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Am I Irresponsible?

Okay, so I live in poverty and take money from the state and whatever, but I still pride myself on being a "responsible adult." I file paperwork on time, I show up to family events within the half-hour grace period, I send thank-you notes. I invite people over for dinner and lay out cloth napkins. I send a gift even when I don't go to a wedding shower. I have my shit together.

On Sunday Dan's car broke down, kind of spectacularly, while we were driving it. We were coming back from the city and the windshield wipers slowed to a crawl. Then all the dashboard indicators went on. Then out. The transmission started making awful sounds. The car got slower and slower as Dan struggled it up the hill in the breakdown lane. Dan deftly coasted us off the exit ramp and around several turns to safety. It wasn't until the last turn that he lost power steering and the engine cut out. But he still managed to park the car in a secluded spot not half a mile from his parents' house.

Because Dan remained calm while driving a car that was dying, I stayed calm as well. Because I was calm our kids were calm. When we stopped we just pulled out our cell phones and Dan called triple-A while I called Dan's mom. Zion started to yell because I wasn't taking him out of the car immediately and Harvey soothed him by saying, "It's okay Zion — Mama's calling Grandma."

Now look. When I pride myself on being "responsible" I am simultaneous judging my friends who do not have their shit together. Friends who drift from one crisis to the next and always need bailing out. I think this is an older sibling thing. Even though my younger brother is quite arguably "a baller" by how financially stable he is at the moment, I can still get all judgy when he does stuff like ask us to drive to Central square in the middle of a STREET FESTIVAL. Or show up late to Passover.

So here I was calling grandma all, "Our old beat-up car just broke down and we need a ride." And all I'm thinking is: "This is a younger brother thing."

And then I'm thinking: Poverty is turning us into fuck-ups.

Because we say, "Living cheap is awesome! It's fantastic! We don't have to worry about what to spend our money on because we can't! We just do everything simply! It's giving us so much freedom!"

And then it's like, "Um, just kidding, everything we own just broke at the same time. Can we have some money?"

Some would argue that having so little money is irresponsible, because other people have to stop what they're doing to help you when your old car breaks down. Better to drive a new car that looks like it should be fancy and in repair, and then if it breaks down by the side of the road then at least you were TRYING to do something right.

Better to roll your eyes at your children on the playground or yell "stop running up the slide" because it shows other parents that at least you're TRYING to keep them in line.

"Trying" is a word that defends your intention. It's an argument you make before a judge. The problem isn't anything about poverty or parenting choices or old Subarus which usually work more reliably than new Volkswagens. The problem is judgement.

Because I want to live in a society where people don't NEED to be responsible for every possible eventuality that could ever possibly happen to them. I want to live in a world where EVERYONE HAS THE FREEDOM TO BE A YOUNER SIBLING. Because if everyone is trying to hedge against every catastrophe for themselves, everyone is just stockpiling money and resources in their own little houses. Instead of sharing with people who need those things more RIGHT NOW. Instead of doing things they might like to do more than making money and storing resources.

I want to live in a world without responsibility judgement. I should probably start myself. Okay. Um, Dear Younger Brother...


Thanks for giving us the opportunity to share by giving you a ride.

No, thank YOU!

I don't know whether it invalidates Leah's point—probably not, since the car in question is over 15 years old and at this point deeply riven with a variety of flaws, but the part that caused all the trouble was actually the newest thing on the car, the brand-new alternator we had put in over the summer. So actually we were being as responsible as can be in this very specific circumstance! Which means, happily, that the electrical repairs will be done free of charge.

Of course, the poor old machine also needs many hundreds of dollars worth of work on the exhaust system, for which purpose we were going to take it the shop this week anyways. Oh well.

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