By Dorothy Day
Says Girl Can’t Live on Specified Amount – Her Story Trails Into Music and Talk of Smudgy Kids
New York Call December 27, 1916 p. 2.
It’s a frightful bore to have to state specifically what you ate, what you are eating and what you are going to eat. Also how much you paid for it. And whether you have enough in your pocket or vanity case to pay for tomorrow’s grub.
As a Christmas present to Call readers whose hearts are torn by the sad tale of potato soup and the tenement bedroom and to the Call diet squad who is becoming sensitive at being maligned for her lean appearance by innumerable Socialists at Socialist gatherings who have happened across her articles on gaining weight on five a week – as a holiday present, The Call editor has declared that this may conclude the articles, although the diet squad has a six day sentence yet to serve.
Food Details Already Given
Details about the penny potato, butterine and the marked down can of cocoa have been given before. Also, last week’s story stated what was to be the menu of the week: so why repeat? Suffice it to say that the budget sheets are all on record at The Call office and inquisitive investigators may examine.
The conclusions reached are follows: a working girl cannot live on the $1.82 that the organized charities allow her. The food that she obtains for this amount does not keep her warm.
It is absolutely necessary to have one meal a day in a restaurant in cheerful surroundings. It is advisable to avoid Russian literature and sob-stuff. Do not use the imagination that the Lord may have blessed you with. Do not think of the many that are far worse off. It is not at all cheering. And if one meal a day is purchased, it is an impossibility to buy clothes. After a few months, one would be going around in a Cinderella-like state of raggedness.
Even if you are living scantily, it is far better to skimp and have a friend at a meal with whom you can laugh or weep as the fancy seizes you than to dine in solitary, gloomy plentitude. Within the last month The Call diet squad has entertained 10 persons at luncheon and they did not go away hungry by any means.
A Phonograph’s Aid
Another aid to digestion is a $15 phonograph. They can be bought on the installment plan, a dollar down and a dollar a week. I had bought a small phonograph for a dollar down and a dollar a week, plunging at once into installment buying, that plague of the poor, that dishonesty by which the poor are robbed of their meager earnings. And you don’t know how cheery it is to have a tribe of young ones of all ages, nationality and state of cleanliness sit all over your bed when you are trying the wakening effect of a piece of ragtime. What matter whether they smear your face with bread and buttery hands and get feet marks all over the sheet? What matter whether they dance all over the two-by-four bedroom and make such a racket that the landlord and the people downstairs threaten to assassinate you? A tiresome salmon pink bedroom becomes rainbow hued: the smell of stew under the spell of Fritz Kreisler changes to lily of the valley scent.
The strain of music makes the girl next door, who has always been stiff and suspicious because your key also opens her door, forget convention and peep in to smile and stop and listen. Sure, buy a Victrola, if you have to live on graham crackers and milk and peanut butter for a month. Which under cheerful circumstances, you could live on without losing flesh.
If a girl is forced to live cheaply, the East Side is the only place to do it. The West Side is drab and gray and dreary. You are not allowed to cook cabbage in your room. People won’t get acquainted, even under the spell of music. What’s more, where are the streets of pushcarts and the public baths and the colorful costumes and the bits of song that make the East Side the warm, throbbing really living neighborhood?