I wish this was fiction, but it isn't. Welcome to the 21st Century.
| In her mother's time, this would not have happened. In her mother's time, there would have been options. There are still options, of course. But why are the options so bleak? Why is life now so desperate? All she ever hears, is that times have changed. Always assumed that they have changed for the better. A brave new world. She remembers how brave that world felt, in senior year of high school. What did she really know, then? A few things. Back when life felt like it held so much promise.
Straight A's. Straight vision. Straight intentions. The purpose of an education.
She likes to be educated. That, at least, still feels good. And why shouldn't it? Good brains are a terrible thing to waste. But now, of course – it feels like she knows too much. To relax. But not enough to solve this problem in a desirable way. In the right way. It still feels wrong. Because it is wrong.
And yet, considering the choices, what is left to do?
She considers her friends. The ones with six figures of debt. Six figures. Home mortgages, for an education. She considers her own debt. The same amount, really, for a graduate degree. Money well spent, wisely measured out. Or so she thought. She got the education she wanted, for it. A fair trade. But was it really fair?
Those friends – the ones that boomeranged back home. Living in Daddy's basement. Or sleeping in the same childhood bed. Adult dependent children. While the age of 30 looms closer....and 20 recedes in the rearview mirror. House rules, “adjusted” with apologies. Like the whispers of family secrets. She keeps no secrets with her friends. The ones that hold down crap jobs. The lucky ones.
Barristas, retail bunnies, blue collared and just...blue. Those aren't the jobs that can address that debt.
And so they all feel like fools. The rape of innocents. Coming away from the tables at Vegas, feeling like refugees from a lost weekend in Glittertown. One that lasted four, or five, or six years.
When all the while, this day of reckoning was slowly coming down the pipe. Well, now it's arrived.
She rustles though papers, and reads the numbers, over and over again. How 24 months of payments have brought the principal of her school loan down by 2 per cent. Two per cent! She can calculate it all in her head. If she maintains, she'll have it all paid off by the age of 50. Fifty. And that's turning over at least 80% of the income from her crap job. And living rent-free at home.
She addresses the sunny smile that looks back out at her from the dresser mirror. The one she wears at work. The one behind which lurks a very different kind of look. The one kept hidden. The one only her friends know. And considers how much older she looks. She feels time rolling like a river, like liquid solvent, eroding her youth. That momentary panic she fights down, every day. Every single day.
She can feel her intelligence smoldering like steam seeping from a dragon's den. Anger, all right.
This is not how things were, in her mother's time.
In her mother's time, mature men read Playboy magazine, and fantasized about all the co-eds found therein. Fresh, and new, and young. As distant and as unattainable as the stars...then. Why? All gone to young men, their own age. Fresh and new and young themselves. Order in the world. Natural as the rain. Let those old men fantasize all they want. And go on making your way in the world. For that is the way of the world. Between the shadows and the light, is darknesse that belongs in neither place. It belongs nowhere. Things she became aware of in grade school, and learned young. Learned in a way that allowed her to keep her sanity, and her dignity, and her sense of self. Something just a little bit sacred. Something she could think of as her own.
But in her time, things are different. How different? She can feel a certain gravity, pulling her in a direction that feels like death. Not the death of despair that ends a life...just life, as she's known it.
The sense of order that allowed her to keep a proper perspective. No saint, but good enough to feel like she'd earned the respect she'd come to expect.
And now, she knows someone, who knows someone, who.......
Well, there it is. No point in playing peekaboo tiddleywinks with it. A way to make a lot of money in a hurry. The kind of money that addresses that debtload. The kind of money that no other job she can find comes close to. The kind of job she'd been fool enough to assume would be there, once she'd earned her credentials. Credentials. What a joke they turned out to be. Educated for a job market that doesn't exist. The other end of a long list of a thousand resumes. That reality. But what about this reality? This new order of things?
Those Playboy men never went away. They're back again. Now they call themselves mentors. Helpers. Guides. Interested parties. In her grandmother's time, they were known for what they actually are. The language was straight and simple. Sugar daddies. Matched up with gold-diggers. Welcome to the grand apology of the times. The big shrug.
She knows too much. Not enough, but still too much. How an older generation foots the bill for her generation – the one that can't get going, and pay for itself. The name-calling, the scapegoating. Well, who is the goat here, anyway? Baaaa! She considers her assets. And those aren't good brains. Not anymore. That is not what is in demand for fair pay. But those other assets.........yeah, those ones.
She looks backward over her shoulder, into the mirror. And wonders, could she seal that deal? A sugar baby. One who parks those brains in the right hand drawer. And doesn't think too much. And doesn't feel too much. And just earns with physicality. Becomes the actress, plays the part. Why not?
And brings home that little package of disgust, along with “daddy's” gifts, dispensed with gratitude for feeding his ego. Lucky him. He can afford her.
But here's the thing. How did he earn his money, anyway? Through investments. That earn dividends. On all that interest. Like the interest that bleeds her bank account dry. And hardly kisses the principal. Just like the way she'd bring herself to kiss him. False passion. Lies. But the numbers don't lie, do they?
What's so bad about it? She's a good girl. A very, very good girl. With good brains. And bad debt. Very, very bad debt. Her mother had the luxury of keeping her goodness. She could afford it.
She consults one more number. Seven digits. And reaches for her phone.