Monday, April 8, 2013

Homeless In Kazoo: Dependently Independent

The trial and mild inconvenience of being a privileged white male. The first in a series. I am experiencing homelessness.

Statements like that might lead to some rather inquisitive questions, like:

Well, Zac, if you are homeless, how the hell are you accessing the interwebs to make such a statement?

To which I’d gladly respond:

Why, I am using my ASUS Ultrabook with a touch-screen and SATA drive that allowed me to create the post from boot-up to word-processing program in less than 30 seconds.

Alright, so the question is being slightly avoided with the shifting of shoulders and waving hand gesticulations, but it is a flushingly embarrassing question: Why are you without house and home yet provided with a $1000 dollar laptop by your father who is currently spending his springs in a Dutch resort drinking mango smoothies on the flour-textured beaches of Aruba?

It's explained by Abby, my girlfriend. No she didn’t kick me out--in fact she and I will be coming on a year of consistent tolerance of each other’s pizza toppings come April 28th, meaning that dating her for a year has made me vegetarian and I can no longer enjoy pepperoni. I’m assured that there is a meatless alternative.

She is a year older than me, and her being a senior and me being a junior, has allowed her to enjoy off-campus living from the wee, prestigious liberal arts college we both attend. Typically you aren’t allowed to leave until your senior year, as underclassman are encouraged to focus on college community, tacitly allowing upperclassman to follow the higher pursuits of illicit substance abuse and undisturbed sexual activity.  

With such benefits, we started living together almost a month into our relationship. Quickly my dorm-room was abandoned to the roommate who gave his grumbled consent to the new living arrangement with something like a “I’ll be sure to have sex with my girlfriend with this gift you have given me.”

But access to the piles of stale, smoky clothing; musty library of paperback Hermann Hesse novels; and iron, Finnish steamer trunks that comprised my material possessions, remained within my meagre college student powers. Due to student conduct laws and housing bullshit, I was required to continue paying the Department of Student Living $3000-$4000 dollars a quarter for a glorified storage space. My now-ex roommate referred his new single room as his “masturbatorium.” I wasn’t there so the accumulation of tissues and ransacking of $30 dollar Target bowl chairs didn't irk me that much. I got to live with my girlfriend while having a safe back-up plan that only needed a bit of bleach to be as good as new.

Until a few weeks ago. Thought this ASUS laptop is a mighty gift indeed, luxury doesn’t come naturally to my divorced parents. With my mother and stepfather working to pay off my step-sister’s college bills off, and a father prone to galavanting across floral Caribbean beaches with his girlfriend, myself developing a sense of fiscal responsibility doesn’t seem too obtuse.

It’s not pleasant. Thinking about money doesn’t produce hives but I’d like to think it agitates my self-diagnosed psoriasis. Or I hope that is psoriasis. Either way it creates the nervous gut-busting grumble of anxiousness and dependence on others when I realize I owe them.

So when thinking about my tuition bill, and how those tens of thousands of dollars added to my student loans are being poured into someone else’s sex cave, it dawned on me like a TLC special that an easy way to save money would be to just move stuff out of the dorm space that was currently converted into my slap shack

So when the official opportunity came to uncheck student living from my tuition box, I took it.

But being a full time student, even with two part-time jobs, finding the money and time to apartment search was difficult, and the soonest one I could find was ready for move-in April 28th. That left me with a month of homelessness.

So here is this petite, auburn-haired stage director and blacksmith with the tendency to squeak like a woodland creature when tickled telling me that she wants me to live with her. Really live with her this time--unmarried and barely able to help out with utilities. Basically paying for my housing. Cook me meals. Comfort makes me uncomfortable. I owe her.

Admittedly staying with Abby is nice, but acquiescing living space to her other five housemates can be taxing. Not to say that they don’t deserve the space, they pay rent and all, but they bump into my vintage ‘80’d speakers and scoff at my collection of Beach Boys vinyl. Though my stuff shouldn’t be there, in their home. I owe them.

So no, I’m not technically homeless. I have loving, amiable, welcoming girlfriend and friends, too, who are allowing me in their home with no real escape plan. I’m stuck there. They know that and I know that, and it doesn’t seem to cause them to break out in various skin diseases but my fingers are itchy. Welcoming dependence, and realizing I don’t have a choice, changes the dynamic of Abby and I’s relationship. I am burden, and it doesn’t  matter if I am light or heavy,

She hasn’t kicked me out, and I haven’t snuck any pork-roast into her curries so hopefully that means we’re in the green in terms of relationship status, but I’m in her hands for another two weeks. But, if I want independence: from finance, parents, school; albeit for only two weeks, I have to depend on her.


  1. Zac,

    I love the title and opening to your piece. I think your reference to homelessness as being a “mild inconvenience” of a privileged white male is great. You have a lot of creative detail and I especially loved the description of your relationship dynamic with your girlfriend as tolerating each other’s pizza toppings.

    You’ve really developed yourself as a character. The self-diagnosed psoriasis, insights in to your musical tastes and family background work well and don’t seem forced. I also like the development from homeless to living with your girlfriend to feeling emotionally homeless in the sense that you’re uncomfortable with being in a state of dependence, living in “their” home.

    I think that dialogue would help further your relationship with Abby. In the fourth paragraph from the bottom I like that you delve in to your insecurities with the staccato sentences: “Basically paying for my housing. Cook me meals. ...” But I’m interested in how that conversation played out in person. How did Abby bring it up? What was your reaction? Did you voice the concerns you’re having? Does she know about your issues with dependency?

    Also, you talk about how being dependent on Abby changes the dynamic of your relationship. How exactly? It may be interesting to provide an example. You voice that you feel like a burden, but is that feeling reciprocated? Are there specific details of your relationship that have changed -- positive? negative? Overall I really thought you did a great job.

  2. Love the details you give. I think you do a great job of developing your relationship with your girlfriend. I also really enjoyed the section where you spoke about you moving out and out your roommate felt about it, it had a good combination of humor yet was still developing your piece as a whole. I also felt the details about your vinyls and things in the girls house were a nice touch. I think you could potentially take that further and describe the living situation more. You seem to feel at least somewhat uncomfortable living there rent-free, does it affect your interaction with them? And where are you keeping all your things? Just some ideas on how to further describe the situation.
    The beginning is where I think you can improve the most. I enjoy the tidbit about the laptop, but the section could be cleaned up and made a bit more clear. For example, the sentence about shifting of shoulders could be better. I understand the idea you are trying to convey, but it doesn’t read quite as smooth as the rest of your piece. Overall though, I think it is a great piece.


  3. Well, Zac, I briefly talked to you in class earlier about your piece, but here it is in depth. Your voice is quite present in your telling of your "plight," which lends a deeply personal aspect to the story. In addition to that, your idiosyncratic way of describing all aspects of your surroundings and relationships makes it an interesting read. That said, the first couple of paragraphs seem a wee bit rambleish, so it sounds like you're holding back what makes the following sections so great to read through. Instead of dismissing the issues with gesticulations, why not just tell it as it is, much like you do in the rest of the piece? It really is the language that you use that defines this piece and makes it a story worth reading.

  4. Your voice really shines through in this piece. Of the many uses of humor, my favorite was the way in which you made fun of yourself and your homeless plight. I think that you give really great details as well about your relationship with your girlfriend, which shows what you’re like as a couple, and of you as well. The quirky things like the Beach Boys collection of records and your ‘80s speakers are great and add an unexpected depth to your piece. I think that you could focus a bit more on your time living with your girlfriend and her roommates a little less time speaking about your roommate and all the money your spending. The sex/masturbation jokes are funny at first, but I think a few too many of them were there than necessary. Additionally, I’d like to hear more about your girlfriend individually, so we can get a good idea of who she is and your dynamic with her. Finally, the first few paragraphs seem to ramble on a little bit.

  5. Zac,

    I really enjoyed reading this story! Honestly, when I read the first line I internally grumbled and thought, “Oh boy...another account of guilty white boy privilege”.... but your sarcasm and wit sets the tone for a smart and humorous piece. It’s pretty clear that you care immensely about Abby, but you’re not mushy or overwhelming at any point. Part of the strength of your voice is your use of relatable snippets of anecdotes, i.e. getting used to each other’s pizza toppings. Something as small as knowing the other person only likes cheese and mushrooms speaks greatly to the closeness and intimacy of a relationship (as silly as that sounds, I think it’s true).

    But, I don’t know if you want the focus of the piece to be that you opted to be homeless or you moved in with your girlfriend. You have a few criticisms of the privileged liberal arts institution here, which I loved, but I might try playing around with choosing a more definite direction.

    Also, your comments on your sexually liberated roommate are hilarious.

    Overall, your piece is great and funny and sassy.

  6. I think the strongest part of this piece is all of this tension you create just within your mind, and your specific reflections/reactions to specific people and events, like Abby and your transition to vegetarianism.

    At some points, though, it feels less like personal essay and more like one long rumination or reflection on this idea of homelessness. I’d like to see more action, less rumination, and more of the “I” character, which I think gets lost sometimes. I wonder, then, if you can zoom in on one pivotal opportunity or event in this piece, like unchecking the student living box, or the moment you told your roommate you were moving out. It could also be interesting if the story started with a concrete description of the “month of homelessness” or the day you first went homeless. I think there are a lot of directions you can take this: privilege, financial concerns, your romantic relationship, your mango smoothie-drinking dad.....?

  7. I'm not quite sure what the topic of the piece is truly about. Is it about your relationship with your girlfriend? Or about not having a home (but really having one at the end?) Or is it about the terrible K College ResLife policies?

    I think the theme that is most developed is your relationship with Abby. As a reader, I would like to hear more about her and her character. The only thing that I could glean about her is that you've been dating for nearly a year and she is a vegetarian. But in the end, she seems to be crucial to the story you're trying to tell--that she is graciously providing you a place to live.

  8. This made me laugh out loud in the library. "she and I will be coming on a year of consistent tolerance of each other’s pizza toppings." Classic. Great. SO much sass and voice and honesty. Really loved your roommate insisghts. I agree with Darrin that a little more direction would give the piece some structure. I think using a different intro other than homelessness would make me trust you more as a reader. It feels uncomfortable thinking you're going to be talking about homelessness when really it's living with a girlfriend and making your dorm into your roommates masturbation lair. It's just a little clash-y and problematic.