As You Live It

1/20/05

Oh, it’s all so disgusting and sad. That cruel monkey was inaugurated to the tune of at least $41 million of big donor money while so much of the world is in such yawping pain, and nobody even gives a shit. Flurries of emails went around to boycott spending today in protest, but… there we were in the biggest progressive capital of the bluest of blue states, and there were TONS of people shopping at every store in New York City. I thought, well FUCK it and bought a double soy latt

0 thoughts on “As You Live It

  1. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Oh Dynamite! magazine, I loved you so! Thanks for jogging that memory for me this morning.
    I have something to add to your list. It is what I call The Big Lie. It is applicable to women of our generation and it goes something like this: The Big Lie is what we were all told growing up — You are as smart as the boys. You can be anything you want. You can go to graduate school, be a professional, have a family, bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never EVER let him forget he’s a man! What no one told us in the Big Lie is that the work/home/family balance is not at all easy. It is filled with mommy guilt, personal heartache, stay-at-home vs. working mother wars, etc. I was valedictorian of my high school, Phi Beta Kappa from Carolina, law school graduate, passed the bar exam, blah blah blah. I work full-time, have a child and a supportive husband, and yet I constantly feel as though I am flying by the seat of my pants, always exhausted, never giving my best effort to ANYTHING or ANYONE. I am stretched too thin, fueled each day by Lexapro and java, and just yesterday, my daughter hid my car keys in her room because, as she said, “I miss you Mama, and I didn’t want you to go to work.” Yet another stake through my heart! This is not the kind of daily existence I envisioned when I was Miss Phi Beta Kappa Smartypants, ready to conquer the world. The thing is. . . I want to work, I want to have a happy family life, I just wish that the proponents of the Big Lie had done something to prepare us women for the stress, frustration, and disappointment of it all.
    Anyway, sorry to momentarily turn your comments into a Mommy Blog! Just wanted to add to your list the Big Lie. I have a feeling some of your female readers will relate.

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  2. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    I just realized that I am a plagiarist! CL, if you read today’s comment, I apologize for using the phrase “The Big Lie.” I should add a little trademark sign next to it! I read your book, and I thought it was wonderful. While Carrie Pilby’s Big Lie is different from mine, I am sure that my Big Lie would be a derivative of her’s, if she ever got married, had a family, etc. Anyway, the phrase has been burned in my brain, and I wanted to give props to the woman who coined the term.

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  3. Kelly

    You’re bang-on, Laurie. I hope our daughters become women who can “have it all”, however not feel it must be maintained “all at once”.

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  4. CL

    Wow, Laurie, thanks for reading my book, and Hitler had a Big Lie too, so it can obviously be used in different ways. Anyway, I was actually going to post to say that your passage was really interesting and heartfelt. And your daughter is so sweet!
    I don’t have much to add about the tenor of these times, except maybe a fear that things are getting too easy – that kids will take too much for granted (music available on the computer, e-mail), but maybe that’s just be turning into a fogie. “In my day, we couldn’t e-mail someone we had a crush on anonymously…we had to pine away for four years, and we liked it!”
    I am curious when Ian’s 3rd grade class is going to remove the time capsule. It’s almost 30 years now, no?
    Dynamite! was dynamite.

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  5. kevin

    i believe that computers are turning us into idiots. “If it ain’t on the screen it cannot happen”
    When there is nothing on the screen, nothing happens!! Peace

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  6. Tessa

    Laurie, I had dinner last night with a friend (who occasionally posts here) and we were just talking about the Enjoli myth. (Did you know you can still buy the stuff?). I think one of the issues is that the American work day/work week/work year is absurdly longer than Europe, for example. There’s no logistical way to be present as both parents and workers in the construct of a 50 or 60 hour work week – for men or women. Also, the expectations of what it means to be a good parent have radically changed since we were kids (thank god) And finally, I suspect the advertising culture intended (and succeeded) in creating a climate in which we all feel radically BEHIND all the time. Never able to keep up. Never enough.
    I don’t know that I am right about any of that and I don’t know what to do about it if I am… It just strikes me that some of the heartache has to with HOW we work and how we feel (or are made to feel) about work rather than the fact of being a working mom.

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  7. Anne D.

    I am a bit older than y’all (officially a Boomer), but I’d like to add my own observation to your list: The one thing we Americans are way too good at is BUYING THINGS. With my passions for reading, music, art, the New Yorker, blah blah blah, I like to think I’m above such crass impulses. So why do I end up at Tar-zhay every week, cruising the aisles and loving every minute of it?
    On a trip to Europe 20 years ago (when the dollar was thumping other world currencies), I realized that I just wanted to spend money… on Benetton sweaters in Rome, on books and Irish woollens in Galway and Dublin, on Delft in Amsterdam, on Waterford crystal at the duty-free. Each time we visited a historic site or museum, I couldn’t wait to get to the gift shop. My keenly honed avidity for shopping both interested me (hey, I was an Am Civ major) and appalled me. It was as if I’d been training all my life for that trip — not just to appreciate the temples we visited in Sicily and the Coliseum and the old crumbling Irish abbeys and castles, but to buy stuff. And then some more stuff. Then we had to buy a whole other suitcase to carry it all back home.
    We may have failed to achieve our dreams in some ways, but damn, can we shop!
    – Anne

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  8. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Hi, Tessa. I agree with your observations. Interesting to know that you can still buy Enjoli! Perhaps I will buy a bottle of it and douse myself with it as I serve yet another dinner of ready-made breakfast cereal to my daughter after a busy week! Or better yet, I can use it to ignite a small fire here in my cubicle and free myself from the bondage of the working world! Ha! That commercial did more damage to the psyche of American girls than any other I can recall!
    Also, I completely agree with Anne. The America of today is all about conspicuous consumption and the accumulation of STUFF. My husband and I are both attorneys, and we chose to live in a modest house in a modest neighborhood so that we can both sleep at night and not be mortgaged until eternity. We drive modest cars. We try to live below our means. I cannot tell you how many times we have heard the comment that our house is smaller than people expected for two attorneys. Gee, thanks for the insult! I suppose that we should live in a McMansion and drive Hummers to live up to the Americal Ideal of two professionals. It is quite a challenge to raise a child in a world like this. I always stress to Helen that she needs to appreciate what she has and not focus on what she wants, and she is only 5. This is the United States of Stuff for sure.

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  9. flaco

    Good time capsule nuggets for sure. Hate to nitpick but we were raging full on 25 years ago with a VCR (half the size of the TV), an answering machine with big Realistic C-60 tape, and ATMs (remember Tilly the Teller)
    and last but not least, narrow wonky-as-shite skateboards!
    An infant is meant to be coddled and swaddled. Don’t fret it, you’ll know this infinite joy soon.
    As for things whooshing by at light speed, I agree. I had a nice home studio with multi-track and DAT decks, was hot chit not 5 years ago. 48k/16bit was king, all was good. Now, its all hard drive, 96k/24bit, 6.2 channels, and fast computers. I had to stay on top of the changes, and wouldn’t think of going back.
    What HASN’T changed, curiosity and creative drive. That’s what will keep us all going while the tangible whooshes just below our feet.

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  10. scruggs

    Laurie, I think now that we are pretty much living the same life in parallel universes (and aren’t the only ones). I cranked through grad school to use it as a spring board to a career that is challenging, intellectually stimulating, and somewhat financially rewarding. We have a 20 month old who has us bursting with happiness but we see only a few hours each weekday. And I am EXHAUSTED, as is my husband. I luckily have an arrangement now that my “full-time” job is actually only 40 hrs a week instead of 60, so I am done by 5, swing by for our son, and home by 5:45. But then its GO GO GO for dinner, bath, and bed (his). Then hub and I can start to cook dinner after 8 and maybe get 1hr of mindless tv before I crash until the next day. Then there are the 3 weeknights where I have crazily scheduled activities after our son’s bedtime (tutoring, a class, etc). In my field, its difficult/impossible to work out something part time. And, given the $1100 a month we have to shell out for child care in a big city, it’d be too expensive to have a cut in pay. I am notoriously cheap, so at least we also have our modest cars (well, the house not so much but not a mcmansion), and I am not into STUFF and the Jones’.
    The biggest part of this “sob story” is that I’m not medicated and gave up caffeine a few years ago, so I am flying solo on decaf!
    I think Tessa is dead on about work demands and priorities in the U.S. vs overseas. My husband has his share of Jeremy Rifkin in the house from his work on his master’s thesis (on negotiation, or nonexistance, of the balance of work and free time), and has just begun JR’s recent one concerning the European Dream’s benefits over the American Dream. So I often hear similar arguments from him. The corporate culture here has helped put free time (not just family time) on the backburner. I used to work for a U.K. based company and the generous time off and 35hr work week rocked (pay sucked!). I will say if I have to work for The Man, the large corporation where I work is more employee friendly than most. We are given 2 weeks in addition to vacation as family care time(sick kid, parent, school closed, etc) and 4 hours a month volunteer time, and I use up both of those allowances.
    But in the end, for me, things are just too hectic. As we plan for that next kid, I can’t imagine time being squeezed any more than it is now. I often hear stories from friends about their kids asking why thy have to go to work, and I know I will not have an answer that my little one will understand when the time comes and he asks the same thing. So, I’m done once kid#2 appears. Not that I think staying at home will be a vacation, but I just think the benefits I get by being at work will be offset by removing the work/commute/time crunch stress and seeing my kids more often. I plan to at least teach a few college classes each semester for sanity and $, but we’ll be still be broke comparatively, so hopefully our internet access won’t get axed and I can still check this blog!

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  11. brent

    “…because if I’m going to be demoralized, I might as well be animated.”
    bravo, bravo….early leader for quote of the year

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  12. Bev Sykes

    –the feeling that it’s not only permissible, but desirable to discriminate against a certain segment of the population.
    I loved your feelings about yesterday. I refused to watch the coronation and spent the day watching “West Wing”

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  13. Aimee

    Laurie, Tessa, and Scruggs,
    I really relate to the work/life balance dilemma as well. A colleague of mine said once that it should be called “balancing” because it changes all the time and you have to keep juggling to keep it on an even keel. I am a veterinarian with two young sons, aged six and two. After my first son was born, I knew I did not want to work full-time, but my employer scoffed at my part-time proposal (apparently, 8 hours is a half-day). I now spend most of my time at home (I work some part-time hours as a relief veterinarian and volunteer teach at the area vet school). My life is somewhat simpler since I decided not to work as much, but I feel guilt for “abandoning” my career, not bringin g in much income, wondering what will I do with my life, etc.
    Anyway, I found support and advocacy in line with my views in an organization called Mothers & More http://www.mothersandmore.org. I was also impressed by reading “The Price of Motherhood” by Anne Crittenden which touches on some of the issues that you’ve raised here.
    Aimee Dalrymple

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  14. Jack in Seattle

    Laurie, I this is Bush’s America. I own the Big Lie. It’s a male version of yours, but with some other things thrown in. But it’s mine, mine, mine. I stole if fair and square.

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  15. KJF

    I watched the coronation yesterday – mainly to see whether the networks would give time to the protesters. I found that ABC news covered the protesters more than the others did and at one point Peter Jennings asked the camera people to zoom out to see the scope of the crowd and as they did a giant yellow sign that said “FUCK OFF BUSH” was clearly on the tv screen. It was there for a good 45 seconds and was the highlight of the day. And I hate to agree with you but I do think the bad guys are winning.

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  16. kevin

    we do work a lot more that the euros so we can afford to buy the house with the garage and have two + cars in the driveway with the big lawn.
    I would rather have the month of August off. Unfortuntely, i don’t get either.
    Shopping.. our greatest value/skill….
    That’s a thought for the weekend.

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  17. Laurie from Manly Dorm

    Me again. I agree with you about overprotecting our kids. But, I am not so sure about being relieved that they won’t have our childhood. Of course, it is all a very individualized response.
    I grew up in Morris County, NJ in a little suburban neighborhood. The neighborhood was great — one of those self-contained neighborhoods that was excellent for trick or treating (you could trick or treat for hours!) and you could walk to school. Nowadays, the trick or treaters are half the amount as in the 70’s, and no one lets their kids walk to school. All the minivans and SUVs are parked in the school driveway so that the kids can be chauffeured 2 blocks home. Same town. Same non-existent crime rate. The only difference I can tell is that everyone now is too afraid of everything.
    The other day, Helen was invited over to a friend’s house for a playdate. My husband said, “Well, did you ask the parents if they had a gun in the house?” I said, “Are you nuts?” He said,”All the parenting magazines that you buy and make me read say that you need to ask about guns in the house, and we don’t know that family very well. Remember what happened at Columbine!” In the end, I was too embarrassed to ask about guns, but I was too freaked out about my husband’s fears (I mean, she is our only child, what if something happened?) — I took the coward’s way out and turned down the invitation, saying that we already had plans.
    I kind of wish my daughter lived in a time where she could trick or treat with her friends, walk to school, and visit a school friend without me having to worry the friend’s hypothetical pistol-packing older brother. Have a good weekend. I love your blog.

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  18. Salem

    With regard to tuff times and spending, I feel certain that we would be witnessing the exact same celebration had my candidate won. Whoever decided that an economic boycot in NYC was a good idea has lost their $#@#@$ mind. Has NYC not suffered enough. Seems about as smart as the LA riots. Though I wouldn’t want to spend any time with an individual who chose an innuagural ball as the best place to spend their money, thank God for the full hotels and Bell Hops with pockets full of tips. Packed restaurants, busy merchants, employees getting the hours they need to feed their families. Great employees getting raises and promotions in Washington D.C., where tourism has suffered. All this money has a BIG impact on average folks. How would the average American benefit from the millions that go from millionaires to the RNC to NBC, ABC, and CBS? Spend! Spend! Spend!

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  19. Chris

    One thing I have noticed, but that does not get discussed much, is the vast change in expectations about nearly every aspect of our lives. People used to have much lower (modest? realistic? pathetic?) expectations about all sorts of things: the size of their house, the safety of their kids, the performance of the tires on their car, the number of shoes in their closet. Much of this change is generational. My parents were raised during the depression and experienced plenty hunger and cold; things few people living in “poverty” experience today. I just came back from a long weekend in Amsterdam. I loved the destination, but really disliked flying coach. People born since 1960 want whatever they want *now*, with zero errors, at a discounted price.

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  20. alyson

    the cruel monkey is being backed by the best and most persuasive liars in the world. lots of intelligent people have sent me this link to ann coulter’s website where she talks about presidential inaugural addresses. these people believe this shit. it’s anncoulter.org and it’s her jan. 21 column. read it. get more pissed off. i am.

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  21. KellyO

    This issue of balance appeared several times and I thought I would throw in my two cents. I noticed that a couple of you said that you live modestly but still have to work two jobs which cuts into family time. I do not yet have kids and now with my infinite college educated unexperienced wisdom I say that I too will shun “stuff” and I will not live in a “McMansion” and I will not buy into it all. I will have time with my kids and break my glass ceiling and be wildly successful.
    The thought that keeps creeping into my mind is what will make me immune to society’s expectations of how I should live? What makes me think that I will be able to say that I’ll drive a civic instead of a BMW and I’ll live in a- gasp 2,000 sq ft house instead of a 10,000 sq ft house? Someone said earlier that people were shocked that two lawyers lived in such a small house. Why do we pressure each other to live up to some imaginary standard that we ourselves find overly demanding and stressful? Why do we have to go to Cabo for vacation. Why don’t we go camping once a month so we can spend time with each other? We talk out of both sides of our mouths. We are led to think that we should want to go to exotic places and do exotic things.
    Well I’ve been to some exotic places in my lifetime and my memories of those trips are not about the white sandy beaches in Puerto Rico or the tall mountains in the Alps, my memories are of snorkling with my brother and taking a walk in the snow with my mom. Someone said something about how in the past the expectations were different, well I think the measure of success is different too. I think the person was correct when they equated the difference to the expereince of the depression and I think someone else mentioned our consumerism. Both valid intertwined points but we’ve done this to ourselves. It is not the faceless “man” that is creating this society based on consumerism and “stuff” it is people like you and I that work in advertising agencies and public relations firms and TV stations that created the atmosphere that the rest of us perpetuate.
    What is important? What would you die for? I doubt that anyone would die for their Mercedes but they would die for their sister or their son. I think its an issue of priorities that has created a domino effect. Society says we should have lots of stuff, so I have to work more hours to get the stuff, I don’t get to see my kids but one hour a day, Timmy’s got ADD and I can’t help him with his homework, Jane has a new boyfriend and I don’t have time to find out how serious it is, Timmy doesn’t get into college and Jane ends up pregnant, Timmy collects unemployment and lives in my basement until he’s 30 and Jane ends up on welfare. Perhaps this is an extremem example, but kids that don’t have guidance are less likely to succeed than kids that do. Mothers get blamed and not only do we have to work, cook and clean but now the deterioration of society is also on our shoulders. Priorities! Which is more likely to have a lasting effect on my life- a new iPod or a lengthy chat with my mom, a Jeep Cherokee or a fishing trip with my Dad, a vacation in Bali or a visit to see my cousin’s new baby?

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