A Qualified Defense of the Mrs. Degree: Experimental Blog in 200 Degree Santa Barbara Heat (Link to Click! Bang! Podcast with Jacob Sullum)

Vapor Connection, Isla Vista

Vapor Connection, Isla Vista

I. Obscene Heat, Vapor Connection and Click! Bang! Podcast with Reason’s Jacob Sullum.

I intended to blog both about the Vapor Connection in Isla Vista, Santa Barbara’s second legitimate vapor store, and about the predictably excellent podcast on Click! Bang! with Reason’s Jacob Sullum.

But it’s 200 degrees in Santa Barbara (okay, maybe I’m exaggerating but it’s goddamn hot) and almost no one in this so-called beach town has air conditioning. I can hardly breathe, much less write intelligently on a substantive topic with life and death stakes.

“But you only need air conditioning 10 days a month”: I’ve been hearing this nonsense for 18 years. It’s a bald-faced lie. You need air conditioning in Santa Barbara the minute it hits 77 degrees because for no reason anyone can explain, 77 degrees here feels like 87 degrees in West LA. You can’t blame it on humidity. And I can’t blame it on menopause for at least eight more years, at which point I’m seriously considering a temporary move to Wisconsin, Maine or Vermont. I don’t know where I will spend the four disgusting summer months, but by then I will have more funds than I do now, and I’m sure it’s cold somewhere in the world when it’s hot in America.

I’m a native Angeleno and the daughter of the same. But I hate the heat. A few Midwestern friends posted a funny e-card meme a month or two ago to the effect that the first person to complain about summer heat after this inhumane winter was going to get a baseball bat to the head.

But when I say that I’ll take 30 over 80, I mean it. 30 is a just fine temperature. 80 is an unacceptable temperature dry (except in Scottsdale, which has a reverse Santa Barbara effect whereby 80 feels more like 72). 80 with humidity is simply unacceptable and the only reason to put up with such horribleness is to play in Manhattan during the summer. It’s the worst time of year in the city, but there’s outdoor jazz and theater, along with a sultry, festive mood which partly compensates for the cost of cabs since the subway isn’t an option. I don’t buy on credit, but if I had to go into credit card debt for cabs during the summer in the city, I’d do so.

“But the subways are air conditioned,” New Yorkers insist. This is the equivalent of “you don’t need a/c in SB more than 10 days a year.” Yes, the trains are cool. But trains do not appear just because Victorian Chick graces the platform with her presence. It’s 10 degrees hotter below ground and unless you want to arrive at a restaurant (at any time of day) looking like you just got out of the steam room–or worse, mugged, with mascara streaming down your face–subways just aren’t an option.

After a lovely experience this afternoon at the DMV of Santa Barbara–with a line out the door simply to get a number because the Ventura DMV closed–I sat in my 2007 Saab 9/3 2.0T for a full hour blasting the a/c and listening to classical music on KDB. I probably used 1/8th of a tank of gas, but it was money well spent.

My SB friend with kitties almost as spectacular as Ollie saw my post on Facebook and said he too was in his parked air-conditioned car listening to KDB.  Thirty minutes later, he sent me a link to The David Hazletine Quartet streaming live from Lincoln Center, which has elevated my mood considerably, but not enough to write lucidly about the recent FDA deeming regulations re e-cigarettes. The best resource on all e-cigarette related matters remains CASAA. Here is their official response to the distressing document of 240 pages. If you, or someone you know, vapes, please join CASAA.

So my experiment for this blog concerns a status update I posted in about 9 minutes from my iPhone before editing and expanding from my MacBook. A FB friend of mine in Illinois who adores Ollie (I mean, only an evil kitty hater like my former Upper West Side friend can fail to worship at the altar of Ollie) asked to share the post on his timeline. A bookseller and active political Facebooker, he’s been very kind to me and my blog.
He posted it as a “brilliant–and controversial–essay” by Victoria Ordin, which struck me as odd, given it was just a status update.

Curious, I plugged the update into Open Office and found that it was 850 words. At the risk of offending 90% of bloggers, I have to say the writing on most blogs is simply embarrassing: run-on sentences, creative punctuation, amorphous voice, bizarre spelling, and trivial if not entirely vapid content. Even bloggers I know who are both smart and educated (though not in English or philosophy) write blogs my mother characterizes as “at best, notes via email to a friend about a casual and insignificant event.”

I don’t consider even compelling offhanded thought worthy of a blog post. It’s just me thinking aloud. But if you’re on LinkedIn and click on a blog in the “professional bloggers” forum, you’ll see many posts which say much less (in much less coherent ways).

J and I are going to Milk and Honey for dinner. I go to LA tomorrow for lunch Friday with two Westlake alums 17 years my senior before Saturday’s reunion lunch. The tubal yanking (that’s not the technical name which is too long for me to remember) wasn’t nothing. The pain in my shoulders lived up to they hype. After 24 hours, I was taking only Advil.

But I didn’t feel good for three days and my stomach bore a disturbing resemblance to an Ethiopian child on one of those Sally Struthers television pleas for money. It’s not as though I’m a stranger to a faux pregnant tummy the first day of my cycle. But this was extreme. If you’re in a longterm relationship and you know your partner never wants another kid, I suggest you make him snip snip. A tubal ligation is real surgery under a general anesthetic.

Happy Wednesday from the equator (aka Santa Barbara)!

P.S. Even Ollie and Emma agree the heat sucks.

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Ollie after his slumber, wondering why I'm bothering to pet that dopey yellow dog who is half-unconscious

Ollie after his slumber, wondering why I’m bothering to pet that dopey yellow dog who is half-unconscious

 

II. A Qualified Defense of the Mrs. Degree.

 

        The Mrs. Degree is proof that options exist for women which do not in the same way exist for men. Some men want a wife and mother who will raise healthy and happy kids, and they’re willing to support a woman who does that and that alone.

Among the many flaws of feminism (and liberalism generally) in my lifetime is the stigma attached to this option. The other grand mistake is the idea that everyone needs a 4-year college degree, and that trades and vocational education are less valuable or worthy. Never has this snobbery been more unwarranted: successful plumbers make far more than assistant professors at a UC campus and usually more than associates–that is, tenured but not full professors. Good waiters make more than adjuncts and community college folks, who amount to intellectual slave laborers.

Just this week, the Atlantic ran one of the most depressing stories I’ve read in years about poverty among university professors, some 75% of whom are adjuncts with no reasonable hope of securing a tenure track positions. Don’t get me started on the rising salaries of administrators, who seem to be proliferating like cancer cells. 

But without going back to Austen or Eliot or the concept of dowries, Americans once understood the value of an education for a woman who would eventually become a homemaker. Schools in Manhattan like Miss Porter’s and, to a lesser extent, Chapin, are monuments to this understanding.

Girls of a certain class went to “finishing” or “charm” school and learned useful things about being a hostess to a successful man. Of course, Chapin families today like to think the school is as rigorous as Brearly (or Nightingale Bamford), but that’s hogwash.

 My classmate from K to 6, Gwyneth Paltrow, attended Spence when the family moved to the city. I thought she’d spent a year or two at Nightingale but I think I’m wrong. In the recent New York Post piece about the now 37-year-old Spence girl who made 300/hour as a dominatrix (not an escort), the woman said she recalls kindergarten girls kissing the schoolmistress at the end of each school day. I’m not sure if curtseys were involved, but they may very well have been.

Even circa 1969 on the “left coast” in the heart of Hollywood at my alma mater, Westlake School for Girls (though really, who knows about those Los Angeles weirdos?), they offered “deportment” classes. Ha. Deportment! A friend of mine in the class of 1973 tells me that the tide was changing during her years. The Women’s Movement influenced even privileged girls in West LA attending a school in Bel Air (Holmby Hills) on 700 North Faring Road.

My boyfriend’s mom’s parents sacrificed to send her to Barnard. She was middle class, not a typical Barnard girl born in 1943. She became a prominent allergist (though she initially certified as a pediatric orthopedist), attending SUNY Med after Barnard and marrying her fellow med student, Jarrett’s father, shortly after graduation.

She tells me that her mother was apoplectic when a wealthy Jewish boy asked for her hand in marriage at age 19. Her mother was a first-generation Jewish immigrant in Brooklyn who worked while the grandmother took care of her and her little sister. She spoke Yiddish to the girls until her father put his foot down, fearing she would not properly assimilate and become a real “American.” This was not an uncommon story.

 My de facto mother-in-law’s mother was downright horrified that she wouldn’t marry a man she didn’t love. She liked him as a friend, but didn’t want to spend the rest of her life with this man who was not merely well-off but truly wealthy.

My point is not that she should have married this wealthy man. It is rather that you don’t have to go back even a century (much less two) to a time when marrying for security was commonplace. Growing up in West Los Angeles private schools, it was unusual to find a mother circa 1985 who wanted her daughter to marry a doctor or affluent professional. But as recently as 1960s Brooklyn, there were mothers who thought along these lines.

At my boyfriend’s mother’s Barnard freshman address (happily, the term “freshperson” had not yet been inflicted upon us), the president, a heroine to her, said to the 200 girls that they were there because they were smart and talented. But she also knew that many at Barnard not primarily to cultivate their minds but to find a husband at Columbia (or one if its professional schools).

Her message, in considerably more ladylike language, was, “Screw that. You’re at Barnard for you. Don’t foreclose options and waste this rare opportunity to do something extraordinary with your lives.” (As it happened, the president had four kids in her 40s, in a rare of example of “having it all” or “leaning in,” to take a word currently in vogue.

Susan Patton, that obnoxious Princeton graduate and mother of Princeton girl, ignited a shitstorm that went fairly viral because she said that if Princeton girls wanted families, they might keep their eyes open during college for a suitable husband and father. Since the article, she’s published a book about which one witty writer had this to say: “The problem isn’t that Patton is a lousy feminist; it’s that she’s a lousy elitist.” 

Family was never my plan: my thought was husband and tenure. But there’s no room in today’s feminism for commonsense. Patton gave sensible advice in her letter to the Princetonian: not every Princeton girl wants an MD, PhD, MBA or JD and those who don’t might look around for a life partner while they’re still surrounded by what David Halberstam termed “the best and the brightest.”

Patton’s tone was insufferable, but her basic point was not wrong. As a Yale graduate and Ph.D. Candidate who will never be a professor, I can attest that out of Manhattan and some West LA circles, it’s not easy to find men who can keep up with me both intellectually and verbally.

This, incidentally, is why I love Facebook. I have amazing interlocutors, often male, in their 50s, 60s and even 70s, who are both accomplished and cultured and understand what I’m talking about.

In Santa Barbara, men like that tend to be over 55 (and often grandpas), which is why I hang out so much at the Wine Bistro of Montecito–that and the large numbers of ex-New Yorkers whose stories about New York before my college years fascinate me. Wine Bistro may be geriatric, but I have the most stimulating conversations with the most interesting men. And the wine is only 6/glass from 3PM to 6PM for all Pierre LaFond varietals, which I can’t resist.  

Women who don’t want to pursue professional degrees will likely work at some less than thrilling job for several years while they look—as educated women—for a man who wants kids and is equipped both emotionally and financially to support them. In other words, they’re looking for a ring. And there’s nothing wrong with that. 

Too, not every woman wants to marry an intellectual or cultural peer. Many successful, smart and bookish women prefer a solid, strong, kind man of integrity, even if he couldn’t place Chaucer in a century, name a single David Mamet play, recite the plot of Pippin in two sentences, or tell you who Dawn Steel or when the English defeated the Spanish Armada. 

There are competent, smart, logical and hardworking men who work in fields which do not require a liberal arts education. A friend of mine knows a Princeton PhD married to a blue collar guy and they’re happy. But if you do want a mental sparring partner who knows the same cultural references, what better place to look for that than at an Ivy League school? 

Men are more likely to stray when their wives are boring bimbos. Sex is essential. But being the best lay in America won’t keep most brainy professionals satisfied. A moderately attractive woman who can keep a man intellectually stimulated is more appealing to a successful and decent man than a hot crazy woman who has nothing very much to say.

To get and keep a great guy, you have to be kind, great in bed, not a nut (this is key), and fun to talk to about a range of subjects. If, that is, monogamy matters to you. If, on the other hand, you’re content for your husband and the father of your children who provides a stable, comfortable home to have a discreet extracurricular life, that’s cool too.

But most women are jealous and possessive and aren’t content to screw the pool boy or tennis pro at the club in Greenwich or Westchester, while her doctor or lawyer hubby bangs residents or associates.

The disaster of marriage as recounted to me at bars both in LA and Manhattan is a dearth of honesty.

You can’t get what you want in life unless you know what you want. Better to make rational, informed choices about your life path than end up 30 years later posting platitudinous and redundant positive thinking memes on FB year after year with no apparent change in your level of comfort and peace.

 

 

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