Because "living above the Poverty Level" was a title already taken, the essay is called Lonely Planet:
What I would like to do when I am living above poverty: buy whatever I want at the grocery store. Really. No one is more hungry than me when I'm hungry. I want some organic apple sauce, some cavier, some artisan bread. Why would I chose to cook if I could pick up everything at the Whole Foods deli? The catered stuff there isn't just ready prepared, it's actually good for you. I think I would buy fresh food every day. If I were rich I wouldn't need to bother with a refrigerator. I could eat what I wanted every day, forget about planning ahead.
I would take baths instead of showers in a huge Jacuzzi tub, with numerous jets and endless hot water. I would install candle holders all around the tub for ambiance. I would decorate the house the way I wanted to decorate the house. I would buy things that made my life better and easier and my house worth more money. If I were living above poverty level I would get a well dug for my own property and not have to pay anyone else for it. I would install solar panels and get off of the grid!
When I am living above the poverty level I will invite to dinner my friends once a week. I will offer pot luck to anyone who wants to share, and invite people with nothing to share so that they may have at least one good meal that week. I remember when I was very poor how much that meant to me when my friend Will would make me chicken, AND a salad, AND a starch, AND a vegetable. Feeding people has a certain psychic energy that is only good for all involved if you feed them with love in your heart and a spirit of real generosity.
I have noticed that some people want so badly to be thought of as generous, and poor dears don't even know how to be generous. They give you their cast offs and point out over and over again how expensive the item was new. This is an item, mind you, that they wouldn't even deign to use themselves. A gauze skirt for example that has a run in it or a very bad stain. The kind of stain that will not come out. Never mind that the thing looks really bad, they like to point out over and over how much they paid retail at a department store when the thing was new. As if you are receiving an item worth $60 dollars as if you are going to say "thank you." What can you say?
I once got a box of clothes in such bad repair they were un-wearable. The elastic was stretched out. The fabric fatigued. I didn't even want to give them to Goodwill. I thought perhaps the lady who gave them to me was unaware of how bad the condition was. Or maybe, I thought, she means for me to use them as rags, or in a quilt. I wasn't sure until she started pressing me about how nice the clothes were. Had I looked at them yet, etc. etc. I finally had to decide she was just cheap and insensitive. She actually thought I was going to be grateful for a box of clothes three sizes too big for me in disrepair.
Another person I know wanted so badly to be thought of as generous. When I rented a room from her, I paid her top dollar. The kitchen was small, the location of the house suited my needs at the time, I put up with the tiny closet and the general lack of privacy inherent in a cooped area. She insisted I used her kitchen utensils because the kitchen was too small for me to unpack my own blender and coffee maker. I acquiesced, although I do much prefer my own stuff. Later she pressed me to use her laundry detergent and soap and shampoo as well. These were not items she used herself, she used a special brand from her hair salon. Apparently a three year supply of those items had come free with her water softener. As she knew she would never use them, yet was loath to throw them away, she pressed upon me to use them. It made her feel soooo generous that when she hit me up for more rent she had to point out all the "amenities" I was receiving. Yikes! I moved out the next day. When I am living above the poverty level I wonder if such people will pass quietly out of my life or if I will simply call them on their stuff.
When I am living above the poverty level, I will get myself a cool car, that I have chosen myself and not worry about if I am paying too much because I am a woman. I will pay what I pay and be happy to have what I want. I will choose the color I like best, and the interior and I will proudly register it in my name only! Although I may well leave it to my son when I die.
When I am living above the poverty level I will tie up all my legal affairs that need to be tied up. I will find the best lawyer in the business to do my will, ensuring all my assets go where I want them to, and not to the state. I will make a charitable foundation for my self to run and I will enjoy funding projects that actually help people. When I am living above the poverty level, I will still remember how it felt to be disenfranchised and treated poorly by people who could afford some manners.
When I am living above the poverty level, I will do something about the California school system that cares more about bringing money into the district than it does about teaching young people how to think for themselves. That's quite a bit to do when I am above the poverty level, and yet, I am just the woman capable to do it.