Tuesday, October 11, 2011

White trash

Somehow I feel like the definition of white trash is very important to my personal lexicon.  After all, it is my self-identity.  What do I mean by it?  I mean that I startle people.  I mean that I experience sudden rage and lash out at people in socially unacceptable ways.  I mean that many of the things I like are demonstrably low class.

Uncle Bob, when I was a little kid, would spit out the car window when we drove past the house where the black guy lived.  That's all I knew about "the black guy" who lived in the canyon.  When I was in high school and I lived in Bakersfield I was accosted on the bus by a black girl who yelled at me that I was a racist because I was reading a book and giggling.  I think the only reason she didn't kick my ass is because my response to her yelling that I was a stupid bitch was to say, "Come on!  You haven't even met me.  Normally it takes someone at least five minutes to decide I am a bitch."  Her boyfriend said I was alright and to leave me alone.

I don't know why that story stays with me so much, but it does.

It's hard to talk about different things from my childhood happening because I know the stories are confused in my head.  I know they are confused because sometimes I know things happened when I was living in a certain house but I can't remember when I lived there.  I'm afraid of trying to take the pieces apart.  I'm afraid of trying to make this a real narrative.

I'm afraid of remembering something wrong, writing it down, and being called a liar.  I'm not lying.  I'm just trying to remember things that happened a long time ago.  I'm trying to string together why they are important.  Why is my life worth reading about?  It's kind of weird as I look at my over crowded bookshelf and think most of them are not better writers than me.  But they are published and I'm not.  I think that's the biggest difference.

I'm terrified of trying to publish.  I'm terrified that I won't have the drive to push it through.  I can't expect to be magically "discovered" and babied through the process.  I will have to make it happen.  I will have to shop around for an agent and a publishing house.  It scares the pants off me.  I am going to have to actually deal with being judged.  I'm not so good at that part.  I have to feel like this is really and truly honest to god worth doing.

It's hubris.  But I think people would... if not enjoy... then at least appreciate reading this story.  I think that even though a lot of people will hate me and revile me and say nasty things about me... I think somewhere there is a young girl who will get out of an incestuous family because of me.  Some day some girl is going to say, "You saved my life."

That's reason enough to do something hard and scary.  One life is enough.  Well, I've already saved mine.  I suppose by that metric it's enough.  But it's not.  I want to be a hero.  Ok, that made me smile.  I do, I want to be a hero.  I want to learn how to say just the right thing to make people know that no matter how bad you feel about yourself, there is hope.

I kind of hate Elizabeth Wurtzl.  I think Prozac Nation was a horrible book about mental illness.  I spent the entire book wanting to bitch slap her and tell her to stop whining about her cushy life.  For the record, should Elizabeth Wurtzl ever come read this... I wouldn't ever say that to you in real life.  Pain is pain.  But seriously dude you had an easier life than me and I'm allowed to be pissy in my blog about it.  It's not personal.

The reason it bothers me so much is because I have a hard time with pampered rich people who get to be depressed and non-functional.  I've been depressed most of my life and I've been more functional than most people.  Depression makes everything harder.  It doesn't make it impossible and it bugs the shit out of me when people say it does.  Ok, maybe it does for you.  I can't know what it is like to be in other peoples heads.  I know that I have not had the luxury of being non-functional while depressed.  I'm too busy surviving.  No, I wasn't happy, but so what?  Who the fuck was promised happiness or a good life?  Not me.

When people talk about how we should have universal health care I laugh.  It's not nice of me, but I do.  I feel like universal health care in this country is a pipe dream.  We have too many people.  Unless you, generic person who is espousing universal health care, want to go become a doctor and work pro bono for the rest of your life, how do you think that doctors should be paid for their time?  How should medical equipment be paid for and acquired?  Should everyone in America get to have million dollar surgeries when they get sick?

Money is finite and people die.  I think that even if America managed to get the basics covered, I would be opposed to absolutely across the board health care coverage.  I think we are all living too long.  Honestly.  I think that humans were meant to die a lot earlier than we do now and make room for new people.  I don't like most life saving operations.

My personal experiences with life saving operations gave me back Uncle Bob and Tommy.  I'm not sure either were good uses of money.  How do you say in the conversation about universal health care, "Actually the reason I oppose universal health care is I think they shouldn't have brought my brother back to life so he could beat me and attempt to rape me for nine more years.  The piece of shit should have been allowed to die when he was twelve and it was his fucking time."  How do you say that about your brother?  How do you form a political opinion that endorses other people dying?  Because I endorse my family and me dying in the same way.  I'm ok with it.  I've made my peace with death.  It will happen when it happens.  I don't want to cause my death right now, but I don't know that I would fight cancer.

Humans are meant to die.  I can't help but think that I'd rather die of whatever disease strikes me than miserable old age and being lonely.  I only want to live to be 80 if a million people will light a candle for me.  Otherwise, well, whenever it happens is ok.  That's life.

I think the only part of death that bothers me any more is knowing how devastating that will be for my family.  I cry and smile at the same time thinking about it.  Now there are people who would mourn.  It wouldn't be like Tommy's memorial up in Redwood Estates.  By the time he died he only had one friend outside our family because everyone else abandoned him.  People aren't nice to disabled kids.  He was an asshole too, but people aren't nice to those who are disabled.

I hear people talking about how things should be "fair".  To whom?  Why?  What the fuck makes you think that?  What does that even mean?  Does that mean everyone gets the bare minimum?  Does that mean everyone gets what they want?  I don't know.  I have an easier life than I've ever had.  I just went out and bought a bed last night for the garage so we have a more comfortable place to have sex.  That's fucking spoiled.  I don't know how to reconcile my unwillingness to share with the fact that I'm very willing to share.

I'm ok with paying high taxes.  I think we should.  I like roads and fire fighters and schools.  They should exist.  I like being the one who can give my friends financial support when they need it.  I feel kind of weird about the word charity but I give a ton of money away.  Only occasionally to organizations.  Mostly to individual people who need help.  It feels related to me.  If I am giving it to an individual person I know if I approve of how they are likely to use it.  I do give or not give based on my judgment.  I will admit that.  It also depends on how close to my monkey sphere someone is.  I can handle that.

It's kind of hard having a different opinion than most of my friends.  I feel like I should apologize.  When people get all huffy about human rights I want to laugh.  I think that I no longer have the same entitlement as my friends.  I don't believe I deserve good treatment.  I like it.  I want it.  I don't think it's about deserve.  Not really.

That said, if I win the lottery I am starting a domestic violence shelter.  I do believe that people should help people.  I feel weird about the government doing it.

Whenever people tell me that welfare fraud doesn't exist I laugh and laugh.  Bullshit.  It depends on what you mean by "fraud".  Are there people who get welfare and buy drugs instead of food.  Yup.  My sister did.  I'm tired of having my liberal, upper class friends talk about the poor as if they are some deserving group on the mist who should be cared for.

The poor are the people on the bus in your town you ignore.  The poor are the people with ill behaved children in the store that you glare at.  You think you are better than poor people.  Well, a lot of people in my social group do.  I am white trash because I am still fucking angry at all the rich people I hang out with.  I resent them.  I resent them for acting like I pass.  It doesn't matter how much money I have in the bank I will always feel like the dirty little girl you people walked by without meeting my eyes.

I am white trash because white trash take care of their own.  Near as I can tell middle class values are shit.  I have no respect for them.  It involves a lot of "being polite" for the sake of not ruffling feathers and blending in.  No thanks.  I don't blend in.  Not once I open my mouth.  These days not at all.  I love my hair.

(Err, uhm, disclaimer: I don't actually hate or resent my friends.  I have emotional issues.  I write about them because I'm trying to work through them not because I am trying to alienate people or say they suck.  I don't actually hang out with people I don't like.  I like my friends.  But I have mixed feelings about some of the things they say and do unconsciously.  That doesn't make them bad.)

I am white trash because I can't let the little classist and racist and feminist things go in conversation because I believe direct confrontation is preferable to being passive aggressive.  And I'm ok with shouting.  A lot.

I'm white trash because when I speak about myself in public people quickly dart their eyes away.  They can't look at me.  Not always, not everyone.  But the vast majority of people I meet.  I haven't met very many people in my life who can hear me talk out loud about incest and look me in the face without flinching.  I'm sure I shouldn't take that personally.  But I do.  Things that have happened to me mean that sometimes people can't look at me without flinching away.  I do that.  I can control whether or not that happens.  I can decide what to tell people.  I can decide to pass and be nice and middle class and stop making people flinch.

Only I can't.  Because I'm white trash.  Because I will always blurt things at uncomfortable times that make people flinch.  Because I will always be just a bit dirtier and worse and more disgusting than everyone around me.  Because who and what I am seems to be an affront to so.many.people.  I am white trash because I think it is sporting to warn people that if I think they are a fucking asshole I just might tell them so.  While I am visiting their house.  In another state.  I'm just kind of awesome that way.  I don't seem to be able to control my rage after a while.  I have to say that my outbursts have gotten way more socially acceptable over the years.  Yelling at Rebecca's dad was really rude, but he deserved it.  He was a twat.

Do you know why I blow up at people who are in authority?  Because blowing up at people in authority saved my life.  No.  That's not hyperbole.  Think about my parents.  Think about being brought into the world to parents who are ok with me being raped by every male member of my family.  I was born fighting.

That is why I am white trash.  Because I'm ok with that fight.  Because I accept that fight as being just life.  Because I don't think I deserve anything better.  Because I don't really think anyone else does either and fuck you if you think you deserve better treatment.  I did not god damn deserve being raped over and over and over.  But it happened.  I can't let it end my life.  I can't sit around and whine about how not fair life is.  If I had done that as a child I would have died.  There is no fair.  I did not deserve being raped.

How many times was I raped.  I try not to think about it.  I don't think I've had a number in my head for it in a long time.  Michael, Jeremy, I'm blanking on that guys name in high school.  Memories are awesome.  The guy that I met at Lauren's house.  The one I thought was safe.  The guy from the coast guard.  My dad with the gun.  My dad all those other times I can't count.  That's only five.  That's not so bad, right?  Oh, and Paul.  And countless times when I lay there and cried and didn't bother saying no.  That's been a lot of people.

I don't think that people understand that I take pride in being white trash.  I take pride in my strength.  It's gotten me a long way.  I will always disconcert people, I have no interest in being a different person.  That's the hard part.  I don't want to be anything other than who and what I am.  But people tell me I should.  I shouldn't call myself trash.  It's not nice.

Uhh, piss off.  Life isn't nice.  I can deal with that in the ways that work for me, thank you very much.  Life isn't nice and life isn't fair.  See, these are the things I don't want to say in an actual conversation with a friend.  When they tell me, "Oh don't call yourself that" I have to bite a hole in my tongue to not respond with, "Who the fuck died and made you the fucking arbiter of what I should mother fucking call myself?!"  It's not very nice.  And I try to be nice to my friends, mostly.  But I feel these things.  That's why I call myself white trash.  Because that is my emotional process around people telling me not to call myself white trash.  I want to cuss them out and say I will do so if I please.  And that's why I'm white trash.

Hm.  I'm not just trash.  I'm not and I know it.  I'm not garbage.  But I am a specific cultural construction that I refer to as white trash.  That's a useful way to think of it.  Gotta make breakfast.

1 comment:

  1. Why do you call yourself specifically *white* trash? It can sound weird and off-putting to people of color to hear that, because it carries the implication that just plain trash would of course refer to someone non-white. Obviously a life of rape and welfare fraud and Nice People not looking you in the eye isn't something that happens solely to white people. Is the part of your identity that includes your family's antagonism toward black people and a black girl's antagonism toward you sufficiently important that "white trash" is the right label?

    I don't normally comment anonymously but from everything you've said about your rage, I think that might be the way to go. What you're saying is interesting and that's why I've commented, but after having someone tell me on Facebook that my opinion on something didn't count because I can't trace my family back to the Mayflower like she can, I'm a little wary of setting off white girls who know my name.