I'm okay, really. And no, I'm not going to get pregnant. I wouldn't consider it. I was merely considering that other
people consider it an option as an avenue to healthcare and other government aid programs.
However. It's also come to my attention that what seems obvious to me isn't obvious to others. At the onset of my unemployment saga I vowed to remain positive, or at least neutral. I allowed myself two self-pity sessions/week, but only if needed and only in private. Most weeks I barely use one.
It's not that I believe in the power of positive thinking. If positive thinking was as powerful as it's claimed to be, I would have had a great job offer a long time ago.
believe in the power of negative thinking. In my experience, self-fulfilling prophecies only happen with negative prophecies, not the positive ones. Which is unfortunate in most cases, but if everyone went around with nothing but personal positive prophecies that were self-fulfilling, we'd have a lot of weirdness and problems in the world. One man's positive thought is another woman's worst nightmare.
And it's an impossibility. Here's a story problem. (Yes, there's math. Sorry.) Let's say there's one job opening and 300 people apply for that job. All 300 applicants have positive thoughts about getting that job. 20 people are interviewed for that job. Those 20 people really
have positive thoughts about getting that job. Only one person gets the job. What about the positive thoughts the other 299 - especially the other 19 who interviewed - had regarding being hired? If positive thoughts turned into self-fulfilling prophecies, 300 people would show up for the first day of work for one job
This is the scenario that runs through my mind when people say, "Stay positive! Positive thoughts have a way of turning into self-fulfilling prophecies!" Instead of offering the above hypothetical, I just smile and say, "That's great advice. Thank you. I'll stay positive!" I've learned that when it comes to uncomfortable statistics, you know, facts
, people prefer not to think rationally or face harsh truths, especially when there's nothing they can do to help. Feel-good platitudes, no matter how silly and condescending, just feel
better than confronting difficult and uncomfortable realities.
But. I also know there's no point in being negative. Realistic? Yes. Negative? Why? Until it's a done deal there's no point in descending that slippery spiral of depression, anger and despondency. Run the statistics and keep your expectations realistic according to the stats.
But that's not to say I don't feel
the negative. Frustration, confusion, despair, helplessness, anxiety, and fear, to name but a few, are so much a part of my life they feel normal to me, now. They are my status quo that go without saying.
But maybe I shouldn't go without saying as much as I do. Maybe, as it was brought to my attention, because I stay outwardly positive, people don't realize how bad things really are
I presume it goes without saying that someone who's unemployed or underemployed is scraping by financially and doing without a lot
. And by doing without a lot I don't mean cutting out the Starbucks and manicures. I mean doing without basic needs like toiletries. Just because your friend is clean and well-groomed when you see them doesn't mean they can afford basic hygiene supplies.
I'll just go ahead and speak the gross and uncomfortable truth: I do not shower every day. In fact, if I'm not going out, I don't shower for days at a time. There have been times that means I haven't showered during the course of an entire week. Okay? There. I said it.
Contrary to popular belief, it has very little to do with depression and everything to do with economizing. I save my soap, shampoo, deodorant and razors for important days when I am going to come in physical contact with other human beings. I do brush my teeth twice a day, every day, but I only floss every other day. I am not bragging, I am not proud of my lapses in hygiene. But. It's my reality. I have to conserve my resources and use them only when necessary. One of my biggest fears is being called for an interview and not having soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste or tampons on the day of the interview. I am not exaggerating. This is a very real concern for me. I have turned down offers of dinners or other social outings because I had an interview later that week and only enough of one (or more) of those items to get me through interview day.
I won't say, "Sorry, friend, I'd love to take you up on that offer to see a movie, but I only have enough deodorant to get me through my interview Thursday. So there's no way I can go with you to a movie on Monday. But if we can go to the movie following my interview I can get more bang for my deodorant buck!" Nope, I won't say it.
I also won't let on that I wear the same clothes several days in a row to conserve on laundry, and I let my laundry pile really high before I do it because I'm trying to conserve on laundry detergent and laundry quarters. No one knows that I keep one bra in good working order to wear on interviews, while the rest of the time I wear bras that are held together with no less than two safety pins; or that my underwear is beyond embarrassing because I haven't bought new underpants in three years. I'll let you think about that for a minute.
I don't talk about this, mainly because it's no one's business and it's really embarrassing, but also because no one wants to know that's how bad
things really are. So I don't say anything about it.
But maybe I should. Maybe then my friends and family will realize what sort of life I'm living and the choices I'm forced to make.
I probably won't, nor will most unemployed/underemployed people, because we don't want pity or charity. We especially don't want people to feel guilty about what they
have just because we're
struggling. (Although, if you use $63/9 oz. bottle shampoo you might want to tuck it into the vanity when your unemployed friend visits, or when anyone
visits for that matter. I'm speaking from personal experience on this one. I squeezed out the last of my already watered down store brand shampoo to wash my hair before attending a party at a friend's house. When I used her bathroom I saw said $63/9 oz. bottle of shampoo perched in her shower. The differences between us came into very (very) sharp focus. I didn't resent her, I wasn't jealous of her shampoo or wealth, but, it did make me realize how very (very) different our lives are and that there's no way she'll ever truly understand what I'm going through.)
If you know someone who is unemployed/underemployed, here are a few suggestions to ease some daily anxiety for them.
When you go to Target or Walgreens or Costco, buy the multiple package of toiletries. Then put the extras in a bag and casually give them to your unemployed/underemployed friend. Be sure to say something like, "I had a great coupon and they were on sale," or "you know Costco, it was a great deal, but we'll never use all that shampoo/toothpaste/whatever." Trial/sample sizes are great, too.
The stuff doesn't have to be anything fancy. Just store brand or whatever's on sale will be hugely appreciated. But stick to unscented wherever possible. People who are interviewing do not want to use anything scented on the day of an interview. They just want to smell and look clean and fresh.
And (this is a huge and) do not presume/assume that just because someone who's unemployed/underemployed has moved in with parents/friends, or has a working spouse, that they don't need help. Yes, they have a roof over their head, but they're still trying to survive without their former income. They don't want
to mooch off parents/friends/spouses. They feel guilty for being a burden to others. They feel awful about themselves because they can't take care of themselves and are not contributing an equal share to the household. So anything
you offer them in the form of, "I had a coupon/these were on sale/we'll never use all this" will help them feel immensely more viable, whatever their household situation.
Items to consider:
- Dental Floss
- Soap/Body Wash
- Hand soap
- Disposable Razors
- Shaving Cream/Foam for guys
- Tampons/Pads for Women
- Hosiery - Socks for Men and Women, and Pantyhose for Women
- Lip Balm
- Contact Lens Solution
- Breath Mints (for interview day)
- Nail Files
- Band Aids
- Laundry Detergent
- Toilet Paper
- Dish Soap
If you really want to go the extra mile:
- Hand Lotion
- Facial Wash (those cleansing towel packs are often on sale BOGO, btw)
- Throat Lozenges
- Cold/Flu Symptom Relievers
- Hair Coloring Kit (if you know their shade or a reasonable
approximation, and yes, this goes for the fellas, too, especially guys
who are over 40 and interviewing in fields dominated by younger
- Household Cleaning Products (especially bathroom/kitchen cleaning products)
- Paper Towels
- Dryer Sheets
- Brita Filters
- Public Transportation Pass/Gas Card (to use to get to interviews)
- Prepaid Debit Card (to use for emergencies - like tampons or pantyhose or a new razor or underwear)
- A Hair Cut (I have a friend who trims my hair for me, but I hate imposing so I let it go as long as I possibly can. You would not believe how long my hair is these days simply because I can't afford haircuts and don't want to exhaust my friend's offer of hair trims. I cannot imagine what unemployed/underemployed people who don't have a friend who's handy with scissors do about their hair.)
- Dry Cleaning (of the interview clothes)
- A Roll of Quarters for Laundry (if applicable)
- For the ladies: Mascara, lip stick, foundation and concealer, but keep the colors neutral/basic. If you get a gift-with-purchase kit, give your friend the extras. (MAF keeps me stocked with makeup, samples, discontinued items, etc., and I cannot even begin to tell you how much this means to me. Makeup is expensive, even the basic drug store brands are pricy when you're unemployed. But a woman who shows up for an interview without wearing at least the basics, without looking like she at least put in a little effort, is, unfortunately, setting herself up for scrutiny beyond her job-related skills and personality. Not fair, but true.)
- If you have a BOGO deal for eyeglasses/contacts, instead of a second pair for yourself, offer it to your friend (presuming they have their prescription and don't have to pay for an exam).
- Toner Cartridges and Paper for their Printer (if you know what kind of printer they have) Everyone should take copies of their resume (printed) on interviews, and toner cartridges are pricy. (At the very least, occasionally offer your unemployed/underemployed friend the use of your printer. Say, "When you come over for dinner Tuesday, remember to bring any files you want to print, you can use our printer.")
- A class at your gym - this is a triple great option because your friend will get a social outing and some fitness, too, plus you'll get a workout buddy. Say something like, "My gym is going to have this new class I'd love to try but I'm chicken to go on my own, will you go with me? I'll pay for it."