A defense of my laker fandom, c. millennial times.
Pros and Cons for Taking this totally normal writing/trophy wife job
- Booooots. “lots and lots of boots.”
- Unlimited Zumba! Plus allowance for gym clothes: LuLu Lemon is expensive y’all!
- Massages, by the fireplace, nightly.
- Daily trips to the nail/hair salon
- “Company car”
- Total emotional and financial support while “writing another masterpiece” (after gym, beautification, parenting, and sexxy-times duties are fulfilled)
- “Company credit card”
- The economy is tough, writing grants are scarce!
- “Laying” in your arms for a really long time. Incorrect grammar + enforced spooning?
- Can I sleep in rather than enjoy my cup of “loose-leaf tea”?
- That morning routine seems kind of involved…what time am I waking up in your arms exactly?
- Every kiss and embrace being “like it’s the last” one is maybe a bit menacing?
- How many kids are there exactly?
- Are the daily “Zumba/Yoga/Crossfit/etc classes” mandatory?
- Is the daily nail/hair salon trip mandatory?
- In terms of schedule, getting writing done after getting the kids to school, and going to the zumba, salon, and mall, but before afternoon pre-school pick-up seems tough.
- Re: “be sure to save some energy for my daughter when she gets off the bus.” Physical energy? Emotional energy? Is daughter old enough to have a creeped-out opinion on this whole set-up? Has she OK’d the boot allowance?
- Can I transfer my boot allowance to other footwear in summer months?
- When you say we’ll “often” cook dinner together, how often are we talking?
- Is the nightly “massage by the fireplace” mandatory?
- Instead of “Playing board games, doing homework, practicing instruments, singing songs, doing artwork, reading stories, going for bike rides,” can I drink wine and surf the internet, alone, without massages?
- How often does the night end with me showing off my horizontal zumba moves?
Numbers become more abstract the bigger they get, and we are a country awash in big numbers. Exorbitant sums are mentioned so often in our culture– Tyler Perry made $130 million in 2010, and maybe owns an island!– that at a certain point conceptualizing the reality of that kind of money becomes as difficult as actually owning an island. So when Mitt Romney released his tax return, and the country learned that he pulled in $21.6 million last year, the number initially seemed like just another absurdly ambiguous sum, the kind of money that makes someone really, really rich (and we already knew he was rich). That number and the way in which it was earned and taxed floated like a huge, context-less bubble above the heads of those of us without a firm background in economics. Even when we see or hear the amount of money Romney makes every year on “unearned” income (never was a financial term more loaded), it’s difficult to make it concrete.
Which is why the widget my husband, Dan Check (let’s just get that out there right now– I am in no way a disinterested observer), created yesterday is so brilliant. He built a fairly simple, interactive tool for calculating how long it takes Mitt Romney to make as much as a user earns in a year. In an ideal world, our work is valuable and valued. In reality, most people are fortunate to hold employment that is even one of those things, and only the very lucky can claim both. Still, key to our American Dream is this conviction that the hard work we do is important and/or getting us somewhere financially, which is why the widget is so jolting. The average American may not be able to understand the reality of a $21.6 million income, but they know exactly what went into the money they made, and what that money afforded and denied them. To see months of labor– often hard, unappreciated, stressful and difficult– equal a small, cold number (4 hours, 51 minutes…21 hours, 2 minutes) in the scope of Mitt’s immense wealth is depressing and infuriating in equal measure.
In the time it takes me to get my son to his pre-school, have a cup of coffee, try to write something, and return to pick him up at noon, Mitt Romney has made my yearly income. But I don’t ‘work’ full-time, so perhaps it’s not a fair comparison (I’m not going to get into the exhausting labor involved in child-rearing, as I don’t want to awaken the ‘take it to Babble’ trolls). Let’s compare, instead, the most rewarding , difficult and stressful job I’ve ever had. When I was teaching special needs students (English and Language Arts for dyslexic and LD kids, grade 5-12), designing a curriculum from scratch, talking to parents every day, working late to create lesson plans, grading essays, advising teenagers, directing school plays, making yearbooks, chairing the humanities committee, presenting at conferences, writing constant reports, and breaking down at least once a month from the emotional toll of feeling personally responsible for giving children the quality education they deserved, my yearly salary, at its highest (after 5 years), pre-tax, was a few hours’ shy of Romney’s day rate.
I’ve read the comments on Slate about how hard Romney worked for his fortune, how all comparison smacks of class warfare, how the left simply wants to criminalize the prosperous. This is not the issue. I do not like the way that Romney made his fortune (dismantling businesses for profits), but I do not doubt that he is industrious and hard-working. The question is whether his work– and the work/lineage of others in the hyper-wealthy class– is so valuable that it warrants not only an outsized yearly income but an undersized tax rate.
This is the point that the Obama administration has been trying to make for months– the talking points for extending the payroll tax, for instance, centered on the entirely reasonable notion that if you make more than million dollars a year, you could pay more in taxes than someone making $24,000– and which he hammered home in last night’s State of the Union. Unfortunately, just talking about these huge sums is often too abstract, and too often feeds into that wonderful/terrible aspirational quality in Americans, the part that says, ‘I wouldn’t want to be taxed that way, and though I don’t make anywhere near that amount now, I no doubt will in the future.’ But approaching that little widget armed with your annual income– the number that, justly or unjustly, is the sum of your year’s labor– and seeing how paltry and inconsequential it is in the face of Romney’s wealth? The widget trumps talking points, rhetoric and rationalization to show the reality of $21.6 million dollars in all its stark obscenity.
Flavorwire’s listicle of literary couples, while juicy (“I weep for the eight years I spent…worshipping his image with him, and I weep for whatever else I was cheated of due to that time-serving”–Martha Gelhorn on Ernest Hemingway), doesn’t even scratch the surface. Where are Sartre, de Beauvoir, and their detail-sharing open relationship (pro-tip for young existentialists: this rarely works out). What about bisexual addicts & Morocco fetishists Paul and Jane Bowles? Drunk commies Dashiell Hammet and Lillian Hellman? And where are today’s tempestuous writer couples, hurling drinks at Paris Review parties?
Oh, they’re buying luxury brownstones and worrying about how they love their husbands too much. Blech. Today’s offensively private and healthy inter-writer relationships rob us of the gloriously drunken, sexually dysfunctional liter-romances of yore. Why have writers’ relationships gotten so boring?
- Not enough letter writing. Consider this mash-note from Rebecca West to H.G. Wells: “You’ve literally ruined me. I’m burned down to my foundations.” Yikes. While the torrid love lives of today’s writers might be uncovered by future biographers, emails are easy to delete, and lengthy love/”you’ve ruined me” letters are a dying art. (Though $10 says Franzen’s got some.)
- Gay Pride. Fine, yes, it’s essential that society progress from the shame and judgement that kept gays and lesbians in the closet for centuries. But what about the great literary marriages of convenience? Everybody is so open now, they don’t make fraught, sexless contracts with other similarly tortured writers. And literary gossip suffers.
- Not enough alcoholism. The common denominator in so many of history’s most passionate writer-couplings just isn’t as common these days. Raise a glass to our bygone friend, crippling addiction.
- Psychopharmacology. Many of the “eccentric,” “tortured” writers of yesteryear were probably “mentally ill.” Now that bi-polar, depressed writers can be treated, they might not have such dysfunctional relationships. Or they do, but the pills lessen the risk of scotch throwing and revenge-sonnet writing.
But perhaps there is drama brewing behind those staid Brooklyn walls? One can only hope, for the sake of literature.
A question: if a lady’s lover reports directly to Goebbels, she holes up with him at a Nazi-controlled hotel during her city’s occupation, and her collaboration earns her a 9-year post-war exile in Switzerland, can you claim that she was not anti-Semitic? If you’re the House of Chanel, and the lady in question is doyenne Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel, then the answer is yes, because you have an airtight rebuttal! She couldn’t have been anti-Semitic, because she had Jewish friends.
Such was the peevish response from France’s premier fashion house upon a new book’s allegations that Coco Chanel, in addition to having a taste for fascist boyfriends, was herself a Nazi spy. According to Sleeping With the Enemy: Coco Chanel’s Secret War, Chanel spent the duration of the war spying for the Germans under the codename Westminster (named for another lover, the Duke of Westminster, a virulent Anti-Semite with a dog he called “Jew”). Though author Hal Vaughan says he based his book’s claims on “not one, but 20, 30, 40 absolutely solid archival materials on Chanel and her lover, Baron Hans Gunther von Dincklage, who was a professional Abwehr spy,” what is historical research in the face of the always-solid ‘but some of my best friends are…’ defense?
After all, if Coco Chanel was Anti-Semitic, would she have entered into a Chanel No. 5 partnership with the Jewish businessmen Pierre and Paul Wertheimer? Would she have then, using the Nazi laws seizing all Jewish property, petitioned to lighten her partners’ burden by taking sole ownership of the company, as it was “still the property of Jews?” Luckily (perhaps they knew how much their good friend Coco would worry?), the Wertheimers preempted Chanel’s friendly takeover by transferring ownership to a Christian colleague before the laws came into effect. That’s just what friends do when their friends are Nazis.
What? Two posts in one day? Be careful, lady, you run the risk of maintaining a blog like a responsible blog-maintainer (technical term, FYI). What’s that you say? This isn’t a real post, just another self-promoting link? OK, well then I think you’re safe.
Here is my Social Media Rules For New Parents piece, which has had a long and tortured path to publication. I wrote it over a year ago for The Awl, who wanted it, sat on it, then finally changed their collective Awl minds and dumped it. Poor, sad, dumped piece. But then came Babble, and they pay (do not ask how much; that might temper the happy ending aspect). And here it is, in slideshow form!
This one seems to have gotten some traffic, and some hilariously indignant, sic-heavy comments. It’s amazing how much easier it is to dismiss critics when they cannot spell or assemble correct sentences. This one was my favorite:
“first off for all of you who are bashing new mothers for posting about there babies GOD gave them to us to brag about and our families like to see new pics. and if i want my profile picture to be of my son and you dont like it dont look at it. and if you dont like my profile picture because you cant find me because it isnt a picture of me you probably arent that important to me. i personally think that if you dont like us befriend us and you are probably just jealous that you dont have a sweet baby to brag about ]”
Oh hello, long-neglected blog! Why aren’t you a tumblr by now? Perhaps if you weren’t so outmoded I would update you more often! I’m sorry, that’s just the half-caf talking. Here is a link to a little grade report satire I did for Splitsider, which is a very fine site about very funny things that nonetheless gets very few comments. This piece got exactly one comment, from someone I already know in real life (thanks, Beth!). But I like it, and I hope you do too! http://splitsider.com/2011/06/grade-reports-by-jessica-roake#more
For whatever reason (The inexplicably low Tatler subscription rate in the U.S.? The possibility that one has not read any periodicals or internet pr-blasts in the last 6 months? A bizarre disinterest in the nuptials of impossibly wealthy strangers?), there are still colonists who simply have no idea how to celebrate THE MOST IMPORTANT WEDDING OF ALL TIME properly. For you rubes, I offer you these tips:
- Acquire Champagne. I prefer Veuve Clicquot La Grande Dame, obviously, but a box (or five) of Franzia + sparkling water will do in a pinch. If you balk at the blinding hangover you’ll need to endure, I ask you to bear up and think of England.
- Wear a hat. Did you not know that British ladies always wear hats to weddings? Oh dear. Well I suppose it is difficult to learn proper etiquette here in the colonies; I mustn’t judge. Either wear a Phillip Tracy original if you’re going for ‘fashion friend’ (still probably a Countess of something or other), or queen-mumsy with silks and chiffon and flowers. If absolutely necessary, your fanciest beret, riding cap, or Halloween ‘pimp’ hat will do. Under NO circumstances should you wear a New England Patriots or Notre Dame Fighting Irish baseball hat. This is no time to get political; it is THEIR DAY.
- Adopt an English accent, and NEVER let it drop. Take a few days to study Gosford Park, Brideshead Revisited (the miniseries, not the film, clearly), Bleak House, Downton Abbey, Pride and Prejudice (Colin Firth miniseries only), The Young Victoria, Upstairs Downstairs, The Queen, and every single English Masterpiece Theater classic. You must watch each and every one, NO EXCEPTIONS. Your employer will surely understand (Obviously, you’ve already read the British canon, as you are not a functional illiterate). Once you’ve worked on your accent (try practicing in bars, or parent-teacher conferences!) do not worry about verisimilitude; this is a celebration! If the urge strikes you to say, “Verily, I must attend to affairs in the loo, guv’nah”, then by all means, indulge.
- Place your bets! Some sample wagers: Kate’s dress: meringue or sleek? The queen’s expression: pleased, serene or impassive? (There is no overjoyed, don’t be vulgar.)
- Be extremely judgmental, and assume intimate knowledge of all participants. Practice your slight grimaces, smirks and eye rolls in the mirror in advance of the big day, when you will be called upon to make passive-aggressive comments on the unseemliness of Princess Beatrice’s hemline, the gaucheness of that prison-colonist Rupert Murdoch, the necessity of occasionally adding some good peasant stock to the royal bloodline, etc. When in doubt, just think haughty Maggie Smith and go with it. CHEERS!