Monday, July 26, 2010

The Socioeconomics of Romance

The swirling shitstorm of Class and Race in America on account of Shirley and the Teabaggers has many implications for our collective future, but I am much more interested in socioeconomics as a factor in the demographics of dating.

Granny the Ho was not the first woman to say that it's just as easy to fall in love with a rich man as a poor man. She stuck by that bit of advice her whole life, and went to her grave saying she never loved any one of her five husbands. She got married because she needed the money. That's reality for you. Granny was born and raised in North Carolina during Prohibition and The Depression. She graduated from 8th grade, and I don't really know what she did besides tend the garden, cook, sew and clean until she married the bootlegger. The point is that there weren't a lot of career options open to women at that time, so women got married and had children.

One of her children was my mother, who never once acknowledged that nice girls do indeed have sex outside of marriage because we only focused on Marriage. However, Mother never failed to point out that being Married is a hard way to make a living, and she still hasn't worked outside the home since her part-time job at the Florist shop in high school. When I was in high school, she strategically placed a small poster in the hallway outside my bedroom that read: What if Prince Charming Never Comes.

When I wanted to drop out of college, she said, "Patricia, the same man who says he's going to love you and take care of you forever when you're 19 and cute will get up and leave you when you're fat and 35. THEN what are you going to do?" Made sense to me, and I got my BA in English from the University of Texas at Austin. My female role models were Farrah Faucet and Daisy Duke.

That was then and this is now. I'm not hung up on the Socioeconomics of Romance largely because I have my own money - thanks to Buzz Kill. Not a lot of money, but enough to pay my own bar tab. And my date's, if I choose to do so. Typically, if I pay for anything on the first date or two, a man can rest assured he's not getting anywhere near my pants unless there are extenuating circumstances. Further, it is important to note that getting your own money through the divorce process does not make a woman a feminist disgrace. As my mother said, being a stay-at-home wife and mother is a hard way to make a living - and staying at home is a damn career choice. A choice that doesn't provide an income.

As it happens, when Grand Master A (aka Velvet aka Irving aka Mandark) was a baby, the Wall Street Journal ran an article saying that Stay At Home moms were a status symbol. If a man could afford for his wife to stay home, he must be doing pretty well. My New Mothers Group and I were asked to be on the local news where I argued that decent child care costs so much that it doesn't pay to have both parents working unless they are both making at least $60,000 per year. There are plenty of statistics to show that all a couple has to do so that one person can stay home is Simplify.

I'm pretty sure that trend will continue now that the Republicans are trying to push us all into another Depression so that folks will be living in their cars and working for food. If they force all the illegals out of the country, that means more and more White People will be waiting outside the Home Depot for day jobs. My brother - the Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer - says that the way things are going at Newspapers, the delivery van will swing by the Home Depot with some disposable cameras and call it a photo department. But I digress . . .

As a woman of a certain age with a degree of financial security, I don't care about man's net worth or earning potential like I did when I was interested in breeding. Here, I have to admit that whatever fears Men have about women and money may very well be justified. A long time ago, some guy was saying on Oprah that men may view women as sex objects, but women view men as Success Objects.

I don't know how all this stuff will change for kids in college now. When it became clear to me that Grand Master A (aka Velvet) needed a personal assistant to stay organized and prioritized at college, I remembered that girl friends used to provide that service. Young women protect their organizational and executive functioning skills these days. Why spend your time supporting an engineer when you can be one yourself? Saves a lot of trouble - as long as you feel like being an engineer. And there's no reason a man should be an engineer just to support a family when the woman can be the primary breadwinner and the man stay home. Or the other man or woman. One mom and one dad; two moms or two dads. Doesnt' matter. There are options.

The trouble these days is that Business can now get two workers for the price of one, and people are convinced that the only way to know for sure that God loves them is to have two cars, three TVs and an annual trip to Disney World or Myrtle Beach. But I digress, again . . .

All I'm looking for is a single, straight, mostly sober man with no small children. That's it. I've only been interested in looking for a couple of weeks now, and I'm really not ready to date until Grand Master A is back at Tree Hugger. Notably, his landlord is cute and doesn't wear a wedding ring.

Sadly, the lack of a wedding ring means absolutely nothing. I had coffee last week with a man who wore no ring, and it turned out he's married and still living with his wife and daughter. I met him when I was reading at KGB and he seemed to have some information and insight that interested me. Once we were at coffee, he said right off that he was looking for mistresses - and went on to declare that the difference between a girlfriend and a mistress is that mistresses don't do laundry. I had to correct that statement instantaneously since everybody knows Mistresses are Kept which means cash, jewelry, vacations etc. etc. etc.

I had to correct a lot of that man's statements, especially when I learned he was an unemployed journalist who had been hanging out at that bar looking to get laid for two years. New York is filled with unemployed journalists these days, but they are typically more interested in picking up free lance work than picking up sex partners unless that partner can potentially get them free lance work, too. It's all about the networking - at least it is when you're way over 40 and single.

I've got nothing against unemployed journalists, or unemployed anybody, because half the world is unemployed. It's the Married part that bothers me - as well as the bar tab. What kind of person hangs out in the same bar three or four times a week when their spouse is paying the tab? If his wife is happy to pay that kind of bar tab, he must be quite the asshole at home. I asked him point blank what he had to show for himself after spending two years in a bar, and he said, "A Paunch."

Now, I like a man with a paunch, too. Makes me more comfortable with my own paunch. I just expect him to be fully single. Some people may have good reasons for being Separated for years and years - but to me, Separated is still Married. Although I wouldn't rule out Separated men all together, that kind of marital status means you'll eventually be referring to his Wife in conversations. When I'm at the nail salon with my girlfriends, the last thing I want to mention is my boyfriend's wife. It doesn't sit well with the married women in the nail salon.


Anonymous said...

Hi Penolan, just got to say you sure do make me chuckle. You and I are so very different. However some of your writings do make me stop and think.

Vancouver Voyeur said...

I am very familiar with Granny's sayings about marrying rich. In my head, an education equated with wealth, so very early on, I didn't want to date men who didn't have a college education. I would date professionals and guys in college, who were at least headed toward something more. I didn't end up marrying rich or marrying well, although he did have a couple of degrees behind him and I spent our entire marriage catering to him and being his personal secretary to help him get his Ph.D. What a mistake! In less time than it took him to get the Ph.D. (He never did actually finish the final draft of his dissertation or defend.) I got four degrees. Hmph! There's a line in a song, "Sisters are doing it for themselves." That is so true. Universities are graduating more women than ever! Now, for me, it's not about money or education so much as it is, "can you take care of yourself?" I don't want to be anyone's lackey ever again.

stuart said...

My brother - the Pulitzer Prize Winning Photographer - says that the way things are going at Newspapers, the delivery van will swing by the Home Depot with some disposable cameras and call it a photo department.


PENolan said...

Pat - Glad to see you and glad to make you smile.

I love that song with Annie Lenox and Aretha Frankly. I'm with you on pulling one's own weight within the relationship no matter what the gender.

Stuart - Now, don't get him in trouble even though you know it's true. Since I've already got a reputation, you can always blame me when you quote him.
How're things in the Springs?

Tengrain said...

PENolen -

That was awesome. I think Petruchio would have wet his pants if you played Kate. And generally speaking, that would be a good thing.



tnlib said...

Fun read. I'm with Vancouver. I'd love to have a friend but I don't want to cook, clean or do laundry for another person ever again.

PENolan said...

tnlib, I didn't do much cooking, cleaning or laundry when I was married. Buzz Kill did most of that because he thought I would like him better if he did the chores. He was right. At one point I had about decided that the trouble in our marriage was that we were both Bottoms. I prefer to be the only Bottom around here although I tend to Top from the Bottom - which may be why I'd make Petruchio wet his pants.

Tengrain, with your extensive knowledge of Shakespeare and #Shakespalin, I'm taking that as quite a compliment.
I think

Liberality said...

When I'm at the nail salon with my girlfriends, the last thing I want to mention is my boyfriend's wife. It doesn't sit well with the married women in the nail salon.


PENolan said...

And the weird thing about it, Liberality, is that the married men never seem to understand that there's an issue.

Lisa said...

When I do that mental rewind thing, I wish that we'd simplified and made a way for one of us to stay home. When I think of the money we spent on daycare so that I could have a career that would end up on the ash heap 17 years later? Fuck.

PENolan said...

Lisa, one of the hardest things about being a mom is that there are people in every direction putting pressure on you for doing everything wrong. Maybe Dads have this pressure from their own friends and families, but not from society at large the way Moms do.

It was an easy choice for me because I always wanted to be home with my kid, and because teachers don't make any money anyway. Why put your kid in Day Care just so you can get paid for shit to work with other people's children?

I worked part-time at a Y for years because they gave me a discount for on-site child care. I could teach one morning per week and pay for two mornings of day care - so I got a day to do errands without somebody climbing up my leg in the grocery store. It was perfect.

Gail said...


I love your humor - it is of the highest intelligent class!! :-)

I always said, after I lost everything after my divorce that I would never be in a situation where I couldn't maintain my life-style on my own. SO I went back to school and got a higher degree and licensed in my field and for years, 15 or so, that was the case. Tnaank goodness, when I became disabled that Skipp could care less about my earning power, or lack there of. SO for me, us, the socioeconomics of romance is about "stepping up" when the other one loses their step. !!!! Great post, insight, raw honesty and intelligent wit/humor. Texas, you are wonderful.

Love you girl
peace and hope.....

p.s. I am still meeting this MS 'set back' challenge one step at a time. -

MRMacrum said...

We all objectify. The reasons and objects of our desire changing as we make our way from the cradle to the grave. A rugrat sucks up to the adult with the most candy. A young dude chases the cleavage, and an old dude that new 25 HP tractor down to Home Depot. We're all looking for that path of least resistance.

Marilyn said...

I enjoyed your words. I was a stay at home Mum by choice and added to that one of our children had a serious health problem for quite a while but I had lots of pressure and negative comments to get out and get a 'real' job.
About the wife paying the bar tab - she would have to be a fool.

PENolan said...

Gail, I can always rely on you for support and encouragement. Hope you have a few more steps forward this week.

Marilyn, Welcome!
The pictures on your blog relax and rejuvenate.
It's good to know things are just as screwy in NZ as here - but it's kind of a drag too.

MRMacrum: I think I understand what you're saying, but I have to confess, I feel compared to a tractor ;)

Jaliya said...

Pe ... I printed off this post so I could snuggle into a fave chair with a chai and read at leisure. I only got to it today!! (I save the best reading for those rare, truly quiet moments ...)

"She got married because she needed the money." Aren't those about the saddest words ever written for women of our mothers' and grandmothers' generations ... I've long wondered about my own parents' marriage ... I know that (in a strange reversal of the usual then) my mother loaned $ to my father before they were even *engaged* ... and a year before my mom died, I asked her why she had come back to Dad ... "I needed the money," she said, and I swear my heart fell SPLAT to the floor ...

My man and I were both "that far" from flat broke when we got together. We were both employed -- in part-time / contract jobs, whatever we could get. We had lots of PB sandwiches in those days ... and we still haven't had one easy moment in the financial department. Every relationship has its deficits, I suppose ... All the "Cosmo"-type mags would have told me that I was in for a helluva lousy time if I bonded to this man ... but you know: I can't fall in love with a rich man -- at least one who's flush with cash. My man is *so* rich in character, in ethics, in the long cultivation of a self he can live with in peace. That means more to me than anything.

I have to say I've never met a rolling-in-dough man who attracted me beyond a cursory visual "Oh ... yeah." He might look fab, dressed in Armani and all, and he might invite me to ease my backside into a Jaguar's milkweed-soft leather seat, and I might eat like a gourmand ... but at the end of the day ... all that passes, doesn't it ... When all you're left with at the end of the day is your naked self, who's another naked self you want to bed down and truly *sleep* with? -- Over the years, I've discovered a fail-safe way to tell who's psychologically safe to be with and who's not: Who can I sleep (literally) with? I once was married to someone whom I could *not* sleep through a night with. Very telling ...

Totally agreed with how we tend to tag men as "success objects." I've really delved into learning about what life is like for men at the core of things ... My husband has shown me so much, and when all's said and done, we're so much more alike than different ...

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