Tuesday, July 12, 2016

A Privileged Life

Can it be true? Because if so, my mood is seriously out of sync with my reality.

Yeah? I thought I would score at least an 80—after all, I’m a white male. Hey, that should account for something, right? But either the test is screwy, or I’m not getting something. Because question after question asked about things that, yes, put me ou8t of the mainstream.

Religion, for example. Has anyone tried to convert me to his or her beliefs? Well, yeah, but that never seemed too big a deal to me. And has anyone in the workplace imposed his or her beliefs on me? Again, yes—there was that very beautiful, and very life-sized crèche that appeared one Christmas in the Human Resources department at Walmart. But no worries—I spoke to the director of the department, and it vanished. (Now that I’ve been laid off, I’m sure it’s a regular fixture each year….) OK—and I was sufficiently open with my students that one of them took me aside, and told me that the rumors were spreading that I was an atheist.

“What rumors,” I asked, “I am an atheist!”

All right—I’m a little lacking in the religion department….

Then, of course, there’s sexuality, and I was expecting that. Yes, people have called me a fag, I was once chased down a street in Boston (I have long legs—something that arguably is a privilege, or at least it seemed so at the time—so again, no worries). Discrimination in the workplace? Nothing overt that I can point a finger to, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Put it this way—being gay didn’t help.

Money? Well, I’ve felt poor, and not, at the same time. I remember those days of having less than 500 bucks in the bank—but I also had a job, and I felt secure there. Granted, I was underemployed, and definitely underpaid, but I also had a long-term relationship, and he was doing great. And no, I’ve never worried about being able to afford a doctor’s visit, or gone to bed hungry.

Are my parents alive?  Seemed like a dumb question, though I suppose that having live parents might be a boon (assuming, of course, they were any good at parenthood). Anyway, I’m six months short of 60, so having live parents is both unlikely and, perhaps, a distinct disadvantage (my father would be 107, and almost certainly in terrible shape….)

Right, so then we came to illnesses, specifically mental illnesses. Depression? Check! Suicidal ideation? Check! Actual suicide attempts? Fortunately, no. But still, it weighed against me.

What was odd was what wasn’t on the test. Physical health, for example—which, despite high blood pressure, has been remarkably good. And having been in severe pain, recently, I have a renewed appreciation for having lived so many years without disability.

The questionnaire—if I remember correctly—asked if I had grown up in a house without a television. Well, yeah—but only because my parents preferred reading. Oh, and in those days, there was a hill between them and the local PBS station, which made transmission spotty. So what was the point?

It was, I suppose, an unusual household. Yes, you always had to lift your feet, every time you drove over a puddle, but that wasn’t the point. The point was that there was a cello in the back seat, and my father was driving me to a rehearsal of the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra.

And then, of course, there was the fact that I had a father at all. And that he was there, driving me around, and not somewhere else. Oh, and he taught me a lot: how to treat bank presidents and janitors, for example (hint—the same). How to look at every side of an issue. Oh, and how to hate, just hate, the bastards who get away with shit.

Maybe it’s true that I’ve been or am underprivileged. Both of my brothers, when my mother was fasting to her death, told me essentially the same thing: I had had a harder life than they.    

At the time I dismissed the idea, then I began to see how it could be true. Then I began to wonder: well, so what? Maybe my life had been harder, and maybe other people—brothers included—had had it easier. But I had never felt unduly unprivileged; in fact, I thought I was, for the most part, supremely lucky.

Think the test is bogus!