Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Post-Holiday Hunger Redux (and Retox)

This winter's been all about hunger.

First, I told you about my evil genius plot to destroy my family's Christmas by donating non-perishables to a local food bank.  (I'll follow that up in a sec.)  Then, after Christmas, I shared a little bit about my hunger strike in solidarity with Chief Theresa and the Idle No More movement.  To update you and fulfil the "retox" portion of my blog post's title, I want everybody to know I'm back to eating nothing but coffee and candy--in other words, everything's back to normal in Giselleville.

I asked Sweet if she would do a cleanse with me, but her response was, "What is this, the sixties?" so I guess the couples cleanse isn't happening.

But wait!  There's more... failure to report...

I'm sure when you read my post about my family's plan to exchange non-perishable food items at Christmas and donate it to local food banks, you thought, "Well, ain't that swell!"  And it would have been swell.  It would have been swell indeed if my mother hadn't been such a dick about the whole thing.

See, kids, I've got a really charitable spirit, but the more I think about it, the less I know where it comes from.  Growing up, I guess my family would have been classified as a bit of a charity case.  A lot of money got spent on booze, not so much on food.  Our clothes were hand-me-downs from cousins, neighbours, even friends of friends.  I'm not complaining, and I didn't complain then because I didn't know any different.

Now, as a professional writer, I live below the poverty line (I think--it's kind of hard to pin down), but I tell you, I've never felt so rich.  I put myself through school, I've got a roof over of my head, cupboards full of coffee and candy... everything a girl could ask for!  I believe in sharing the bounty--whether it's my time, my money, or my food.  As an adult, sharing has become a compulsion.

Until recently, I thought that was just the way I was brought up...

But, I'm telling you, my mother really disappointed me this Christmas.  From the get-go, she was down on this idea of giving to others rather than giving within our spoiled little group.  And I want to emphasize again that it wasn't me bringing this "no presents" thing upon my family.  It was actually ALL of my siblings who said they'd rather stop exchanging gifts.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think this is pretty common among groups of adult children in a family.

Anyway, my siblings were happy to do charitable donations rather than giving each other stupid crap.  As I reported in my initial post, my mom was not happy about this.  She wanted STUFF.  As it got closer to Christmas she made it clear, in actual words, that she expected gifts from her children. So... okay, whatever. We "kids" all thought it was pretty lame to beg your children for gifts, but whatevs ma.  We'll buy you presents if you're going to act like a toddler.

(God, I hope my mother doesn't read this post)

But that wasn't even the most disappointing part, for me.  My mother really let me down by having incredibly little faith in human beings.

Every time food banks came up, she would say things like, "Don't you think the people who use food banks are just living off the system?  Don't you think they're just lazy?"

Oh, absolutely.  Especially the 32% of food bank clients who are children.  Those lazy-ass eight-year-olds.  Why don't they just get a fucking job, already?

My bad.  These should have been teachable moments, and I tried to stay sensible and explain that most people who utilize food banks are deeply ashamed about it.  Humiliated!  They wait until they're starving.  They wait until their children are starving.  It's not a step people take lightly.

"Oh, well... I raised 4 million kids as a single mother, and I never had to use a food bank!"  My mother really said this to me.

Well, good for you.  Want an award?  Or do you just want other people to suffer because you had the support of a huge extended family in providing support for your children?  Or because you had the advantages of being white and speaking English and having been born in this country?  Because those are undeniable advantages, even if you think they're not.

The one thing I couldn't bring myself to tell my mother was that, growing up, we kids were HUNGRY.  It actually brings tears to my eyes to write this, but it's true.  One box of Kraft Dinner is not a meal for 6 people.  Neither is one can of soup.  As I said, we weren't so much aware of our malnutrition when we were kids, but looking back... we could have used a food bank.  It would have benefitted us tremendously.

I didn't tell my mother that.  She gets really defensive any time my siblings and I characterize our childhoods as non-idyllic.  But I think that's because my mother grew up in a household that was even more ravaged by addiction, violence, and unaddressed mental illness.  And she DOES characterize her own childhood as idyllic.  All the bad stuff... she won't talk about it.  She says she'd rather pretend it never happened.

But that's no reason to grip so tightly to entitlement.  Just because you went through trying times doesn't mean other people should have to.  Hunger isn't a form of initiation.  If you can help others, I believe it is your duty to do so.

That's what I believe.

Others aren't so easily convinced.

Thanks for listening, everybody.

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