“Maybe you should actually get a job instead of sponging off people who work for a living.”
There’s no comeback to that, Jenny has learnt. She can politely tell people that she has two jobs, that she works sixty hours a week, and still can’t afford repayments on her credit cards, her student debts and her beat up old car. Hell, after she’s paid rent and bills there’s hardly enough left for food and gas. Then, her kids need school lunches – she doesn’t tell them how hard things are, but they know, somehow they know – bus tickets and new shoes that fit.
She can explain all this in a nice voice, but it does nothing. The people listening already know. They know the truth: that it’s her fault her husband left, saddling her with all her debt. It’s her fault her mother is an alcoholic and was never able to support her to finish college. It’s her fault she had children when she couldn’t afford them, even though she was happily married and safe when they were born. She should have tried harder, much harder, they say. Obviously she was too lazy to try hard enough. She should be virtuous and hard-working like all the tennis-playing, hair-perming stay-at-home moms on the upper east side.
She can correct them nicely, or she can be rude about it. She can even shout it until she’s red in the face and all her veins pop out on her forehead.
She can tell her story a hundred times, but what would be the point?
They just sip coffee in corner cafes and make quiet comments about single mothers on welfare as she sweeps the floor around them.