Saturday, May 28, 2016

I Hate Money: Part 2

As I illustrated in Part I, people are often judged by how much money they make: If you're 35 and aren't financially independent, you're lazy; if you mention having Asperger's Syndrome, you're just using it as an excuse; ultimately, there is some low-hanging fruit that you've somehow missed.

Recently, I had another horrible situation involving money. I took my cat to the vet for his long-overdue annual checkup (on my parents' dime, no less), and the vet said she was concerned about my cat's teeth. He had gingivitis, and she felt that X-rays and maybe even extractions were in order. She quoted me at $850. I told her I'd see what I could do. My cat hadn't gotten any dental care in four years because I couldn't afford it, and he's had issues practically from day one. I didn't think I could ask my parents for the money-- one time when I asked for money for a dental cleaning for my cat, my parents got upset at me (I know now that they didn't realize that this was a chronic issue for my cat; they'd thought I just wanted to brush his teeth). I was very concerned because I know that dental problems can affect other systems, and even increase the risk of a heart attack.

I went home and looked around my apartment for anything I could sell to raise the money. I had a ton of DVDs, and if they would sell on eBay, I could raise the money. But the keyword is if. Very few people buy DVDs on eBay. Why do that when you can just buy it for less on iTunes or stream it for free on Netflix? I then decided to do something I've seen people on Facebook do a million times-- set up a GoFundMe. I set the cap at $700, with the intention of paying the final $150 myself-- I felt that I should take on as much of the financial burden as I could. I thought that at best two or three people would donate, and that when the donations didn't add up, I'd end up refunding them. But to my great surprise, $100 came in in one day. So I posted the link to the GoFundMe on my Facebook page twice a day every day. I set it, however, so that my mother and brother (who are both on Facebook) couldn't see it. I felt that this fundraiser just needed to be done, and I didn't want to deal with what I thought would be the standard lecture of, "You don't do that! It makes you look irresponsible!" or "Just posting it on Facebook will make people feel pressured!" or even, "What if potential employers stumble upon this when they Google your name? What would they think that says about you?"

The money came in, slowly but surely, but it wasn't without any backlash. I asked a few people in direct messages-- in most cases during a conversation, rather than a sudden message from me with the query-- and I was careful as to how I phrased it. Rather than saying, "Can you donate to this?" or something to that effect, I said, "Would you be interested in helping me with this? If not, that's OK." One friend said, "I wouldn't have a cat that I couldn't afford." Then she got upset and said that her parents would never pay her rent like mine do for me and that they hold her to higher standards. Because life has been so shitty for me for the past three years, that hit me pretty hard. The implication seemed to be that I was a spoiled kid from rich parents who just gave her money whenever she wanted it, and didn't expect her to pull her weight. This is absolutely not the case. Ultimately, my friend and I talked it out, and she apologized profusely, saying that she'd been having some problems of her own lately and that I'd caught her at a bad time. She eventually donated. Although my friend said what she said when she was having a bad moment (it happens to us all; she is a good friend and very kind otherwise), it made me wonder if what she seemed to imply was true. It sucks to have to think that way.

I also run a Meetup group. I sent an email to the group telling them about the GoFundMe. I started it with, "I know this is a bit unorthodox, but..." and, of course, said, "If you would rather not donate, that's OK too." I sent this message three times in the period of a month. On the third time, a woman responded by reading me the riot act, using loaded words like "egregious", chastising me for my "brazen gall", saying that she was "flabbergasted by [my] audacity", and that I was "abusing [my] role as a leader." Then she said that she went to my GoFundMe page and was suspicious by how many people from the Meetup had donated (it was 4 people out of 22 total donors). When I finally told her I had Asperger's and, in the heat of the moment, said, "Clearly my social skills and judgment are shitty", she said, "Excuses, excuses." Thankfully, she left the group.

I then emailed someone who'd just donated literally moments before to make sure she hadn't felt pressured. She said that she hadn't felt pressured, and then said that she donated because she doesn't like to see animals suffering. Then she went on to tell me that I was irresponsible for not having pet insurance (which, incidentally, is incredibly expensive).

For the record, I hate asking people for money. I even hate asking my parents for money. I did this GoFundMe because I didn't know what else to do, and I didn't want to have to worry about my cat having some long-term health problem that would cost thousands of dollars or that would kill him. I would never have asked for donations to, say, pay off a credit card or to buy the latest iPhone. The irony is, that when I finally did tell my parents, their response was, "Why didn't you just come to us?" As I mentioned before, I thought that it would upset them. I'm glad to say that I was wrong. I'm also glad to say that they thought there was nothing wrong with me doing a fundraiser: If people don't want to donate, they don't donate. My parents, if anything, were upset at the people who judged me and spoke to me with self-righteous indignation.

As you can see in this blog post and its predecessor, I have been judged in a variety of ways for not being financially independent. In most cases, the other people didn't know what I have been going through, except in the case of Chris, who knew but wrote it off as me not trying. I have this to say: Walk a mile in my shoes before making such harsh judgments.

As for my cat, he had the procedure yesterday. He had four extractions. A frivolous fundraiser, indeed!

I Hate Money: Part I

Whoa! Sorry for the long lapse in posts. Life has been pretty hectic and stressful lately. That said, I hate money.

Yes, I hate money. I hate how much money dominates our day-to-day decisions. I hate the fact that I don't have enough of it to make ideal day-to-day decisions. But more than anything, I hate how people are judged by how much of it they have. And for the past two months in particular, I've been under a lot of stress related to such judgments.

 I have a Master's Degree and I'm lucky if I can land a job that pays $13.00 per hour. Welcome to the world of living with being a woman who has Asperger's Syndrome. Right now I'm taking web development classes in hopes of becoming a web developer and finally, finally, FINALLY becoming financially independent, but it's been a real uphill climb. In the meantime, I had a falling out with an old friend, and a lot of it had to do with judgments based on how much money I make.

To be fair, the "friend", who I'll call Chris, was never someone I felt close to. I only saw him about once a year (he lives in Connecticut) and I found I could only take him in small doses. He, too, is on the autism spectrum, and the honest truth is that I generally don't get along with autistic men. In general, for reasons that are not yet understood (one hypothesis has to do with prenatal testosterone levels), autistic women and men present very differently, almost as if they're speaking two profoundly different languages. I just don't find that I can be on the same wavelength as them. But that's just me, and I hope this isn't perceived as a judgment call about autistic guys. Anyway, about Chris: He is a web developer, and he most likely makes a ton of money. I don't know how much, but obviously enough that he has no problem sneering at those who don't.

Last year on Facebook, Chris said that those who have Obamacare -- knowing full well that I have it -- are lazy. Then he said nothing while one of his friends chewed me out and told me to stop sucking Uncle Sam's teat. After the whole thing blew over, I decided to write it off as him being autistic (he is much, much more profoundly autistic than I am) and not realizing how he came across. But the personally insulting posts-- while not necessarily directed at me-- went on. I began to seriously consider unfriending Chris in every sense of the word when he posted a status that said something like, "I'm sorry I've ever heard of autism. I know at least three people who use it as an excuse for not being successful." I called him on it, reminding him that both of us went to art school (which is where we met) and this aspect threw a monkey wrench into things for me. Then he asked me, "Well why was your friend Flora successful?" (Flora is a friend who has had a very successful animation career). Then he asked me about a film that I had started several years ago but "refused to finish." His words, not mine.

Once again, it blew over. But I was extraordinarily upset that Chris, who used to be the kind of person who'd give the shirt off his back for anyone who needed it, was judging me for not being financially stable like he is. He's even left posts that he thinks people who can't afford health care should be left to die. In short, he has become a right-wing libertarian, and is starting to sound like Donald Trump.

The straw that broke the camel's back came about a month ago when Chris posted on Facebook, "Why do people with Asperger's seem like they are either the smartest people in the room or they are not only annoying and obsessive (while failing at life in so many ways), but actually love being that way?" Again, I don't think he was necessarily directing that at me, but it hit me pretty hard. He knows I've been struggling for a very long time, and he knows that I feel like a failure. Once again, I called him out on it. He essentially shrugged it off. I didn't unfriend him on a whim; I sat on it a week before doing so. I think I'm pretty reasonable; if he contacted me to try to work it out, I would be willing to listen. But he hasn't done so, and I feel that I'm well-rid of him. And I have no reason to feel guilty. He has plenty of friends, and is even engaged. Who knows, maybe this woman has been a bug in his ear.