Tuesday, July 31, 2007

More money, please, sweetheart

Pretty Lady must admit that this one surprised her:

What we found across all the studies is men were always less willing to work with a woman who had attempted to negotiate than with a woman who did not. They always preferred to work with a woman who stayed mum. But it made no difference to the men whether a guy had chosen to negotiate or not."

This alone doesn't explain the pay gap, of course. But, it's a reminder that closing at least the pay negotiation gap will be trickier than teaching women to be more aggressive. "This isn't about fixing the women," said Bowles. "It isn't about telling women, 'You need self-confidence or training.' They are responding to incentives within the social environment ... The point of this paper is: Yes, there is an economic rationale to negotiate, but you have to weigh that against social risks of negotiating. What we show is those risks are higher for women than for men."

Although Pretty Lady is by no means a Financial Mogul, she has recently noticed a few things:

1) Raising her prices has generated more new clients, not fewer.

2) Insisting upon a market-rate fee for her recent speaking engagement, after the initial hurdle, seemed to generate a healthy respect for her expertise, and an eager willingness to follow her advice, rather than Suspicious Resentment.

3) Working for below-market-rates tends to attract demanding cheapskates who book infrequently, fail to tip, and do not think to recommend Pretty Lady's services to their friends.

Pretty Lady hates to make sweeping generalizations, and she is certain that there are many sexist bastards out there who treat working women like dirt. She is equally certain that there are female employers who resent ladies who do not act like dirt, and stiff them accordingly.

But she also wonders if the negotiation gap is not partly created by something subtler--that women who feel subconsciously guilty for negotiating will then negotiate in a defensive and unpleasant manner. Because, confidentially, Pretty Lady only started getting the above results when she was able to say, in perfect serenity, "Sweetie! That's my price, and it's a good one! If it seems too steep for you, Chinatown is that way, and I fully understand."

The Myth of Masochism

David revisits an old, old issue:

I know a lot of nice guys and I never once heard any of them ask why women are attracted to "bad boys". What they want to know is why women stay with bad boys and why after dating one jerk a women that seems to be inteligent would move right on to another jerk.
The short answer to your question, my dear David, is that this intelligent woman is making a fundamental, existential, and institutionally supported mistake in her spiritual-emotional paradigm. She will continue to make this very same mistake until it either kills her, or she is forced by intolerable misery to question the underpinnings of her thinking. There is nothing you can say or do until then to stop her making this mistake, because, being intelligent, she thinks she's thought of everything.

The nature of this mistake has nothing to do with masochism. The lady does not enjoy being abused. It may or may not have to do with low self-esteem; such behavior is just as likely to be caused by hubris as by an excess of humility. It is certainly not caused by Low Morals; such a woman, you may be assured, is doing her utmost to adhere to a higher ethical standard than that which she applies to others.

The mistake she is making--and listen closely--is this: She is trying to heal the world by absorbing a part of its misery. She is attempting to achieve Balance. In this action she is trying quite sincerely, albeit perhaps unconsciously, to adhere to the widely-held paradigm of Atonement, as performed by one Lord Jesus Christ. She is voluntarily taking punishment for the sins of others, in order to absolve them. And she finds, to her eternal bewilderment, that it does not work that way.

Pretty Lady finds it rather ironic that the selfsame persons who condemn codependent women for being stupid, immoral, and Bad Christians are often the same ones who regard guilt and sacrifice as zero-sum equations. The only difference between them and the unhappy codependents is that the condemners try to get rid of their guilt by projection and excoriation of others, rather than by taking on more than their fair share of punishment.

The fact is, as Pretty Lady has empirically discovered, that it is not possible to heal another person by suffering abuse at their hands. The sum total of misery in the world is not reduced, but increased by this behavior. 'Forgiveness' does not mean 'allowing oneself to be perpetually martyred without complaint.' Pretty Lady doesn't think she needs to engage in any fancy rhetorical flights to convince anyone of that.

The question is, then, what does 'forgiveness' mean? What was Jesus actually doing?

Pretty Lady's current suspicion, supported by the Course in Miracles, is that by the grace of God and through the medium of the Holy Spirit, he dismissed the case against us. He freed us of any need to excoriate self or others by removing the guilt that troubles us. For if one removes the damage, forgiveness is automatic, because there is no injury left to forgive.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Parallel Excerpts

One might ask if our habitual failure to distinguish between "empirical ego" and the "person" has not led us to oversimplify and falsify our whole interpretation of Buddhism. There are in Zen certain suggestions of a higher and more spiritual personalism than one might at first sight expect. Zen insight is at once a liberation from the limits of the individual ego, and a discovery of one's "original nature" and "true face" in "mind" which is no longer restricted to the empirical self but is in all and above all. Zen insight is not our awareness, but Being's awareness of itself in us. This is not a pantheistic submersion or a loss of self in "nature" or "the One." It is not a withdrawal into one's spiritual essence and a denial of matter and of the world. On the contrary, it is a recognition that the whole world is aware of itself in me, and that "I" am no longer my individual and limited self, still less a disembodied soul, but that my "identity" is to be sought not in that separation from all that is, but in oneness (indeed, "convergence"?) with all that is. This identity is not the denial of my personal reality but its highest affirmation.
--Thomas Merton, 'Mystics and Zen Masters'

There is no time, no place, no state where God is absent. There is nothing to be feared. There is no way in which a gap could be conceived of in the Wholeness that is His. The compromise the least and littlest gap would represent in His eternal Love is quite impossible. For it would mean His Love could harbor just a hint of hate, His gentleness turn sometimes to attack, and His eternal patience sometimes fail. All this do you believe, when you perceive a gap between your brother and yourself.
--The Course in Miracles 29:I:1-6

Big Boy Art

Pretty Lady confesses that she has been looking forward to the Richard Serra Retrospective for yonks. Any time she has ever tripped over a creation by dear Mr. Serra in the past, whether it has been a corner full of hot lead in the SF MoMA, or a solemn, prison-like construction reaching skyward outside the MoMA Fort Worth, she has been Deeply Awed. Such simplicity, such monumental weight, such mass, such Brute Force of Construction! They make everything around them look fiddly.

It was somewhat confounding, then, when it gradually dawned upon her that two floors and a courtyard full of Richard Serras are not necessarily superior to a single Richard Serra surrounded by fiddly things. In fact, they tend to lose a lot of their force when viewed in concert. When a person has seen one lead wall balanced in a corner, it seems, a person has more or less seen them all.

Moreover, the setting of the Contemporary Galleries did not do his Late Works any favors, despite being the best the MoMA could offer. Pretty Lady felt that the gargantuan Torqued Ellipses ought to have been experienced standing in a desert, with mountains ringing the far horizon, lighted by a silent sky so blue that it verges toward purple, accentuating a vast and solemn stillness; grey concrete flooring, white department-store sheetrock and a ceiling full of can-lights did not approximate this experience. And do not even speak to Pretty Lady about the acoustics. Acoustical magic does not occur in a shopping mall.

Pretty Lady then found herself thoughtfully contemplating the lovely marble of the new MoMA sculpture garden, and the incipient cracks and rust stains thereof, and wondering whether even the most impressive Torqued Ellipse was worth it.

The obvious problem with placing a Richard Serra Retrospective in the desert where it belongs is, of course, Status and Recognition. It is difficult to maintain one's position as King of the Art World from the middle of the Sahara. Foot traffic is minimal, and journalistic coverage is bound to be sketchy. Artistic integrity must always be balanced by Visibility; as a Los Angeles artist once exclaimed to Pretty Lady, when she announced her desire to live and paint in Distant Lands for six months out of every year--"That's insane! People will forget who you are!"

And in the long run, as Pretty Lady made her jaded way through the sixth floor full of weighty, laconic works of lead and rubber, she realized that Alpha Male art is displayed to its best advantage under conditions of Extreme Dilution. Too much ponderous simplicity becomes simply ponderous. She is thrilled to have an Alpha Male deliver her refrigerator, but she wouldn't want to live with one.

Chris Rywalt's Vaunted Meatloaf Recipe

(This post is 100% written by Chris. Pretty Lady only re-formatted it.)

As suggested, here's my Magic Meatloaf Recipe. I've been thinking for a long time now of collecting my recipes and food knowledge into an online cookbook called "The If You're Feeling Ambitious Cookbook." The idea is each recipe would have extra instructions "if you're feeling ambitious." Usually I'm not, but sometimes I am.

First, put on "Bat Out of Hell" as loud as possible. It's important for the ambience.

1.25 lb (570g) ground beef (85% lean)
3 oz (87g) breadcrumbs (unseasoned)
freshly ground black pepper
0.5 to 1 tsp dried thyme
3 baby carrots or 1 regular carrot
2 cloves garlic
0.5 to 1 medium onion
1 egg

Start the oven at 325 degrees F. The idea here is to cook the meatloaf slowly and evenly, then crank up the heat at the end to form our crust.

I am the laziest person on Earth so I use a food processor for this part. If you're feeling ambitious, you can chop everything by hand. Start with the hardest ingredients -- garlic and carrots -- because otherwise, the softer ingredients (the onion) will liquefy before the harder ones are small enough. Process the garlic and carrots until very small. Add the onion, the breadcrumbs, the thyme, salt, and pepper and process again, pulsing and scraping down the sides until the onions are fairly small. Then crack the egg into the processor and run it until everything is combined. If you're doing it by hand, mince the vegetables and then just, you know, mix everything together.

If you don't have breadcrumbs and you're feeling ambitious you can always make some. Either throw some old hard bread into the processor and grind it up or, if you don't have any of that around, you can try this: Lay out slices of sandwich bread in a single layer on a sheet pan and cook at 200 degrees F until all the moisture is gone. Let cool (don't try to grind them while hot -- trust me, it doesn't work) and grind up in the food processor.

Back to meatloaf: Mix the ground beef and the goop from the processor. You can do this by hand, but I find it icky and, again, I'm lazy. By hand is really best, though. The trick with ground beef is to handle it as little as possible. If you compress it too much, it becomes solid beef, which for meatloaf means it'll come out like a block of wood. Not good. So mix it loosely and do not squeeze it -- keep your fingers apart and think of your hands like forks, turning the mixture over and getting it combined. Because we've pre-mixed everything but the beef, you can finish this with minimal handling. Or you can do what I do which is mix it using a stand mixer with a dough hook on low speed, scraping down the sides and turning over the bottom a few times. (My wife actually prefers the finer texture of the meatloaf mixed this way.)

Once everything is mixed, put it into a loaf pan. Don't press it in too much, but make sure it fills out the corners and is kind of flat on top. It'll never be perfect, but it'll be okay. Then turn the loaf pan over a baking pan or larger vessel. Something where the loaf won't touch the sides. It'll take some shaking to get the loaf to let go of the loaf pan, but eventually it will plop out. (Or you can just slap the mixture right on the larger pan and shape it by hand, if the loaf pan doesn't pan out for you. Ahem.)

Now insert your digital oven thermometer. Don't have one? Too bad for you. Now you're going to have to guess when it's done. If you do have one, cook until the center of the loaf is 155 degrees F. If not, well, um, let it go about 45 minutes. That's usually about right. (I've burned out about four digital oven thermometers and am currently doing this by guesswork, too.)

Then crank the oven to 500 degrees F for ten minutes. (This cooking time is for a Pyrex pan. If you're using metal, reduce it. Try maybe five and see how that goes.)

Remove the pan from the oven and let the meatloaf set for ten minutes before slicing. If you've got a lot of fat in the bottom of the pan, you might want to pour it off before resting.

I like mine with ketchup mixed with hot sauce. It's great on sandwiches the next day, also.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


"Ring," oil on linen, 36"x 48", by Pretty Lady, 2007

...For the best -- not of course the only, but the best -- text-books for pastoral theologians (and that is what every priest must be) are not the ranks of theological tomes that line the shelves of their studies, but the living work of artists who are in touch with the living springs of creative imagination. That's only another way of saying that theologians cannot direct men's minds to God until they are themselves steeped in God's world and in the imaginative creations of his most sensitive and articulate creatures.

And that, in turn, is only another way of saying that the enterprise of theology cannot come to life until it takes to heart the principle of Incarnation; for the starting point for each of us is not argument but heightened awareness.

--small excerpt from homily delivered at the Catholic Church of St. Mary the Virgin, Arlington, Texas on July 8, 2007, by Fr. Hawkins, to honor the First Mass of Fr. Raymond McDaniel
Please email Pretty Lady if you would like a copy of the entire homily; it is quite lovely.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Why, indeed?

Barak is skeptical of Pretty Lady's faith in Matters Supernatural:

While I agree that this is a pretty run-of-the-mill miracle, why bring the holy ghost into this? I have long noticed that the quality of a gathering is directly proportional to the quality of the comestibles consumed. The vintners at the Chateau (not to mention Cha-Cha) clearly deserve more credit for taming the beast than any supernatural being.
Barak, my dear, Pretty Lady intends no disparagement of either vintners or Cha-Cha in her insistence on speaking the name of the Holy Spirit aloud. This is not a Random Attribution on her part; although it might appear so, Pretty Lady is not guilty of Magical Thinking, Sloppy Reasoning or the Dissing of Human Effort. The Holy Spirit's influence is Key.

You see, unlike many Modern Rationalists, Pretty Lady sees no inherent conflict of interest between Human Wisdom and Divine Inspiration. It is her experience, rather, that reliance upon the latter naturally leads to the former. She would go so far as to say that this appears to be a cause and effect relationship.

Because, dear Barak, a person who relies on the strivings of Self alone to meet all incoming needs--safety, security, solvency, bottles of Chateau Malescot and freedom from gunfire--is, of necessity, a Tense person. Since he places no trust in things intangible, and since he can see ugliness and mayhem all around, he is certain that his own situation depends solely on his ability to control his environment completely. And of course this is impossible. Ergo the neckaches, backaches, joint problems, eyestrain, and heart attacks before the age of 50.

Moreover, a person who is hell-bent on maintaining control at all costs has little energy left for entering the present moment--for appreciating the subtleties of a particular vintage, for example, or listening closely and non-judgmentally while his then-girlfriend expounds her notions of the Holy Spirit. He may take a temporary vacation to do these things, of course, but his inner sense of panic and exigency never disappears, and reasserts itself in triple force after every moment of indulgence. Moreover, he finds discourses upon the Holy Spirit to be, not amusing conversation, but deeply threatening to his sense of control, particularly when issuing from the lips of his then-S.O. For a lady who trusts in the intangible is not likely to succumb to the stringent dictates of Extreme Paranoia, and is thus, in his judgment, a Loose Cannon On Deck.

(This character portrait, dear Barak, has utterly nothing to do with what Pretty Lady knows of thou. Specifically. She'd just like to make that clear.)

The end result of an attitude which entirely dismisses the likes of the Holy Spirit, then, is a character which is utterly incapable of producing miracles like Chateau Malescot. For where does the faith and the patience come from, to venture into the void without the certain assurance that this next bottle of fermented juice will turn out well? Whither exploration, invention, and ambitious business plans? Whither the willingness to embrace the threatening person with the gun?

Pretty Lady can assert with perfect confidence that this person--the faithless, untrusting, empirical Control Freak--does not create a life full of miracles. Rather, he ends up friendless, joyless, rage-filled and unproductive, crouched in a mouldering building, tromping on insects which dare to breach the perimeter.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Female Artist Solution

Hmph. Pretty Lady has just returned from a Panel Discussion on the place of Women in the Art World, and she has some sincere advice for female artists.

If you wish to have a fulfilling career in the Arts, the one thing you must be careful to do is to avoid Panel Discussions on the place of Women in the Art World.

For it seems, darlings, as though very little has changed since Virginia Woolf ate beef and prunes at the ascetic Women's College, in nineteen-twenty whatever-it-was. The gallery hosting this vaunted Panel had no air-conditioning, and wholly insufficient seating. Valuable works by Women Artists were held to the walls with pins. The P.A. system was non-functional. And when the ludicrously excessive number of Women Artists on the panel were invited to share their thoughts, they sat there--glum, courteous and silent--as one of the two male panelists gave an extempore and stultifyingly dull treatise on C.I.A. history, and the rise of suburbia in the nineteen-fifties.

Pretty Lady was not nearly as depressed about her Career Prospects before attending this panel as she was afterward.

For she noted, early on in the discussion, that the word allowed was used, more than once, in a negative sense. As in, 'Women Artists are not allowed to...'. During the question-and-answer phase, Pretty Lady wished to point out the damning connotations of this phraseology; the fact that persons who are waiting for Someone Else to Allow them to do something are--willy-nilly, a priori, within their own minds--Disempowered. We, as Women Artists, need look no farther.

But Pretty Lady kept her thoughts to herself, because no-one allowed her to speak. She supposes she could have been terribly rude and masculine and loudly Interrupted, but something--perhaps an overwhelming feeling of Invisibility, as though her confident demeanor, her intense gaze, her raised arm, were being deliberately and wilfully ignored--kept her silent.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Garden-variety miracle

Dear Mitzibel alerts us to what, in Pretty Lady's world, is a fairly run-of-the-mill occurrence:

Attempted robbery ends in group hug

WASHINGTON - Police on Capitol Hill are baffled by an attempted robbery that began with a handgun put to the head of a teenager and ended in a group hug.

It started about midnight on June 16 when a group of friends was finishing a dinner of marinated steaks and jumbo shrimp on the back patio of a District of Columbia home. That's when a hooded man slid through an open gate and pointed a handgun at the head of a 14-year-old girl."Give me your money, or I'll start shooting," he said, according to police and witnesses.

Everyone froze, including the girl's parents. Then one guest spoke. "We were just finishing dinner," Cristina "Cha Cha" Rowan, 43, told the man. "Why don't you have a glass of wine with us?"

The intruder had a sip of their Chateau Malescot St-Exupery and said, "Damn, that's good wine."


"I think I may have come to the wrong house," he said before apologizing. "Can I get a hug?"

Rowan, who works at her children's school and lives in Falls Church, Va., stood up and wrapped her arms around the armed man. The four other guests followed.

"Can we have a group hug?" the man asked. The five adults complied.

Now, in Pretty Lady's opinion, this is a prime example of the Holy Spirit at work. One notices all the elements; simplicity, style, spontaneity, serenity. The Holy Spirit thinks on his feet, and never loses his cool. He works with the resources at hand--in this case, a bottle of Chateau Malescot and a charming lady named Cha Cha. And group hugs are the result!

Further, one must note that the mark of the Holy Spirit is grounded in Love, transcending Situation and Appearances. When one is operating from a position of ironclad, unconditional Love, there is no room for panic, rage, terror or unfortunate Sudden Moves.

Pretty Lady would like to mention, in closing, that a Kantian Categorical Imperative approach in this situation would have been of no use whatsoever. One cannot make a Blanket Rule that the proper response to having one's fourteen-year-old girl held at gunpoint is to offer the gunman a glass of wine; this would merely ensure that all the winos in Washington would find a way to acquire handguns and stalk the local junior high schools.

No, darlings, the superficial circumstances of miracles are always as unique as they are irrelevant. It is the meta-truth behind them which is forever the same.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Health Care, Part the Second

Sweetie little Bobert! Pretty Lady just loves hearing from Bobert. He reminds her of her Granddaddy, the crotchety one--not so much for Content, as Attitude. All bluff cynicism! So adorable.

I have heard many glib comments about going into business for yourself. Try to imagine the resulitng total collapse of everything if the majority of underpaid Americans did exactly that.

That's why 40 million Americans are uninsured, and a sure-fire recipe for future disaster, when a poorly educated and penniless mob of retirees hit Social Security and Medicare age, along with those twenty million illegals Bush has refused to contront.

This system IS going to collapse.

But... you know what? Those scumbags that are making vast fortures in the here and now - actively engineering the upcoming collapse - will be gone... skipped out of the country with their ill-gotten gains... laughing all the way.
Now, Bobert, dear. Try to stop thinking of scumbags. Thinking of scumbags, Pretty Lady has it on good authority, is terrible for a person's health. Daily meditation upon the Scumbags that have Done One Wrong directly contributes to headaches, backaches, stomach ulcers, sore ankles, respiratory infecctions, cancer, liver disease, kidney failure and bags under the eyes.

Plus, this is exactly the sort of rhetoric that Hillary Clinton uses to instigate the masses into doing things Her Way.

No, as attractive as it may seem to blame all our current woes on scumbags, Pretty Lady tells you sternly to stop. Pretty Lady does not believe in Blame. Blame may exist, and may be appropriately apportioned, but Blame never fixed anybody's tooth. So out with it.

Now, Bobert. As you so astutely point out, astronomical health-care costs plus millions of uncared-for persons present a Problem. The nature of this Problem, as you imply, is Systemic. It affects, not merely the Scumbags and the Irresponsible, but the vast majority of all of us, insured or not.

Thus, it seems to Pretty Lady that the vast majority of us have a vested interest in pondering this problem.

Pretty Lady points out the obvious, merely in order to make the point that the interests of the individual and those of the the Whole are not necessarily and permanently at odds. Individuals may work with the Whole, on behalf of the Whole, with the Whole in mind, and not necessarily be Totalitarian Control Freaks, like Hillary Clinton. There is a danger of such, of course, but it is not a given.

Pretty Lady grounds herself in the obvious, then, in order to move on to Bobert's initial point.
Medicaly speaking, the problem always has been that large groups get a good price break for medical insurance, while the individual gets hammered...It used to be a trade-off, until the medical community and the insurance companies raised the cost of having good health through the stratosphere.
In economic terms, as Bobert demonstrates, it is frequently in the interests of individuals to Pool their Resources. This lessens the shock to the system of catastrophe, and allows for the potential efficiency of Bulk Processing to enter the picture. Pretty Lady would elaborate, except that she knows that none of her readers are stupid, and are perfectly able to fill in the blanks.

HOWEVER, and AT THE SAME TIME, economic and health care interests are also served by the individual having maximum control over how those resources are spent. See: Free Market Capitalism.

Moreover, the notion of 'health insurance' is patently stupid and unworkable, for the same reasons that Car Repair Service Plans are a scam. When the head gasket blows, it is no earthly good to have a car-repair plan that provides two oil changes and a tune-up. Tune-ups and oil changes are relatively cheap; head gaskets, as Pretty Lady knows from vile experience, are basically prohibitive.

So, to recap the Obvious Points:

1) It is in the best interests of Society At Large to have healthy citizens, and as few destitute diseased persons dying in the streets as possible, spreading germs and and despair far and wide.

2) It is in the best interests of Individual Health and Economic Well-Being to seek out the best care at the lowest prices, and laugh in the faces of incompetent dentists who present them with deadpan $13,000 estimates.

So then, what is wrong with individually managed medical savings accounts, coupled with catastrophic coverage in a pool?

Chiefly, Pretty Lady supposes, the problem with individual control and responsibility for preventive healthcare, paired with group risk management, is that the elaborate systems in place for milking people without their consent would have to go. Unless, say, an existing HMO were sufficiently efficient, pleasant and effective to induce the individual to voluntarily pay for a Plan. The vast numbers of persons drawing a paycheck for shuffling paper and vetoing treatments would, unfortunately, have to learn an actual Useful Skill.

This might be good for their health, however.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Mrow! Fffft!

Gracious. It seems that girls, even 'feminist' ones, will be girls:

In "Uncommon Arrangements," Roiphe also returns to another of her favorite themes, assuring readers, in a sentence that could have been the subtitle of "The Morning After," that "where a man has been monstrous, the woman has almost always had some hand in creating her particular monster."

"What you're picking up is my resistance to demonizing men," she said. "I have a definite ideological resistance to placing women in the role of victim, especially when you talk about something as intimate and complicated as their personal lives. I do believe that both people are always responsible, and I know from my own experience with marriage that it's very easy and seductive to see yourself as the victim. To me, there is a moral imperative to resist that story."

This is a tune Roiphe has been warbling for 14 years now, and it surely soothes those men who are sick of being told that sex is no longer theirs to take whenever they want it, that they have to share domestic duties, that they have to wear condoms to keep themselves and their partners safe. Don't worry, her books say. Not all of us want so much from you.

Pretty Lady must say that Rebecca Traister rather lost her, in that segue. She is At Sea. She is not at all certain how dear Rebecca got from Here to There, so to speak.

Because Pretty Lady herself has a certain resistance to demonizing men; she is a firm believer in Personal Responsibility for men and women equally; and she is perpetually alive to the debilitating effects of casting oneself in the role of Victim. She was unaware that this had anything to do with nonconsensual sex, condoms, or tedious domestic responsibilities.

And in fact, Rebecca's entire article seemed full of sterling examples of one of Pretty Lady's pet peeves; that is, the reckless Imputing of scurrilous Motives to a person with whom one does not happen to agree.
Here still is Roiphe's seductively low-pitched murmur, a signal tuned precisely for the ears of men who are sick of being hassled about the fucking Legos already. "This endless conversation about who is doing what in terms of house responsibilities and all that," said Roiphe wearily. "To me it goes back to that great Joan Didion essay: We are mired in the trivial."
Pretty Lady's mind, quite frankly, boggles. She scarcely knows where to begin. Her thoughts, roughly, in no particular order:

1) We ARE mired in the Trivial, most definitely, no doubt.

2) The catty insinuation of tone in the initial sentence is precisely what Pretty Lady would expect from the most Patriarchy-Pandering female in existence, which in itself makes the sentence a textbook example of Obvious Projection.

3) It is disingenuous in the extreme for a self-proclaimed 'feminist' to disavow the provocative powers of such underhanded insinuation; such power may, indeed, be used to Create Monsters, male or female.

4) Whoever cares the most about a particular domestic task, performs the task. This is a rule of existence, which no amount of trivial bickering, nagging, picketing, politicking or divorcing will change.

5) Mature persons are capable of an honest disagreement without resorting to such smarmy character smears.

6) The 'disagreement' in any case appears to be largely a matter of perspective, and not a fundamental misalignment at all. At least when we disregard the insulting rhetoric and look merely at the logical underpinnings of each lady's statement.

7) Though in the case of Rebecca Traister, alas, the term 'lady' must be applied advisedly.

That is, indeed, the point

Darling little Desert Cat finally acknowledges the Elephant in the Room:

The one thing that working for an employer has going for it is that it is often easier, sometimes far easier than grubbing for one's paycheck one sale or service at a time.
Yes, indeedy. Indubitably. Hugely so. By a few orders of magnitude.

Do you, my darlings (Pretty Lady is speaking now to the World At Large, but most particularly to those with an Ingrained Assumption that Jobs with Benefits are an Inalienable Right) understand that statement? Really truly? That no matter how unreasonable the boss, how stressful the position, how frenetic and challenging and demanding the task at hand, that nevertheless you have it easy??? That at the end of the day, and for the foreseeable and thus plannable future, you do what you are instructed to do and someone hands you a preordained paycheck?

Have you really, fully, truly apprehended the basic, baseless, unearned security of that position, and on the inescapable ramifications of not being in that position, never being in that position, of not knowing what the next bit of Financial News might be, EVER???

Pretty Lady pauses to get her breath for a moment, and to allow you darlings to ponder the ramifications of that statement, from within your cubicles.

Because you have No Idea. You do not know Faith until you have been self-employed for an extended period of time; the interconnectedness of all things, and the trust that the ground under one's feet will not suddenly give way, are merely wispy, inconsequential abstractions until one has been forced by circumstance to test them in dire practice. Political philosophies, health insurance plans, and Cultural Integration are unaffordable and somewhat risible luxuries, when one is in this position. Another person's preconceived notion of your competence or lack thereof is unimportant; what is desperately important is your actual competence.

Pretty Lady surprises herself by her agitation on this subject; she did not know, herself, the extent of her own opinions. Because Pretty Lady has been too preoccupied with mere Survival to get all exercised (as she sees other, employed persons doing) about the extent of the responsibility which is or is not handed to her. The notion of waiting around for someone to give her some responsibility is frankly ludicrous; she's got it. All of it. Whether she wants it or not.

It is important to understand that Pretty Lady is not complaining. Far from it. Complaining is what people do on their off hours, and Pretty Lady hasn't got any of those. Pretty Lady is On all the time, even when she is sound asleep, and most of the time she likes it that way. It causes her to genuinely live life to the fullest, as a person cannot do when jumping through hoops.

But Pretty Lady is tired of the random bits of Envy she perceives, coming her way; ditto the snarky Resentment, the self-righteousness, and the knee-jerk anti-Employer diatribes. If you perceive any Responsibility lying around on the ground, she respectfully suggests that it is yours to pick up.

Friday, July 13, 2007


Hello, sweeties! Pretty Lady is Home Again, and she is veritably thrilled to say that she does not hate New York in the summertime quite as much as she did formerly. She will still be leaving again at the earliest opportunity, but for the nonce she is quite content to stroll up and down Fifth, sampling the new crop of Bar and Bistro Boutiques with her cute and cuddly friends, and incidentally getting paid to give groups of people common-sense advice. As Charles Murray recommends:

A reality about the job market must eventually begin to affect the valuation of a college education: The spread of wealth at the top of American society has created an explosive increase in the demand for craftsmen. Finding a good lawyer or physician is easy. Finding a good carpenter, painter, electrician, plumber, glazier, mason--the list goes on and on--is difficult, and it is a seller's market. Journeymen craftsmen routinely make incomes in the top half of the income distribution while master craftsmen can make six figures. They have work even in a soft economy. Their jobs cannot be outsourced to India. And the craftsman's job provides wonderful intrinsic rewards that come from mastery of a challenging skill that produces tangible results. How many white-collar jobs provide nearly as much satisfaction?

Even if forgoing college becomes economically attractive, the social cachet of a college degree remains. That will erode only when large numbers of high-status, high-income people do not have a college degree and don't care.
Indeed! Pretty Lady is here to tell you that although she foolishly and ignorantly went ahead and collected a couple of useless college degrees, she doesn't care about them one bit. The degree that is buttering Pretty Lady's bread today is a wholesome, cheap, practical Vocational Certification, attainable by anyone with an IQ of 85 or above, and a modicum of patience and self-discipline. Pretty Lady is here to lend every bit of status she's got to the Vocational School paradigm, and that's firm. Fie on those silly colleges!

Moreover, Pretty Lady has a few choice words to say on the subject of Employment. Whatever is up with this assumption that anyone who works for a living must necessarily have a single, monolithic, authoritarian, all-powerful and all-resented Employer? Are we all children? Must our world-views eternally encompass some sort of Daddy figure on whom to blame our problems? And where are all these Daddies coming from, anyway?

Pretty Lady would like to make the sharp suggestion that anyone with an Authority Problem try employing herself for a year or two. A person learns more about the problems and illusions and inutility of Authority by being one's own boss for six months than one does in five decades of servile Employment.

Meanwhile, Pretty Lady has an Employer arriving any moment now, who will be her boss for the next hour and twenty minutes, so she will leave you all to ponder.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Vacance Update

Darlings, Pretty Lady has finally got a moment to herself; the rest of the House Party is off at the Ordination, and there was such fierce competition for tickets that Pretty Lady bowed out. She was able to congratulate her dear friend on his ascension to the Catholic ministry privately, yesterday evening, at the formal dinner party in his honor. And frankly, she has not got a thing to wear to an Ordination.

But at least she made it to the party, which is more than can be said for the Bishop, that scapegrace.

Pretty Lady is thrilled to report that it has, at last, stopped raining. She goes home on Monday, and it has rained so much that the back yard is in danger of peeling off into the Trinity River, and the mosquitoes and webworms and little bathroom newts are having a Banner Year, but perhaps she will get to bathe in a pinch of sunshine for half a day before trundling back to the big, grimy, stuffy city. And perhaps the airlines will get their act together and she will actually get on the plane she was supposed to get on, instead of another one two days later, with seventy-seven people on standby.

(In answer to your question, k, Pretty Lady has met some former American Airlines employees with a modicum of grace and courtesy, but no current ones. Furthermore, she has inside information that American Airlines is in such financial trouble that they are overbooking every single flight, which means that persons with former-employee cards which enable them to fly standby whenever they like are now unable to fly at all. And they now charge three dollars for a tiny bottle of water in flight, since you are not permitted to carry your own water on board.)

Civilization is truly, overtly, obviously, egregiously in decline.

But enough of that; Pretty Lady and her mother have been attempting to maintain Civilization all by themselves, by throwing two formal parties in one week. They have been beside themselves, racing around for flowers, and polishing silver, and debating which tablecloth goes best with the red-and-blue china. The Menus have been fabulous. Pretty Lady has been listening to recitations of Menus all week, in fact, and she is frankly rather bored with them. So she will spare you the details.

No, Pretty Lady's primary and highly embarrassing dilemma is that she now has to figure out how to make proper use of Fur in the Big City next winter. This is a problem that Pretty Lady has never had to deal with before. Give Pretty Lady a Salvation Army Tweed, and she is all over it. There has been no historical shortage of occasions in Pretty Lady's life wherein Salvation Army Tweed came in handy; it works excellently well for crossing bridges on a reconditioned bicycle in a snowstorm, shovelling snow off the roof, trudging through gray sludge on the way to the Public Library, and hanging out in the sort of bar where the regulars are all 280-lb truck drivers named Moe. It occasions no comment at Art Openings, even Art Openings in Chelsea; Salvation Army Tweed has been the uniform of choice for Artists, going back at least eleven generations.

But now, for reasons too complex to explain, Pretty Lady is expected to show an Antique Fur or three what a Glamourous City Lifestyle entails. Generations of Texas Pride are riding on it. This is quite a heavy responsibility, particularly as Pretty Lady's budget for Season Tickets of any stripe is, still, stringently limited. So Pretty Lady has come up with a Clever Plan: Cooperative Society Winter Vacations. Should any female friend or relation, between sizes six and twelve, come to visit in the wintertime, she may have the use of one Antique Fur for the duration of the visit, in exchange for a ticket to one Cultural Event of her choice. Opera, ballet, Broadway, BAM, you name it; you and Pretty Lady will attend, warmly and in style.

Gentlemen, of course, will just have to suck it up for the ticket and wear the tweed.

And it looks as though Pretty Lady will have to renew her Whitney membership, whatever she thought of last year's Biennial, or all the exhibitions afterward. It seems as though Fate is pressing her to join the herds of the Overdressed, whether she likes it or not.