You know how to take care of you. You’ve learned self-defense. If any man ever hit you, you’d rip his eyes out. You’ve seen Mad Men, and if anyone ever sexually harassed you at work, you’d tell him to f*ck right off, throw your coffee in his face, and wave two middle fingers as you marched out the door.
You get your first internship. You get your first credit card. You get to walk into a shop, where your mum would never take you, where you couldn’t afford anything, and congratulate yourself with one fabulous black leather skirt, and the heels to match.
Your car? It’s the car of a uni student. You get a lease, and upgrade.
You get your first HECS bill, and look at all those numbers.
Your life turns into a stock photo tagged “young professionals”: you and your new work friends, hanging out at the bar across the street from the office. The cocktails cost twice as much as you paid when you still measured time by semesters and nights by cans of PBR.
The uni boyfriend gets serious. You move in to his place, spruce it up by buying your first coffee table together. Ikea lets you put half on your newest credit card.
Your internship ends before you find a permanent job. You make minimum payments on your credit card, then max them out again buying two days’ worth of groceries and filling your car half way.
Your bank app upgrades to a new feature that combines all your balances — the shiny store card with the Visa and the other account you were only supposed to use for emergencies — and tells you that somehow you owe people seven thousand dollars.
Your boyfriend offers to cover the rent for a while. You get a job a few months later, but you’re that many loan payments behind. Your first paycheque feels like a breath of air that gets sucked right out of your lungs.
Your new boss, who seems nice, calls you in his office, shows you a picture of his kids. He jokes about his son, then as you’re laughing, he puts his hand on your arm, gives you a little squeeze. You smile it off.
You wait to pay the electric bill while you’re gathering up the half you owe, and the lights go out. On your phone you see the email about the $50 late fee. Your boyfriend asks how you could be so stupid. “I am not stupid,” you say. You would never be with someone who called you names, but you would never be able to make first, last, and deposit right now, either.
You say yes to payday lunch with your new co-workers, because you want to make friends, your ham sandwich sounds boring, and what’s one more thing?
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You buy a halter dress you know you can’t afford, because it makes you look like the successful young woman you want everyone to think you are.
Your boss tells you that you look nice in that dress, asks you to do a spin. Just to get the moment over with, you do.