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The Daily Beast, Tina Brown’s new excursion into tabloid online journalism, has an absolutely heart-wrenching collection of posts from women who have been slammed by the economic crisis. The last one, from a midlifer who calls herself The Accidental Housewife, really got to me:
The generations who survived the Great Depression were tough. They were resilient; they did not expect the government to bail them out of the hell that fell upon them…They boarded up their farms and loaded up their jalopies and headed out to find work. They did not stand around wringing their hands crying about what they didn’t have anymore they went out and worked. They were doers and savers and they made it.
My step-grandmother used to reuse her foil. She would smooth it out, wipe it off, fold it up and use it again and again until it eventually fell apart. My best friend’s grandmother would make a single chicken last through a week’s worth of meals. Each meal being different but made from that single chicken. They were resourceful. More important they MADE IT….
I am ashamed of my fellow baby boomers. I am ashamed that we have turned into such an entitled generation. I am ashamed that we have to have someone else make our morning coffee and we are too good or too busy to prepare our own dinner. That we feel entitled to drive vehicles that use more fuel in one week than a whole village in a third world country uses in a year.
So what do you say fellow boomers? Can we do it? Can we tighten our belts, knuckle down and use that knowledge that our forefathers and mothers gave us? Can we cook our own meals, repair our own roofs, make ourselves pay our own bills and not rely on the government to bail us out? I think we can. We just have to want to do it.
She captured much of my current angst. We as a generation have not been as careful as our parents. We’ve serially refinanced our homes and underfunded our retirements to pay for our lifestyles, and the payments are now due. Many boomers are spoiled and selfish and entitled, and some of us have passed those “values” on to our children. And we are all now in deep, deep kimchi.
But I am encouraged by some of the adjustments and accommodations and belt-tightening that I’m seeing around me: less driving, more brown-bag lunches, even a little more kindness and solicitude among my colleagues and neighbors. We are a well-educated generation with a lot of tools at our disposal. And one of those tools is the online communities we have built, which hold the promise of advising, supporting, sustaining and cheering us on (and up) during this bleak time.
Chins up, peeps. We’ll get through this.
An article at cnn.com today says:
The Salvation Army and Goodwill Industries International, the nation’s two largest charitable resale organizations, report year-to-date sales increases of 6 percent to 15 percent…
“We’re seeing a lot more middle-class and upper-class customers we haven’t seen before,” [said one store manager]. “Without even asking, you can just look in the parking lot (at their cars).”
The surge in thrift store sales has its downside, though. The Salvation Army reports a dangerous decline in donations. Just as consumers are now more likely to buy secondhand goods, they are also less likely to get rid of their used clothing or furniture.
A couple of women’s organizations in my area regularly conduct clothing drives for displaced homemakers who need suits, jackets and dresses for job interviews, but those are some of the very items that consumers are holding onto:
“We rely heavily on consumer culture,” said [Salvation Army] spokeswoman Melissa Temme. “People are finding that the couch can last a little longer. The suit, while it may not be perfect for this year’s fashion, is fine.”
So, my darlings out there in the Blogosphere, I challenge you to take a few minutes this week and divest yourself of some of those jackets and skirts and coats and shoes that — admit it — just aren’t going to work anymore. In my experience, articles of clothing that are a size 12 and above are particularly welcome.
It’s just a little something, a mere mitzvah, but I guarantee it will make you feel better.
According to the venerable and highly visible Lou Dobbs (at cnn.com) —
Economist after economist, with whom I’ve spoken, CEOs, they acknowledge that there are far better ways to deal with the issues confronting our financial system than this bailout. And it’s absolutely obscenely irresponsible of House Speaker [Nancy] Pelosi, Treasury Secretary [Henry] Paulson, President Bush, Sen. Harry Reid, the leader of the Senate; for these people to be clucking about like hysterical — so hysterically. It really must stop…
[The Republican and Democratic leadership] don’t know what they’re talking about. They’re trying to ram this thing down the people’s throats and Congress. And those House Republicans and House Democrats who voted against this bailout deserve a great, great expression of thanks from the American people. Absolutely.
And, at the end of trading today, the Dow had regained nearly two-thirds of yesterday’s historic losses. So go figure. Somebody with money out there seems to think there’s something to invest in, even if it’s only Warren Buffett.
Sigh… What to do, what to do. From the vantage point out here in Dusty Corner, it doesn’t look like there’s a single “safe” place to put your money (including under the mattress). Some friends and fellow blogsters are obsessively consulting their portfolios, figuring out down to the decimal point just how much they’ve lost over the last few days, but that seems pretty masochistic to me. (But then, I refuse to weigh myself every day, too. Why should a mere number determine how I’m going to feel about myself?)
Anybody remember the old Garry Moore Show, which existed if for no other reason than to give the world Jonathan Winters and Carol Burnett? I remember as a kid watching a “Wonderful Year” segment featuring a then-unknown actress-singer singing a bluesy “Happy Days Are Here Again” while using her diamond earrings to pay for champagne. The year they were celebrating? Sometime around 1929. The singer? Barbra Streisand.
I kind of feel that way, but there’s a precedent for that. A few years ago, I got a really scary medical diagnosis, a largely untreatable condition that could turn fatal. (Too hard to explain. Some other time.)
I remember the doctor — who had the personality of a piece of cardboard — patting me on the shoulder on the way out of his office. I walked to and got in my car, called The Spouse and blubbered the results to him, and then had a good cry. And then — I dried my tears, put on my seatbelt and GOT ON WITH MY LIFE. Short of taking to my bed for the duration, which sounded boring, there was nothing else to be done. And, so far, I’m fine.
So break out the champagne. I still have a few diamonds left. My life remains whole and good. This too shall pass.
There was a time in my life when I longed for a life on the stage. I had been singing ever since an enterprising elementary school teacher figured out that this chubby little third-grader could sing harmony and stuck me in the middle of the choir, where I stayed for nearly 50 years. I came to dance much later, taking all sorts of dance courses in college and loving my hours in a ratty, drafty second-floor ballet studio, doing plies to “The Long and Winding Road” and other pop songs played by a wild-haired pianist. (Sigh…)
Although my size and vocal range generally limited me to community theatre character roles like Cousin Nettie in “Carousel,” Aunt Eller in “Oklahoma” and Katisha in “The Mikado,” I did manage once to starve myself down to a size nine, thus making me eligible for a role in the chorus of “Guys and Dolls.”
It was heaven. Fish-net stockings, false eyelashes, tap pants and “Merry Widow” bustiers! Hot-pink satin, fake fur and pearls for an honest-to-gosh striptease in the “Take Back Your Mink” production number! (I LIVED for the moment each night when we’d literally make the audience gasp!)
And character shoes, of course, those sturdy, short-heeled, Mary Jane-like black leather shoes that lend themselves to all sorts of stage roles. Take them to the shoe repair shop and they easily become tap shoes. I wore out two pair during my short-lived career as a chorine.
I wish I still had a pair. And someplace sassy to wear them. Anybody seen my false eyelashes?
Motherhood may be mostly behind me now, but the subject still has the power at times to make me want to weep. Newsweek has a story about the effects of childlessness on women in other countries, particularly the Third World:
“It is very, very difficult for people in the United States to deal with [infertility], and yet, when you go to other cultures, it’s even more devastating to people,” says Dr. David Adamson, president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine and a board member of the International Federation of Fertility Societies. Worldwide, the World Health Organization says about one in 10 couples experiences difficulty conceiving a child at some point in their lives.
In some developing countries, the consequences of infertility—which can include ostracism, physical abuse and even suicide—are heartbreaking. “If you are infertile in some cultures, you are less than a dog,” says Willem Ombelet of the Genk Institute for Fertility Technology in Belgium. Women are often uneducated, so their only identity comes from being moms. “It [infertility] is an issue of profound human suffering, particularly for women,” says Marcia Inhorn, professor of anthropology and international affairs at Yale University. “It’s a human-rights issue.”
The article reports that many infertile women in poor nations are shunned and banned from gatherings where they might “spread” their “affliction,” and even if the husband is the one who is infertile, the woman usually accepts the blame — and the ostracism. And, of course, Third World women have few recourses in treating infertility, which often has life-long consequences, since elderly childless women have no one to care for them and few other resources. Says Newsweek:
In the Hindu religion, a woman without a child, particularly a son, can’t go to heaven. Sons perform death rituals. Infertile couples worry that without a child, who will mourn for them and bury them? In China and Vietnam, the traditional belief is that the souls of childless people can’t easily rest. In India, the eldest son traditionally lights the funeral pyre. In Muslim cultures, the stigma follows childless women even after death: women without children aren’t always allowed to be buried in graveyards or sacred grounds
This article reminded me of the moment years ago when I stumbled across a little story in Time Magazine that reported on the estimated tens — and maybe hundreds — of millions of “missing” women in Middle and Far East populations due to abortion, infanticide and “honor” killings. I read and reread the article to make sure I wasn’t mistaking it. It was jaw-dropping.
What does one DO with information like that? I’m tired of being helplessly horrified by what I can’t fix or help. I’ve tried to teach my sons to respect and value women. I go out of my way to empower my female friends. I speak up for myself in the face of sexism and, when I can, for women who can’t. But, in the face of such monstrous discrimination and hatred, it seems so little.
That American culture could create a climate where Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin can be taken seriously should be seen as a victory, I suppose. But maybe the status quo is still just messin’ with us.
Jealousy I can understand, along with lust, revenge, fear and wrath. This kind of maliciousness is just beyond me, and very frightening. Mayhem for mayhem’s sake. It’s the same reason why I found The Dark Knight so disturbing. There was no ideology or coherent history behind behind the villain’s mask. Just nihilism.
Anyone questioning if women have life, charm, chutzpah and sex-appeal after 50 needs to hustle down to the local multiplex and get a load of a perfectly cast Meryl Streep as the the matriarch in “Mamma Mia,” singing, dancing, falling out of windows and jumping on beds. Wow. She outshines her screen daughter and just about everyone else in the cast. She made me want to go find my old character shoes. (I have dibs on that blue peasant dress with the boho trim.)
And the girl has some pipes! (She apparently began her career out of Yale Drama School singing in musicals on and off Broadway.) The critics have been savaging poor Pierce Brosnan for his singing voice, which is at least as good as Springsteen, IMHO. Heck, give the guy a break. I’ve done a LOT of performing, and I guess I’ve listened to too many pear-shaped tones over the course of 30 years. I like real voices, from real people. A little Melissa Etheridge really clears the mind and the soul.
Forget the guy in black. (Three frackin’ hours of mayhem and nihilism. Sheesh.) I’ll put my money on Meryl.
Update: Body acceptance activist Kate Harding has a somewhat long but fun take on “Mamma Mia.”
Liz Smith maintains that the only way to get old or sick or to retire is to have money. “I don’t think anybody can retire without money anymore, and it’s going to be proven now, in spades, with all of these people retiring,” says the legendary New York Post entertainment columnist in a group interview on wowowow.
The discussion itself is a trip, with Smith and fellow A-list (and aging) media mavens Jane Wagner, Judith Martin and Mary Wells discussing the possibilities of going to Germany for stem cell treatments, taking 200 “life-extension” vitamins a day and outliving their retirement incomes. I’d like to believe it was all tongue-in-cheek, but considering these women’s portfolios, I’m not convinced. They make bigger salaries, and likely pay less taxes, than anyone in my social set. (This type of post may be why I took wowowow off my blogroll. I just couldn’t relate.) Read the rest of this entry »