Broke-Ass Has a Birthday: Celebrating the Barter Economy Way

As many of you lovelies so movingly observed (thank you, babydolls!), Broke-Ass had a birthday on Tuesday, November 16. She turned 42. Forty-fucking-two. That’s the way it is, apparently.

So, we have a rule here at El Rancho: On your birthday, you can do whatever you want, so long as it’s neither dangerous nor degrading. This rule applies to all members of the household, Two Lumps of Sugar included, though we usually have to imagine stuff that is neither dangerous nor degrading for him because he invariably veers in those directions, day be damned. The rest of us, however, usually have a pretty firm grasp on what to do. You want to have ice cream for breakfast and watch iCarly? Well, go right ahead, Baby Poodle–it’s your birthday. You want to go to the weird magic and costume store on 3rd Ave. and then check out the witch supply store in the East Village? Coming right up, Little Mousie–it’s your birthday. You want to go fishing off the Valentino pier in 95-degree weather? Well, alright, Big Daddy–it’s your birthday.

So, you want to know what Broke-Ass did? First thing, when she woke up? Cut her hair. That’s right. Took her drugstore-bought hair snippers (no, Broke-Ass does not forge her own scissors–yet) and lopped it off. Just felt like it. It was her birthday.

Here’s what it looks like:

Not too bad, right? Truth be told, that’s one of the things that Broke-Ass does like about the broke DIY life: When you want something done, you just do it they way you want to do it. Especially on your birthday.

But there are some things DIY simply isn’t equipped to handle, and certainly not on one’s birthday, for heaven’s sakes. Take massage, for example. Broke-Ass could have asked Big Daddy to step up to the husbandly plate, and it is true that he offers a better than acceptable massage. For about three minutes. Then, parrot-like, he becomes distracted by thoughts such as: “I wonder how much time before I have to install a new filter in the heating system?” or “There is a new energy-saving light bulb that I’m considering looking into further on a Web site that I’m pretty sure I bookmarked but that I might need your help finding again, with Google–isn’t that what it’s called? Google?” or “Any idea where my gas receipts for 2008 are?” At which point Broke-Ass is loudly diagnosing him with Aspergers Syndrome and heaving herself on the floor in the hopes that she may hit an acupressure point.

When you’re broke, you’re stressed, and when you’re stressed, you need a massage, but when you’re broke, you cannot afford even to peer in at the window of a day spa. But it’s your birthday. Broke-Ass needed a damn massage the way Bill Mahr needs to make fun of people less smart than he is. Which is why Broke-Ass had the foresight to propose a barter with a local day spa. It works like this: Broke-Ass offers some web, writing, and marketing counsel in return for massage, facials, and Brazilian bikini waxes. The amazing Debbie values Broke-Ass’ expertise; Broke-Ass values the amazing Debbie’s expertise. All told: awesome. On her birthday: extra awesome. The Brazilian bikini wax maybe not so much. Rawther degrading all around. But these things must be done for love.

Now, at another point, Broke-Ass would like to delve more deeply into exploring the various facets of awesome that sparkle so dazzlingly over the relatively humble-hued aspect of the barter economy. Because Broke-Ass has engaged in enough of these barter micro-transactions to have noted that there are a number of felicitous consequences that typically surface. But not now. We’re sticking with birthday.

So, after the spa-barter experience, Broke-Ass then subjected herself to a clinical trial involving a cosmetic surgeon using her as a guinea pig to test out the efficacy of so-called “stem cell facelifts.” Now, there’s a story. Did it cross the line into dangerous? Degrading? You will have to read all about it in the April issue of Vogue because while Broke-Ass, as a clinical test subject, did not spend a dime on that procedure, she is getting paid good money by Conde Nast for that story.

Hours later, after ___ and ___ and feeling like  ___ , Broke-Ass returned to El Rancho, where Big Daddy had a gorgeous and private meal waiting for her–artichokes!–and the best present she has ever received, outside the hand-tooled creations of her schmushkies: a sewing machine. A. Sewing. Machine. Of her very own. You have no idea, babydolls. No idea. The hours she has spent, hand-sewing her own bizarro fashion creations for herself, for her babies! Broke-Ass is going to make everything she owns look like it marched right out of the Rick Owens flagship store on Hudson! She has wide tapes of black elastic and old jeans and a ton of scraps of leather from old bags and sundry items and an acute inner sense of the drape! Happy day!

Barter bikini waxes. Gratis stem cell facelift. A sewing machine. Forty-two, baby. Forty-two.

This is the year. Broke-Ass can feel it.


About brokeassgrouch

I'm goddamned broke and grouchy. I live in the middle of the damned ghetto and raise chickens for eggs; grow all my own vegetables and fruit; bake the bread and make the cleaning products. Why? Because I fucking have to, that's why! That's what you do when you're fucking poor! You have to make the shit yourself, dumb-ass! Broke-Ass Grouch is sick of all you Bennington and RISD trustafarians yapping about your "urban farming co-ops" and your "carbon conscious lifestyle" and your "green choices" in the Times Styles section and every alternapress periodical that you can pick up for free in every eye-wateringly expensive, edgy bakery or green-market. Maybe when you have a trust fund, you can make "choices" or have a "lifestyle" or "decide" how to "spend" your "money." Excuse me, but Mama is just trying to feed her kids over here, you little shits. And stop spraying your art-school graffiti on the fence of the vacant lot across the street from my house. I know who you are, and I'm telling my friend Keith (who lives in the projects) that it was you who painted that cartoon of the African mask. So what can I tell you? I don't fucking know. I know a lot about being broke, sure as Bob's your fucking uncle. I know about how useless an Ivy League degree is when you're flat-ass broke. I know how to unclog a drain with baking soda and vinegar, and I know how to make my own CHEESE, for fuck's sake. You tell me.
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2 Responses to Broke-Ass Has a Birthday: Celebrating the Barter Economy Way

  1. stacey sarnicola says:


  2. MJMcBee says:

    Um… I now know what I’ll be doing after I put my infant to bed (and my 10-month-old-daughter too ba dum pum)…stalking your blog! Happy Birthday, BA! Your post has gotten me thinking about the lead-a-riffic sewing table I salvaged recently from my parents’ basement that sits in my entryway threatening to poison my child when she finally learns to escape the apartment. It houses the Black Iron Singer my dad bought for my mother to be a good little Betty Draper in 1962… which I think she never once used out of spite. I, however, inspired to make my own clothes in order to avoid further harassment from my peers about my JC-Penny-One-Day-Sale- Tye-dyed Parachute Pants and Dr. Pepper Backpack won in a raffle my mother entered (I am an ACBA), remember slaving away in 7th grade on it to make my first and last piece…the “Home Ec” sack that was meant to be my hip new floral-patterned-tennis bag (only allowed to buy sale fabric, too) yet I’d sewn the drawstring opening so tight you couldn’t even jam in a copy of Sweet-Valley High. So there went my dreams of starting my own line of Z Cavariccis.

    Now that I’m a self-made BA, it’s time to decide: do I finally refurbish the thing and learn to use it so that I may still enjoy fashion in my own broke life, or add it to my ever-growing list of Things I Must Sell On Craislist To Pay For Diapers…below my Frye boots?

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