I'm Ashamed to Fight for My Financial Survival
When I was a child, I watched shows about evil rich people; people who’d been corrupted by their greed. Or sad, lonely, rich children who would trade all their money for their parent’s love. I was taught to sympathize with people who had money, be afraid of money corrupting me, while figuring out how to make money to survive. It was acceptable to earn money doing service, but only through established institutions who earned a percentage. Expecting payment for services wasn’t respectable unless it was somehow governed and managed.
I learned that needing money was ugly. That it made you less than human. I learned that this manufactured tool needed to survive in our society made me dirty. My desire for it, my need for the things it afforded me…all that was subhuman and I should be ashamed of that need.
I learned that I am always for sale. That my body, my time, my intellect, my creativity are all on an auction block, its worth determined by nameless, faceless people, diminished by my skin, my size, my abilities… I am a compilation of parts and skills whose worth is defined by everyone but me. And when I am with a man, it proves that I can be bought – be it with flowers, dinner, cash, a ring – in some way that man met my price be it for the night or for all the years ahead of me. Because I am for sale.
Dinner and a movie was a respectable price for an evening of my time, pre-Netflix and chill. I should be proud that a man wanted to date me. I was taught to take pride in being bought. Unless we had sex. Then I should be ashamed of being for sale. You see, there are layers to this shit but it all comes down to understanding that white male cis-het society sets my price, not me. If I set a price and sell myself, I’m worthless but if the system does it, it’s respectable. Prostitution for survival is bad. Marriage for survival is respectable. My identities set my price, and being a fat, Black, woman of a certain age lowers my value, which is also determined by who’s buying. Like I said, this shit has layers.
As a woman, I’m expected to care for people without pay. Everyone is entitled to my caring, nurturing, and encouragement. When I deny them this, suddenly I’m a problem and should I seek payment for my services, I’m crude. Strangers on the street have asked “when you gonna cook for me” as though that is a good introduction. As though my labor is my value. My appeal is never about me, but rather what I can do for you.
I learned it was noble to be poor…as long as your poverty was invisible. As long as you didn’t ask for aid. No welfare. No food stamps. No begging. No subsidized anything. Needing help was shameful. There was only joy in giving, never taking. How many of us have seen a viral video of a homeless person sharing their belongings or giving back a handout? How many of us have been told that enlightenment comes from giving away all that you have? How often have we extolled the virtues of those choosing to live without?
And how often have we sought to punish those who don’t have that choice?
It’s amazing to me that not only did that narrative fly, but it still does. It is impacting my life right now. People offer to support my work and I tell them not to. My S.O. had to push me into setting up a Patreon account. I still struggle to figure out whether anything I do has value. I give away the vast majority of my writing. I still seek out “respectable” employment, as I cannot figure out my worth. I’m afraid to charge for my work, which is a damn problem, especially as I do not have “respectable” employment at the moment.
I deliver content constantly, content that it costs me time and money to make, yet I can’t figure out how to comfortably break even. I have plans for future projects and I have no idea how much I should value my time. It’s frustrating to constantly fight myself about my worthiness because I still see money, and needing money, as shameful. I tell myself that I am not for sale, then I have to determine my hourly worth because that’s the society we live in and that’s how we survive.
Fuck you, poor little rich boy. Maybe money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy you peace of mind to sleep, eat, and take care of yourself. Poverty isn’t romantic or noble, but I have bought into that messaging to my detriment for years. YEARS! I find myself having to fight shame about wanting to comfortably pay my bills. Ain’t that some shit? I’m ashamed of my need for income and any difficulty I have in finding someone to pay me.
I don’t have an entrepreneurial spirit because I’m ashamed to demand the thing that makes it possible – money. I just take what people are willing to pay me and if that’s nothing, then I get nothing.
That is not how we survive. That is not how we live. And it is definitely not how we thrive in a capitalistic society that is comfortable exploiting everyone to get and stay rich. And I don’t actually have to exploit anyone to make a living.
Instead, I’ve been focusing on creating content – my writing, cosplay photos, creator videos...and I promote custom art on t-shirts. All the art is commissioned from independent artists. I also sell cosplay prints and my first book…things that I hope bring value to those who purchase them.
But it’s work. Constant work. Between meeting with my friend and producer, photoshoots, utilizing conventions as interview spaces and panel discussions; it’s bigger than I thought and it’s a financial drain. I love it, but I need to figure out how to value it…how to value me.
I’ve seen people have the audacity to sell shit I’ve made by accident. I have seen people sell skills they don’t have. Yet I struggle with myself to sell shit that’s actually good.
We all suspect why that is but I’ll leave it for another essay.
Thank you for your support. Truly.
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