Monday, July 9, 2012

Who Cares About the 1%?

Elizabeth Wurtzel - author of Prozac Nation (remember that? From the early 1990s?) apparently would like to slap me. Really! She said so in the Atlantic:

I am going to smack the next idiot who tells me that raising her children full time -- by which she really means going to Jivamukti classes and pedicure appointments while the nanny babysits -- is her feminist choice.

I don't even know what Jivamukti classes ARE! But that's because I'm an idiot.

Before I write this, let us talk about credentials. Elizabeth Wurtzel lives in an affluent section of New York City, writes memoirs and has no children. I live in a non-affluent section of Northern Ontario, mostly write emails and have three children, who I am raising full-time. I apparently do not exist:

To be a stay-at-home mom is a privilege, and most of the housewives I have ever met -- none of whom do anything around the house -- live in New York City and Los Angeles, far from Peoria. Only in these major metropolises are there the kinds of jobs in finance and entertainment that allow for a family to live luxe on a single income. 

I can't wait to tell my husband about his high-paying job in finance/entertainment that allows me to live my feminism-ruining life of pedicures, mysterious Jivamukti classes (SERIOUSLY WHAT ARE THOSE?) and hot pool boys (I HOPE.). My slatternly housecleaning can also be nicely blamed on my maid, which is handy. Okay, no. In all honesty, I know very few wealthy people and I don't know ANY SAHMs who get to live a life of rich loafery - although unlike Wurtzel, I can apparently imagine the existence of people I have not met. Some women are rich and useless and exist only to display their husbands' wealth! Feminism should forbid it!

*eye roll*

Here is a brief biographical description of me: I spent my early 20s having a complicated, drawn-out breakdown, much like Elizabeth Wurtzel, non-idiot; although it didn't occur to me at the time to write a profitable memoir about the whole miserable experience, so instead of finding myself with a book at 26, I found myself instead newly married AND accidentally pregnant (within the same two weeks, dammit!) and very, very fragile.

I had been working part-time and was writing a lot at that time and this was 13 years ago, so it was before the era of subsidized childcare for low-income families in Ontario (and WERE WE EVER) and without a degree, I had few options for decent-paying work. Hooray for me! I made great choices! But making bad choices is okay, says Wurtzel, so long as they're for love (or sex, whatevs.):

I really don't consider it my feminist business that an awful lot of strong and solid women -- Simone de Beauvoir, famously -- are idiots about love and romance any more than I care that Helen of Troy's face started a naval war, because we are all fools for love.

WE ARE? But I made an AWESOME marital choice! Seriously, marrying my husband was the smartest damn thing I ever did. I couldn't have done a better job if I'd chosen him rationally, which I certainly did NOT do. And here's where Elizabeth Wurtzel and I suddenly diverge: I DO judge you if you spend your adult life making moronic, predictably stupid, life-damaging romantic decisions. COME ON NOW. CUT THAT OUT.

For the longest time I would not date anyone who would now be called a one-percenter because money and power are such a potent combination, and if I am going to be bossed around, I don't want that to be the reason

Er, what? I wasn't sure about this, so I phoned my husband at his sole-wage-earner of the family job and asked him if he bossed me around.

"No?" he said. Did he know he has all the power in our relationship, I demanded? He only sighed heavily. Here's the thing: he doesn't boss me around. HE NEVER HAS. This is because he's a decent human. Tricky, eh?

So was staying home with my child a bad decision? Well, no - economically, it made sense at the time, and it made sense from my health's perspective as well. The childcare options available to us at that time were NOT great - and let us not pretend that all child care options are equal. Of course they're not - and so we did the best we could with the choices we could make.

And was it the wrong choice?

Well, possibly, from my stand-point NOW. But it was the very best choice I could have made at the time with the resources I had available to me.  Making a bad choice doesn't necessarily mean you've done the wrong thing and even knowing what I know NOW, I would still choose to stay at home with my kids. Childhood is short and it was fun. But am I  - and my choices - to be granted the same respect Wurtzel grants women who spend their  lives needlessly miserable because of men who don't deserve it? Apparently not, because I'm getting lumped in with the useless show-trophy wives of the very rich. Apparently not, because the love I feel for my  children does not rate the same respect as Simone de Beauvoir's desperate love for the unfaithful, frog-like Jean Paul Sartre and the decisions I make do not deserve the same respect as Simone de Beauvoir's decisions (among which - seducing underage students and then pimping them out to Sartre. L'amour!) because MY possibly-bad choices involve money. OH.