I lost my job in 2009. I never applied for unemployment...(at least, not before I no longer qualified for it). I've therefore never been counted in the BLS statistics. I was never a first time applicant for UI benefits. I was never a 99'er. I never made it onto the rolls, and never dropped off of the rolls. Nobody has ever called my household, as part of the Household Survey, to ask me any questions about what I'm doing, or how we get by. I'm invisible. I don't exist. I didn't exist before, and I sure as hell don't exist now. My wife, as much as I love her, finally came to the same conclusion. There's no future in me. I can't blame her for coming to that conclusion. I'm only surprised it took her this long.
It is a funny thing...no matter how much you anticipate the other shoe falling, it always catches you by surprise when it finally does. My wife called a realtor last week. She has decided to sell the house. It's her house...she bought it before I met her and married her. When we did marry, she and I would be the first to admit that we did so out of convenience. We both had a couple of marriages under our belts (though, if we're keeping score, she had three)...and neither of us were in any way laboring, at that stage of our lives, under any romantic burden of ideal love. I was working, and she wasn't. I had medical benefits that I could, for a slight nominal fee, extend to her. She had (has) medical issues that were costing her through the nose. It only made sense. Once I lost my job...I lost my ability to provide. I don't want to suggest that that was all I ever meant to her. I know that's not the case. But at some point, a person cuts their losses. And she is cutting hers. It's not unexpected, but neither is it captured in any of the countless statistics compiled by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
An unemployed man, who was never counted among the unemployed, who grew discouraged and dropped out of the labor force, but never got counted in that group either. I exhausted my savings before I exhausted my pride...and when I finally applied for UI I was told I had waited too long, and they didn't have any record of earnings within the previous 3 quarters upon which to base an unemployment benefit. When I suggested, then, that they just give me the minimum...they said they couldn't do that either.
The problem with a marriage built upon convenience is that the day not only might, it probably will, arrive when it no longer seems convenient. Things can change, as Don Henley wrote, in a New York Minute.
How did I manage to squander my life? How did I manage to take the White Privilege (a term much beloved here) that I was born into, and turn it into shit? How did I become the loser that I am? I don't know.
When I met my future and current wife, she was 53 years old. She was no longer able to work, due to her traumatic brain injury. It didn't affect her ability to converse, or read, or her intellect in any way. Just her ability to do certain things. Reading and following a recipe, for example, was and is pretty much outside of here scope. Ask her about history, or etymology (she speaks four languages) or politics, and she's as sharp as a tack.
She also smokes dope like it's going out of style. When I first met her she was traveling to downtown Portland and cruising the riverfront whenever she was in need of pot...hooking up with whomever was selling. Mind you, Portland's riverfront is not a particularly seedy scene...it is a green space that is frequented by all kinds of people...including those who sell pot. She took me there once, before we married, and I watched her roam up and down the waterfront until someone approached her and asked if she was looking to buy some weed.
It was not a good experience for me. In my White Priviledged experience this was not the way you bought pot. I found her a source through a friend where she didn't have to go through that dance. For a 50 something woman to go through that for a half ounce was just bullshit. There were times when she was followed...and there were times when she found a stranger she thought was a good source, who she allowed to come to her house, and who ripped her off.
I determined to ween her off of buying on the street...I knew I would never ween her off of buying, though. One accepts those things. I found her a good, safe, reasonable source. The funny thing is that I don't smoke. Pot, that is.
When we met, I was able to facilitate things. Pay for things. Bring some value to the relationship. I was working, and things were good. We were never living the high life, but we were living the life, and all was good. When I lost my job, I lost my ability to be a man. The BLS doesn't measure such things.
The BLS doesn't know about me, and I don't know about the BLS. And I'm pretty sure I'm not alone. When my pride and my money ran out, and I finally picked up the phone to call the Government and see about some help, they said they had no record of me, and basically hung up. Buh-Bye. It was a bit of a shock, but I said...well...you've only yourself to blame. And it's true. I should have applied as soon as I was let go.
I never thought it would last as long as it has. I couldn't believe it happened to me. I was ashamed. I looked for work after the shock wore off, and found nothing but no responses to my letters and resumes. A second wave of shock and despondency set in.
I withdrew...frightened...insecure...chastened by the steepness of the slope in front of me. Time...precious time...went by.
I don't know what awaits me now. I only know my wife won't be there at my side. She's not leaving tomorrow, but she's leaving. Going back home to Israel, where she was born. I can't blame her. And she has a son and grandaughter there. What does she have here?
That, and $1.25, will get you a cup of coffee.
This will be my Ta-Ta For Now diary, folks...not because I have grown disaffected with this place. I just need to refocus on my life at present. I need to get back on track, if it is at all possible. It may well be too late for my wife and me...but that still leaves me.
Whatever happens, you can be assured of this. It won't be reflected in the BLS reports. It never was, and it never will be. I have been a critic of Obama in the past...mostly because he filled me with such hope and I still find myself hopeless. I can't blame all of that on the president, but it did color my enthusiasm over time.
When I look in the mirror, though, it isn't Barack Obama I see looking back at me. It is myself. A little bit older, a lot poorer, and still unemployed. I don't blame the president. I think he could have done things differently in a few junctures, and I wish he had. My disappointment is mostly with myself, even if I have directed it on occasions towards the president. I don't let myself off the hook, nor do I excuse him on a few occasions.
Come next summer, I don't know where I will be. I don't think the president has such concerns.