thebitterbabe

never married, over forty, a little bitter

Category: politics

the landscape

I too have always loved Heather Havrilesky:

http://www.theawl.com/2013/10/ask-polly-how-do-i-find-true-love-and-stop-dating-half-assed-men

Now imagine for a second that someone writes to me and says, “Look, you’re just ok and you’re old and you’re wasting your time on this bullshit.” (Um, no one does that, because this isn’t Salon.) But imagine that someone does tell me that. And imagine that I spend several hours of my time explaining why I’m awesome and my work here is incredibly significant to the health of the planet, and I fucking matter and I have great ideas, brilliant fucking ideas, I’m a genius, and seriously, what the fuck is wrong with you? Suddenly this tepid bit of flotsam is taking up my time, and instead of turning away from it, I’m making claims that my work is deeply important (which, well, is a highly subjective stance).

[…]

Please note: this world also devalues free-flowing, emotional discourse from a woman unless she’s also funny AND sexy. If you’re not super fucking hot and funny first, you can go fuck yourself, ladies.

[…]

Because tepid is everywhere. Tepid is the air we breathe. Listen to me: We can’t do anything right. We can’t say what we mean, we can’t be ourselves, we can’t age, we can’t talk about feelings, we can’t fuck up. This is how it feels to be a woman, motherfucker. The world is filled with human beings who want us to shut up and shake our asses, point blank, the end. Can you fucking imagine if we had our own Kanye? For her to have Kanye’s power, and get invited on Kimmel, of course she’d have to be a mega-hot, funny as shit woman who walked around looking exactly like the chick in the short skirt who eats giant hamburgers on those Carl Jr. ads, but instead of eating a hamburger she’d be saying FUCK YOU, YOU ARE A SEXIST FUCK. I mean, sure, we have our women who look mortal and say this. Are they on TV? Rachel Maddow, she’s on TV. How many people in that bar would even know who the fuck she is? Who listens closely to Lena Dunham, who is gorgeous by the way? No, she’s not shaped right to listen to, right? She’s too full of herself? She’s too annoying?

Let’s not fall down that rabbit hole. All I’m saying is, here we are in a fucked up world. And even when you find your species, or at least your genus, you still are sometimes just a piece of ass to the best of them. Not even because they’re incredibly sexist—maybe they’re just pragmatic, or ambivalent in this case. They don’t happen to love you, is all. They don’t think you’re a math genius or a historian, and they’re gonna call bullshit. They think that when you talk, you’re wasting their time a little. That doesn’t mean that they’re bad. Sure, you want those guys and their futons and their best friends Sean to go fuck themselves, but that doesn’t mean they’re evil. But once they don’t love you, who the fuck cares about them? Were those dudes in the bar sexist, or did they just think I’m sort of bossy and repellent? Who the fuck cares?

You’re hunting a very small group, that’s all. Your target demographic, it’s small. There’s more than one of them, but they’re not everywhere.

That doesn’t mean your odds are bad! You will find love. Believe me. But in order to find it, I think you have to prepare yourself for a life alone, and be at peace with that. It’s a real tightrope walk. I get that. But you won’t tell tepid to fuck off if you don’t believe in your heart that you will rock it out one way or another.

In order to tell tepid to fuck off once and for all, you MUST recognize that life among those who don’t appreciate or understand you is bullshit. You don’t want to live that way. You don’t want to be badgery and lonely while you’re with someone. You’d rather be alone.

What will make ALONE look good to you? You have to work on that. Because single life needs to look really, really good, you have to believe in it, if you’re going to hold out for that rare guy who makes you feel like all of your ideas start rapidly expanding and approaching infinity when you talk to him. You need to have a vision of life alone, stretching into the future, and you need to think about how to make that vision rich and full and pretty. You have to put on an artist’s mindset and get creative and paint some portrait of yourself alone that’s breathtaking. You have to bring the full force of who you are and what you love to that project.

[…]

You have to do a lot. And you have to do it all against a backdrop of indifference that, as you get older, curdles into a kind of disgust. But you know what? We have each other. We have worlds within us, you and me. This mean, mean planet still rewards those who can see the depth and beauty of what they carry around inside of themselves. This indifferent landscape will rise up and give you love if you share what you have inside, if you dare to believe in your potential even as people tell you it’s a mirage, if you ignore the ones who are allergic to free-flowing, emotional discourse from YOU. They are everywhere, and they don’t matter. God bless them. Come on their Hampton blouse, and move on.

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the dark

And this is largely why I stay in the public sector, and why I feel lucky that some random things fell into place to grant me my current job:

http://www.salon.com/2014/08/02/how_the_middle_class_got_screwed_college_costs_globalization_and_our_new_insecurity_economy/

Amid these shifting economic tides and morphing definitions, many have lost their way. While old beliefs such as that hard work will lead to security and prosperity have fallen by the wayside, it’s unclear to many Americans what new truths lay in their stead. As President Obama’s pollster Joel Benenson discovered, this lack of direction causes a great deal of unease. “One of the big sources of concern for the people we talked with,” Benenson said, “was that they didn’t recognize any new rules in this environment. All of the rules they had learned about how you succeed, how you get ahead—those rules no longer apply, and they didn’t feel there was a set of new rules.” These kinds of examinations suggest that in the age of insecurity, Americans are not just trying to weather an economic storm, but they are also feeling their way through the dark.

the upside down

https://nplusonemag.com/online-only/help-desk/bank-robbin-in-brooklyn/#rf8-5159

Everything is upside down. Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. So should you turn to crime, if you haven’t already? Do whatever it takes to avoid participating in this “construct,” risking hunger, imprisonment, or dependence on people with real jobs, who’ve learned to keep their heads down?6 Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too? Should you try to work harder, save more, get your hands on some capital, even though the game seems impossibly rigged, so that if you do work out how to make a profit, it will be incredibly difficult to do so without replicating the system of exploitation that enrages you?

[…]

What I will have to say to you, by the end of this, is that anyone who has found a way to transform anger into purpose and even some measure of peace about work has learned to reckon with two contradictory truths:

Most work seems designed to make you feel absolutely alone, and
Almost everyone, if they are honest with themselves, feels exactly like you about much of the work they do.

[..]

With my butt up in the air, I have meditated on how everything is an illusion and tried to learn to detach from my boredom with bending over, jumping back, and putting my butt up in the air, trying not to think about the possibility that one of yoga’s most important historical functions has been to help people cope with a caste system cultivated by the Aryan invaders of India in 1500 BCE and institutionalized by the British invaders in the 19th and 20th centuries, a system organized by color like South Africa during apartheid, in which the lightness of your skin coincided with your class and thus the kind of labor you might do. To believe that because you were born dark-skinned and a servant you must remain a servant until your next reincarnation is perhaps easier when you have learned to endure repetitive compulsory movements, especially when the dominant movement is to prostrate yourself with your butt up in the air, while practicing detaching from your desires. I have tried not to think about the fact that more and more Americans are finding this practice incredibly helpful, if not necessary, to keep this whole thing going.

[…]

But I suspect that for most of the members of the upper 10 percent, and even the 1 percent, the real story is different—it is the system that is exploitative, and they have chosen to fight for a position in that system that is the only way to have a kind of personal power that should be everyone’s right. Do you think that if they weren’t so scared of falling into our position, so many people would choose to work in finance, for example, an industry built, in large part, on preying on the debt of others? Employment in that sector is currently the one of the best bets for ensuring one’s basic needs are met, and sending one’s children to college, if they want to go, and getting to live where you most want to live, and traveling to other countries, and getting good health care, without going into debt. It’s not bad to want these things, it’s just that everyone should have them.

adding up

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/24/fashion/From-Joan-Didion-to-Andrew-Sullivan-some-writers-leave-behind-letters-when-they-leave-new-york-city.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

For Ms. Didion, in other words, money was simply an excuse. The reality was, in the relatively cheap New York of the 1960s, even a Vogue junior staff member like her — making $70 a week — could secure a centrally located Manhattan apartment with a view of, she thought, the Brooklyn Bridge (“It turned out the bridge was the Triborough,” she dryly amended) and pay for taxis to parties where she might see “new faces.” Sure, the early days were tough — “some weeks I had to charge food at Bloomingdale’s gourmet shop in order to eat,” she wrote. But in general, she could afford to hang around long enough to determine when she had stayed “too long at the Fair.” In sum, she could afford to fall out of love with the city slowly.

Not so for the would-be Didions of today. In their New York, the nice apartments with the bridge views tend to go to the underwriters of bond issues, not to the writers of essays for literary anthologies. The unaffordability of New York on a writer’s budget is a theme running through several contemporary variations on the theme.

I’ve been enjoying the book Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York written about in the article above; in doing so it’s occurred to me again that many of our stresses are caused by the fact that there’s just too damn many of us:

http://www.populationmedia.org/issues/population/

The world’s population is now more than 7 billion and continues to grow by 82 million people per year. During the last half-century, the world’s population more than doubled. Between 1960 and 2010, the world population rose from 3 billion to 6.8 billion. In other words, there has been more growth in population in the last fifty years than the previous 2 million years that humans have existed. Currently the rate of population increase is 1.2% per year, which means the planet’s human population is on a trajectory to double again in 58 years.

Which of course makes the idea of this movie laughable (and I can’t help but think how much better off the planet would be with less baby food jars, diapers, toys, etc.):

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/18/lifetime-lottery-infographic_n_5297746.html

The combined stressors of too many people competing for jobs, wealth inequality, and the lengthening lifespan (elderly parents to support, the idea of supporting one’s own self through all the extra decades)… it all adds up. It’s no wonder the number of childless women is increasing.

fallout

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/30/a_very_ugly_blame_game_how_great_recession_is_affecting_people_in_totally_unexpected_ways/

We should’ve been able to do that, but, in practice — and I think this goes down to America and Britain being such unequal societies — we weren’t able to do so. We find that there had been very grave consequences in terms of social engagement — particularly in Britain. We find that there’s great consequences in terms of mental well-being, which are at least as marked, perhaps more marked, in the United States than they seem to be in Britain. And we find that there are consequences too —certainly more suggestively, but there’s still a lot to convince me — in terms of family relationships and how people get on with their nearest and dearest. All of these things that we like to think that money shouldn’t be able to buy — friends, family, community — all of these things have been tainted by the social fallout of Great Recession.

hedging

http://www.alternet.org/economy/marriage-becoming-luxury-rich

In short, a full explanation cannot look at the family in isolation from economic forces. Any attempt to respond to family change must include reconstruction of the script for the college educated, prompting investment in careers and marriages that can withstand the stresses of career changes, children’s illness, and geographic mobility.

[…]

At the top, increasing disparities among men and among women have made both pickier about potential mates and wary of early commitments that might limit future opportunities. Women used to “shop around” for successful men. Male executives used to marry their secretaries, who would take care of them at home the way they did in the office. Now both look for mates who reflect (and enhance) their own expectations about the ability to enjoy the good life. Two substantial incomes rather than one make the difference between the home overlooking the golf course and the modest tract house in the less tony school district, and even if money is not at issue, the stay-at-home spouse with the Ph.D. possesses much more social status than does a high school graduate playing the same domestic role.

College graduates still largely forge lasting relationships and they typically will do so with one another, but they hedge their bets by delaying marriage and childbearing until they have a better idea of where they (and the partners to whom they commit) are likely to end up—concentrating elite advantage in the process as overwhelming numbers of them raise their children in financially secure, two-parent families.

[…]

These economic changes, which have increased the dominance of high-income men at the top, marginalized a large number of men at the bottom, and reduced the number of men in the middle, have unsettled the foundations of family life. To be sure, the family does not change with the stock market ticker or the seasonal adjustments in the unemployment rate. Instead, shifts in the economy change the way men and women match up, and, over time, they alter young people’s expectations about each other and about their prospects in newly reconstituted marriage markets. These expectations go to the core of what many see as a shift in values. The ambitious college students, who are said to have mastered the “hookup,” know that attending to their studies pays off in terms of both marriage and career prospects and that too early a commitment to a partner or to childbearing may derail both. Yet, they still largely believe that when they are ready, a suitable partner—male, female, or the product of a sperm bank—will be there for them.

Women who do not graduate from college are more likely to see childbearing as the event that will most give meaning to their lives, and they are more likely to respond to experiences with unreliable and unfaithful partners by giving up on men and investing in themselves and their children. These differing expectations, treated as the subject of moral failings, women’s liberation, and cultural clashes, are a predictable consequence of the remaking of marriage markets. At the top, there are more successful men seeking to pair with a smaller pool of similarly successful women. In the middle and the bottom, there are more competent and stable women seeking to pair with a shrinking pool of reliable men. What we are watching as the shift in marriage markets rewrites family scripts and increases gender distrust is the re-creation of class—of harder edged boundaries that separate the winners and losers in the new American economy.

scripts

With these changes, the new sexual script has become:

Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Girl runs through her checklist: is he a one-night stand? (If so, say yes.). Is he someone she will still want to be with in a month? (If yes, then say no tonight but arrange another date.) Is he someone who can help pay the mortgage on the condo she wants to buy but can’t afford? (Flirt some more.) Is she likely to end up picking up his dirty socks and his student debt? (No way, unless he’s really cute.)

— June Carbone and Naomi Cahn, Marriage Markets: How Inequality is Remaking the American Family, p. 44

the system

http://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2014/jun/02/kirstie-allsop-young-women-ditch-university-baby-by-27

“Women are being let down by the system. We should speak honestly and frankly about fertility and the fact it falls off a cliff when you’re 35. We should talk openly about university and whether going when you’re young, when we live so much longer, is really the way forward. At the moment, women have 15 years to go to university, get their career on track, try and buy a home, and have a baby. That is a hell of a lot to ask someone. As a passionate feminist, I feel we have not been honest enough with women about this issue.”

Allsopp says fertility is the one thing that cannot change.

“Some of the greatest pain that I have seen among friends is the struggle to have a child. It wasn’t all people who couldn’t start early enough because they hadn’t met the right person,” she said.

“But there is a huge inequality, which is that women have this time pressure that men don’t have. And I think if you’re a man of 25 and you’re with a woman of 25, and you really love her, then you have a responsibility to say: ‘Let’s do it now.’

uphill slides

http://www.salon.com/2014/06/01/help_us_thomas_piketty_the_1s_sick_and_twisted_new_scheme/

Today productivity continues to increase, but Americans work more hours per week than they used to, not fewer. Also, more than workers in other countries. Correct?

The U.S., even under the New Deal, was always a lot stingier than most wealthy countries when it comes to time off: whether it’s maternity or paternity leave, or vacations and the like. But since the ‘70s, things have definitely been getting worse.

the sniveling

This passage perfectly encapsulates how I felt during my last dispiriting period on the job market, before I returned to my profession:

My parents… generation has watched the social infrastructure they painstakingly helped to build being dismantled and sold off, while at the same time having to rescue their offspring who cannot get an economic foothold. Even in our mid to late thirties, my partner and I are chronically financially insecure, always on the verge of packing up and moving back to our parental homes.

Bringing up a family on a modest income, improvising and making do, work was then a source of pride and stability, a solid base on which to build. Now, for us, the pressure of precarity demands a new sort of virtuosity and a different outlook… Work is no longer a secure base, but rather a source of anxiety and indignity, both a matter of life and death and utterly meaningless, overwhelming and yet so insubstantial it could run through our fingers. It is normal to feel under threat and undervalued, to feel snivellingly grateful to have a job, any job. We must be sure not to take work for granted and yet be willing to be taken for granted ourselves. We endure a similar level of “making do”, but without the home or kids, and without the security of regular employment. We can barely live independently now. How will we be able to bring up children, or support them in similar circumstances? The future is no longer something to look forward to, but something to dread.

Again, from my family I inherited no world-shaking political beliefs, just a desire to be part of a community, to do a useful job which was not driven by private profit and to cultivate outside interests rather than be defined by a 24/7 career. Such an attitude, far from being revolutionary, used to be the norm, even a non-attitude. But now the tide has come in, and anyone with such eccentric ideas finds themselves stranded way out to sea on a sandbank with the waves lapping at their feet and the vultures circling above. By maintaining the same moderate position we have become radicals by default. Smiling swimmers beckon toward us (“Come on in, the water’s lovely!”), but we know that we are in a contradictory no-win situation: our future survival depends upon immersing ourselves from head to toe in an ideology which we know is poisonous.

— Ivor Southwood, Non-Stop Inertia, pp. 76-77