I have a confession to make: as a single mom living in my Mom’s basement and working as a Temp, I don’t often feel privileged (hell, I can’t even spell privilege, which you would know if not for spell check!)
Sometimes I remind myself that I am a single mom living in my Mother’s basement in a safe neighborhood. People don’t shoot each other, shoot up, or smoke crack on my block. That is a huge privilege! My mom and stepdad invested their hard-earned money to live here for it’s “good schools” (they really are good) and concentration of Jews.
I try to remind myself of my remarkable ability to not get stopped by cops very often–or talk my way out of tickets when I’m clearly in the wrong–and sometimes don’t even have my paperwork together. Or my ability to walk through most stores without being followed (I say most, because they always follow me at the Roxbury Goodwill).
But when I’m at work as a temp Admin, it’s hard to remember I’m privileged. It wasn’t so hard at my last job–there was a lot of other temps, and when they would complain about–say–group emails touting the benefits program we were ineligible for–I would adopt a world-weary attitude based on my my year-and-a-half of temping, and point out that Temps were supposed to be like tissue paper: there when you need them, disposable when you don’t.
Even at that job it was hard though. The kids and I got sick–and even with the blessing of MassHealth the bills went way up. I worked for three weeks before I got better, and had to go cry in the bathroom when I got an email telling me to go home.
I worked the job before that for three months before getting a call on a Monday night (as I was working late, right after they showed me how to lock up.) telling me not to go back.
The thing is, when you’re a Temp, you’re making less than everyone else, and if you don’t work, you don’t get paid. Everyone around you is squealing about their bonuses and going over their vacation plans. But you don’t get a bonus. A “vacation” for you, is an unpaid break between jobs, where you yo-yo between manically job-hunting and slumping into a deep depression.
Today everyone in the office got out two hours early and went to a Bachelor’s Party for this adorable gay man in our office. I couldn’t go. If you don’t work, you don’t get paid.
I know it’s little, but all those little things add up. My life is on the edge. All of the time.
As I endlessly faxed and collated documents, I tried to turn the experience into a teaching moment. “This is what it’s like to be a second class citizen.” I told myself. “Only it’s just a taste.” Sometimes it’s the little things– like watching others drink from the nice clean fountain while you practically have to press your lips against the dirty rusty one–the small ways that society tells you you are “less than,” that eat you up inside.
While my coworkers blithely drank and ate penis-cake, I was moping but trying to take it as a lesson.