Self Care, Tax Refunds and Messy Bun Gurus

The Self Care and Messy Bun Gurus Part

I am SO OVER privileged women telling me to be still, wash my face and to practice "self care". I'm here to testify that life sucks hard sometimes and it will be miserable and scary and washing your face won't do shit. It's actually hilarious to me that people who don't, and can't really understand what it's like to struggle become these icons of inspiration. 

I'm not saying that everyone has to struggle in order for their stories to be important or valid. ALL of our experiences as humans are important, even those that are fairy-tale pretty. 

But it seems almost dangerous to blithely toss around a few platitudes and call it self help. It's not that easy.

The worst part of this gross trend (yeah to me it's gross) is that some women will look at themselves and their lives and and their situations and wonder why the hell they can't just pull harder on the ol' bootstraps because duh, our problems are so easily dissolved with some soap, water, prayers and a lil me time. And then the guilt starts.

I've faced some terrible stuff (spouse leaving, bankruptcy, poverty, abuse) but even I wouldn't assume to become some guru of messy bun wisdom. Because I know my struggles look like a trip to freaking Disney compared to what others have gone through/are going through.

One more thing that bugs me about this: these are the voices that get amplified and shared and turned into glossy books because they have the means to get heard. Connections and money and time- we are DROWNING in insta-inspo fluff and will never hear many truly powerful women's voices because they don't have even a speck of those means. 

I guess the thing that saddens me about society's current obsession with these affluent women who can't seem to ever get their gd hair tucked just right behind their ears is this: would someone like JK Rowling make it if she was just starting out now? Would Oprah? How many Harry Potters is the world missing because the brain they live in is too broke and exhausted to pay for a social media assistant or attend a writer's workshop at noon on a Tuesday? How many stories that would actually help are we never going to hear because the person who lives it isn't married to a hedge fund investor or has a trust from mom and dad? 

I know this may come across as a poor person crying and pouting because *newsflash* rich people have advantages but, man. I'm just saying it would be nice to hear from more women who have truly clawed their way to the top from somewhere lower than omg remember that time we couldn't afford to get the dog groomed

The whole premise of self-care, self-love, self anything is picking YOU over all the other stuff.

The reality for many of us is that WE are it. We alone bear the responsibility to keep our families, and ourselves, afloat. And when it comes down to choosing between our kids and ourselves, it’s pretty obvious who wins. 

I screw up, a lot, still. You’d think after so many years of living without much money I’d have figured this shit out. But despite knowing just how hard and how desperate things can be...


I tend to go overboard at Christmas, for example. Obviously not like, “a Lexus in the driveway with a big bow on it” overboard but for some reason even with grown ass kids I’m always trying to fill some empty space with just one more present. Just one more thing and they will see how much I love them and how sorry I am that the other 364 days of the year are spent with a mom who grinds her teeth at night and who reminds people to turn off lights and who stands in the grocery store deciding if that pint of ice cream is worth it or is way too self indulgent.

Last fall I bought a ticket to see the Foo Fighters. It was definitely way too self indulgent. It was way out of my price range. It was absolutely worth it. I lived on lentil soup for a week or two but my goodness- it’s been five months and I’m still able to close my eyes and go back to that night like it’s a sweet spring water well and draw so much joy from it. That $120 dollar ticket might have been one of the stupidest things I've spent my money on, but it was also one of the smartest. 

That, my friends, is what self-care looked like for me last year. Dave Grohl, loud music, and a night out with a small side of guilt.

The Tax Refund Part

Tax refund season is upon us and with it will come comments and sighs and fist-shaking at all of the poors who run out and spend everyone else's hard-earned money on televisions and manicures and iPhones and who then find themselves broke and struggling again soon after making yet another stupid choice. 

And you know what? That's true for some. Some people do make less-than wise decisions when a chunk of cash that's not already earmarked for rent or food or new tires or prescriptions shows up in their checking account or in the mailbox. It's hard for me to describe what it's like to get a tax refund after months of holding your breath as you swipe your debit card at the grocery store. 

I guess it's like being so hungry that you want to gnaw your arm off and then someone saying "hey open that door over there my friend you won't believe your eyes" and you open that door and there is a neverending buffet of comfort food: buttery mashed potatoes, all the pad thai a girl could ever want to shovel into her gullet, ice cold martinis...wait. That might be an actual dream I've had. 

Anyhoo. It's like that. And I guess I can't blame someone who has only tasted struggle and worry for months on end to want a smidgen, just a nibble, of something better. 

But not me. I've only been getting a refund for a few years, before that I had to pay in thanks to my ex-husband's lawyer and also irony. 

The refunds I get might look big and exciting, but here's the deal: I break the refund down and divide it into 12 parts. My income as a secretary is just barely over the poverty line and a huge chunk of that goes to rent. I'm very fortunate to have kids who are able to pitch in now, honestly when I think back to where we were just a few years ago it hurts my heart. I don't know how we did it. I don't know how we survived. 

So the refund, once flayed open and cleaved into pieces, doesn't look so big and exciting. It looks like help. It looks like a late utility bill finally being paid off. It looks like a depleted savings account getting some padding. 

It looks like this pair of earrings I treated myself with last night. My daughter and I, bored out of our minds on a Saturday, went to the mall. She had a sweater to return at H&M and that's where I saw these. Yeah I know the company is garbage and we shouldn't buy from them but here we are. 

This is the poor chick's version of self care. $6.00, and because I don't learn from past mistakes I'm sure they'll break in less than a week but they made me happy.

I'm sure someone will chime in with a Dave Ramsey/Suze Orman tidbit and remind me that those six dollars could have been a spaghetti dinner or three gallons of gas. But last night, they bought me these earrings. And they were worth every penny. All 600 of them. 

If you're still here, thank you for reading this far. It's been a long stretch of time since I sat and typed and the words came so easily. This is certainly not my finest work but it sure felt good to write. I hope it lasts. And I hope you stick around.




  1. Love you, Jenny. Start a youtube channel, I would watch. How's the book coming along? xo

  2. I really appreciated reading this. Thank you so much for your candor and the passion of your words. (And those earrings are great.)

  3. I love your writing and I will happily read it, whenever it shows up. We are a family of three (my husband, 17 year old son and I) on one income in a high cost of living area (Seattle natives, wondering why we're still here) and I was really looking forward to our refund. It was about $1280 last year. We've had $17,000 worth of medical/dental bills in the last 20 months---the debt was down to $200 remaining, then my son and I had more health problems in January, now we're back up to $940. (We have insurance through my husband's job but since this is America, we always owe more. My son's medication costs $1800 a month without insurance, we pay $30 luckily but I'm so worried about what will happen when he has to go off our insurance when he's older.) Our savings is down to less than $400. I really wanted to use our refund to put some back in savings, pay off some of the medical bills, pay the car insurance, and fix my car with 102,000 miles on it. You know, silly, frivolous stuff. ;-) But this year's refund will be a whopping $14. That's right. Not even enough to take us all out for coffee and cookies at Starbucks. So now we're looking at selling our wedding rings. This is not how I thought my 50's would be.

  4. I feel fortunate that I don't know where you are hearing/seeing these messages. Maybe they are everywhere but I choose to ignore them? They are not part of what I pay attention to, they remind me of actors and Hollywood, science fiction, all things that are not reality. Maybe pay attention or surround yourself with other mediums and better messages? I agree with the above replier, put yourself on YouTube and get a shit ton of followers. People love you including me. I eat up everything you have to say and can't wait to read more. You are real good people. Someone telling you to wash your face and that's somehow giving advice is bullshit. I don't buy it for a second.

  5. Amen and hallelujah sister! Every time I have come across that Wash Your Face book I am like "What, really?! Come on!" I mean I wash my face twice a day (cuz if I don't I break out) and when real, true-life garbage is occurring all around me, that face washing has never suddenly made it much better, or easier to manage. Thank you Jenny for just shooting straight with us and confirming for me that it's just fine dismissing "self help" of this trending flavor.

  6. Thank you, Jenny, for your honest words. I often feel like I'm failing because I'm living paycheck to paycheck (and sometimes not even that). Please don't feel guilty for buying your new earrings. I understand and I hope they bring you lots of joy. :)

  7. I developed a rational hatred for Elizabeth Gilbert during my divorce for this very reason. I didn't get a fair property settlement, let alone a book deal, so there was no eating my way out of misery on a plate of spaghetti in Italy.

  8. I really love your writing. I check in from time to time to see if there are any new posts and I'm thrilled when there is! I love your version of "self care" served up without the guilt. Beautifully put.

  9. "omg remember that time we couldn't afford to get the dog groomed." LOLOLOL I live among people like this. Here's my current least favorite careless reply (and I don't mean "care less." I believe those who use it mean well). "You've got this." Nope nope nope. Sometimes, I don't "got this." I need HELP. Real help - someone to step in and say "let's think this through together."

  10. Oh yesyesyes! Who wants to whack someone who says "it's only money". Oh.My. Only comfortable to wealthy people can say that.
    I'm really glad you bought those earrings Jenny. They are adorable, and even though I've never met you in person, I can tell they are totally you.


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