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Discussing Your Broke-Ass Lifestyle Without Scaring Your Family

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Recently, I gave my grandma a jingle to thank her for the desperately-needed cash that she sent to me for my birthday. Little did I know that my 80 year old granny has been reading this Goddamn Website! I mean, she lives in LA, chain smokes, goes to galleries, and wears cool shades– so in actuality she is probably The Original Hipster– but I was still surprised that she even knows how to turn on a computer. Our phone conversation turned to my broke-ass lifestyle, starting with this gem from the Laven family matriarch:

“You know, I really enjoy reading your articles, because I learn things about you that I wouldn’t otherwise know. Like, you’re not a lesbian, and you like that celebrity who was in the movie about chocolates.”

After about 20 minutes of me listing off every celebrity who has ever been in a film about chocolates, and a discussion of what this mystery celebrity looks like (“He’s not as good-looking as Brad Pitt, but not as ugly as Buscemi”), I realized that good ol’ granny was talking about Tom Hanks (“I like when he dances on the piano.”).

While my apparently-surprising heterosexuality and love of the King of Everymen are indeed embarrassing, they can really only be qualified as personal quirks, and not aspects of broke-assness. However, I also constantly find myself sugarcoating my impoverished state when speaking to my parents and grandparents over the phone. I mean, they already think that I am a gay Bosom Buddies aficionado– I can’t have them thinking that I am one step up above a hobo as well. Here are some lines I’ve fed to my elders to save my poor-girl reputation from becoming “oh, poor me”:

1) “We live in a railroad-style apartment. It’s fun because we’re like sisters.”
Translation: I share an apartment with an alcoholic loudmouth who moved in her boyfriend without telling me. They live off of a diet that consists solely of processed meats, and I am constantly awoken at 4am to the sounds and smells of Vienna sausages frying in a pan. The gap between our shared wall acts as a funnel for sound, amplifying the constant stream of Law and Order: CI, ghetto death threat-peppered lover’s quarrels, and Vienna sausage farts occurring on the other side.

2) “My roommate is just so… edgy.”
Translation: I share an apartment with an alcoholic loudmouth who moved in her boyfriend without telling me (yup, another one.). She is a bulimic/animal hoarder/drug addict/squatter with violent tendencies and tons of bad tattoos. I may say that she’s “edgy,” but I’m really afraid that she’s going to push me over the edge (or, you know, kill me or whatever).

3) “I’ve lost weight because I walk so much. New York is great!”
Translation: I live off a diet of taco truck burritos and whatever brand of ice cream is on sale this week.

4) “I thought I’d try choppy bangs because they are quirky-cute. You know, like the movie Amelie.”
Translation: I can’t afford a real haircut and have the shakes.

5) “My job as an office temp is a good step toward the fashion job I’ve always dreamed of.”
Translation: The only similarity between the mind-melting data entry I’m doing and my glittery fashion dreams is that both jobs take place inside of offices. Instead of listening to Miu Miu clogs clomp around all day, I listen to the sound of my boss’s s Casual Friday flip flops (which, fortunately, are so loud that I know when to Ctrl + M from a mile away).

They say that you can’t polish a turd, but, my friend, you can polish a broke-ass. Granny’s old and fragile, you don’t want to scare her with tales of dipping into your laundromat quarter stash to buy a slice of pizza. Of course, if your grandma is hip like mine, she’ll just find you in cyberspace and dig up all of your dirty secrets anyway. But when I make that occasional phone call, I will continue to spit-shine my empty-pocketed lifestyle– after all, I wouldn’t want my grandma to fall and break her ass (or hip) worrying about me being a broke-ass.

Photo credit:  Lee Martinez

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Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven - Pretty Penniless

Carrie Laven is a natural-born storyteller from California, but she
lives in New York now. She likes dogs, nail art, and Mexican food,
but mostly she likes scoring sweet deals at thrift stores. She tends
to have a flair for the dramatic.