a "Black Beauty" and he was high out of his mind.  When he looked at me... with my red hair and pale skin... he said that I wasn't his and that I was a demon.  The nurse in the hospital told my Mother that I was born blind and that she could collect disability for me for the rest of my life (I was actually very nearsighted).  I had some mild birth defects (some that weren't apparent until much later in life).  
That was a story that was told to me when I was too young to process it.  Most people don't have a first chapter, like mine.  Most people wouldn't look at me and assume that I was born a white trash baby to a couple of drug addicts (others can smell it on me from a mile away). 

My maternal grandmother (the woman who influenced so much of my life and was very much my mother figure) came and picked us up from Riverside.  She was always present in my life, until the day she died (in my care) of breast cancer when I was 19. 

My Mother is disabled.  She isn't mentally able to handle things and has learning disabilities.  
It isn't something that I want to be ashamed of... but, it is something that I don't feel like telling everyone.  Some people, when they find out... they ask "Oh, like YOU?" (No.  Not like me.  Not like me at all.  And it's insulting when people presume things they don't understand). 
She didn't get diagnosed until after my grandmother had passed away and I was already out of the house.  So, growing up was hard for me and I was often the adult in every situation.  I was smarter, more responsible and "parentified" very early on in life.  I had to be!  Someone had to take care of my Mom (and everyone else). 

When my Mom met my step dad... they were working together at a Bob's Big Boy in Lake Tahoe. 
He was living in a trailer in a trailer park down in South Beach. 
There are two types of people that you find in Lake Tahoe... people there temporarily (tourists and rich people with vacation homes) and the people who serve those people when they come to Tahoe. 
My family all worked service industry jobs.  Jobs that required you to kiss a lot of ass all day and take a lot of shit while working hard for very little pay... only to come home exhausted and still poor and hating your life.  My soon-to-be step father was a person of color.  That was something other people made a lot of comments about in the 80s.  To me... he was just the guy who loved me and didn't ever want anything bad to happen to me.  He was my "dad", and I never considered him anything else.

When my Mom and Dad finally married (and she was pregnant with my brother)... my step-father's parents helped them put a down payment on a small three bedroom home down the mountain.  My Dad had to commute up the mountain (and still does).  My Mom got waitressing jobs at the local Basque restaurants.  We were still poor people... but, we were suddenly living a much different type of life with different expectations and privileges.  Everything around us was newly developed.  The area boomed and brought in a lot of people who worked in various fields nearby.  We were a "Bedroom Community" (meaning, you had to commute elsewhere to do anything). 

I was on low income programs at school for "reduced lunches". 
I got new clothes twice a year (before school and at Christmas) and they usually didn't fit, were very inexpensive and were meant to last me a while.  Fashion was always something that I was interested in... but, not something that I could participate in.  I was fat and I was poor.  Cool trendy clothes were for the kids with money and status. 
I found other ways to find value in myself.  I was artistic and smart.  I loved taking pictures and putting on little plays and dance recitals with my siblings (by the time I was 13 I had three younger brothers and a younger sister... I was their primary caregiver while my parents worked).  It was expected that I would stay at home and help raise the kids (even after I turned 18).  I didn't. 
By the time I moved away my parents had taken out a second mortgage and they weren't even done paying for their house like they had planned.  My dad has to monitor how much heat they use in the winter and how much they cool their home in the Summer... because they've never really been able to afford the honest lifestyle he's worked his ass off for my entire life.  He wanted opportunities for me... for all of us.  And, I got them!  As an adult I recognize that I was given more opportunities in that small closed-minded community than I would have ever gotten anywhere else I lived before that. 

That's where I come from. 

There is so much more to my story.  More than I feel comfortable sharing with you, just yet. 

I have been blessed in a lot of ways, in my life.  I can say that I am unhappy with the current state of America as a country... but, I also recognize that being a tall white woman (who can pass for privileged, WHICH IS A PRIVILEGE!) has benefited me greatly over the years. 

I am a Pansexual, Gender Fluid, White Female in America... whose original parents were drug addicts with low educations and got divorced.  I grew up with my step-family being mixed race and low income.  I later learned that my biological father was in and out of prison.  And, I am the oldest of 8 kids, on his side (for the grand total of being the oldest of 12, but also the only child of their union).

It wasn't all horrible.  I'm grateful.  I survived.  I'm here!   I have a lot of medical problems.  I have a lot of problems, in general.  But, I love life!  I think it shows. 
I'm absolutely certain that most people wouldn't have chosen my life if they had the option for something with more privileges and less stress. 

I think that it's hard for people to understand how some little kid from a trailer park and humble beginnings... with parents that exposed her to Rock and R Rated movies from infancy... ended up seeking out classical music, literature, theater and dance (even with my parents mocking me for being so "snooty" and "fancy").  I didn't think those things made me special or seem more wealthy... I just liked them!  I passed my love of those things on to my sister (who ended up playing cello and violin).  It wasn't really possible for us to even bond with people who were in advanced classes in school or extracurricular activities.  We didn't have much in common, really.  We were talented at things because we had to work harder for them and really want them to get them.  We weren't allowed to have passing interests and expensive hobbies. 
We got one pair of shoes to last us the entire year (and I still live a lot of my life, that way). 

Nothing came easy for us. 
Nothing comes easy for me, now. 
I still have to struggle and fight and push to accomplish things. 
I am not perfect.  I have a lot of pride, though.  And I've never EVER been afraid of rich or powerful people who push others around to become more rich and powerful.  In fact, I grew up with rich powerful people pushing us all around and treating us like worthless nobody servants. 

These are all details you can't tell about me from looking at pictures of me.  With my pale skin, good posture, upturned nose and high cheekbones.  I know that I look like a caricature of privilege.  That's not who I am, though.

I'm writing this to let you know that my advice to you in this blog isn't coming from a place of having everything in this world handed to me and expecting that you have the same.  When I tell you to love yourself... I say that because that is what my Grammy taught me.  Self-worth gets you everywhere in this world.  Your morals, your compassion, your soul... who YOU are can change the whole world!!!!!!   It doesn't matter if you come from the mud or a mansion.  You have the power to become a better person every single day. 

You do what you need to do to be a better person. 
You wear what makes you feel good. 
Wear what you can afford.  Splurge whenever you can! 
But, don't you dare be ashamed of where you come from. 

In these photos I'm wearing all of $10 worth of clothes... and shoes that are 3 years old. 
My "nice" clothes are clothes that I save for special opportunities (and I often get some, now, as an adult!  Which still blows me away regularly).  There are days when I dress like a boy.  There are days when I dress like a girl.  There are days when my gender isn't as much of an issue as just getting through that day and on to the next one.  My gender, body size, sexuality and social status have all been roadblocks in my life.  Always. I've always had to "overcome" them.  I've always believed that they would continue to be roadblocks in my life until the day I die.

But... that's who I am! And, I own it!  Whomever you are... you should own that, too.  Good or bad.  Succeed or fail. Always learn and always grow... and always believe that you can. Who YOU are matters and is so freaking unique and beautiful

Take no shit... Speak up when someone is doing something horrible... SHINE... and be kind whenever possible.  This is your life... do everything you can with it!


3 comments:

  1. I scored a -5 on this. There are different versions, sometimes the result is a little less bleak.
    I have a fancy education and am fairly successful at adulting, but that's hard work and luck. I grew up mixed race in an all white town, exotic enough to be featured in the local paper now and then. One parent came to the US to flee an arranged marriage. She has an eight grade education and worked 30+ years in a factory. The other is a disabled veteran with a major mental illness who was prone to religious mania and giving away all our money to charismatic preachers.
    I didn't know it at the time, but food insecurity was a real thing in my house. There was never ham in my favorite lunch, ham salad. When we had fancy finger sandwich and tea meals, it was just to disguise that there was nothing in the house but condiments, stale bread, and a few veggies from the garden. When it was declared a movie night and we gorged ourselves on popcorn until we wear ready to burst, it was because popcorn would fill us up after a scanty dinner.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love this!!! And, I love how your family managed their stress and food insecurity.
      Thank you so much for sharing. Your fancy finger sandwiches and tea meals sound really uplifting and wonderful. Your parents gave you the unique ability to make the best out of a situation by seeing it in a different way. Happiness is such a gift!

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