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It takes a quarter million dollars to raise one child.

On Pulling Weeds and Fighting Back: How (and Why) to Protect Abortion Rights

I’ve been gardening a lot in the month of May. And pulling weeds.

So. Many. Weeds. And none of them the fun kind.

I was struck by how suddenly they appeared. In the space of a few days, my empty flower bed was suddenly full of wild violets, dandelion, creeping charlie, and worse things. Prickly things. Toxic things. Deeply rooted things. Weeds that can grow so powerfully they rip apart concrete.

… also whatever that one plant is that smells like old cum. Ugh. Weeds.

The thing is, they didn’t really appear out of nowhere.

I knew they were coming.

They left their seeds and their taproots behind last autumn. Their seeds stayed quiet and waited for conditions to be right. When the planet tilted in their favor, and the sun shone warmly down on them, and the snowmelt watered them, they began to unfurl, out of sight, under the crust of the earth.

I’ve felt the warm air and stomped through the puddles left by the rain. Even though I can’t see them, I have always known that they were there. I’ve watched my flower beds like one watches a door they know is about to open.

When they finally make their move and show themselves, I am ready.

The recent changes to the state laws of Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Utah regarding abortion and reproductive rights shocked a lot of people. Suddenly, everything was happening everywhere, all at once.

But these new laws didn’t appear out of nowhere.

I knew they were coming. And so did a lot of other people.

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Perfect opportunities aren't often handed to you, like a ripe peach from the leather-gloved hand of Jereth the Goblin King.

I Was Happy to Marry a Poor Man. Then Things Changed.

On the day my partner and I got married, I didn’t promise him much. Life is long. Uncertainty is its only certainty.

For poorer? In sickness? Forsaking all others? Until death?

Like, death-death??

I have questions. Why are we poor? Are we poor because capitalism sucks and robots took our jobs? Or poor because one of us hid a gambling addiction, and poured our life savings down a slot machine somewhere in Hollywood, Florida? Because those are pretty different things!

What sickness? All others? Because if I get a neurodegenerative disease, and I lose every memory of you, but you stay by my side, and the kind nurse (who has been with a long string of undeserving guys and who’s super pretty but doesn’t know she’s pretty) leans over to check my vitals, and compliments you on your unfaltering loyalty to me, and then your eyes meet, I do want you to kiss her. Details from my upcoming self-published romance novel to follow.

When comes the death? Who dies first? How different will we be? What kind of world will we live in? What will it cost me to keep these promises?

Obviously there is a pleasant future we’re aiming for where none of these mundane trials become marriage-ending events. But I am a realist. Life can change people, sometimes beyond recognition. I don’t make promises I can’t keep. So I would never promise to stay married to someone no matter what. And I would never expect a pledge from a partner that I myself am unwilling to give.

In the end, what we promised each other was this: “I will always enable your happiness.”

If we were happy together: mazel tov. If we were happy apart: so it goes.

That was a promise I knew I could keep. And it was the only one I wanted in return.

But I did make one other promise that day, this time to his parents. I took them by their shoulders, looked them square in the eyes, and gave them this pledge:

“I will take care of your son. You never need to worry about him ever again.”

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Disney vacations and their ilk are marketed to parents as experiences so magical you would be A Terrible Parent if you deprived your kids this holy formative experience.

Splurging on Kids: When It Works, and When It Doesn’t

Piggy and I have a general policy against giving childrearing advice.

It’s not because we don’t have opinions on the subject. Trust and believe: we have opinions on everysubject. For example…

  • Opinions on land use in Paraguay? The Bitches say: Keep the grazing cattle in the Chaco region. Although we are Team Yerba Mate, everyone knows that the climate is just too arid—although better land management practices are needed to prevent desertification.
  • Thoughts on the performance of the current mayor of Fair Haven, Vermont? The Bitches say: We strongly approve of Lincoln, the Nubian goat. Eating the paperwork itself may be the best way to combat bureaucratic creep. Honestly, Lincoln the Goat 2020.
  • Was Paris wrong to give the Golden Apple of Discord to Aphrodite? The Bitches say: Absolutely! Athena clearly offered him wisdom because she could see he was sorely lacking in sense. Women are not prizes, Paris, so stop using your magical fruit like a fistful of arcade tickets you’re hot to trade in!

See? We’re a bottomless pit of opinions!

But because we don’t have children ourselves, we try to keep our big mouths shut on the subject. Especially when talking to actual-factual parents. We’ve lived the experience of mansplaining; we can only imagine that DINKsplaining is similarly annoying.

But today we wanted to explore an interesting topic for our readers who are becoming, thinking of becoming, or trying to become parents:

Think back to the times your parents “splurged” on you. In hindsight, you probably know which things you truly enjoyed, versus stuff you just put up with.

So which expenses were worth it? Which ones weren’t? If you could go back in time, what would you tell them to stop doing, or do more of?

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Auditing taxpayers is a "dying tradition."

My Taxes Are a Little, uh, Creative. What’s My Risk of Being Audited?

Enough time has probably passed for me to admit to playing fast and loose with the truth in some very old tax returns. But let’s drape this whole conversation in a veil of hypotheticality to preserve our modesty.

THIS ARTICLE DEALS IN HYPOTHETICALS, I SAY!

MY FAN FICTION NOVEL HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ONE DIRECTION, I SAY! NOTHING!

As all liars will tell you when caught, I (hypothetically) had great reasons for lying. I was (hypothetically) a new graduate during the worst part of the Great Recession, cobbling together freelance jobs to afford a gruel made of boxed mac and cheese thinned with water and Goya packets. I was (hypothetically) hanging onto adult independence by my fingernails. And my fingernails were notoriously hypothetically thin and weak from my high-sodium gruel diet!

This was pretty much how my first tax return after college went…

KITTY:
I made $18,000 last year.

IRS:
Awesome, give us $3,000 of it.

KITTY:
That can’t be right.

IRS:
It is.

KITTY:
Wh— Bu— I live in one of the most expensive cities in America. I can barely pay rent and put food in my cupboards. The unemployment rate for young people is almost 20%, for fuck’s sake! Surely you wouldn’t charge a flat tax rate on someone so desperate?

IRS:
We totally would.

KITTY:
Teach me, dear creature, how to think and speak.
Lay open to my earthly gross conceit,
smothered in errors, feeble, shallow, weak,
the folded meaning of your words’ deceit.
Against my soul’s pure truth why labour you
to make it wander in an unknown field?
Are you a god? Would you create me now?
Transform me, then, and to your power I’ll yield.
But if I am that I am, then well I know
I do not have three thousand dollars, bro,
Nor to your purse no homage do I owe.

IRS:
Ma’am, will that be check or money order?

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EAT UR DAMN PILLS BITCH!

Ask the Bitches: Ugh, How Do I Build the Habit of Taking Meds?

Hey Bitches, Patreon supporter here! Friday I had my very first physical, which was covered by my insurance. I told my new doctor about starting back up on antidepressants to save me a visit/copay. He gave me a script based on the ones I tried before, plus Zoloft has been around long enough it’s super cheap instead of the couple hundred/month my last one was to start. The doc also agreed gardening would help with the depression. Any produce growing tips or motivation to make sure I actually stick to my meds this time instead of ditching after a few weeks?

Welcome, beautiful and vibrant Patreon donor! Congratulations on wisely using the low- and no-cost preventative healthcare insurance affords you. And thank you for this extremely relatable question!

Before I get too deep into this, I want to remind y’all that I am not a medical professional of any kind. I’m not even a financial professional. No—I am a self-important PowerPoint jockey who came this close to opening this site under a .net address! If you’re torn between listening to yourself, listening to your doctor, and listening to a random bossy Internet nobody, choose the bossy Internet nobody last, okay?

I’ve never personally been on antidepressants. So my direct experience here is somewhat limited. (Any depressive periods I’ve had in the past have been solved by irresponsibly ignoring the problem while feverishly spending all of my spoons trying to convince the people around me that everything is juuuuuust fine until suddenly, one day, it is. Don’t be like me. I’m trying to change.)

HOWEVER! I certainly know the joys of going on and coming off of meds.

O! The joie of hormonal fluctuations!

For various reasons not related to the desire to become pregnant, I’ve been on and off of birth control pills over the past few years. And lord, what a trip that has been.

Birth control is pretty damn weird. It’s a well-established drug. Millions of people take it. It’s not thought of as particularly volatile or significantly mood-altering. Some people feel no side effects at all. And yet… let’s go to the tape.

Kitty’s thoughts restarting birth control:

    • “Thank goodness for the overwhelming feeling that my body is hideous and disgusting—this sudden wave of self hatred is the helpful alarm clock announcing my period is starting soon!”
    • “Gosh, I can’t believe that guy cut me off in traffic! I’m gonna find out where his ancestors are buried, dig them up, and pose them humping each other on his front lawn.”
    • “Whither my dear friend Jawline Acne? O’er the purple moors? Beyond the mountain made of glass?”
    • “Now seems like a fine time to lay on the couch and stare at the ceiling until I muster the strength to attempt the impossible: move the laundry from the washer to the dryer.”
    • “Google, is this amount of period blood a ‘go to the ER’ sitch or…?”

Kitty’s thoughts coming down off of birth control:

    • “If somebody doesn’t bring me the puffy kind of Cheetos within the next nine minutes, the precious life my confused body is convinced I’m nurturing will NEVER GET INTO HARVARD.”
    • “I am actually kind of sure that if I concentrated hard enough, I could just Code Geass people.”
    • “I can’t believe how attractive I am. Oops, lil’ blood on the pillow from that painfully massive zit rupturing in the night. Anyway, regarding my undeniable sexiness, which rages around all of us like a wildfire—”
    • “I should probably sign up for skydiving now. Like, RIGHT now.”
    • “Google, can I get so horny I die?”

Blister packs giving me blisters, hack. (Waht.)

… So, letter writer, I feel you. I know exactly why someone would really want to start, but also really want to stop taking medication.

I’m going to assume that anyone who wants to start or stop a medication has thoroughly weighed their options, considered their best interests, and gotten their doctor’s blessing. I know that the awesome members of Bitch Nation will join me in this assumption! And none of you will leave judgmental, concern-troll-y comments about people’s medical shit.

So here are some strategies for sticking with any kinda meds!

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When your toxic, evil boss asks you to do something illegal, don't fucking do it. He can afford a better lawyer than you.

Are You Working on the Next Fyre Festival?: Identifying a Toxic Workplace

Ever had a dream job become a nightmare?

I did.

On paper, the job was everything I wanted and more. Sexy product with high growth potential; industry stars leading the initiative; the best Glass Door reviews I’d ever seen; snazzy downtown office with free snacks, free catered lunches, even beer on tap. I’d be working with a few beloved former colleagues, and oh, right—they were doubling my previous salary. I even got to interview and approve my own manager, who was hired after me.

This opportunity sparkled from every facet like a lovely jewel. I entered that job with this-close-to-literal stars in my eyes.

Wobble wobble.

Four months later, it was 8:05 a.m. on a Monday. I was lacing up my snow boots for the walk to the train station. And I couldn’t see the laces anymore because tears reduced everything to a wobbling blur. They were tears of pure dread. These tears had replaced the stars in my eyes and the job that had once thrilled me filled me with misery.

My train leaves at 8:31, I reasoned. It takes me twenty minutes to walk to the station. I have six minutes to kneel here and let the tears flow. Not the healthiest calculus.

I told myself I would give it a year. After all, I had known real hunger—I could do anything for a year. But I only made it to six months.

All my life, I’ve had instruction on how to identify people who want to abuse me. Peers who want to bully and backstab; husbands who want to beat and control; strangers who want to rape and kill. But nobody ever warned me about their institutional counterparts.

These are the hospitals that confound you with arcane billing procedures; colleges that frame their loans as special awards; police that may arbitrarily enforce or not enforce the law based on who you are; unscrupulous realtors who redline; vampiric MLMs who predate. The list ain’t short!

But worst of all, the place you are obliged to go for forty hours (or more) every single week: the toxic workplace.

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No one will ever give you a $50/hr gig because you quietly accepted enough $15/hr gigs.

Ask the Bitches: My Boss Won’t Give Me a Contract and I’m Freaking Out

We have another reader question today.

On its face, it’s a pretty straightforward question about working sans contract. But beneath bubble some pretty volcanic emotions about job security, class, and anxiety. Let’s get into it!

Our reader asks…

I was hired to write blog posts for a digital platform. I was offered $15 an hour and 20-30 hours per week, paid out once a month as a direct deposit. That was a year and a half ago.

Since then, my responsibilities have changed tremendously. Instead of writing a few blog posts per week, I also work on site maintenance and other freelancers’ blog posts. I feel like I’m more involved with the administrative side of the blog than some of the other freelance writers I’ve seen, but I can’t confirm this, as I have no regular correspondence with any of my peers.

I was told I was being hired as a freelance writer, and that there would be a contract to be signed. That contract still hasn’t come. I asked about it when I was first hired and the CEO said he’d get around to it and never did. I was getting paid, so I didn’t care enough to push the issue and eventually forgot. But now I feel less like a freelance content creator and more like a full-time member of the creative staff. I asked the CEO a month or two ago about the contract again, and he dodged me. Again.

The rational side of me knows that I’m well within my rights to renegotiate where I stand with this company. I want to stand up for myself. But every time I fire up the email draft, I get so physically ill I have to walk away. Just writing this makes me want to puke.

I feel like I’m biting the hand that feeds me by saying it’s not enough. I feel like if I ask and get an outright refusal, I’ll either be forced to stay and feel undervalued or leave and go back to Minimum Wage Hell. Worrying about it is taking a toll on my health. I feel like a mess and a fool and a bastard and a failure all wrapped up in one big blanket of anxiety and ennui.

According to The Creative Group’s 2016 salary guide, bloggers should be making $45k a year but that just seems insane to me. That’s not the kind of money people like me make. We make minimum wage where I come from and we like it. $15 an hour is unthinkable enough, but a salaried position? Benefits? That’s not stuff I or anyone in my family has ever had to deal with going back generations. I don’t know how to not be in poverty. No one ever told me that was an option.

I feel kind of ashamed seeing it all in writing, if I’m honest. I feel weak, like I should be able to figure this out on my own. But I’m so grateful that I don’t have to. I can’t tell you what it means to have someone in my financial corner. I’ve never had that. I wish I’d found you guys years ago.

-Claire

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We were blown away by this update.

Update: I Know How to Struggle and Fight, but I Don’t Know How to Succeed

We have a super special treat for you today. It’s our first ever official follow-up from an Ask the Bitches letter writer!

You may remember Hope from this article. Hope is a Patreon donor at the $5 level, which earns her the right royal privilege of asking us questions directly. This was her original letter to us:

I’m a single mom and have spent the last 7 out of my son’s 10 years of life struggling HARD. I’ve climbed my way up my professional ladder with no formal education or degree. I accrued $20K in debt during these hard years, but I have a plan to pay it off over the next two years, and overall my prospects are good.

My problem is this: I’ve always dreamed of putting away money for a down payment on a house my son can grow up in. But my son will be 12 by the time I’m ready to start saving. By the time I can afford a house, we’d have little time to enjoy it together. I can’t see myself being stuck with a house at 40 years old and my son gone off to school or whatever he ends up doing.

I know it sounds like this isn’t a problem, but I’m afraid that without a plan or goal, I’ll end up squandering anything I’m able to save once I get this paid off. I’m afraid of having money and not struggling and wasting money. I’m thinking of starting a college fund, a travel fund, I have no idea fund, but other than the small-scale budgeting I can do, I have no idea how money works. 

How can I “get riches” and be smart and not lose them for lack of a plan? is it too late to set my son up for success in other ways? Should I just be talking to an accountant? 

Any advice you could give would be great. I know how to struggle and fight, but I don’t know how to succeed.

That was last February. And what a difference a year can make! Because last week she sent us an update, and it’s a freaking doozy.

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"Ugh, really? Shall I deposit this check before or after I churn the day's butter?"

How Do You Write and Cash Checks? Asking for a Friend.

I grew up in an era where checks were a completely normal and necessary part of everyday life. I wrote and cashed them frequently when I was a little kid—especially around Girl Scout Cookie season, trying to square the orders of all my neighbors.

Because yes, I used to sell Girl Scout Cookies the old fashioned way. I’d leave my family home, on foot, in the dead of winter, to walk aimlessly around my neighborhood, alone and unsupervised, ringing random doorbells, initiating conversations with strangers, accepting their invitations to come inside. Might as well have been helping them move couches, and answering persistent questions about my dress size.

Now if I want my Thin Mint fix, I gotta go to the grocery store awning and talk to a bunch of moms because the eponymous Girls are sitting in the car because it’s too cold and they need to charge their phones. Oh the times, they are a’changing!

It says a lot about the pace of financial technology that now, checks have become a chore. When somebody hands me a paper check, I’m like, “Ugh, really? Shall I deposit this before or after I churn the day’s butter?” They’re dinosaurs barely holding on to relevance. Like Adam Sandler.

But they come up just enough that you need to know how they work.

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Another recession is coming.

Ask the Bitches: How Do I Prepare for a Recession?

We’ve gotten a lot of questions recently about a hypothetical looming recession. The stock market has taken a bruising; bellwether companies are stumbling. Do such omens and portents mean that another recession on its way?

The good news is, we can answer this one very easily.

Yes. Another recession is coming.

We know this with 100% certainty.

How?

The same way we know with 100% certainty that Piggy and I will be dead within the next hundred years. It is in the nature of a living being to die, just as it is in the nature of economies to grow and contract. The sun rises; the sun falls. The tides go in; the tides go out. It’s just the way things are.

Sounds kinda shitty, right? It’s possible that, someday far in the future, someone will devise some new system that will smooth out or even eliminate these cycles. Maybe the nature of goods and services will change so fundamentally that economies will transform in ways we can’t even imagine. But that’s Phillip K. Dick stuff—innovations that live so far in a hypothetical future that they’re still science fiction. You should plan to endure these market cycles throughout your lifetime.

And yes, there are lots of things you can do to make yourself more prepared. Let’s go through them.

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