My Parents Make Me Eat Garbage From Trash Cans

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Hi. My name is Ophelia, I'm 15, and I live in New York City. The story you are about to hear might seem really weird and a little bit gross, but I'm sure some of you guys will understand what I was going through. Here's the thing: my parents make us live on trash.

Most of the food we eat and things we use in everyday life come from dumpsters. Yeah, you got that right: we get something that was already thrown out and we… eat it. I might have missed a couple of steps here, but that’s the basic principle. And it’s been like this for several years already.

We're not homeless or anything, we are not even poor – but I mean, we're not rich either. We live in our own apartment in Brooklyn, and by “we” I mean my parents Gina and Mike, my little brother Derek, and me. And for you to understand this story, I have to tell you more about my parents.

They are both artists who are into everything from painting to performance art. Sometimes they would take gigs just for the money, but basically their life is pretty much about art itself. My mom grew up in a very rich New York family, and could afford anything she wanted, and, ironically, this is where it's gotten her.

They are also both very socially and politically active. I remember going to rallies and protests with them since I was a toddler. And I can tell you – they sincerely aim to make our planet a better place by any means possible. And a very important part of their activism is freeganism.

I don't want to bore you with terms and concepts, but, in short, freeganism is about not supporting consumerism and the overproduction of goods by just not buying them. And, yes, unfortunately, it involves looking for stuff like food that's still good to eat in places like dumpsters.

But it's not like they dive into the trash looking for orange peels or an unfinished yogurt. It's not that bad. I mean, we would all probably be dead if it was like this. It's more about getting food that is being thrown out by supermarkets for example, that most of the time has not even expired yet. The concept is that by not buying, my parents do not support the companies that always produce slightly more than needed and as a result waste precious resources.

Of course not everyone in our family is like my parents. More than that, none of our relatives understand them and basically think they are crazy. My aunt Lily – my mom's sister – would often get into fights with my mom about her freeganism, and she told Derek and I many times that if we were uncomfortable living like this, we were always welcome at her house. But every time we chose to stay.

Usually my parents go out on their raids on their own and there were only a handful of times when they actually took us with them. Just to make it clear: in all other aspects we have a pretty normal life. We live in an apartment mom's parents left her, I go to a normal school, and I even get some allowance money.

At school was where this story actually started. I have a classmate named Bill and he's a jerk. He lives a few blocks away from us, but fortunately our families never interact. One day he came to school and told everybody that he saw my parents by the dumpster near his house, and, as you know, that probably could have been true. But of course, I got embarrassed and denied everything and started saying that he must have been mistaken and so on. But this did not stop him. For several weeks I'd hear jokes here and there about my family living out of a dumpster. It was very unpleasant, but I did not even talk to my parents about it. After about a month, the whole dumpster thing was mostly forgotten and it all went back to normal. Until one day.

It was after our armchair broke badly and we needed to get a new one, Well, not technically a “new” one, but... you get it. So one day my parents came home and said that they had found a great armchair that someone had thrown out because it was old. My parents looked excited – I guess I have yet to tell you that, at some point, they started to see their raids as some kind of game. And they needed my help to get the armchair from the dumpster, because it was heavy. I did not want to go, but it was supposed to be quick.

Imagine my panic when I saw that the new armchair was in a dumpster near Bill's house. “Okay, breathe,” I thought, “this will only take a couple of minutes. Like what are the odds--”. And literally right when we lifted the armchair from the ground several feet from the dumpster, Bill walked out of his house.


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