Shh… don't tell anyone I'm poor. They all think I'm living frugal and green just like everyone these days. This is a blog about a senior citizen living a frugal life, on a fixed income, in a low income food desert, and passing along knowledge from lessons learned. Some she learned from her Grandma Mama many years ago and some learned only a few days ago.
If you are not familiar with the Uncle Remus story of the tar baby its a folklore tale written in the 1800s about Br’er fox who creates a baby out of tar to trap his enemy Br’er rabbit who is always taunting him. When the rabbit engages the “baby” it doesn’t respond so the rabbit pokes and prods the object until it snares him. The tar baby is a sticky mess that consumes the rabbit and there’s no hope of getting unstuck.
The dictionary defines tar baby as “a situation or problem or the like from which it’s nearly impossible to extricate yourself” and that is about the only explanation we need. You get the idea. When you’re stuck, you’re stuck.
Do you have a tar baby? That would be someone in your life who is high maintenance, puts you in a bind, or otherwise drains you financially. If so, you’re not alone. I have tar babies in my life too. There are many like us around the world and we’re all in trouble. If we don’t put distance between us and our tar baby we’re going to be in a big long-term sticky mess. Here are some examples of tar babies that you may have in your life.
The best way to rid our self of a tar baby is to cut them off completely and stop enabling them to continue spending our money. Its hard enough to take care of our self. What kind of friend would continue being a financial burden on us? What kind of child would want to burden parents in such a way? We can’t save a drowning person if they pull us down with them.
I read about financial tar babies several years ago. I can’t remember exactly where though. A few months ago I suddenly realized I had lots of tar babies in my neighborhood. Poor neighborhoods are like that.
A couple of my neighbors in particular are the most frequent tar babies. When these two started calling me “bank of Anita” the story of the financial tar babies came back to me like a slap in the face. (sometimes it takes awhile for stuff to sink into my brain)
People take advantage of us only to the extent we allow it. I’ve gotten myself unstuck from all the tar babies in my neighborhood. I’ve cut off the food supply by simply not having a visible food storage. I don’t let neighbors stop by on shopping day so they can’t know what I get. This makes it easier to say no. I stopped being “bank of Anita” and there won’t be any more micro loans that somehow slips their minds when time to pay back. I tell them to “support your own habit” and let it go at that. A micro loan is small amounts that don’t seem significant until added together over time. Fifty cents here, a dollar there, etc.
Its time for my tar babies to sink or swim for themselves. Yes, I do know we’re supposed to be kind hearted and sensitive. We’re supposed to have compassion and to realize not everyone is as fortunate as us but helping others has the potential to hurt – both of us.
There are many folks out there that know how to scam the system to take advantage of the good heartedness of others. Some people do need help now and then. I know this. I’ve educated myself to know the difference between occasional need and a tar baby. I simply can’t afford them anymore. It’s my responsibility to know when I’m being scammed, misled, manipulated, taken advantage of, played, duped, and abused by the gauntlet of the human tar babies that live around me. I hope you have or will too.