Grifter in Paradise

I’ve ran plenty of schemes, scams and hustles in my day, most of which I’m not going to detail on this blog, mostly for legal reasons. My mother will agree with me that I’m a scammer, which I know hurts her on some level because she raised the rest of her children to be obedient capitalist workers. Me? I’ll admit that I have a bit of disdain for this so-called “system,” and I’ll also admit that it hurts my feelings when my mother calls me a scammer, but that’s just because I know that means that I can’t scam her. She’s in on my cons, and she’s not falling for that one again. Dammit.

But enough about my mother and her judgments. What she doesn’t know is that the world has rapidly changed in the past few years, and scheming, scamming and hustling is a fundamental element of any smart person’s drive to survive. Believing in the capitalist system is what makes you a mark, and if you’re a mark you’re probably out there suffering but also somehow working a full time job. Suffering just isn’t for me. I don’t do it.

In fact, I would go so far to say that anyone who is successful in this system is, on some level, a schemer, a scammer or a hustler, which is why I don’t understand my mother’s disdain, but, hey, she comes from a generation when a full time, single earner household was enough to buy a house. She was content with working forty hours a week into the middle class? Me? If I want to be middle class, someone’s  gotta bleed.

Well, someone is bleeding. And it’s not me.

In my pursuit of, um, I don’t know, would we call it success? I guess gaming the system successfully is by definition a success. So, in my pursuit of success in this society, there are certain values that I have somewhat adhered to. One of those values is feminism, and (well, I think I’ve talked about this before, but just to reiterate:) while a few years ago I found myself on the fringe of that movement by being unrepentantly vocal about radical feminist issues, I now find myself smack dab in the middle of the feminist movement. Being centrist is not really my thing, so it’s been a bit dizzying and difficult to navigate, but I’m making it work.

Let me reiterate: I’m making it work. And when I say “I’m making it work” I mean in a very Hillary Clinton kind of way.

Now, being a scammer but also holding deep, important values can be a bit of walking contradiction. The essence of scamming is playing people’s moral and economical values against them in order to reap some cold, hard cash. I find myself walking this line more and more as I find myself rubbing elbows with people who adhere to these lofty feminist morals. I am by no means a moral person, nor do I aspire to be one, but part of me likes blending here in the middle. I mean, I don’t know if I’m doing anyone any favors by being a rotten apple in this barrel full of pussy hats, but, hey, if not me, then who? I mean, someone’s gotta be the asshole in the bunch. I’m pretty good at it.

So, I know, this post has been kinda long winded and rambling and winding around several different ideas. It’s true: I am dancing around something that I don’t really want to say explicitly because if I say it explicitly I’m afraid that “someone” might be coming for me. I’m paranoid. That’s just it.

But out with it, right?

I got the check in the mail on Friday and I ran – no, I sprinted to the ATM two blocks away to deposit it because I was afraid that it would melt in my hands or turn into ash or get ripped up by small demons who parade around my room nightly and hide shit from me. As I stood at the ATM and entered my pin, I couldn’t help but shriek out in joy all sorts of different expletives that I’m not going to spell out here because I’m realizing that this paragraph is making my sound slightly schizophrenic. Well, not schizophrenic, but caustically euphoric.

What can I say – it was a pretty nice check.

I didn’t really want to admit that I got that check because I’m aware of the social decorum of capitalism – never let them know what you got. Eh, but fuck it, now y’all know, I got a check and I ran to the bank with it. No, I ain’t buying you shit, but I did buy myself a nice new Dior handbag.

The thing is – I earned that money. I fucking did! I didn’t win it, I earned it. I was owed that money, and I’m sure I’m owed a lot more, but the statute of limitations and lack of evidence and blah blah blah.

You see, the thing about being a scammer is: we scam because we don’t know how to earn as much money as we think we are owed in the capitalist system because the capitalist system arbitrary tells us we don’t deserve that much money. I don’t deserve the money, I haven’t earned it, so it’s time to pull some cons to live the life that I want. Isn’t that the essence of scamming? Because heaven knows you have to be smart to be a scammer. Or, you have to be smart to be a successful scammer. And anyone who’s smart enough to be a successful scammer is probably also smart enough to hold down a steady job with a salary that pays them the same amount of money with less effort than it takes to scam. (Because scamming is emotionally exhausting.) It’s just – well, this society tells women and people of color and people who couldn’t afford college that they should just be content with minimum wage for the rest of their lives.

Man, fuck that.

Anyways, all of that is how I found myself working in bars for years. I’m an uneducated woman, but that doesn’t matter in bars. You can make more than minimum wage, and people like female bartenders, so it’s a great career for an uneducated woman. The only downside is that because bars tend to attract hustlers like me and my friends, they tend to be hotbeds of impolitic behavior that include drug abuse, sexual harassment and various petty crimes. And the so-called hustlers that run these joints? They’re not politicians, and there’s no higher standard of morality to which they are held. Perhaps that’s the other side of the hustle coin: on the one side, there’s that brilliant, beautiful work ethic and the brains to pull it off. On the other side, anyone who’s drawn to life outside the norm probably indulges other abnormal, or, rather, unsavory behaviors. Which isn’t to say that the better you are at hustling, the more unsavory your character is, but just that: sometimes those two things go hand in hand. I’m definitely not going to pretend like that isn’t true for me, at times. But that’s a whole other blog post right there.

So, to bring everything together: sexual harassment, feminism, and a check. I’ve been hustling up in my life for a long time now, and everything feels like a hustle. So being blessed with this check which is (I might add) a direct result of the #metoo movement – it just feels like the best scam I’ve ever pulled. Kinda like Hillary Clinton cashing out the feminist movement for a big win, except I didn’t lose. But that’s the thing – it’s not even a scam! It’s just…fair. I deserve this. I earned this after putting up with all that bullshit for so fucking long. This is mine.

I’m legit, baby.

But, in all honesty, I have no idea how to be legit. We’ll see how this pans out.

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