Broke Navigating Bougie Worlds
Being broke is trendy.
Yes, read that again because *Nene Leakes voice* I said what I said: being broke is trendy. There has been a rising trend since 2013 to shop at thrift stores like Good Will to look ‘vintage’ and ‘unique” to create a one-of-a-kind look that will be the perfect Instagram post topped off with a Visco cam filter. This of irritation begins to boil and run through me when I see the students of my PWI at our local village discount scourging the aisles looking for the next “it” outfit that diverges from the everyday Zara and H&M fast fashion of their peers. While this does seem like a small complaint, the affects of having students and people whose family makes six figures or more a year shopping at these places has caused the prices within the stores to increase. Not to mention this new idea of broke “being in” has been diminished the struggles of what actual poor people experience.
I’m here to tell you being broke isn’t cute, it’s not fun and you truly can’t (and don’t want to) relate to the memes.
Being low-income is a constant state of worry. I worry if I’ll be able to have a meal everyday, I worry if people can see the rips in my clothing because after paying rent I have no leftover income to even thrift, I worry about being able to afford just to live. I know that even a ten dollar deficit could mean the difference between me being in my apartment or homelessness. What broke really looks like, behind the coping mechanism of things like memes, is stress, depression and constant hustle. Seeing my classmates or even friends complain about being “broke” because they’re in college has me ruminating in bitterness, because while they themselves may be broke they’re families who support them aren’t. That’s not to say that there aren’t students in college who are broke and generationally so but they aren’t who I’m speaking upon. There’s also some of my black peers who appropriate the struggles of low-income black folk for their college essays, scholarships and to make it seem like this makes them more “authentically” black but that’s another piece for another day.
I’m not expecting people to stop thrifting, making memes or jokes. I want people to understand that there are people who don’t get to decide when they get to be poor, when you’ve been in that state your whole life it doesn’t become sexy enough to spread on a Rookie Mag poster. My broke is destructive, it isolates and breaks me with the weight of helplessness that comes from it. My broke seethes with guilt at any time I have to ask for help because I know I can’t make it this month. My broke reminds me everyday that I can’t burden my family because they’re also trying to survive.
So the next time we try and sexy up poverty, the next time we try and commercialize something that takes years off of people’s lives, the next fucking time you say “broke college problems” understand that the reality isn’t as light as you make it. This is something that I wouldn’t wish upon my worst enemy and I pray for the day looking like and being broke for “aesthetic” dies out.