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The Poverty Perspective, Part 1: Growing Up Ghetto

I kind of grew up in the hood. Sometimes people think I’m exaggerating when I say this, but it’s true. It wasn’t the worst neighborhood in town (that honor went to a place called, appropriately enough, The Bottoms), but some houses didn’t have, you know, front doors.


I always thought this was the creepiest house, but there were certainly other contenders.

The neighborhood baby, the one we carted around in a stroller and cooed at to make her smile, died when her mother’s boyfriend beat her in a fit of rage. In the house up the street, my childhood friend’s father shot her mother to death mere feet away from her. A bit farther around the block, a two-year-old child died when his siblings shut him in a car in the middle of summer. No one had been watching them. No one ever was.

I remember once looking out the window and seeing one man whaling on another man with a pipe, across the street. The pipe-wielder was already somewhat notorious, as he had bitten off a man’s nose in a previous altercation. As one does.

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My Cinematic Year: The end.

It all happens so fast.

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My Cinematic Year, Part 7: In which the protagonist gets her groove back with a little freakonomics.

If you like, see also: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6.

In dating, you’re considering candidates and choosing the best one you can. In job interviews, the exact same thing is happening. But only in the business world are the economics of this endeavor routinely considered.

There’s an anecdote about a human-resources worker who felt overwhelmed by the stack of resumes sitting in front of him. When he complained to his boss about the grossly unprofitable amount of time it would take to consider such a large number of candidates, his boss picked up the stack, split it in half, threw half of the resumes away, and said, “We don’t want to hire unlucky people.”

In the business world, this is rational for reasons that become clear when you give the notion some thought: a cost-benefit analysis tells you that at some point, the quest to review every single applicant becomes more expensive than hiring someone out of a pool half that size.

But in the dating world, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of anyone deliberately rejecting perfectly viable candidates even while actively seeking a mate.

Meanwhile, the economics are pretty similar when you think about it … and after being smothered by the OKCupid resource-draining avalanche of messages and winks and chats, I was finally thinking about it. Hard.

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My Cinematic Year, Part 6: The romantic epiphany.

If you like, see also: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.

Let’s recap: online dating made me miserable. If I logged on to slog through my messages, that only made things worse—the “Now Online!” flag on my profile would send another deluge of messages from every godforsaken corner of humanity, including some along the rather creepy lines of I KNOW YOU’RE THERE.

I didn’t feel excited about dating; I felt burdened by it. I didn’t skip to my inbox in anticipation; I dreaded opening it. I was unhappy. Things needed to change.

But when I suspended my account, I hadn’t given up. Not at all.

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My Cinematic Year, Part 5: Confessions of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl

If you like, see also: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

Just a few weeks after announcing my availability to the world on OKCupid, I declared the endeavor a complete disaster and deactivated my account.

What went wrong? Let’s review!

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My Cinematic Year, Part 4: In which the single, cynical protagonist takes a chance … at romance.

If you like, see also: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3.

When I decided to return to my hometown for a year to build a roller-derby league, I only really had one social rule: Absolutely No Dating. I had good reason to avoid the dating scene; I had big plans to move to the West Coast once I had gotten rid of almost everything I owned, but knew I would get attached in the meantime and wind up in a complicated romantic situation.

You can see where this is going already, can’t you.

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My Cinematic Year, Part 3: The obligatory montage.

If you’re catching up, see Part 1 and Part 2.

If I knew how we got from there to here, I think I really would write a book about it. But as time has passed, the nights at the rink, the hours of board meetings, the legal paperwork, the radio interviews, and the photo shoots have mushed into a frenetic blur interspersed with beeps from my stopwatch.

I had never worked so hard in my life, I can tell you that. I doubt any of them had, either. I didn’t do any of this myself, of course; this is just my story.

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My Cinematic Year, Part 2: The setting.

Part 1 is here.

A few days after my new roller-derby league’s first practice at the rink, I moved into my new apartment, a decrepit studio roosted atop the tiny row of shops on Main Street. My mother had been right: it was exactly the sort of outdated decor I’d find endearing, complete with hideous linoleum. (Floral and geometric? How exotic!) The place had no shower and a kitchen sink that sprayed water in three different directions (none of them “downward,” sadly). But my parents had kindly applied a stunning new paint job to it, and I noted its crystal doorknobs, arched doorways, deep cast-iron tub, and built-in cabinetry with approval.

I scored this wee residence for a pittance of $500 a month, including heat and water.


At the time, I was trying to take a picture of my bike, not my apartment. That’s probably obvious.

This felt like home, for sure. It was the realm outside those walls I was less certain about.

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My Cinematic Year, Part 1: The exposition.

So, this one time, in March of 2010, I decided to return to my hometown, after residing for years in a much bigger city, to start a roller-derby league.

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Just don’t call me a tramp. It confuses my mother.

The day I bought that car, I knew what I was going to do with it: I was going to fit my entire life into it, and I was going to drive it a very long way, all by myself.

Right after I let my mom talk me into a variety of cheesy poses, of course. First things first.

I called it Operation Hobo: a quest to pare down my possessions to a scant 75 cubic feet of cargo, give or take the passenger seat.

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