by Gerry Mak in New Events on Thursday 18 March 2010

Heeb magazine founder Jennifer Bleyer recently interviewed me for an article about young creative types on food stamps. The editors at Salon.com decided that I am a hipster. I don’t really know what that means. Judging by the comments that the article generated, I’m some sort of lazy bum who can’t give up my artisinal chevre. I don’t need to go into detail defending my food choices, but all I’d like to say is that I try to buy healthy foods at the lowest prices. I never eat out. I love to cook, and I really need to control what goes into my food, so I cook every meal for myself. I often share with friends. I want to be healthy and I want my friends to be healthy because none of us have health care.

I moved to a cheaper city. I live in a cheap apartment and I am moving to a cheaper one. I have pared down all of my expenses. I don’t buy things at all. I don’t buy clothes, not even cheap clothes. I don’t even own a bed. Good friends and good food are the last things keeping me healthy, happy, and sane while I try to find a way to support myself.

I don’t deny that I come from privilege. I don’t deny that people can pick themselves up by the bootstraps – that’s exactly what my parents did when they immigrated to the US. However, even my parents needed help, whether it was from the government, their relatives, or their employers. Even middle class privilege has its limits. We are in a recession. A bad one. Lots of people have lost their jobs. Even though I have a degree from a prestigious university, I can’t even get a job serving coffee. One thing left out of the article was that my friend Sarah, who is unemployed, recently applied for a basic receptionist job at her old school that over 200 other people had applied for. This was a minimum wage job. This is what it is like with all jobs openings now.

Before you judge people like me or the other people in the article, please think about what would happen if you lost your job, your safety net, or your security. I don’t take food stamps lightly. They have helped me out enormously, and have ensured that I can continue to eat healthily. I need to do this literally for my survival because if I don’t have this lifeline, I will become sick. Again, I don’t have health care, nor do most of the “hipsters” I know. It’s time to stop hating people based on their clothing or musical tastes, and start trying to be a little more empathic. We’re all hurting these days.