Salon Writer Struggles To Feed Her Children, Is Berated By CommentersSalon published a a thoughtful essay yesterday by Heather Ryan about being "working poor" as part of a series about the recession called "pinched." Last summer, Ryan found herself, despite her Masters in writing and self-proclaimed bougie affections, unable to feed her three kids on her secretary's salary. You see, she had recently gotten divorced, and the cost of daycare during the summer wiped her out. Though it scared her and pained her to admit it, she couldn't afford enough food, and so one night she took her kids to a food kitchen. I've written screeds against self-indulgent personal essays before, and I must say that this wasn't one of them. It explored a very real issue: that the gap between rich and poor in this country is now a chasm, and that many educated, hard working people are struggling, whether you see it or not. Salon's commenters, however, felt otherwise, and said things like, "I have no sympathy for breeders, or for brie-eaters."They also said things like, "The fact that you make a good salary but whine that a certain job didn't take proper account of your ( questionable ) intellect and talent only speaks to your solipsistic (sic) ennui, brought-on no doubt by your liberal sense of entitlement." This one really upset me because of what it says about art and artists in this country, and how little they're valued. Why is it wrong that this woman wanted to be a writer? That she trained to be a writer and had to make a compromise and is frustrated by her compromise? Why do people have so little sympathy for that? Should only the wealthy and their offspring be allowed to make art because they can afford to? I think we'll be missing out on a lot of exceptional writing if that's the case. Finally, the anger towards this woman says a lot more about the commenters than it says about Ryan's particular plight. The "sense of entitlement" is that asshole troll's not Heather's — the entitlement that makes them think they're better than Ryan. That entitlement might be why the wage gap is so vast now, because people don't even try to identify with someone else's problems. I will quote another commenter from Salon named Marianna Trench, who had the right idea: "Hey, self-righteous moron commenters who think you're so much smarter and have such better judgment than Heather Ryan, I'm just waiting for the day when your comfortable, safe job vanishes, your spouse comes down with a debilitating illness, and your parents suddenly need round-the-clock care…It can happen to anyone, even the people who pride themselves on how much more sensible their choices are than the rest of ours. I'm guessing you think you can stave off the badness by picking on others who chose differently. You'd be wrong about that." Our Cupboard Was Bare [Salon]