Being poor, not enough clothes, and the emergence of a system

By Dawn Shuler

woman dress black and white_smallGrowing up, I lived in the worst part of Irving, Texas.  Before I could drive, I babysat for my biology teacher and his family, and as he brought me home for the first time, he remarked, “I didn’t even know there were houses back here.”

I was beyond embarrassed and shamed.  I knew exactly what he meant and what he was too kind to say.

It was what you might picture of a white trash neighborhood:  rusted out junk cars all over the yards, trash piling up on porches and spilling out in the yard, dogs and goats (yes, goats) wandering around.  To be fair, there were a couple of houses that were nicely kept up, but they were an exception.

My parents did their best as well: keeping the house painted when it started to peel, planting marigolds in the front yard, keeping the grass mowed, and no stowing of trash on the property.

But like most everyone else on this street, we didn’t have much money. Each school year, I got one pair of jeans, one shirt, and one pair of shoes.  So as I started to work (babysitting, then at a pizza joint, a deli, finally at a drug store), most of my money went to buy clothes. (I am a girly girl.)

I still didn’t have a ton of clothes, and I was sure that if I showed up at school wearing something I had just worn two days ago, everyone would notice, and would know that we had no money.

That was one of many secrets I didn’t want anyone to know.  (I’ve had some work to do.)

So, I created a system.  🙂  I had a two-week schedule of my outfits so that I didn’t repeat any one outfit in a two-week period at school. Even if I loved something, it had to wait until the proper time for me to wear it again.

This is probably the earliest system I created that I can remember.  🙂

Nowadays, of course, I really don’t give a shit if I wear the same thing twice in a row (unless I’m going to see all the same people).  Although I do find it funny now that I’m speaking more and more, I do pay attention to if I’m showing up wearing the same thing event after event.  But that’s vanity, not because I’m afraid of what people will think of my financial situation.

By the way, that street in Irving looks like a street in a ghost town; most of the houses don’t even exist. You can barely see the small change on the edge where a driveway used to be.  It’s actually creepy seeing these plots of lands where houses used to sit, and how much nature has taken over.  While it’s a good thing as there was a lot of stuck, bad energy in that neighborhood, it’s almost shocking that very little remains as any kind of testament that humans and families lived there.