Dear Adorable, well-meaning child with clipboard,
Ours has not been an easy relationship, and I’ll concede that the blame for that falls to me. You are spending a summer in the big city, trying to do something meaningful to shrug the burden of privilege you’ve been shamefully dragging through your gender studies curriculum. That was my major, too! So I know that this is probably the only job you could get after graduation. Our daily meetings on my route to work are fleeting, but don’t think I take you for granted.
Sweetheart, I’m sorry I told you I had “not even 5 milliseconds” for civil rights, that “I [didn’t] give a flying f**k” about “the children,” or that the rain forest could “blow me.” I’m really sorry about staring hard into your rosy face and pronouncing “NOT TODAY” as if you were the God of Death. I am sorry for the times when I gave you the “duhh” look and pointed to my oversize headphones, or for when I “answered” my mp3 player upon your smiling approach. Sorry for stopping ten feet from you to cross the street whilst scowling in your direction. Seriously, I am happy you’re committed to doing good things in the world.
I don’t question your earnestness, darling. When you tell me about how little cash it takes to feed one child in a developing nation, to get him/her to school, learn job skills and escape a life of poverty and exploitation, I don’t doubt you for a second. When you tell me about all the rain forest acreage I could reclaim with my modest donation, I believe the impossible. And when you say how acting now will make today and tomorrow better days for me and everyone else on the planet? I am sure it will, pumpkin.
The thing is: I’m never, never going to donate to you and I don’t want to lead you on. If you were taking cash, I might well throw $10 in your face to stop you from talking. But there is no way I am writing my credit card numbers down on that flimsy sheet of paper that makes you a hot, mug-able target in your size zero purple Uniqlo jeans. I am not jotting down the keys to my financial identity for you to keep in your little folder as you continue to accost pedestrians. I’m just not that kind of girl.
When I tell you I will go to the website, I will. I have. I sponsored that little girl from Sierra Leone via Paypal for what was, indeed, a fraction of my income. Please rest assured that your first-world guilt inducing tactics have worked blazingly well!
But walking time, my love, is mama’s ALONE TIME. Between uncle Ted, roommates, coworkers customers, friends and your lovely, telemarketing cousins, my time on the street is the only part of the day when I am not required to make eye contact or interact with anyone. Sometimes when I’m getting ready in my 4-person, 2-cat, 3-bedroom apartment, I’m just dreaming about the time I’ll get to spend walking down the street with no one acknowledging my existence. I realize you’re probably new in town, so I’ll give you a heads up: stop trying to talk to New Yorkers when we’re in public. Even for a good cause. It’s not that we don’t love you; it’s the only time we get to be by ourselves.