Los Angeles, CA

I Never Planned to be Divorced and Poor in Middle Age. I Thought I'd Be Married With Money.

Elle Silver

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Photo by Candice Picard

Dogs often crap in the yard in front of the duplex where I live. No one cleans up after their dog even though this is the socially expected thing to do. One would think a dog owner would realize someone lives in this duplex — a family (two families, in fact) — and do the courtesy of cleaning up after their dog. But it appears that this is something that only happens in rich neighborhoods.

I live in a low-income neighborhood in the southern part of Los Angeles. No one cleans up after their dogs where I live. My two children and I live in the upper unit of this duplex. I have neighbors downstairs.

They’re a couple with four boys. The kids sometimes create such a ruckus that the structure of my complex shakes. This often happens at night, just when my kids and I are trying to fall asleep to prepare for school the next morning.

Sometimes the wife pulls her truck to her back door, just below my kitchen window, and blasts music. She does this on her days off during the week. I use my place as my home office. I work at the kitchen table. Her loud music disturbs me.

The man who lives in the house next door to our duplex often has arguments at night. Stairs lead up from the sidewalk to the front door of his house. He stands at the top of the stairs and throws food down at his family members who come by to visit.

He lobs slurs at these family members along with the food. I don’t know why his family continues to show up.

One time, a male family member brandished a knife. What if, at some point, someone takes out a gun? I live right next door with my two children. It’s too much drama and danger for my taste, especially as a mother, but I also feel stuck here.

I moved into this apartment after I left my husband. We had been living in a four-bedroom house in one of those wealthy Los Angeles neighborhoods where people clean up after their dogs when they crap in your yard. The bank foreclosed on our house though. This happened just as I was leaving my husband.

He had lost a number of investment properties during the financial crisis. When that fell through, he never took another job.

He claimed bankruptcy and then bankrupted me too as I let him borrow money in my name. He defaulted on my loan.

Obviously, this financial strife contributed to the breakdown of our relationship. I also felt like I was the victim of a bait and switch. My husband had money when we met. We lived in his investment properties until we moved into a four-bedroom house in a nice neighborhood where I thought we’d raise our children.

My now ex-husband’s family is wealthy. They cut him checks every month, which enhanced our lifestyle. We went on international trips and our children attended a tony preschool.

I was used to going to fancy parties put on by my husband’s parents’ circle of wealthy friends. I thought my life would always be like that.

I had grown up in an upper-middle-class family. Now I had married into one. I never thought I’d end up divorced, living in the upstairs unit of a duplex in a crappy neighborhood where people don’t clean up after their dogs and brandish knives during arguments, but it’s just worked out this way.

Sometimes we are rich in ways we don’t appreciate.

A construction company is building a new apartment complex just a couple of lots over from my duplex. These are apartments I won’t be able to afford to rent. The construction company keeps a trailer on the street where the supervisor works, which means the city has stopped cleaning the street.

As a result, the street in front of my duplex has become filthy, the gutters filled with trash. A lot of the trash comes from the construction site. I contacted the city to complain about this.

I made sure to include how disrespectful it is that the city stopped cleaning my street, as my taxes go toward paying for this service. I said that I realized that to them, I’m just a poor person. They don’t expect me to complain.

I shouldn’t care if my street is dirty. I should just accept it. Maybe it’s even what I deserve for being a poor, single mother. I don’t make enough money to demand a clean street.

At least, this was what it feels like.

As a result of my complaint, the city did send someone to clean the street. Two workers with brooms showed up to sweep up the trash. It gave me the feeling of having some control over my life.

I’ve also been calling city sanitation to clean up the "bulky items" that people continually illegally dump in front of my duplex. The city comes to gather up these dumped refrigerators, chairs, floor fans, and bookcases, and this has also made me feel somewhat better about where I live in L.A.

No, I never thought I’d be divorced and poor in middle age. When I got married, I thought I’d live the life of an upper-middle-class Los Angeles woman. But my husband’s business was unsuccessful and my marriage didn’t work out, and so here I am.

Life changes. Sometimes we can control these changes; sometimes we can’t.

Yes, I am a poor and divorced, middle-aged woman. But I have my health and the love of my children.

Sometimes we are rich in ways we don’t appreciate.

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I write about dating, marriage, divorce, family, society, and the city I live in: Los Angeles.

Los Angeles, CA
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