Monthly Archives: November 2009

Think – don’t feel – before you buy

Image credit: Roger Dodger: Everett Collection

(Sorry I couldn’t find this on video anywhere.  Instead, you get to read the transcript of a scene between awkward and innocent teenager Nick and his womanizing, clueless — but here, very insightful — uncle Roger, from the movie “Roger Dodger.”)

NICK: What do you do all day?

ROGER: What do I do all day?  What do I do all day?  I sit here and think of ways to make people feel bad.

NICK: I thought you wrote for commercials.

ROGER: I do, but you can’t sell a product without first making people feel bad.

NICK: Why not?

ROGER: Because it’s a substitution game.  You have to remind them that they’re missing something from their lives.  Everyone’s missing something, right?

NICK: Well, yeah.  I guess.

ROGER: Trust me.  And when they’re feeling sufficiently incomplete, you convince them that your product is the only thing that can fill the void.  So instead of taking steps to deal with their lives, instead of working to root out the real reason for their misery, they run out and buy a stupid-looking pair of cargo pants.

Nick looks down and shifts his hands inside the pockets of the pair of cargo pants he’s wearing.

NICK: So … is it fun?

ROGER: It can be.

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In the ultra-good bargain days between November 28, 2008, and January 31, 2009, I behaved badly.  I spent $283.62 on stuff I’m now sure I didn’t need.

A total of $156.34 went to stores in my neighborhood that were going out of business.  I don’t feel the least bit guilty for the $81.90 I spent on gospel CDs and bible study guides at a Christian bookstore that was closing, and I’ve made excellent use of the hand mixer and bed skirts that Linens n Things was practically giving away.  The DVDs from Circuit City have kept me entertained on my many nights spent inside, and they have assisted me in the film dissection and script analysis I’m supposed to use to improve my own screenplays, so I guess about 90 percent of the going out of business sale purchases were worth the money.  (The curtains from Linens n Things haven’t worked out so well.)

I spent the remaining $127.28 on a DVD from a store still doing great business, especially now that Circuit City is gone, a pair of sexy green suede boots, a related green purse, a comfy pair of loafers perfect for ushering, the biggest, warmest, most comfortable fleece sweatshirt in the world, a pair of yoga pants, and about $31 on some other clothing items I couldn’t point out in my closet today.

I can’t even recollect those items now, and yet they and the rest of the items in my shopping season shopping spree seemed so important at the time.  I think about them now because, while I don’t long to be among the throngs of shoppers in Black Friday lines or among those clicking a Cyber Monday mouse, I wish I could do more than what I currently can.  I wish my 20-dollar moisturizer hadn’t run out the same day my mom gave me $20 to do something enjoyable.  I wish I weren’t dipping into my savings account to cover the expense of overdue repairs on my car.  I wish I were finished paying Sallie Mae, or that I had the guts to default on my student loans like most people do.  I wish premiums for health insurance plans that don’t cover pre-existing conditions cost the same amount that they’re worth.

I don’t know why I had extra cash this time last year, and even if I hadn’t spent any of it, life probably would have happened and I would have spent the money in a different way.  Another “why” is more important: Why did I feel the need to purchase anything?

As I said, I can justify almost all of it.  But the sexy green boots and related purse bother me to this day.  (I’m sure it’s no coincidence that the boots were the most expensive single item that I bought this time last year, or perhaps even for the entire year – other than furniture.)  I remember waking up one morning obsessed with green boots.  I instinctively knew what store would have them.  I instinctively knew that they would be on sale.  But what makes a woman who doesn’t go out that often think that her life is incomplete without a pair of sexy green boots?

Now, I have nothing against enjoying material things or against supporting the people who have to endure this great season as retail employees.  It’s just that I think Time writer Barbara Kiviat made a good point in her recent critique of big bargains.  She “realizes that part of what got us [into recession] was overspending, and that that overspending was fostered by a shopping culture that uses cheap goods to hook people on feeling like they’re winning at something.”

Maybe if I had spent more time in the books and study guides I bought, I wouldn’t have felt the need for anything else that came after it.  Perhaps if everyone “took steps to deal with their lives” or “worked to root out the real reason for their misery,” fewer of us would (still) be living life laid off.

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Economy, Lifestyles, money

New cancer screening recommendations suck

I’m not even going to try to link this to living life laid off.  It’s my blog, and I’m going to use the space to vent.

Maybe if the new recommendations for the frequency of mammograms and pap smears hadn’t come on the heels of the Stupak Amendment, or if I weren’t a feminist or if I weren’t a black female, I wouldn’t feel like women, and especially black women, were under attack, but that is the order of things, and that’s my feeling.  Limit women’s access to abortion, have them cut back on the frequency of tests that could save their lives and send the over all message that they should pay less attention to their own bodies.

The message is archaic and ridiculous, and its juxtaposition against the health care debate is highly suspect.  A report on Good Morning America Friday morning said that insurance companies have already received a barrage of calls from women concerned that their insurance providers will no longer pay for the tests they’ve been used to getting annually.  For now, insurance companies have said they will follow the old guidelines and keep covering the tests every year.  But what about a year or two from now?  The cost of health care keeps going up in the U.S., and if you’ve ever had a pre-existing condition or been dropped from your insurance coverage after you get sick, you know insurance companies are looking for ways to cut costs.  But if prevention costs less than treatment, cutting the costs by cutting measures used to detect disease in its earliest stages doesn’t make sense to me.

For women in general, the new guidelines are dangerous because they narrow the gate by which we enter the doctor’s office.  I don’t see my doctor very often.  I have a pap smear every year, and unless something else is wrong within the year, I don’t see her in between pap smears.  But as she talks to me before I strip and put my feet in the stirrups, other issues come up.  They could be about my physical, emotional or sexual health.   The issues could be about fatigue, diet, relationships, exercise, vitamins, unusual patterns in urination or problems that I’m having with other health care providers who aren’t as informative as she is.  When I saw her in 2008, just before I lost my job, she and the billing department in her office were able to tell me what they knew about what to do for insurance while unemployed.  Each year, we cover a lot of ground in about 15 minutes, and if there is anything unusual, I get tested for it.

The problems I bring up to her are usually minor and easily traced to changes in circumstances or diet.  But the point is I bring them up.  If I follow the guidelines released last week on getting pap smears, I probably won’t see her but once every three years.  And those minor concerns that come and go and that are probably nothing but that could very well be something that will slip through the cracks.

For black women in particular, the new guidelines are dangerous because we’re more likely to die.  Earlier this year, the American Cancer Society estimated that about 192,370 new cases of breast cancer would be diagnosed in American women in 2009.  There’s a higher rate of breast cancer among white women over age 40, but a higher incidence of the disease among younger black women and a higher rate of death from breast cancer among black women, which may be because black women tend to get more aggressive forms of breast cancer.

Also, black women tend to be poorer, have less access to affordable health care, go to the doctor less often and have higher incidents or death rates of almost every disease than white women.  To now have guidelines that instruct black women to wait even longer to see their doctors makes it too easy for us to put our health on the back burner.  How many times does, “I’ll do it next week,” turn into next month, next year, and finally never?  How easily can not until you’re 21, not until you’re 50, every three years, every other year, I don’t have to do that until, or I’m too young to be worried about that, turn into death?

My issues with the new recommendations continue in a related article.

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Love while living life laid off 2 – Is looking for love worth it when you’re unemployed?

By Mariam Williams

Last week, as I was deleting my inactive profile from an online dating website I hadn’t visited in almost a year, I noticed this poll in the top right-hand corner of the page:

poll on dating in recession

And here are the results:

poll on dating in recession answers

It should be no surprise that 46% of respondents said, “It has no impact on my attitude about dating,” given that the poll was posted on a dating website.  It was, however, something of a relief to me.  Sort of.

As you could probably tell from the first screenshot, I checked, “I would be less motivated to date.” My situation could be an example of karma in action.  For as long as I can remember, even several years before I actually started dating, I had a deal-breaker in my selection criteria: whatever he brings to the table must be equal to or greater than what I bring to the table.  As a teenager, that meant that at the very least, he was goal-oriented, had a 3.9 GPA and had college aspirations.  In college, the criteria was similar, but I learned that terms like “growing Christian” and “godly leader” had to be at the top of the list.  That decreased the prospects somewhat, but still, I was surrounded by potential mates.   And yet, the only man on campus (and maybe even in the whole city) who ever asked me out was one serving food in the buffet line of the residence halls’ food court. I didn’t bother to ask about his faith.  Top-tier-private-school-educated woman that I was becoming at the time, I wouldn’t date him.

If you’ve kept up with this blog for a while, you know I haven’t had much full-time work or made very much money since I graduated from college. And by living in a state where only about one-third of the population has a college degree, demanding equal to or greater than is unrealistic.  But I still want it.  So much so that even this recession hasn’t affected my belief that giving my number to someone who is unemployed is a waste of breath.  So much so that within the past year I have said, “I wouldn’t date me right now.”

I’ve been incredibly industrious in the past year and by no means idle.  I’m a woman of noble character, a loyal friend, a multi-talented artist, and a fine example of God’s interest in beauty, and none of that has changed due to my employment status.  But despite that last sentence, my confidence has waned a little.  I’ve had to ask myself, “What can I really bring to the table?” And I’ve had to reevaluate what I require of someone else.

Unemployment has struck people in all occupations, at all levels of education and at all pay levels.  The maximum benefit in Kentucky is $415 per week, so everyone’s income is closer to equal than it was when we were full-time employees, but does that mean I should accept the advances of the high school drop-out who was laid off from the city government’s street-sweeping staff?  And if I meet an attorney who’s still making six figures, is that now too much greater than?  I’ll be his intellectual peer, but what happens when we go to a party and his friends ask, “What does your girlfriend do for a living?”

I’ve been told that men don’t care about such things.  When I began my subscription to the dating website, I lived in my mother’s house, and I dreaded having to disclose that information.  I was told not to worry about it, since that scenario is always tolerable for a woman but never for a man once he graduates from college.

But it bothered me, probably a little bit more than my employment status does now.  See, I at least want to look like I can take care of myself.  The Proverbs 31 woman is, after all, an investor and merchant who has her stuff together.  I want to be able to be the 21st Century woman who offers to pay, but what if he’s okay with that?  For one of my aunts, that means he’s not getting a second date.  For me, it means I’m short 30 bucks that I need, and I mean need, for something else.  And if he’s also unemployed, where do we go for a date anyway?

It’s not just the money.  It’s the uncertainty that comes with unemployment that makes it difficult.  That feeling of not knowing when things will get better.  That thought that maybe you’re not doing all that you can to help your own situation.  The frustration with the pile of rejection letters.  The burden of worry, the daily grind of job-hunting, the need to concentrate on your own needs, right now, that makes you self-centered.  The self-centeredness that makes you a bad mate.

If I meet that attorney, will I start to feel worse about my own situation because he’s so successful?  Will my resentment come out as mistreatment and ruin the relationship?  Is a relationship worth getting into when you’re living life laid off?  Take the polls and leave your comments below.

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© Mariam Williams, aka The Pink-Slipped Girl, and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off, 2009. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mariam Williams and The Pink Slip Blog – Living Life Laid Off or http://livinglifelaidoff.com, with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.  Any use and/or duplication of any photo contained within this blog without express and written permission from Mariam Williams is strictly prohibited.

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Filed under Dating and Relationships, Lifestyles, Unemployment