Six years ago, I said my vows, slipped rings on fingers, declared a commitment for richer or poorer–only expecting the richer, not the poorer.
According to the Heritage Foundation and the GOP, we married women are far better off than our single mother counterparts. If we have children, our children thrive under our economic stability. We pay for our next meal and several others by waltzing up and down the grocery store aisles and choosing the food options that we want. Never giving thought if we can afford our free range, cage free, all organic chicken. Since we are married, we should only be concerned about how rich we will be at retirement because marriage is the cure-all for economic downfall, poverty, and the clogged kitchen sink. So, I would love someone to explain this to me:
Why am I poorer now as a married, educated woman than I was when I was single?
When I said these vows, I envisioned a life trajectory in which our earthly, monetary stuff would increase exponentially. But it hasn’t. When the 2008 financial collapse devastated so much of our nation’s wealth, we were affected too. For the past four years, we have agonized over money spent on food, gas, car payments. This wasn’t the richer that I imagined. I grew up penny-pinching, scraped by on a Christian school teacher’s meager salary, and marriage should have been a step up, a raise in income. But I was wrong.
Of course, education, when combined with marriage, should bring me financial independence. Being a life-long learner, I enrolled in graduate school, worked full-time teaching, graduated with honors. Again, the future looked bright and lovely–a new wealthier future. I applied to my dream jobs, an artful resume and CV designed to impress. Waited and waited and waited, only to receive rejection letters, our school can’t fund the position, someone else is better than you. Again, I saw only the glimmer of better days but now suffered the crushing weight of reality.
Marriage will not cure poverty. This oversimplification only allows us to ignore the broken systems that produce poverty.
We cling to broken systems because it is too much work to come together and fix them. Of course, we tell the poor to get a job or go back to school. Perhaps, we tell ourselves this also as we struggle to balance budgets. So we burden ourselves with guilt, with student loans and interest payments, with sleepless nights praying that the foreclosure notices don’t come tomorrow. We rest our hopes in these system that should protect us, but our hopes fail. Maybe, we will pick ourselves up, try to mend the fabric of our society destroyed by political pandering. We will yell and protest and shout the gender and racial stereotyping in our legal system. Perhaps, we donate our time to the food bank because it is the only way we can get food. Once we are wrecked by our well-regulated systems, we start doing something about them.
What is truly sad is we only care about fixing these systems once we get screwed over by them.
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