My Last $100: Dating Edition


Or, What Prompted Me to Change My Tinder Bio to Simply: Buy me a drink.

Date 1
$18, Downtown Brown (2)
If the beautiful oblivion that only the vague promise of not spending your life alone could take a physical form, it would most certainly be the act of paying $9 for a beer you have at least three of in your fridge.

Date 2
$10 – arcade tokens
The eternal second date question: How hard should I own this guy at Mario Kart?



The Money Affirmations Experiment

money and joy

Want to do an experiment with me?

Yesterday, XOJane’s Brook Bolen wrote about her experiment in saying money affirmations three times a day for a week:

At first, I felt silly even reading—much less writing and saying—things like “I am a magnet for money. Prosperity of every kind is drawn to me” because, although my expendable income has varied from none to very little throughout the course of my life, I’ve never had anything even close to financial prosperity. But as I continued along, it felt less and less silly and more reasonable—even truthful—to say and think such things.

There are a lot of problems with The Law of Attraction, including the idea that your success or failure in life depends on whether you say the magic words every day, but Brook also notices that her affirmations subtly change the way she thinks about money:

They began to feel more like statements of fact, rather than hope. The affirmation that really helped bolster my confidence and believe positive change was imminent was “I move from poverty thinking to prosperity thinking.” I looked up “poverty thinking” and learned it’s a mindset that inadvertently works to maintain poverty, because you focus on what you lack (“I can’t afford that” and “I don’t have the money for that”), as opposed to what you want.


On days two and six, I got three paid freelance writing gigs — the sum total of which is enough to make up the difference between our old house and our new one! I can’t say whether or not the affirmations caused me to get those jobs, but they did help me muster the courage to pitch them.



ManServant Trying to Make “Porn For Women” Happen

sasha baron cohen thong bathing suitWhat do women want? A combination of service and adoration, according to the ladies behind the San Francisco start up that Julieanne “Boobs Radley” Smolinski describes as “Uber for good-looking men you can boss around.” And women are willing to pay for it, by the hour.

“It’s not a stripper who gets naked and rubs his greasy body all over you,” the site reassures or disappoints, depending on your idea of a good time. “It’s a ManServant: a gentleman who treats you like a queen. Book one for a bachelorette party or any gathering to be your personal photographer, bartender, bodyguard, and butler all in one.” … So if I have this straight (and I don’t know that I do), the idea is to provide a group of classy high-femme straight girls with a fully clothed, light-submissive Chippendale. A stripper who doesn’t strip. Khajah and Wai Lin both have advertising backgrounds, so some of the copy on their site is surprising in its schizophrenic, Manichean approach to female sexuality.

Beneath the repeated oath that women don’t want to leer at a man’s body or see his penis is the promise that you can pick the exact kind of man’s body that you won’t leering at: “Blonde to brunette, James Bond to Middle-Earth, if your type lives to serve, we’ve got him,” they promise. Well, great. I’ve always wanted to not fuck James Bond.

Guffaw. Seriously, though, it is kind of upsetting the degree to which we are commodifying all human relationships these days. Have money? Hire a sugar baby / ManServant! Want someone to be nice to you? Pay them! Is this the natural, though cynical, extension of a market economy? Or is it somehow empowering that people can exchange money for the fulfillment of fantasy? READ MORE


Shot Through the Heart


Last Thursday night, the governor of New York State and the mayor of New York City announced that the first case of Ebola had been diagnosed at Bellevue Hospital. The man—a doctor who had recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa—had fallen ill that morning, after a night of bowling in Williamsburg, they said. I live in Greenpoint, less than a mile away from the bowling alley he had been in just twenty-four hours earlier.

Hearing this struck fear in my heart. Not because I thought there was any real risk of me getting Ebola: I trusted the information the CDC reported, that Ebola can only be contracted from a person with active symptoms, and even in cases of a very sick person coming in casual contact with me, it would be relatively hard to contract Ebola. I am a fairly pragmatic person, capable of talking myself through the logical ends of various what-if scenarios. I have faith in modern medicine.

The fear wasn’t about me, though: It was for my nine-month-old daughter. The what-if scenarios, though only momentary, were extreme. For just one second, it seemed absolutely certain to me that she would somehow, devastatingly skirt the odds and come down with Ebola.

A thing I have learned about myself-as-parent: When my child is involved, it takes some extra arguing with my brain for rationality to prevail.



The Cost of Ghost Towns in Connecticut and Detroit

STARSHOLLOWIST14There is an entire, adorable town in Connecticut for sale, for $800,000. It has been abandoned for 20 years, so ghost potential is strong.

Also, a casino baron named Herb bought a package of 6,000 Detroit foreclosures for 3.2 million dollars, which is the cost of FOUR abandoned CT towns. Maybe it’s just because his name is Herb, but in this Businessweek article he sounds kind of nice:

“This is more than just an acquisition of parcels. It’s an opportunity to redevelop the city I was born in and I plan to die in,” Strather said in an interview. READ MORE


The Marvel of Pre-School in Estonia


In 2014, Erin and her family moved from the U.S. to Estonia, a member country of the European Union and NATO between Finland, Latvia and Russia, where English, Estonian and Russian are all widely spoken. Their decision was based on the cost and quality of living, health care system, levels of technology and other benefits not available in the U.S., like free public transportation. Erin is now in the master’s program at Tallinn University on a full scholarship and working part-time at a non-profit organization supporting civil society in Russia; her husband is self-employed and works online. The family’s residence permits are currently based on her educational status, but could be supported by her husband’s status as a business owner as well. Subject to approval and a language test, one can apply for permanent residency after five years of temporary residency in Estonia, which allows living and working in any E.U. country. Estonia does not allow dual citizenship, so they plan to stay U.S. citizens.

“It’s his individualism,” the teacher whispered to me. “He just won’t walk in pairs!”

This brash individualist, crying out against being a cog in the machine? My four-year-old son, newly enrolled in his Russian-language pre-school in Estonia.

Part of our decision to move from the U.S. to Estonia centered around the education system: Paid for by the state, we were eligible for monthly subsidies for child care and a “family allowance” of 19.18 euros ($24) until he turned 16, despite having only temporary resident permits. Although hardly riches, it’s a mark of how Estonia sees children as a social good to be supported. In addition to the care benefits, our son was also eligible for free state health insurance and a 90 percent subsidy on the cost of prescriptions, even as a non-citizen (we also bought the private health insurance for non-EU nationals for him, since it only cost around 150 euros—$190—for the year). Upon starting grade school, he could attend a public school with a top OECD rating, highly qualified teachers, and one of the smallest gaps in results between high and low socioeconomic backgrounds: a free, equal education. READ MORE


Did Your Parents Lie About Your Age To Get Lower Ticket Prices, And Did That Scar You For Life?


During yesterday’s New Fantasyland post, I referenced a recent Dear Prudence in which Prudie provides the following advice to a parent concerned about the ethics of lying about kids’ ages to avoid paying extra for Disney tickets:

Tell your youngest to say, “Ga-ga, goo-goo,” as you enter and don’t worry about ripping off Disney—your group will be dropping a bundle.

So now I’m curious: did your parents ever lie about your age (or a sibling’s age) to get a cheaper ticket? Did you realize that’s what they were doing, and did it change the way you thought about ethics and morality?

And now that you’re an adult, have you ever lied about a child’s age to save some money?



Is There a Class Component to Catcalls

By now you’ve surely read about, if not watched, the Hollaback video footage of a normal, 30-something woman walking around NYC for ten hours getting catcalled by men. The unwanted attention is astounding, despite the fact that she’s dressed in regular clothes and neither speaking nor smiling.

It brings back all sorts of memories for me, especially one awful pre-ear-bud summer when I was a self-conscious teenager working at a non-profit in DC. I got catcalled every day. All I wanted was to be invisible and instead guys shouted things out of their cars about how they wanted me to “Lewinsky” them, or walked by and said something savvy and sophisticated like, “Tits!” READ MORE


Life After Beauty School: Interview With a Professional Wigmaker


Part Three in a series of interviews with people who have found hands-on, creative work through doing an apprenticeship.


Wig making, dressing, and styling, are integral parts of any theatre, film, or TV production. Wigs used for performance are often more delicate than those made for everyday use, and require extensive modeling and styling. As the demand for elaborate wigs for royalty, in courtrooms, and for style purposes has waned in the past century, so too has the number of practicing wigmakers in Europe and North America.

Jordan Silva lives in Toronto and is trained as a wig maker/wig dresser, makeup artist, currently working at the Canadian Opera Company (COC). He talked to me about strange head shapes, the opera, and the time he painted 20 people green.

How do you make a wig?

Traditionally you use a wooden block to start. You also find Styrofoam blocks and cork blocks, but cork is used for styling and Styrofoam is used for storage. But many modern wig makers will use Styrofoam for making a wig. You can order them in different sizes, based on the circumference of the person’s head. Then you have other measurements, like the distance between the nape and the hairline, temple to temple around the back, over the top. You create a mold of someone’s head using tape and saran wrap, which creates a mold to make the block. Once that mold fits perfectly, you know it was the right shape. You use tissue paper to create all the little spaces to fill in, because all of the blocks are standard sizes. Then you make the foundation, which is made of hand-sewn pieces of lace that fit together to fit a head perfectly. That would take a day or a day and a half. If you have time, you can have a second fitting, but that’s rare. And then you start knotting every single hair into the lace. On average, it’s about 80 hours of work, but sometimes you can do it a bit faster. READ MORE


Radio Recaps: StartUp Podcast Ep. 6, “How to Value Your Start Up”

start upNarrative non-fiction audio is the wave of the future. Like millions of you, I’m hooked on Serial, Sarah Koenig’s “true detective”-type show where she re-examines a closed case from 1999 one piece at a time, and Start Up, NPR veteran Alex Blumberg’s attempt to create and finance a new, audio-oriented media company. Though I’d love to recap both of them, Start Up is definitely more relevant to our official interests here at the Billfold.

We’re starting with the most recent episode, #6, which is available for free on iTunes and elsewhere. Join us in discussing Alex’s progress as he liveblogs his triumphs and failures in getting his venture off the ground.

Previously, on StartUp: Alex Blumberg, of Planet Money and This American Life, decides to leave his job and strike out on his own. After some stumbles in generating FOMO among potential backers, he gets a business partner — MBA Matt Lieber — and hits his stride. In Episode 5, possibly the most entertaining of the bunch, the two men choose a name. They consider mundane descriptors as well as terrible Esperanto options that Alex’s wife Nazanin, reliably the voice of reason, snorts at, before they settle on [drumroll, please] … Gimlet Media.

Now, in Ep 6, Gimlet Media needs more investors. Alex and Matt have decided to value their still-imaginary company at $10 million. Why? Why not? READ MORE


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