Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America is the tale of a middle-aged professional (with Ph.!) WASP woman’s attempt to survive as a low-wage just-off-welfare worker. This vibrant and humorous story begins in an “understated” French cafe with the author and the editor of Harpers magazine discussing future article themes. Somehow, the author’s idea: to send “some hungry neophyte journalist” on an experiment in impoverished living conditions, turned on her and became a personal challenge/New York Times Bestselling book deal. Now if only I had thought of it first.
Two years ago I wrote a story for The Siskiyou Newspaper, an “old-fashioned journalism” story (not unlike Nickel and Dimed). I wanted to find out what it was like to be a woman; so, I dressed up like a woman. I learned quite a few interesting things that day I spent as a woman. I learned why women look up when they put mascara on. I learned what it feels like to walk to school and be gawked at by someone in a car going the opposite direction, on the opposite side of the road. I learned what it feels like to have someone stare [repeatedly] at your tits in the midst of an important conversation. All these things I learned JUST by dressing up as a girl [for a day]. Consequently, Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed holds a special place in my heart. .
Never mind the neophyte cynic critics that condemn her as being too reluctant to fall back on past middle-class resources. Note that she carefully states [in the 10th paragraph] that she does not intend to “experience poverty” over a long period of time. Never mind that her recalcitrant esteem periodically pushes her to blowout and consequential quitting. When I undertook my brief study in female behavior I did not need to amputate my manhood or take estrogen pills in order to write an effective story. Barbara Ehrenreich never claimed to a total immersion in her experiment, but [frankly] it shows.