Class Consciousness In Kids’ Books

Last night I read the children’s book Corduroy to babygirl for the 15,000th time. A small bear in green overalls wanders a department store at night looking for his lost button, because that button represents everything that is out of his reach: love and acceptance, family, security, home. He is rescued by a girl, Lisa, who believes in his potential so much that she empties out her piggy bank for him. Once she and Corduroy have settled in her bedroom, she sews on a new button for him, not because he needs it but because he’ll be more comfortable with his strap fastened. And then they share a big hug.

GOOD ENOUGH Homes & Destinations: What You Get For $175,000

The Grey Lady is getting predictable. Her “Great Homes & Destinations: What You Get For … [$X]” feature has used a seven-figure now so frequently it’s no longer even worth bristling over. This week the magic number is $1,700,000, barely different from last week’s $1,750,000. The real estate porn is similarly porny:

The property is a little more than 28 acres, with 13 paddocks. The grounds include a 53-tree fruit orchard with apples, pears, plums, apricots, cherries and peaches. … The chestnut-log portion of the house was built about 1764, with a stone addition in the 19th century. The entire interior was renovated within the last 10 years, and is now a riff on the original house. Much of the wall paneling is caulked or chinked random-width wood. Floors are white oak and salvaged brick, and many of the rooms also have exposed hickory ceiling beams. Period and salvaged materials were often used. For example, a blacksmith reproduced an old strap door hinge found in the kitchen. But there are some contemporary touches, such as the whimsical banister made of burls in the dining room and the living room cabinets faced with birch, cherry and poplar bark.

Do you have a “whimsical banister,” plebe? I thought not.

Here is a more accessible set of GOOD ENOUGH Homes and Destinations: What You Get For … $170,000. And, in honor of the study that went viral recently claiming cities in Louisiana are among the nation’s happiest, this will be the Gulf Coast edition.

What Makes a “Gentleman” In This Day and Age?

Several articles I have read recently have used the word “gentleman,” and it’s beginning to make my skin prickle. Once upon a time, the word meant something specific:

:  a man of noble or gentle birth

:  a man belonging to the landed gentry

c (1) :  a man who combines gentle birth or rank with chivalrous qualities (2) :  a man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior

d (1) :  a man of independent means who does not engage in any occupation or profession for gain (2) :  a man who does not engage in a menial occupation or in manual labor for gain

It implied a certain level of behavior, an adherence to a code of honor. When Scarlett O’Hara tried to think of the worst thing she could say to Rhett Butler, she came up with, “You, sir, are no gentleman!” (He laughed, that sexy, sexy scoundrel.)

Then came American egalitarianism, and Playboy’s Hugh Hefner lounging around in his bathrobe, and the grim, windowless “gentleman’s clubs” alongside the West Side Highway, and nowadays the word means … what? Supposedly, “a man who treats other people in a proper and polite way.” A nicer-than-average dude, perhaps the kind that doesn’t frequent the clubs along the West Side Highway. The word has been utterly divorced from class, which is appropriate in a world when so many rich men act like boors anyway. But it has simultaneously been leached of meaning. Which is … maybe a shame?

Job of the Day: Pharmacist

Here’s a career path you might not have considered, buried within this largely depressing piece about how much part-time work sucks, via Bloomberg:

“Does a highly-paid, relatively short-hour, moderately high education, majority-female occupation sound too good to be true? It is true and the field is pharmacy,” write Harvard labor economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence F. Katz in a paper calling pharmacist “the most egalitarian of all professions.” As big retail chains expanded, replacing independent pharmacist-owned shops, they offered part-time work at relatively high wages. As a result, women flooded into the field. “Because of the extensive work flexibility and low pecuniary penalty to short hours, female pharmacists with currently active licenses take little time off during their careers even when they have children,” the economists write.

But if demanding unpredictable hours from cashiers and clerks is good for business efficiency, why isn’t the same true for pharmacists, who work short hours in similar retail environment? The most likely explanation is that pharmacists, unlike cashiers and clerks, can legally trade money for more predictable hours. Their median wage is $58 an hour, which leaves a lot of wiggle room.

Not bad, right? USNews concurs, scoring the job of a Pharmacist 8.1 out of a possible 10 and ranking it #5 on their list of Top 100 Jobs, period. And yet in my entire life, though I know plenty of folks whose grandparents worked at drug stores, probably making egg creams, I’m not sure I’ve encountered anyone who’s said, “I want to be a pharmacist.” Not sexy enough? Somehow off the radar? Why are we not all behind the counter, dispensing drugs with a smile?

The Gender Gap Starts at Home — With Your Allowance

Girls, do you have a brother? Steal his cookie. Go ahead, you deserve it. Odds are he’s been doing less than you and yet being paid more for it for years. Granted, this is how your entire lives will play out, but when you’re older, you’ll have no recourse except to grind your teeth about the unfairness of it all and maybe choose to go by a gender-neutral, mainstream version of your name. For now, you can express your rage at the unfairness by taking something from him, or maybe putting something slimy in his bed.

This article on how the gender gap starts early, and at home, came out in April but somehow I missed it before now:

One study found that girls do two more hours of housework a week than boys, while boys spend twice as much time playing. The same study confirmed that boys are still more likely to get paid for what they do: they are 15 percent more likely to get an allowance for doing chores than girls. A 2009 survey of children ages 5 to 12 found that far more girls are assigned chores than boys. A study in Europe also found fewer boys contribute to work around the house.

And it’s not just that boys are more likely to be paid by their parents, but they also get more money. One study found that boys spent just 2.1 hours a week on chores and made $48 on average, while girls put in 2.7 hours to make $45. A British study found that boys get paid 15 percent more than girls for the same chores.

My only consolation is that neither of my brothers got an allowance. My mom was too busy and my dad too disorganized to figure out a workable system. But I think the next time I see either of my brothers I’ll jab them anyway, out of solidarity. #WorkersOfTheWorldUnite

RELATED: “I understood gender discrimination once I added ‘Mr.’ to my resume and landed a job”

The Massage Conundrum: WWYD?

Trigger warning: This is 110% a First World Problem. Read on at your own risk.

As a birthday present, my mother gave me what we call Frivolous Dollars — money that must be spent on oneself in an indulgent way, rather than saved — and insisted that I earmark the cash for massage and ice cream. She did so because she knows that I have a tendency, when given money, to stash it away immediately. Even when I was a kid, that was my impulse; the top drawer of my dresser became the family bank. Everyone knew they could rely on me to lend out the cash I had laid away there, which I did, faithfully, until it was gone.

I feel incredibly grateful that I have a mother who can remember & recognize birthdays, even for adult children who live several states away. When I was little, she used to sneak into my room in the middle of the night and decorate with streamers, signs, and balloons, so that when I woke up on July 19th it would be to a world transformed. (Mike Dang will totally do that for his kids, btw.) And she also knows that I, like most people, generally prefer experiences over things. So: perfect A+ present, mom! I feel loved & understood. Thanks!

She found a deal online for a place in Manhattan that is offering a discounted bundle of massages. Three for $149 instead of the usual price of $300! Amazing. Even when I do treat myself to a massage — like, say, after going through childbirth — I only do one, and the therapist is usually like, “Wow, your back is like a wall!” and I say, “Ha ha, yeah, I know!” and though the massage feels great there isn’t much/any lasting effect. But three massages? That might actually make some kind of dent in my Shoulder Wall of Constant Stress & Pain.

On the other hand, I haven’t ever been to that particular spa. The place I have gone, and know I enjoy, is around the corner from me in Brooklyn. That means it gets points for proximity and familiarity. With the frivolous dollars, I could afford one, maybe two massages there. So what would you do? Three at the unknown, further away place, or one, maybe two at the place you already know closer to home?

What’s in a Name? Oh, Only Your Success in Life

Having a white-sounding name is worth about eight years of work experience. “Jamal” would have to work in an industry for eight years longer than “Greg” for them to have equal chances of being hired, even if Jamal came from a privileged background and Greg from an underprivileged one.

– the Atlantic, again. They’re killing it this week.

When I met my college roommate she said, “Oh!” I said, “Yes?” She said, “No, it’s fine, I just — Ester from Washington, DC? I assumed you were black.” Others have assumed I’m Korean. Largely though I have benefited from having an “easy” name: easy to pronounce, easy to understand, easy enough to spell if you can remember to toss the unnecessary “H.” Easy to read as Jewish/white.

Have you had to battle your own name for legitimacy? Have you changed your name to give yourself a smoother time of it? Does knowing that Greg opens doors makes you more likely to opt for Greg for your own kid, or do you say “FU White Supremacy” and do what you want, knowing progress has to come eventually and will only come if we fight for it?

Kapitalism the Game, By and Starring Kim Kardashian

Perhaps you are one of those people who, when they hear “Kardashian,” thinks of the characters from “Star Trek.” You wouldn’t be too far off. Those otherworldly beings are described as “Tall, long-necked, humanoid in appearance, marked by several bony protrusions and ridges …” Though Kim’s protrusions aren’t exactly bony, that’s a good intro. NB: I am not the first person to make this joke.

The tall, long-necked humanoid TV star has gotten as rich as Kroesus, and almost as rich as Gene Roddenberry himself, by marketing her image in several media. Her latest successful money-making venture is a game that allows you, or your cute, busty avatar, to Keep Up with Kim in Hollywood. The Atlantic’s write up / review of the experience is amazing enough; I can only imagine how it feels to play:

Kim Kardashian: Hollywood [is] an app that is also a game that is also, now, a phenomenon. (“It might be our biggest game of the year,” Niccolo de Masi, CEO of the app-maker Glu Mobile Inc., told Bloomberg.) The game is free to download and play; but it allows—and encourages—in-app purchases. You use real-world money to win at Kim World. Which has meant, among other things, that Kim Kardashian is becoming even more explicitly what a reality star always will be, underneath it all: an entrepreneur.

While she has long ranked among the highest-paid of the reality (“reality”) stars—her estimated net worth, as of this June, was $45 million—the game is on track to earn $200 million, with Kim’s 45-percent cut coming in at $90 million. … Kim Kardashian: Hollywood is the game that Ayn Rand might have written, had Ayn Rand lived in the age of the smartphone and been a fan of bodycon skirts. It is what happens when objectification gives way to objectivism. “This game is so freakin stupid,” iTunes customer Dmon555 complained, before giving it a 5-star rating.

Have you played this game? Please tell me you’ve played it and that it’s as much ridiculous fun as it sounds. Have you spent any money on it? Was the experience worth it? Also, ha! The COMMENTS.

America Runs on Dunkin’ (In Secret Pools)

The beach is largely democratic. Though, as commenters hastened to assure me when last we discussed it, some shorelines charge for entry or parking or both, where there is ocean there tends to be free access to ocean. Screaming children, old folks splayed out in chairs, teenagers strutting like seagulls: the beach embraces humanity in all its debatable glory.

The pool, by contrast, is elitist. It puts up walls. Yes, there are public pools, but much like public schools, they tend to be used by a specific subset of people with fewer choices. Those who can afford to usually go elsewhere, like the mom I heard agonizing in the playground about whether or not to give her daughter to the best free education in Brooklyn, or like the author of this piece for Mommy Poppins: “if the idea of putting your kids in a public pool makes you uncomfortable, there are other options.” Why would anyone be “uncomfortable”? The author doesn’t say, but we can guess. My dad grew up in small-town Virginia with pools whose signs read, “No Jews, blacks, or dogs.” The pool remains a potent symbol of racial and economic segregation even today. It says, “You there, you belong; come, bathe your weary limbs and refresh yourselves in my rarefied water. Immerse yourself in a Fountain of Youth. Emerge sparkling like a doe touched with morning dew. #NoFatties.”

This piece about secret pools in Manhattan does not, in short, come as a surprise.

The Dream Downtown, a hotel in the Meatpacking District, charges $175 a day to use the pool, Monday through Thursday. A cabana on the weekend will set you back at least $2,500.

It’s enough to make a person long for the Jersey Shore.

BTW: If you’re in the city and less squeamish than the Mommy Poppins crowd, this round-up of the best places to swim in Manhattan includes several absolutely free public pools as well as more affordable private options. Or, try a Dumpster!

Illo by Charrow

Taking a Year Off to Do What You Love, A Year Later

A year ago, I left my job—at an office I’d been at for four years, my personal record—to Do What You Love (DWYL). There were some problems with the non-profit I worked for, most importantly the fact that it felt like a ship headed for an iceberg. (And lo, it transpired that, shortly after I left, it smashed against icy reality and no longer exists.) But! I had good coworkers, good hours, and a reasonably good salary that I had negotiated for myself. I had my own office with windows *and* a door, which had been a goal of mine since I was 22.

Several different things clamored for my attention: I had a baby, a novel-in-progress, and a gainfully employed, though stressed-out and overburdened, husband. I felt fortunate and, day to day, I was satisfied. But my brain also felt overcrowded, teeming with too many details, some real, some fictional. I wanted to do everything: keep the apartment in a state of reasonable cleanliness, raise my kid right, finish and sell the book, be a good, upwardly mobile leaned-in employee and a good, calming when necessary and exciting-and-fun when called for wife.

After much deliberation and angst, facilitated by a partial fellowship to a writer’s residency in Lithuania and a query from an editor at a publishing house who found my work online, I decided to quit my job and DWYL for a year. The point was not to earn money, though I had been making very minor bank freelance writing and placing essays online on the side. The point was, for the first time, to give myself a Room of One’s Own.

That was last July. My year is up. Inspired the tabulations of Nicole and Kima Jones, I’ve decided to do a reckoning: What did it cost me to DWYL and what did I gain? 

Hottest Corporate Celebrity Couples: Family Dollar Tree & Truzilla

Dollar Tree is buying Family Dollar even though Family Dollar is totally the better name. Two of the nation’s leading super-budget chains can, by their powers combined, do more to take on Wal-Mart.

The deal will give Dollar Tree more than 13,000 stores across the United States and Canada, vaulting the company ahead of Dollar General to become North America’s biggest discount retailer, with more than $18 billion in annual sales. …

Dollar Tree sells a mix of consumables in suburban stores across most U.S. states, as well as discretionary items such as gifts, party goods and greeting cards. Everything has a price tag of $1 or less. Most Family Dollar stores are in low-income neighborhoods. Its presence is biggest in Texas and the eastern United States, where it mainly sells lower-margin food and household products. “This acquisition will extend our reach to lower-income customers,” Dollar Tree Chief Executive Bob Sasser said. 

The markets are happy. Wal-Mart shrugs. Dollar General declines to comment. I wax nostalgic: my first date involved a dollar store and a pink bubble necklace that I kept on my bedroom dresser for years.

Related: Brokelyn’s Dos and Don’ts of 99-cent Stores. Yes to cheap0 pregnancy tests; no to toothpaste. And definitely yes to frugal gift basket ideas!

+ Zillow is buying Trulia. Gasp. What does this mean for our real estate porn habit? 

More Work Poetry!

Here is an angry poem I wrote lo these many years ago when I was an assistant at a talent agency, and I’m re-posting it here, because we’re doing poems now? Sure, why not.

It was my first job out of college and it was … well, let’s just say, it was not a good fit. The good people at Conte published the poem way back when.

I Couldn’t Print This At Work

i. finally, a lovely day today. I know because I saw it out the window. finally a lovely day today. you called your old assistant.

I feel cheated on.

is it not enough to be penned in here with you, your name a cookie-cutter for my voice, my fingers dispensing your words? and after all, she left