I wrote a very similar post last week. You guys don't have to bother commenting.
So I've mentioned before that I often stand out in crowds here in our poor beach town because I'm tall and white (and also, I think, because my clothes don't show my ass). Typically I wouldn't really think about this kind of thing, ya know, ethnic diversity, blahblahblah, but it's much more tiring when it's accompanied by such huge class disparities. My physical differences make me a magnet for homeless people and beggars. An example:
I waited in line at the post office for 40 minutes at lunch time just to mail a regular-sized envelope. I spent that 40 minutes stewing over the inefficiency of it all, fantasizing about President Dilma hiring me as Brazil's efficiency minister and allowing me to go into places like the post office and Banco do Brasil to clean things up a bit. Anyway, after that long wait, I decided to reward myself with a milkshake. There's a little milkshake stand close to the post office. The "shop" is the size of a closet, but they've assembled some nice benches outside where people can sit, wait for their orders, and drink their milkshakes. When long, the line to order the milkshakes will run in between the benches.
Anyway, so I'm in line for my (what I considered) well-deserved milkshake (it's the little things! I try to give myself little pleasures in exchange for little annoyances). There's one person ahead of me, two behind, and a handful of people on the benches. A tiny homeless guy comes up, bypasses all the (who he apparently dubs "normal") people on the benches, and makes a beeline straight for me, the tall and obviously gringa woman whose purse must be filled with lots of money for him. He proceeds to poke me in the ribs (akin to the little kids who beg for money). When I turn to look at him, he cocks his head to the side and makes the saddest face possible and puts his hand out, then utters some unintelligible sounds that I'm supposed to interpret as "Can you spare any change?" (apparently he's so destitute that he can't even form complete words).
I look around and I'm convinced that people are looking at me expectantly, but I don't really know if they are. I look back to the man and say "No, sir, I'm sorry," and turn back to the line. He lingers for a bit next to me, I guess hoping I'll change my mind, and then walks off without asking ANYONE ELSE for money.
Then I feel all lame and guilty, like I'm sitting here buying a milkshake when that guy doesn't have money for food. But I feel anger, too. I mean, everyone else there was buying milkshakes, but none of them are expected to give beggars money. But then I wonder if the other people think I'm "expected" to do that, of it's just some complex I've built up in my mind. I mean, what's richer ENOUGH, ya know? How much lower would my salary have to be for the beggars to decide, "ah, OK, well, you clearly deserve to keep your spare change and buy yourself some treats once in a while..."?
I'm not trying to come off as like "poor me, my life is harder than that of the homeless guy, I'm suffering, too." It's obvious to me and you that I'm better off than he is, and even though the exchange was disquieting, I still got my milkshake and I still went home to my comfortable life. But I guess it's the simplicity in thinking that annoys me, it's his assuming, just by seeing the color of my skin, that I'm the one who should give him a handout. It's my having to wonder if the people around me were judging me for not giving him anything, which would be easy for them to do as bystanders who were not asked in front of a group of they wanted to be generous. It'd be easy for them to think, self-righteously "oh, well I would have given him some change," when they weren't actually put to the test.
I don't want to go as far as saying that, ya know, he had as many opportunities as I did and he must have made mistakes and all that. There's no way I can know that and it's not my place to judge (also, I'm a Democrat). But I can't help but feel a little bit defensive.
Another quick example is that on Sunday afternoon, I was walking down to the beach to meet up with Alexandre after the big soccer game. (He was there watching it with a friend and there was going to be an unrelated and live blues show afterwards.) On my way there, I passed a homeless man who was setting up a little bed for himself on a closed storefront.
As I passed, he called out, "good afternoon, moça. Do you have 1 real for me?" He was really tall and big and seemed either drunk or mentally ill, so I just mumbled, "no, sorry," and kept walking.
"Well, I SAID 'good afternoon'! At least say 'good afternoon,' DAMNIT!" he shouted, much more aggressive this time.
"I said 'good afternoon!'" I lied. I made sure to reply in a strong, 'Don't try giving me any of your crap' voice. It seemed to work.
"Well, all right then," was all he said in response. Luckily he seemed to have lost interest and he didn't try to follow me or anything.
I guess at the end of it all I just feel crappy for being singled out, for feeling isolated, for being reminded that I'm different, for having to question myself and whether I "deserve" to use the money that I earn on things that I want, even though there are others in the world who have less. I've obviously spent a lot of time thinking about this, and I think I've mentioned before that I don't give change on principle (because I don't think it will solve the bigger problems, and the economic problems in this city and country are much bigger than even my entire salary could solve).
But no one likes feeling guilty. I think we all feel like we try to be good people and try to do our part to help others.
It's also the aggression that bothers me. It makes me feel unsafe. It's the hostility and anger that people give me (like when I gave change to the girl and she threw it in my face because it was only 10 cents). These beggars must think they're the only homeless people in town, and must also believe that they were the only ones smart enough to try asking the pretty white lady for some money. Of course they don't think about the possibility that they're the 4th or 5th person that day to tell me a sob story and ask for help.
I agree that their situations suck and I want to have sympathy, but I think I'm allowed to say that living around here isn't exactly peachy keen for me, either.
Sorry for all the negative posts. (Check back in six weeks if you're tired of them.) I hope I got my point across and this didn't come off as "poor little rich girl." I'm just burnt out.