Monday, May 2, 2011


Tonight I had one of those experiences that happen to us all at one time or another. I got in the wrong line at the grocery store. You know the one – the one that looks like it’s going to be the quickest but turns out to be the most interminable.

It seemed like a good choice. There were two women in front of me who appeared to be friends, or maybe sisters. They didn’t have much on the conveyor belt, one buying milk and juice and the other buying milk and fruit and a few other items. So, why then did I stand behind them, waiting in line (with people stacked 5 deep behind me) with my items on the conveyor belt for 20 minutes? Yes, you read that right – 20 minutes. To be honest with you, that was 10 minutes longer than it took me to collect my groceries from the aisles of the store. Bananas and grapes, coffee and cream, yogurt, juice and a bag of Cheetos just don’t take that long to pick up.

Why did it take so long you ask? WIC. For those of you who are unaware, WIC stands for Women, Infants and Children. It is a federally funded program which is designed to help pregnant and nursing women and children under the age of 5 who are nutritionally at risk and who fall below Federal Poverty Guidelines. There are a very limited number of food products covered by WIC, juice, milk and fruit being included. The juice, if it is prepared and not refrigerated, must be 100% juice (no blends) and 120% Vitamin C. WIC provides pamphlets to the participants detailing which foods and brands are covered. They also, of course, supply this same information to the stores. You can access it on the Internet.

Certainly, you would think, that people who are enrolled in the program for any length of time would be very clear about what is and is not allowed by the program. Yet, these two women seemed not to be. The juice that they had chosen was not covered. First, there was the argument which included “this is the juice that’s in my refrigerator right now.” Then, when the young man behind the register stood his ground, one of the women went to exchange the juice for a brand that was allowed.

The juice aisle was 20 feet from the register. We waited. And waited. And waited. For over 8 minutes. When the woman returned she carried 2 bottles of juice. She also strolled. She did not rush, she did not hurry, she did not even walk rapidly. She strolled – fully aware that there were 6 people in line waiting behind her. It was truly something to behold.

I must admit that part of my reaction was judgment. I was judging these two women. They were both dressed far more expensively than I. The woman directly in front of me was wearing a lovely, and costly, leather jacket. They were both in what appeared to be brand new
designer jeans, they were coiffed and made up, and both were sporting a set of acrylic nails that generally run about $40 for the set and another $15 to $20 every two weeks to refill. Compared to me in my 5 year old jeans (with the broken zipper which I keep together with a strategically placed safety pin) and an old college long-sleeved tee you would never have guessed me as having more money.

After they finished their rather complex transactions, they sauntered on out of the store. When I left a few minutes later I passed them standing at the Red Box discussing which movie they were planning to rent.

I certainly believe that helping low-income children to eat nutritionally healthy food is a good thing and I don’t mind my tax dollar going to that – truly. Yet, it seems apparent to me that these women have disposable income. And, given that they have enough money for the nail salon every 2 weeks, I am irritated that my tax dollars are going to support them. I know that the WIC money goes to only a very few items. However, this seems to be enough of a subsidy to allow them to have a great deal of money to spend on other things – things that I would judge to be extras – not necessities. So, in essence, I am paying for those nails. Grrr.

I know that I have invoked the memory of my mother rather often in these posts, so please bear with me as I do it again. My mother and father lived by the precept that you didn’t buy extras if you couldn’t afford necessities. I think it’s a good precept. I try to live by it as well – succeeding more or less. If I’m going to live by that standard, I want others to do so as well – particularly when those others are using my tax dollars to fund their extras.

Now, you may be thinking that I shouldn’t judge them as I don’t know their circumstances. That’s true. But I’m not just judging them. I’m also judging my niece, the grand-daughter of my good friend, the girl in my classroom.

Women - we are responsible for our bodies. We are the ones who need to be accountable for our choices. Choosing to produce children that you do not have the emotional, social, or financial wherewithal to support is indefensible. And, assuming that your baby daddy is going to hang around and take care of you and that little one is - let’s face it – in many cases, just plain stupid.

It’s 2011 and the times of demanding virginity of women are long past. However, with that freedom to express your sexuality comes responsibility. Expecting others to take care of you and fund your ‘sexual freedom’ needs to stop. Get a pill, get a condom, get a diaphragm. And use them.

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