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The Seven Most Annoying Points in "Nickel and Dimed" by Barbara Ehrenreich

Updated on December 9, 2013

Her Food Choices

Though I agree with Ehrenreich in that the quality of food offered to working class citizens is sub par, her efforts to maintain her budget and still eat were pathetic. She eats at fast food chains, gas stations, and the like for nearly every meal. Not just the dollar menu either but this lady goes to KFC and a Chinese Buffet on the regular. Does she actually not know the common rule that buying and cooking meals is significantly cheaper and healthier? I understand that not everyone has a kitchen, or especially a fridge, but come on! Surely some non perishable food item like soup, crackers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches perhaps are better for you than the lunch buffet at KFC!

That Time When She Complains About Eating In Bed

Um, hi. College sophomore here telling you that its not that difficult to eat in bed! In fact I would say meals in bed are the dorm preference. Barbara, however, can not handle this barbarianism and completely alienates herself from normal people when she says she places "a supermarket bag over my lap, since spills are hard to avoid when you eat on a slant." She then proceeds to compare this difficult task of eating in bed to being on CBS's show Survivor, where "real people are struggling to light a fire on their desert island"....LOL

Let Us Not Forget the Ambiguous Racial References

"If I eat out at the buffet I can watch the large Mexican families" -Ehrenreich

"I chose Maine for its whiteness"-Ehrenreich

"meaning forty-five minutes if there's no road construction and I don't get caught behind some sun-dazed Canadian tourists"-Ehrenreich

Its not that Ehrenreich ever comes out and says anything extremely racist, however,I interpreted her obsession with pointing out race, finding out others race, and stereotypical attitudes as a clue to her underlying mentality.

The Not so Ambiguous Racial Reference Where she Thought she Understood What it Was Like to be Black

"True, I don't look so good by the end of the day and probably smell like eau de toilet and sweat, but it's the brilliant green-and-yellow uniform that gives me away, like prison clothes on a fugitive. Maybe, it occurs to me, I'm getting a tiny glimpse of what it would be like to be black."

Barbara, dear. I truly do not believe she meant this to be offensive to the "black" community at all but seriously? To compare anyones skin color to your hideous uniform colors is just offensive, intentional or not. Then to also say that this difference makes them comparable to a fugitive, what were you thinking? Perhaps a less insulting simile is in order? Like "that gives me away, like a sun beam on a cloudy day" or something of the like.

Her rant on the work she does at Walmart

Possibly the only job that she performs in this book I can semi-relate to is her employment in the ladies section of Walmart. I did not work at a super chain, however I did work in retail and performed many of the same tasks Barbara does (on a smaller scale of course). I found it laughable at how miserable she is folding clothes. She nearly goes insane! Please notice too that no one else complains half as much as Barbara does in this book.

Her rant about the break situation at Walmart

Barbara has a 9 hour shift with a cumulative hour and a half of breaks. The exact timing of these breaks becomes a serious concern for her. She fears "leaving an unbroken two-and-a-half hour stretch" during her "weariest" hours. She cringes in fear at the "nearly three-hour marathon" before she is permitted to take dinner. Perhaps my disdain for this section of the book comes from my recent 36 hour dance marathon completion but surely this annoyed everyone else? She can't stand on her feet for three hours? THAT is considered a marathon?


How harshly are you judging Barbara right now?

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The time where she is jealous of a man in a wheelchair because he is sitting

This one is pretty self explanatory so here is the quote. Judge her as you will:

"I'd gone back to the counter by the fitting room to pick up the next cart full of returns and found the guy who answers the phone at the counter at night, a pensive young fellow in a wheelchair, staring into space, looking even sadder than usual. And my uncensored thought was, At least you get to sit down."


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