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!