Poor and Gay

No, today’s tedious entry isn’t about Poor Steven, who has not blogged for us in nearly a year. (Don’t tell anybody, but sometimes I miss his presence.) Rather, this is about that most tedious of subjects: being a Poor. Spo-fans will be familiar with this self-characterization, and are sick and tired of hearing about it, but here we are.

Indirectly, Sassybear (the dear!) inspired this entry. He blogged about his collections, and growing up poor, and how it gives him satisfaction knowing he can own things he only dreamt of owning before. In the comment section, I nearly unloaded my own blatherings about poverty, but fortunately I refrained. So now you get to suffer. (Sadly, Sassybear is on a medical hiatus — send good thoughts his way, please — but if there is a silver lining it is that unlike you he need not suffer through this entry.)

I do consider myself a Poor. As prices rise and my unemployment continues, I am feeling this more and more. I am not sure that being a Poor has much to do with my homosexual tendencies, but they interact in a few ways.


Unlike Sassybear, Michael54, John Scalzi, and maybe some of you, I did not grow up in financial poverty. My biological family was middle-class: they owned a house and a car (sometimes a car and a scary white van). Both my parents worked for a while, and when my father stopped working then my mother took on two jobs (plus the third shift taking care of the household, of course, plus the fourth shift of dealing with domestic abuse). From what I remember there was always enough to eat at home. I certainly did not get the most expensive things, or get everything I might have wanted, but I had enough toys. Our family did not eat at restaurants, although we would sometimes eat fast food at the mall food court. I never went to Disneyworld or any other fun multi-day trips. Other than multi-week visits to The Old Country my parents would take every few years, we did not go on vacations, which was probably for the best. Even day trips to the fall fair ended up in conflict most times. It took me many years to enjoy outings of any kind, and even now I prefer going on outings alone.

In retrospect my parents may have been lower middle-class. Fortunately I was born without the fashion gene, so I did not really notice that our clothes were from cheap department stores. Although there were probably lots of things I wanted to buy, with a few exceptions I did not want them badly enough to suffer, and I vaguely recall feeling embarrassed even to ask. Maybe I was more aware of my parents’ financial status than I thought.

I do not have many nice things to say about my childhood home, especially during my teenaged years. But financially I suppose we were okay. I feel I picked up a few habits of being a Poor from my upbringing, but not many. That changed when I left home.

Bohemian Life

I suppose I started becoming a Poor when I left home. I did not exactly have legal housing at the time, so I had to scramble. At the time, though, it felt like an adventure to scrimp and save so that I could simultaneously afford school and food. This got more difficult when my squatting was discovered and I was coerced into paying for an apartment, but I (sort of) managed.

As I was born without the fashion gene (or the social awareness gene, really) most of the time I was blissfully unaware of looking (and sometimes smelling) ratty. I do remember some bad experiences of me not being able to take off my boots and my feet rotting as a result, but somehow I got through my education.

I had legal(ish) housing for grad school, which helped my feet recover. I suppose by this time my degeneration into a Poor was well underway, but since I was a student it did not stand out as much as it otherwise would have. (This is not really true. Even back then I stood out quite a bit compared to my peers, but that is because they had life skills I lacked.)

Genteel Decline

After grad school, I made a series of bad life choices that ended up with me working in prestigious-seeming jobs that paid me very little. In two decades of working I managed to crack the local poverty line twice. Because I am a miserly skinflint I did not mind this much; I was still able to save a fair amount of my earnings. But I was well on the way to perdition by this point. I became obsessed with saving money, which often made me penny-wise and pound-foolish. I would move a lot from one rented room to another, hoping that housemates would be tolerable. Despite being obese, I became obsessed with cheap and/or free calories. And I constantly felt as if everything was going to fall apart. To this day I find the concept of a five year plan laughable. At any point, I have little reason to believe that I will be around a year from now.

Thankfully, I retained enough middle-class values to save money. But in most other ways I am a Poor. When I get access to a resource, I use it up as quickly as possible, because it might not be there tomorrow. When there are bargains to be had, I stock up, because maybe these things will be expensive when I need them. I am loathe to throw things away — what if I need them later?

In my bohemian years scrimping and saving seemed like an adventure. Over the years that feeling of accomplishment was replaced by a dread of deprivation. I have to be very careful about depriving myself of extraneous “treats”, because when I start feeling deprived I get angry and start spending like a drunken sailor.

Meanwhile the cost of living has been rising dramatically, and my purchasing power has not. Moreover, my work arrangements fell apart, and because I am a Broken it is not clear I will ever be able to work again. (There is a long family history of people in my family leaving the workforce early and not returning.) It is this dread over not being able to meet expenses that is currently the worst part of being a Poor.

Sometimes I am disconcerted by just how out of place I am compared to the rest of you. I buy foods that are cheap or on clearance. I dread the idea of eating at a restaurant where the portions are small, the food is expensive, and one is expected to tip some mysterious amount. My clothes are not from the cheap department stores; they are from thrift stores, and many of them are damaged enough to be embarrassing. I regularly patch up old pants and ripped shirts to wear in the garden.

Every time prices jump by ten or twenty cents on my junk food I feel the anxiety grow.

This year a lens on my glasses cracked. I am still wearing that pair of glasses. I have been wearing them for over a decade, and am well aware that they are not the right prescription for me any more. I do have a spare pair (purchased when I had a job with health insurance) but they are for special occasions. I may eventually break down and pay for a new pair of glasses, but I am holding off.

I will never own a car. I will never have a house of my own. I have been blessed with stable housing for a few years now, but sooner or later this will end, and I will be in dire straits. I could easily end up in a rooming house (if I am lucky) or an encampment (if I am not).

Taking a week-long vacation to Palm Springs or Bucks County is out of the question. I do take day trips on my bicycle, but even a night’s stay at a bed and breakfast is out of my budget.

Cellphone plans are expensive, but it is not fair to say they are out of the budget, because most applicant tracking systems don’t let you enter the phone extension from the number you got at the community centre. Still I am holding off in the hopes that I can avoid the expense.

I do not invite people over to socialize, and rarely take up other people’s offers to socialize with them. “Going out for a coffee” is no big deal for most of you, but it can get quite awkward for me.

It’s fun to read your blogs and interact with you in the comments, but I am under no illusions that you would want to interact with me in real life. Our socio-economic spheres are too different. So I appreciate the interactions we have, and hope you never discover what I am really like.


I am not actually a Poor. How could I be? I am highly educated. I have money in the bank. I have computers and internet access. For now, I have a tolerable place to live. Sometimes my diet feels monotonous, and I wish I could buy more vegetables in the wntr, but I have enough to eat and it is tasty enough. I have enough free entertainment (blogs, podcasts, books) to keep me occupied for the rest of my days. For the time being, I am even managing to pay for essential medical expenses (my cracked glasses notwithstanding). I have nothing to complain about. If I insist on acting like a Poor it is my own fault. I have bootstraps, don’t I?


It turns out I wrote about this before, and most of that entry still applies.

The reality is that once you are no longer young and pretty, it takes some financial leverage to find sex partners — especially in hookup culture, where first impressions count for so much. Maybe that is for the best; I can’t expect anybody to date me for my personality. But the expenses required to maintain even a basic gay dating life are so far outside my budget it is laughable.

I suppose cruising for sex in the bushes is a possibility, but even if I had such inclinations I look sufficiently homeless that people will think I am out to mug them.

I know that there are some Poors who enter relationships. Maybe some of those relationships work out, but in my experience many don’t, because a common comorbidity of Poverty is Drama, and Drama is a great way to tear relationships apart. I have quite enough unhappiness and stress in my life as it is, so the prospect of adding Drama to the mix is one I actively abhor. A lifetime of celibacy it is, then!


16 thoughts on “Poor and Gay

  1. It’s a tough, stressful struggle to be poor. Been there, done that, hope to never do it again. May you always have the strength, skills, resourcefulness and courage needed for it.


    1. Those are nice wishes, but I lack all of those things, and it is getting worse as I age.

      I also hope you never have to deal with poverty again. It sounds as if you are fiscally prudent, so I am hopeful that there are many decades of art classes and trips to Maui ahead for you.

      (Man this entry was a mistake, and not only because it was a rerun.)


  2. Well Lurkie I don’t have a clue as to your age or your financial status. But, I do know being poor. As a kid not knowing if there would be food to last until my mother got her next check while working two full time jobs and raising two children on her own. But, I had many years of well earned middle class status that I had the great good fortune to share with one special person. Now, I have returned to my childhood status. I am living well for a 70+ year old man on a fixed income. My health needs are met due to a good health plan as a retiree. But my life, spartan as it may be, takes almost every penny I get each month and there is the inevitable rent increase that will come over the next few years. I fugure I have maybe two years left here at which point I will have to find a new place to live and means of living it. While that may sound daunting I am aware that I have it much better than others of my ilk.

    Also, don’t know where you live but wish we were closer together. I would stumble over to your place and we could go for a nice walk in the sun together. I might even bring Timmy the Terrible Terrier along. I bet the two of you would get on great.


    1. Living close to the edge is so anxiety-provoking. I wish you had been able to benefit from the sale of your farm. Don’t tell anybody I wrote this, but I worry for you sometimes.


  3. This my second attempt leaving a comment.

    The best sex I ever had was with a homeless man. That was over 40 years ago. He gave me crabs, but the sex was Primo.

    Being an old hippie, I could be just as happy in a trailer or commune as in a house. I could care less about designer clothes, In fact, I wear what I call a uniform consisting of a white vintage Gap Polo and navy blue 5″inseam shorts year round. All bought on sale of course. Things, or as George Carlin said “Stuff” is of no importance. In fact maintenance and upkeep on a house is tiresome and sometimes daunting, not to mention all the insurances.

    I (we) live very simply. I don’t entertain as I am one of those who eats to live rather than vice versa. Cooking is not my forte nor did I ever want to be known for cooking.

    I am probably different as I don’t think about money. In fact I’m not quite sure how much I have. I don’t handle day to day living expenses. But I am not extravagant and often shop at lgbt consignment shops. I do draw the line at monogram belts that are not my initials. *snickers*

    But you should be pleased as your constant reader don’t give a rip about financial status. We are here because your word and thought connects in a entertaining way that makes us think, smile, laugh and yes groan. All things connected with fondness and love.

    Peace brother. You are one of us.


    1. Oh dear. I am sorry WordPress is acting up for you. This message did get through.

      I am not sure that good sex is worth crabs, but then I have phobias and disease anxiety.

      “Stuff” is a pain, but I disagree that it is unimportant. There are certain things that cause a lot of grief when you do not have access to them.

      Yes, it is nice not to worry about money. I do not count finances down to the penny, but I also do not have a Smart One to manage my finances for me. My strategy is to keep things simple by spending less.

      It would be nice to believe that I was one of you, but I really am not. This entry was a big mistake.


        1. It’s tempting. What has been posted can be un-posted. But what has been seen cannot be un-seen.


    1. It’s funny, but I feel this was not one of my better entries. Somewhere in here was meant to be a point, not just a chronology.


  4. This post has given me a lot to think about. Perhaps I have been far too cavalier about my expenditures and sharing such things. It never occurred to me how ostentatious it must come across to others. As if bring “once poor” excuses flaunting no longer being so. I had already started the process of curbing my unnecessary spending habits and focusing on what I already have rather than what I don’t.

    I hate that anyone struggles to keep a roof over their head, clothes on their back, and food in their stomach. I tear up at the sight of homeless people, and I always want to do more for others than I ever actually do.

    Having said all that, I have many people in my life that are far beyond our income level (e.g. the BFJ, his spouse, and all his friends) so I still very much feel a sense of inadequacy.

    I have too much, more than I need, I have been luckier than most, and I still worry every day that I will lose it all.

    I don’t know what the point of my comment is really, other than to say… you’ve made me think.

    And I would jump at the chance to have coffee with you, or go for a walk together, or meet in a thrift store to look for bargains.

    Just saying.


    1. Oh dear. You didn’t need to suffer through this entry.

      I cannot speak for Poors everywhere, but I like it when you blog about your enthusiasms. Please don’t feel bad for doing so on my account. I tend not to feel envy when bloggers are telling me about their purchases and vacations and such; instead I tend to live vicariously through their posts.

      That is not to say I approve of every thing every blogger does, but (a) other people get to live their own lives and (b) you have read my comments long enough to know that I am often mouthy with my criticisms.

      I also have too much, I have also been luckier than most, and I am also afraid of one day losing it all. We will see whether that happens or not.


      1. Oh please….I always suspected you were jealous of my temporary ostomy and my starvation and my periodic agonizing cramps.

        I don’t think you’d want to be acquainted with people who require others’ approval to live their lives as they see fit. The world is full of people doing their own thing their own way…and that fascinates me, even if I wouldn’t do it the same way.

        Mouthy critics are some of my favorite people.


  5. Ok, so I am now equally outraged and alarmed.
    Was that the point of your post? If not, then you nailed two more. I don’t think anybody should be homeless. Yes, Lurkie. I am one of the Woke the Repugs rile about. I just think that abject poverty is not a good look for anybody.
    I am now worried about you. Mostly because I have no idea how to create a gofundme for you and avoid seeing you and your thrifted goods on a sidewalk somewhere (Buck’s County? Should I call Maddie?). I also think that those feel-good stories about people who have been -momentarily- rescued from the clutches of destitution thanks to the kindness of strangers are unnerving: being a poor in one of the richest nations in the world is obscene. Something that should not happen.
    And don’t believe I would -also- go have a coffee with you. Not Starbucks, though: I hate them. I think your self-deprecating usually gets the best out of you. A man who can write a post like this (and then say it was not ‘his best’) surely can have a coffee with me. Don’t be silly. And we can go thrifting together. I have several $2 Levi’s that the denizens of Instagram would kill for. All thrifted (along with ties, bow ties and too-big shirts). So, it’s a plan?



    1. I don’t think the point of the post was to cause outrage or alarm. I felt I wanted to talk about being a Poor, but I can’t think of a good reason why.

      No, a GoFundMe would probably not help. I have some savings for now. There are many crises on the horizon, but housing is the most acute. Lurkville (and many other places) is in an affordability crisis, which means that when I lose my current housing prices jump up at least 3-4x what I am paying now.

      I don’t think I can have a coffee with you. In addition to me being unpresentable, I don’t drink coffee. But I have been ruminating about the occasional wishes people express to get together.


      1. LOL oh, Lurkie. You know we care about you.
        Thinking of you dragging your computer, seven books and three changes of clothes in a little rolling suitcase through the shelters is not our idea of comfort. And talking about being a poor does not need a prompt besides being able to talk about it, no?
        I can believe housing is indeed a pressing issue. During the pandemic, I knew of people who were almost one paycheck away from homelessness. It’s terrifying. I’m sure some solution may come up (I don’t even dare suggest subsidized housing) because I know you’re resourceful.
        And all your talk about being ‘unpresentable’ makes me really do a road trip to go thrifting with you. I bet I can get you a whole wardrobe for $50. I can also haggle like a pro. Also, coffee is overhyped. I think sitting on a park bench watching the birds fly (or the lumbersexuals pass by) is as fun as the most pretentious coffee shop. We may even get free WiFi.



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