Wendy C Ortiz
Subject was born in a major urban city in the United States. Subject was born in a hospital due to her mother's health insurance in 1973. Subject's mother remembers waiting in long lines at the gas station during the oil crisis. Subject was born without birth defects, disease, or illness.
Subject's mother was a city worker in 1973, which in her case meant benefits, and a pension in her mother's future. Subject's father was a sheet metal foreman. She remembers when he went from being sheet metal "worker" to "foreman." She remembers him bringing home binders from the union trying to organize them when she was very young. The union did not take hold.
Subject's father, prior to being a sheet metal foreman, worked on the telephone lines in downtown Los Angeles. He lived in East Los Angeles. Prior to that, he was a number of things, including a worker in detention camps due to drunk driving arrests. As a child, subject's father and his family picked grapes and cotton in the central valley of California.
Subject's mother, prior to being a city worker, worked in a bar for a brief time and not much else. Subject's mother had her city job for 35 years before she took early retirement (pension and benefits).
Subject's parents were born in the United States (Los Angeles; Torrance). Subject's grandparents were born in the United States (El Paso, Texas) and in Mexico (Purépero, Michoacan).
Subject's maternal grandmother was referred to as "guera" in her family of over ten children in El Paso. She received a sixth-grade education. She married in Los Angeles after leaving Phoenix, AZ (post-Texas); had two children, and divorced her husband (a baker who "gambled all their money away"). Subject's grandmother spoke fluent Spanish (her first language) but passed as white often enough that she could (and did) feign not being able to speak Spanish when she "didn't want to be bothered by people in the street."
Subject's mother received a public high school education and had no intentions of going to college because she claimed to "hate school." Subject's mother went to two, if not three, different high schools, one of them in Long Beach when she was "sent away." Subject's father either received a public high school education or got his GED (unknown). Subject's father joined the Army before he was eighteen years old. Subject's father traveled all over the United States, and to Greenland, and eventually, Korea.
Subject's parents married in Las Vegas in 1968, according to photographs. They met, according to subject's mother, at a party in East L.A. in the early 1960s, if not before.
Subject's parents were both previously married. Subject's mother had no children from her previous marriage; subject's father had five children, four of them living, from his previous marriage. Alimony was instituted; it's unclear if subject's father paid it regularly or intermittently. Subject's mother claims she insisted it was paid and invited subject's father's children to the house some summers to satisfy visitation requirements.
Subject's parents owned the house they took her home to in 1973. It is subject's understanding that the house was purchased due to the G.I. Bill. The house was a tract home close to the freeway. The suburb was called "North Hollywood" even though it was very north of Hollywood proper and decades later would be considered more "Sun Valley," "Panorama City," or just "northeast San Fernando Valley."
Subject's mother worked in the city of Los Angeles, near downtown and Echo Park, which was a commute from their home in the San Fernando Valley; her father worked in an industrial area of Van Nuys. For this reason her father drove her to school most often between the ages of 6 and 13.
Subject entered private school at two-and-a-half years old when her mother lost patience with what she perceived as sloppiness at the daycare she had originally placed subject. (Subject wants to mention here that her "mother is a Virgo").
Each parent owned a car. At times a tire would blow out on the freeway, or subject's father would leave the car in the parking lot of a bar or liquor store and find it stripped when finally located. Her father's cars: red Camaro; blue Cougar XR-7; black El Camino with hard-to-see red glitter finish; white Riviera; various small trucks followed. Subject's mother drove a station wagon for most of subject's life. It is unclear to subject if her parents purchased cars outright or if there were liens.
During subject's early childhood someone broke into the family's house, stealing a vacuum cleaner, television set, jewelry, and other items. It was understood the burglars arrived with a large vehicle, "ready to clean out the place." Police were called. The items were never recovered.
Both of subject's parents lived as functioning alcoholics. Subject's mother used sick time and vacation time liberally as a result of her alcoholism. Subject's father presumably did not have vacation or sick time to use in his small place of employment, and therefore rarely took either.
Subject's maternal grandmother (the full extent of "family" who lived close by) resided in a duplex in East Los Angeles, where subject and her mother would visit weekly. Prior to her death, subject's grandmother received Social Security checks, Medi-Cal, and a small income from the older lady next door who owned the duplex. In exchange for help with groceries and watering plants and trees and being nearby in case of emergency, subject's grandmother accrued goodwill, occasional gifts of money, discounted rent, and later, after the death of the landlord, a four-figure gift (from the landlord's son) before being asked to vacate.
Subject's grandmother, upon learning that her daughter was pregnant at 34 years of age, started a trust fund that she solely funded for the unborn baby that would become our subject. Into this fund went all extra money, including any gifts received. By the time subject was 18 years old and the trust fund was available, approximately $25,000 had accrued.
Subject remained in the same private school, preschool through eighth grade. The one time public school was brought up (by subject), her father dismissed the idea.
Subject excelled in her schoolwork. She especially enjoyed reading. She participated in ballet, tap, and drama. Later she participated in track and field and basketball. She was, for a time, a Junior in Girl Scouts. It is unknown what yearly tuition was at the school. It is known that there were no discounts or scholarships offered (and if they were, her parents, and subject, had been unaware).
Subject went to a Catholic high school because it was close to her junior high, many of the people she went from elementary and junior high school were attending, and her parents could afford the tuition, even after the divorce, which occurred when subject was 14 or 15.
For a short time subject desired brand-name clothes (Guess, Bongo, circa 1985, 6th grade) but eventually shifted to a wardrobe of black leggings, turtlenecks, and various thrift store-bought outfits. High school required uniforms and the purchasing of books, all of which appeared to be within the subject's parents' means. It is not known what monthly child support covered.
From the ages of 13 to 18, subject did a number of small jobs: quality control at a friend's father's business (sorted screws, removed filaments); folded clothes in a store in her local mall; took care of others' children and pets; sold the Los Angeles Times door to door; scooped ice cream; worked cash registers; accepted prescriptions to hand to the pharmacist; and other "small jobs here and there" subject can't recall (including various questionable scenarios involving being paid in products other than money, for doing various things, including getting in a stranger's car, or having a drink with them).
Subject's first car was a Volkswagen bus, automatic (subject insisted this would be her first car "for personal reasons"). Subject asked her grandmother to "open" the trust fund early and take out funds to afford the used car. It was the first time in subject's life in which she bought a car from a dealer in a lump sum. Between the ages of 19-40, subject's vehicles were purchased by subject's mother in times of emergency. Subject's mother "maintains a modest savings account that can accommodate this kind of purchase approximately once every 10 years."
Subject finished high school with good enough grades (cum laude, 3.38 GPA, "ranked #61 out of 249 seniors"). Subject entered community college in the fall after graduating high school. Subject claims to "not totally understand why" she didn't apply to four-year colleges and universities. Subject has reasons she won't disclose for the purposes of this account. She will say that the two years of community college were "phenomenal" and not just because "for under $300 per quarter you could get a full load of classes, a student i.d. card, and a parking permit."
After two years, subject applied to two four-year schools with the intention of transferring. She was accepted to both (San Francisco State University; The Evergreen State College). Subject would have studied creative writing at SFSU; subject chose Evergreen. When subject told her mother she would be moving to Olympia, Washington to go to a public liberal arts college, subject informed her, "I've resigned myself to the knowledge that the things I want to do in life don't make a lot of money."
For income, between the ages of 18-24, subject was a telemarketer in a basement, at her college campus, and a telemarketer at a carpet cleaning business. The trust fund money had run out as a consequence of 1) being an out-of-state student and the fees associated with such the first year, 2) the thousand mile move to Olympia, Washington, and 3) early unemployment in her first few months in Olympia. Subject had to take on loans to finish her Bachelor's degree.
Eventually subject entered the state job system in Olympia, which provided health care, vacation time, sick leave, and a retirement plan. She earned a 99 out of 100 on her state placement exam and soon after worked on the capitol campus. During this time subject's rent was under $200 a month and she did not own a car. For income, at age 25, she worked at the front desk of the only feminist health care clinic that offered abortions in her town for a few months, until she was offered a job as a circulation desk worker at the college she had graduated from. Because the college was a state college, her job was a state job, securing all benefits noted above, even as a part-time worker. It was there that subject began to believe she would go on to graduate school to become a librarian. Subject's mother bought her a used car around the time of subject's graduation.
At 27, subject decided to take on more loans for a graduate degree in creative writing. Subject also moved back to Los Angeles by "borrowing" from her mother (never to be repaid) to pay for a moving van and other transportation-related moving costs. Subject immediately got a job in one of the many libraries at a prestigious private university that allowed her to secure, within her first few weeks in Los Angeles, an apartment.
Between the ages of 28-34, subject relied heavily on her mother's generosity with regard to small gifts such as groceries and clothes. Subject lived in small apartments (studio; one-bedroom) in which her rent was between $600-800 a month. Subject moved in with her boyfriend (and later fiancé, then husband) which alleviated some costs. After they divorced, she moved out. Subject and ex-husband did not claim to bring any assets into the marriage and therefore their divorce was "cut and dry" with regard to the splitting of finances.
Subject, between the ages of 35-42, worked in small university settings, a community counseling clinic, and private office suites. During that time subject met her current partner, whose income was three times what subject made at her best job. Subject also began another graduate degree, which she paid for via partial tuition remission (a benefit of working at the school she was attending) and more student loans.
Subject continued working part-time for the creative writing program she had graduated from until she had a baby*. Subject's job provided health care, sick time, and vacation leave, and her partner's job did as well. Subject's partner was able to stay home with subject and their new baby for the first eight weeks of the baby's life. It was only after the eight weeks of maternity leave that subject and partner understood that when subject returned to work, one hundred percent of subject's income would go directly to childcare costs. This realization made them decide that subject would stay at home with the baby, thereby "leaving the work force."
With the help of subject and her partner's mother, as well as the withdrawal of a large portion of subject's 401k (earned through her work for the state of Washington and her time at the prestigious university), and an FHA loan, subject and partner purchased a two-bedroom house in an area of Los Angeles that is at the time of this writing regarded as becoming gentrified ("hot", "up and coming"). The house was purchased in 2011, in a moment right before house prices would soar to their current (bloated) levels.
Subject has since "returned to the work force," having completed a Master's degree in clinical psychology, working 3000 mostly unpaid intern hours (over 8 years time, with the help of her partner's income), and passing the marriage and family therapist state licensing exam. Subject went from intern status to licensed status and began to earn more, based on the average rates psychotherapists earn in her city.
Subject is conscious of the fact that people have mistaken her for white though she is "technically" mestiza. Subject "wonders if it's appropriate? ... or makes sense to note" that she has been the recipient of "fair enough" looks, which "probably have allowed [her] some other privileges [she] can't suss out" over the course of her life. Subject notes, too, that her mother's insistence on "always having health insurance and going to the dentist twice a year" has also given her "a foundation of baseline health." Subject "wonders if it's appropriate then to also note" that she has been the recipient of "genes" that "maybe give [her] decent health."
Subject is of a generation known as "Generation X." This is something subject shows some cynicism toward though it's been noted that she identifies with the generation designation whenever they leave it out of national discussions about the population. Subject "does not know what will happen next." Subject "just read that Social Security will go extinct" when subject is in her 50s. Subject remarks that "watching baby boomer commercials where rich people wash elephants as a retirement activity" is just as bad as "constantly reading about millenials." Subject imagines she will continue in her current career well into her 80s. Subject notes that she has "the kind of career where age is respected." She has fantasies of what is next. Subject asks that we "not talk much about her writing, as this hasn't much to do with her finances, or, with earnings, really." Subject is "well aware that there is plenty" she is leaving out but argues that capturing "all of it" may be "almost impossible." Subject does not know what will happen next. Subject expresses some anxiety about the future, particularly around health costs, and "just health in general." She is aware that "teeth are expensive." Subject has "just no idea what will happen next" but prepares, perhaps, (we hope?) for the worst.