How To Help An Unemployed Friend

One doesn’t need to be a rocket scientist to know that being unemployed sucks on its own merit but it sucks even more when people around you act as if you had a contagious disease (i.e. disappear) or don’t think twice before opening their mouths.

It is not that we must walk on eggshells around our unemployed friends but here are a few things to take into consideration:

– Do not ask an unemployed butch/femme if s/he is getting any type of help from the government (food stamps, money to help pay heat, electricity or the rent, etc). S/he may or may not be eligible, which is nothing of your business. If s/he’s getting help from the state, it can be quite embarrassing and equally annoying to be constantly reminded/asked if you’re doing your basic homework as an unemployed person.

– Do not be a downer. Don’t say things like: “you are gonna end up cleaning houses like so and so” (gee thanks for your vote of confidence!) especially if you aren’t able to hold a job for more than 2 weeks yourself.

– Do not say things like: “I’ve been overworked for two weeks” or “I wish I got fired.” We all have our days but you might show more appreciation for moronic bosses and mandatory, paid OT after 6 months of unemployment. Oh and if your biggest worry is whether the new plasma TV will match your lamps and sofa, save it to yourself. Thank you.

– Do not say things like: “if I had my own company, I’d like to hire you but my girlfriend wouldn’t let me anyways.” Nothing better to boost a femme’s morale than learning that a femme she believed was her friend doesn’t trust her around her butch.

– Save funny comments like “don’t worry about how I’m doing, worry about unemployment giving you an extension hahaha” to yourself.

– Do not complain about being broke. If you make $70,000 a year, why do you think someone who is living on unemployment or her savings is the best person you can bitch to about being “broke”? Bitch you don’t have a mortgage, you don’t pay rent, you don’t have students loans, you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t read, you dress like a slob and don’t go to the movies: where the heck does your money go and why can’t you take care of your finances?

– Do not gossip… because karma is a bitch. There’s an urban legend about a femme who trashed a butch who worked at Costco and then found herself flat out broke when her butch dumped her – so broke that she even had to sell her car (don’t look at me: I don’t have a driver’s license!).

– If you hear about a job opening, ask your friend/acquaintance if s/he would be interested. DO NOT forward your friend’s resume to a recruiter without letting her know. S/he may have an updated resume or may want to tailor her resume for that position. S/he may not be looking for a job anymore. S/he may have other things going on.

– Do not offer to write a recommendation on LinkedIn or to be a reference if you don’t know what to write/say when a recruiter calls you. Your lack of credibility can be more a deterrent than help you friend.

– Save your drama for your mama. Do you really think when a person is unemployed is the best moment to ask her what s/he thinks of you? Don’t ask if you are not ready for an answer – especially if you used to be really close and you disappeared on her. If your friend/so-called friend is anything like me, s/he’ll give you her 2 cents and then some.

– Don’t get caught up in stupid things that your friend may not want to hear and definitely doesn’t need to hear. Like that time my ankles got swollen and I went on and on about how I surely had edema, elephantiasis, renal or heart failure, diabetes, a tumor with metastasis, etc without taking into consideration that my friend had a job interview the day after and I was being selfish dumping my hypochondria on her.

If you really want to help someone who is unemployed:

– Spend quality time with her (face to face or over the phone). Let her vent for as long as it takes as many times as s/he needs to.

– Don’t wait for her to call you. Give her space but remember it’s hard to call your friends when you have a bad day or are going through a rough patch.

– Check on her frequently and if s/he’s not getting out of the house, drag her out. Even a walk around the block will help her clear her mind.

– Understand that s/he may not be able to afford things you used to do. Find a way to treat her to lunch or the movies without insulting her or find free activities to do together.

– Do her groceries – pay attention to what s/he eats (i.e. don’t buy meat for a vegan, don’t buy regular pasta for a lowcarber, don’t buy Coke for a diet Pepsi addict, etc) and show up at her place with her groceries the next time you go visit. I wouldn’t ask in advance because 9 out of 10 times your friend may tell you s/he doesn’t need anything.

– Get her toiletries – under normal circumstances you would never think about buying toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo or tampons as a gift for any of your friends but they can make a difference for someone who is unemployed. Next time you go to the supermarket or pharmacy start stocking up on those 2×1 items, buy a nice basket and gift wrap from the dollar store and voilà! you have a nice gift for your friend.

– Feel the “sudden urge to clean your closets” and show up at her place with clothes she may need for a job interview or to go out. I’m talking about truly useful and tasteful items that will boost her morale, not just the junk you were trying to get rid of before s/he got laid off. Don’t let her stay in her sweatpants all day.

– Offer to do her laundry or, if you think that’s too intimate, get her a prepaid laundromat card instead.

All of the above also applies to the underemployed and/or underpaid, that is, butches and femmes living on minimum wages. The stereotypical maintenance crew or service butch may make less than butches or femmes on corporate jobs.  I know butch cleaners, dog walkers, Costo and USPS employees, carpenters, and butches and femmes with seasonal jobs that make little over the minimum wage. Some of them are ok with it. Some are embarrassed, don’t date, and stop seeing their friends because of it.

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