Saturday, May 26, 2007

Doing Better Than Dad

Doing better than Dad did is a basic assumption of manhood. I graduated college amidst a recession, and never expected to be able to afford a house (my father supported the household, including two new cars every two or three years, on his salary). Seems to be happening again: Doing Better than Dad Is Getting More Difficult

How can I tie this in to the gender wage gap?

When I was 12, my father made well over $50,000--a tidy sum in today's dollars; that year, he left his fairly secure position with an engineering firm to start his own company (with two partners, who eventually bailed). His salary dropped by half. How is THAT for risk taking? No second incomes, a high salary, and the guy just drops it to strike out on his own. I don't think *I* will be doing that anytime soon. (As an aside--he went from being a millionaire on paper to being a pauper for real...stuff happens; hence my focus on protecting my family from similar occurrences).

Now, on to the "Doing better than Dad, or not" problem. I had better hurry up: my father was 45 when he started his own firm. I have a few years to go, but while my nominal salary is adequate, my real wages do not approach what his were.

Do women think this way? Is there a drive to "do better" than Mom? (Freudians might have something to say: it is unimportant to me, by the way, whether my drive is to kill or usurp my father's position--the competition is simply to "do better." It is one mark of a man, for good or ill).

I would argue that the increasing detachment men have from women/family/society will break that (come to think of it, maybe that is why current workers are doing less well than their fathers--it may be an "equality of outcome" proposition in reverse, i.e., men just don't care anymore...)

BTW, my father made his money without benefit of college education or other credentials and, trust me, even if my income surpasses his, my achievements certainl will not. But that is another story.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Supplemental post:

campus "squatter" lives in dorms for 8 months

Had to post that; why? Because *I* did that very thing! Long story. Another time, perhaps.

In the article, a Ms. Amy Zhou whines "Personally, I don't feel safe now that Stanford allowed this to happen and that they're not doing anything to ensure the safety of their students." Oh puh-LEASE. Uh, so, you were "safe" for several months with your roommie, but now that she's in jail, you feel less safe?

Oi. Students. Get a grip.

Da do Run Run

Ran in along the water today, the sun at the right height to dazzle and amaze. I was reminded of the summer I spent among the Finger Lakes, where a woman and I played man and farmwif. We lived in a windowed closet in her mother's rented house. During the day, I worked odd jobs while she tended the garden and, ostensibly, worked on her PhD. Now she is a well-regarded feminist sociologist, and I hope she is happy. How she reconciles the--what seemed to be--happiness of being supported by a man (the deal was that so long as lunch was waiting when I arrived, I would hand over my pay over to the "Mrs.") with her subsequent worldview is something that I still wonder about.

Many men are, to put it politely, "uncomplicated." Food, "comfort," and some ego-stroking is about all it takes, really. Strangely, I would argue that a fair number of men even leave it up to women to maximize the gene pool (which I believe falls in line, statistically speaking, with women being better able to "marry up").

Today, with the sun glinting deep into my eyes, I was willing to consider my position of "privilege." Is all that I have, all that I have "achieved" really simply the product of being an American male of European descent? Or, to nuance the argument a bit, is the utility (a.k.a. "Happiness," i.e., third among the "Life, Liberty,..." troika) I enjoy unduly influenced by my status?



Let us for the moment say that, yes, I enjoy a standard of living higher than one might expect given my talents and abilities; further, given my parents' second-generation immigrant, lower-middle-class upbringings, my "success," such as it is, has somehow outstripped my intended fate.

That scenario reminds me of the derision my father (reported that he) suffered from his family who believed that one should not try to exceed one's station, i.e., aspire. mother (and grandmother...and other relatives...and siblings...) all exhibit similar discomfort to some degree.

One of my favorite comments from my grandmother regarding another of my relatives is "that girl is smart (said approvingly), but not too smart (again, approvingly." The implication being that if one is "too smart," then one is somehow...suboptimal.

As an aside: my family are a complete mystery to me as well; I understand neither their motivations nor their aspirations (or, as I see it--likely incorrectly--lack thereof). In this, I am my father's child.

Other random observation: I see multitudes of women out busting their butts: running, biking, rowing, Tai chi'ing, whatever. Why, then, does that physical endeavor rarely translate to work? What sort of aspiration/suppression is going on? Is it internal or external motivation?

I was never so happy as when I was a soldier. I wish I could find the cartoon that went something like this:
Soldiers in the mud, carrying increasingly bulky/heavy supplies:
Private Snuffy: "This sucks!"
Airborne Ranger: "Dang, his don't suck e-NOUGH!"
Special Forces: "God I LOVE that this sucks!"
Airforce pilot overhead: "Sure looks like it sucks down there."
Airfoce officer, from bunker: "Dang, Movie Channel's out again: that sucks!"

Rules for Deployed U.S. Marines:
1. Be courteous to everyone, friendly to no one.
2. Decide to be aggressive enough, quickly enough.
3. Have a plan.
4. Have a back-up plan, because the first one probably won't work.
5. Be polite. Be professional. But, have a plan to kill everyone you meet.
6. Do not attend a gunfight with a handgun whose caliber does not start with a "4".
7. Anything worth shooting is worth shooting twice. Ammo, cheap; Life, expensive.
8. Move away from your attacker. Distance is your friend.
(Lateral & diagonal preferred.)
9. Use cover or concealment as much as possible.
10. Flank your adversary when possible. Protect yours.
11. Always cheat; always win. The only unfair fight is the one you lose.
12. In ten years nobody will remember the details of caliber, stance, or tactics.
They will only remember who lived.
13. If you are not shooting, you should be communicating your intention to shoot.

Okay, I'm really off track now; I just wanted to comment on my time in the Finger Lakes region; I miss Dr. Frank's gewurtraminer.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

It's All About The Benjamins

On my walk to work today, I cataloged what workers I saw. Some caveats: I arrive at my office rather early and, obviously, I only observe outside workers.

I saw:
A streetsweeper
A landscape crew
Several coffee vendors
3 newspaper hawkers
4 police officers
A number of taxi drivers
A bevy of limo drivers
2 window washers
A sign painter
at least a dozen construction workers
3 folk cleaning/sweeping the sidewalk
A jackhammer operator
and innumerable office workers scurrying to and from various Starbucks outlets.

You know where I am going with this, don't you.

Yes, of the workers I saw: one newspaper "greeter" was a woman, about two thirds of the coffee vendors were women, and about half of the scurrying office workers were women.

Here's the weird part: I would *prefer* the life of a window washer or sign painter (or, more demonstrably, of a soldier and, more likely, of a hobby farmer). Why, then, do I work in my office? I think Willie Sutton put it best, "'Cause that's where the money is."

All those men, maximizing their incomes, taking stock of themselves and their prospects and doing whatever it takes to earn mo' money, mo' money, mo' money. And, yes, while my little walk-o-observation is a limited sample, I believe statistics back me up: women tend to cluster in "office jobs" with regular hours, known obstacles, free coffee, and heat.

YES there are exceptions--even modal exceptions--and there are men who crave the same comforts. But enough of each group have different focuses to skew the stats, i.e., enough men pursue the dollars (even in the office setting) and enough women pursue the comfort (sometimes in favor of bigger dollars) to make, dare I say it, an apparent "gender wage gap."

Is it really sexism that keeps women from dangling outside skyscrapers washing windows? Is it sexism that keeps female cops off the beat? Or is it that significant numbers of women simply like the comfort and security of the office setting? I dunno, you tell me: where do women cluster and why?

Supply. Demand. Supply of labor up, wages down. As I've said before, society takes advantage of men's general stupidity, underpaying them for the most dangerous jobs out their, death professions such as window washer, policeman, coal miner, crab fisherman; or dirty professions such as streetsweeper, pig farmer, garbageman, oil derrick worker; or lonely professions such as limo driver, forest ranger, arctic scientist. (Ironically, were I able to transfer my earnings onto several of those jobs, I would give them a try! Arctic scientist, you say? Bring it on! Lobsterman? That sounds like fun for a while, sure!)

I was thinking about Joan Nesbitt's complaint about being out of the workforce for 10 years--and it is a valid complaint (i.e., that she forewent significant opportunities to raise her children). But I wonder whether she would feel the same way if her marriage had survived.

My wife view's my income as an extension of her own or, more accurately, she views my income as one element of the family's resources--and she remains darn happy that it is *I* that must shoulder that burden. I asked her again last night if she worried about all the opportunities she has given up and she replied that the workplace wasn't all it's cracked up to be (this from a successful consultant, mind you, i.e., a woman with not just a yob but a career). I asked her about the risk she was taking putting all her earnings and retirement eggs in one basket and she asked, "what risk?" I reminded her that many marriages fail, that many men die, that some men run off with the dreaded "younger woman." She asked whether I had paid my life insurance premiums, asked if our coverage was enough (no, not really, but I am making the bet that I won't croak), and whether I was planning to run off with someone and what exactly was I trying to say...

Then she went on to say, of the whiners,
Don't get married if you don't want to be in a marriage; no problem.
Don't have children if you don't want to sustain workplace "losses"; no problem.

As for the marriage thing, she and I agree that divorce is too easy. My wife has looked into Covenant Marriage, but is pretty ticked off that simple "marriage" no longer suffices (diluted as it is with assaults from a variety of sources).

I have long stated that were our marriage to fail that, were I still alive (an iffy proposition, depending on the circumstances), I would simply deliver everything into her hands. Might be time to put that in writing. All assets since the house are, indeed, in her name already; not sure how to assign retirement benefits in this way (but I have no doubt a lawyer could figger it out for a "modest" fee), and I may put the house in some kind of trust anyway. Gotta get the lawyers on this. ("How nice for you," I can hear my mother, "that you can afford a lawyer." Yeah, yeah.)

Monday, May 21, 2007

The Feminine Mistake

I made the mistake of reading Leslie Bennetts' new book, The Feminine Mistake. First off, she reminds me of the "heroine" of Murder She Wrote, you know, the small-town woman around whom murders just keep happening. In Ms. Bennetts' case, it seems as if everyone she knows has a husband who has "left her for a younger woman" or just simply died, inevitably forgetting the life insurance.

Before I get too wound up on this topic--let me set the gentlemen straight:

Gents, I assume that you all have adequate life insurance, hmmm? You know, minimum 10x yearly salary (or, mortgage plus college education x children plus 10 years adequate income)?
I am currently carrying $1.2MM in life insurance through various policies accreted over several children--and I will soon be upping it again.

Ladies, if your man dies without adequate life insurance, uh, sure--you are an idiot (and, to be fair, so was he). Does that mean that a marriage must be run as if two roomies were having sex?

By the way: Ms. Bennetts' book is yet another written for the same Manhattan crowd that freezes its eggs, i.e., "hard-charging, career women" (versus the remaining 95% of the world). I often wonder what her own husband thinks of her musings.

The basic message of the book is: do not rely on a man (or anyone) for financial security, as you are doing yourself (and your children) a disservice. The book also echoes the message of Linda Hirshman's, Get to Work.

The idea is that women suffer long-term earning damage by taking time out to, in their words, put the needs of the family ahead of their own (which is one way to look at it, I suppose). I asked Mrs. Bosh about that one: she said of choosing to stay home with the children, "it's what I want to do." Of course, she is brainwashed...

A little bit about me:
I have not seen a paycheck for about 10 years; that is, my pay is direct-deposited into a bank account somewhere. I have neither a checkbook nor an ATM card--and don't want either (I do have credit tools, however, and my wife makes sure my wallet has cash). Why? Because I cannot be trusted to write down any transactions (whereas credit tools keep track of that for me; get it?).

Any pay I receive (and I hear I am doing quite well) is a)for the benefit of the family, of which I am but a part, and b)entirely due to my wife's goals and efforts (otherwise I would still be an apartment-rentin', sportscar drivin', bar-tab grabbin', soldier of fortune). Isn't that how families are SUPPOSED to work?

We have a friend who is now divorced, something we predicted months before it happened; how? Because her marriage was set up for failure (suspiciously along the lines of Bennetts' book, which certainly may be just a coincidence...). She and her husband had separate jobs, separate accounts, pro-rated mortgage payments, even separate grocery lists! (The woman, a vegetarian, did not want meat to appear on
her list or statement...) I gave them a year (which was about right).

Oh--and now to MY point: Ms. Bennett and Ms. Hirshman and, it seems, all of the "your marriage is bound to fail: prepare ye now" crowd often use illustrative anecdotes that state things along the lines of "after 30 years of marriage, my husband presented me with a divorce and now I am financially screwed." Well GUESS WHAT: maybe if divorce were not so easy (you know, the major innovation of Feminism), then such outcomes would be less frequent.

I am unsurprised by the unintended consequences of no-fault divorce, i.e., in order to save relatively small number of women from difficult situtations, Feminism opened the floodgates to equal-opportunity "I am ticked off this year, hence, I divorce thee, I divorce thee, I divorce thee" activity. (Have I linked to the study that, five years after the patch-o-difficulty, those who stayed married were, on balance, happier than those who divorced?

Here--a few pearls of wisdom:
Men suck. They are like dogs--messy and smelly. They like rules, standards and training (hell, I loved the army!). They are often short-term planners and, if you let 'em, will run and hide. They take a few go-rounds to learn a lesson and, these days, the lesson often comes too late. I am a man, and I know this.

As an aside: all these whacked-out programs to make men "nicer" (e.g., no recess, no keeping score in sports, and the general war on boys) are just wrong-headed. Really. Seriously.

I am accounted by some to be among the "good" men; yet I am merely lucky to have avoided juvie (there was the famous greenhouse-smashing incident... the firebug stage... the smashing of cars--other people's cars... oh, a host of things that make me shudder now). Were I a typical child of today, I would be on Ritalin and a rigid psychiatric schedule. Instead, I am a stable family man, company man, with specific retirement goals and academic expectations of a bevy of children. Go figger.

Where was I? How about some more about me:
We covered life insurance and pay structure. Let's see. I think the ketubah puts me pretty much in the hole if things go south, i.e., my wife gets everything. Everything. Did I mention...everything?

Why am I okay with this? Because I do not expect to get out of this marriage alive.

And if you knew more of my history (which, undoubtedly, you will eventually glean, although you must be really bored to keep up with these ramblings), you would find that stance pretty amazing.

Let us just say that, as a youth, marriage and family were not among my stated goals (in fact, I may still have my manifesto, written at age 12 or so, which has as tenets 1, 3, 5, 7, and 9: NEVER GET MARRIED!). Let me add that none of my friends (some of whom are now divorced) would ever have laid money on my stability or commitment. Shows how misunderstood I was, I guess.

Oh, so, ladies (ESPECIALLY you Manhattanite buyers of Ms. Bennetts' books): If'n yer man done left yer for an udder woman (or'n he done died widout widder protection), cast yer eye inward, mesdames, 'cause the answer may be within. That is, maybe your marital failures suffered a more-than-is-comfortable effect from the cohort of men from which you chose (driven, one assumes, by your views and goals at that time) than with men in general. I hear my mother: "How nice for

Enough diatribe for today, except to say: I saw a man repairing the street today. Thinking about the gender-wage gap: how long would the streets last without men, I wonder? (Of course, without men, we would all ride horses, fed with organic oats-n-honey, right? Riggghhhhht.)

I need to give Abbie Thernstrom a call.

One more note: My wife wishes that I waste less time writing down these thoughts, because a)I should focus my efforts on maximizing family income, and b)what's the point? No one is every swayed by argument--either you GET IT or YOU DON'T. Why am I so lucky/blessed/happy? Totally random event having more to do with my privileged place in the oppressor society than with any individual efforts, commitments, sacrifices, focii, talent, love, ambition on the part of me and mine. Yah, that sounds right.

“To get what you want, you must commit yourself for some time.”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Boston Boards

Where do I start?

...I have heard numerous opinions of people telling me not to go into law.

Not the best reason to choose one's career; externally motivated people are at the whim of others and tend not to end up as "leaders."

The only choices I feel I have, if I want to be happy at my job, are law or social work.

Do not later, then, complain about the so-called gender-wage gap; why?

I'm not in it for the money.

Because, to an extent, apparently, greater than that of women, men are "in it" for the money.

I'm not in it for the title or the prestige.

I repeat: you will have no logical basis, later, to complain of any so-called gender-wage gap.

I also want to have a family, and I want to share responsibility for housework and childcare with my husband.

Good luck with that. Why not eschew children and focus on a career? Why not outsource--a nanny and a maid? Why not let the husband, if he so desires, spend his "household dollars" on a nanny and a maid? Will he be a free and equal partner, able to allocate his time and money as he sees best fit (under your proposed regime)?

If Johnny has to stay home from school with strep throat or the stomache flu, I want to stay with him for half that time, and have my husband stay for the other half.

Then both of you will suffer in your careers; further (and this is, admittedly, a gross generalization), you risk some level of resentment from the husband, who may derive joy from the very fear you cite next:

I want my children's father to be more than just a wallet to them.

While you put it rather crassly, some men prefer to be "a wallet," i.e., to be a "breadwinner," a "provider." It is a tangible method of contributing to the overall success of the family unit (rather than to the desires of individual participants). Specialization is at the heart of effective economics, you know, division of labor and all (or don't they teach that anymore?).

not just the one that puts the roof over their heads and food on their table and shoes on their feet,

And what, pray tell, is wrong with THAT? Dear g-sh, we don't wanna have a man do THAT any more, now do we?

but one of the two people that goes to soccer games on weekends and takes them for ice cream after.

Nothing you have stated precludes weekend activity; indeed, in my experience, it is the dads who are involved in weekend sports--I don't see too many female soccer coaches (of teams of either sex), have never seen a female baseball coach (and we're talking Little League here, people; you know, volunteer type stuff). I see lots of moms in the stands (but no more than dads, really), and only dads on the field.

I'm just saying that the work women do should be valued just as much as what men do.

I infer, by this, that you mean valued monetarily. If so, then do the work that is valued thus. Law or social work... hmm...? Social work is valued, I would guess, by those receiving it (only, of course, they can't pay--but you get their undying gratitude; shouldn't that be "worth" something?). Law, on the other hand, has the potential to create value (think M&A); social work is a net drain, a "cost center," as it were.

Especially if they're doing the same work.

If men and women are doing the same work, then likely they are earning the same pay (although women often earn higher pay for the same work, they being in higher demand in the search for "diversity.") The difference is that some (you?) will define "same work" as something other than "same work," e.g., "equivalent work." You wanna earn what the crabbers make? Be a crabber. You wanna earn what big-wig corporate lawyers make? Be a big-wig corporate lawyer (and do what it takes). You want a plush chair in a nice office with convenient hours? Gee, don't we all--and that excess supply is what drives the wages down.

If I could hire a woman to do a job at 80% of standard pay--I would be rich! Fact is, in order to achieve the credentials and commitment I need to keep clients happy, my ratio of acceptable resumes is about 8:1 in favor of men ("Oh, 50% travel, you say? Gee, I guess I can't do that." "Oh, you prefer math & engineering in addition to top-ten MBA + JD? Sorry, I majored in sociology." "Oh, you mean I would have to relocate? I could never relocate; I guess I'll just stay right here, thanks.")

And if both parents are working, then they should share in housework and child care as well.

Maybe you like "housework"; maybe you revel in "child care"; maybe you will find a husband who also enjoys those activities (and somehow manages to have enough career ambition/earnings horsepower to meet your other needs). But what if your chosen spouse says "housework? Uh, can't we just hire someone? Oh, and I have a good lead on an au pair"? What then?

Easy solution #1: skip the children. If you can acknowledge that children are incompatible with the fullest realization of career goals (as is shown by the lack of a gender-wage gap among the "never married"), then you will never confront those issues currently ahead of you.

If you insist on choosing a family and refuse to acknowledge that that choice leads to a diminution fo your family's earnings capacity, well, the great g-d Adam Smith ain't gonna give a flyin'. Nor will D-rwin, for that matter.

Here's an example (and, from my experience--and likely yours--a fairly modal one): I think I am a fine housekeeper; heck, my grad-skool apartment didn't have cockroaches! My girlfriend (now wife) thought I was a pig, though. Fundamental sensory differences. "Hmm... that smells okay; I guess I'll wear it." "Hey, this food smells okay; I guess I'll eat it." That sort of thing.

To me it just. didn't. matter. And it still doesn't. And it never will. But because I love my wife, I now pick up my socks and put my shoes in a closet and leave my paperwork at the office and even clean the bathrooms. Additionally, out of the goodness of her heart, she allows me to do the things I enjoy: maintain the vehicles; mow the lawn; coach (girls) soccer; do the dishes. Oh, and pay the mortgages and tuitions, accumulate retirement benefits, and buy shoes for the children.

Interestingly, my wife (who has know me for at least twenty years) and I got together long before money mattered--and back when the prospect of earning anything substantial was not even under consideration; now, with the children and all, she has come to the honest realization that, heck, money does matter, and by gum I had better be doing all I can to maximize famiy income. She does her part: simplifies (and, hence, maximizes) my non-work life; raises the children; manages the home finances; etc. She is the micromanager; I am the macromanager.

[And before you go getting too many ideas: my wife was a College Democrat, a member of the Women's Coalition, and a full-on Management Consultant, back in the day. I have always been...just me. My views today are pretty much what they were when I was 12--in more ways than one--and I am happy to find that my way of thinking has led to greater happiness for, let's see, at least six people and counting...]

Life is about compromise--and marriage, more so. You just keep on with your supposed "ideals"; go ahead, no skin off'n my nose. But I have grown increasingly impressed with the familial and financial happiness awaiting those who know themselves and follow through with what makes them genuinely happy.

I have a new crush

I am humbled; I am enlightened:

“To get what you want, you must commit yourself for some time.”

One Tough Mother

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ah, Emily...

Wild Nights! Wild Nights!
Were I with thee,
Wild Nights should be
Our luxury!

Futile the winds
To a heart in port,
Done with the compass,
Done with the chart!

Rowing in Eden!
Ah! the sea!
Might I but moor
To-night in Thee!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

G-d, D-rwin, or WPTB

Ran in to work today along the river; seeing the other early-bird whackoes made me laugh and sing. Everything from homeless joes to ex-crew wannabes, all just enjoying the morning.

Look, I am not even sure if there is a god, if Darwin is G-d, or if What Powers There Be give a flying about us humans but, as agnostics go, I err on the side of pragmatism. So, I found my self happily humming a morning tune:

I thank G-d for This Day

(Yah, thanks to Veggie Tales for that one...)

My point is, I can go around filled with anger and malice (and sometimes do), but that does little good for anyone, especially me and mine. So... why not be happy to be alive (which I am; it beats the alternative), be happy for food and shelter and all the "blessings" that I have. Lots of folks out there spend their time trying to "re-educate" others about how lousy life is, but I gotta tell ya, I give thanks every day for the sun in the sky, for my feet on the ground, for that big ole apple pie... Cause a thankful heart is a happy heart, I'm glad for what I have, that's an easy way to start..."

In any case, with regard to good moods and good luck: I am not a believer in luck per se, but I believe in confluence of time, place, and opportunity, and I believe that some people are better positioned (or engineered or socialized) to recognize and better prepared to exploit opportunity.

I also wonder whether it is "entitlement" ("nothing succeeds like success"), or "The Secret," or "The Power of Positive Thinking," or what behaviorial financialists refer to as the biases of "selective perception" and "rosy retrospection" (this in marked contrast to, e.g., certain "cults of the victim," which fall prey to the same biases but in the negative...). Let us assume that all humans are subject to perceptual biases: I would rather be "happy" than "unhappy," and if others can accuse me of "living in a bubble," well, so be it. It's a nice bubble, after all...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Defining Moments: The Death of A Father

When a man's father dies, regardless of the time or space between them, the man is left unprotected and conspicuous, with the Powers That Be, (Hap itself, perhaps) staring down at him mightily. When a man's father dies, what was assumed (and even that is too active a verb) to be an eternal buffer is removed, replaced with eternity itself.

When my own father passed, I wrote the following to someone who might understand:

"There are strikingly, disconcertingly few with whom I will share, but it might seem strange, later, were I to have failed to mention it. My father died yesterday. A scan on Friday, ordered due to breathing difficulties, revealed lung cancer that had already spread to his brain. Being who he is (or was, or will be, if you believe in that sort of thing), by noon Sunday he had negotiated a removal of the breathing tube. Even in the dimished state he had inhabited for the past decade, he was likely more lucid than you or I will ever be. Apparently he even made the obligatory jokes with the doctors. He passed in the late afternoon. He chose cremation; no ceremony will follow.

"No response is sought here. I needed to write this down for it to become concrete: my father has died (and, as is the case with sons, I am next; no buffer remains). You knew him--I do not say that you liked him or he, you, necessarily--and knew him at a time of his full capacities, for good or ill or both."

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

(I Am) Definitely Inarticulate on this Marriage Thing

Let me state again. I am against the state recognizing 'marriage'. Civil unions should be recognized under the law, marriage should be something between the parties involved and their religion if applicable.

I understand your point but, to me, it borders on semantics. Okay, the State, using the tools and incentives at its disposal, has chosen to promote what it sees as the ideal civil union.

The brief focuses heavily on the aspect of procreation and raising children which it states by definition excludes same sex couples form 'marriage'. But what about those same sex couples who adopt kids? This has to be addressed. If you don't think they should be able to adopt, then come out and say it. Fine.

I am deeply conflicted on this point myself. So far as I can tell, I am not against the adoption of children by gay couples (and I wonder what the laws are here... Is it really an adoption by ONE member of the gay couple--given that in most states gays cannot form a legal "couple?" If so, why not, then, adoption by gay groups? Or heterosexual groups? Or polygamists? etc.); I agree with the idea that adoption by a gay couple likely leads to better outcomes for the adoptee--especially vis-a-vis, e.g., single mothers (I think statistics bears this out).

That said: what other entities can adopt? Can a single parent adopt? Can a cohabitiating but unmarried couple adopt? If so--and I know that to be the case--then it is proven that adopting does not require marriage.

Recall that the ideal expressed by the State is that of a child raised in a stable, low-volatility marriage and by its own biological parents. By definition (under current technology), any gay couple will be missing at least one of the child's biological parents.

So, I am conflicted there, but so far I do not think that the ability of any family unit to adopt requires that that family unit also be required to form a legal marriage.

Finally, I think the most important thing for children is to be in a house with happy and loving parents.


Any Specialist will say this. I did not grow up in the happiest household. I wanted my parents to divorce if it would make them happier. Seeing your parents as happy residents of our planet has the greatest positive effect.

I agree in principle; hower, divorce has been shown to be devastating to children. Indeed, apparently a "cold" marriage (as distinct from an abusive home, by the way) is better than a broken marriage. Another great stat has to do with happiness following divorce--one major study (and forgive me for not providing a link; I am going off memory, but that is why G-d made G--gle, right?) showed something like that among couples planning divorce, five years after the decision, those choosing divorce were not happier (and we all know the stats about women suffering financially and men suffering emotionally and physically...); the SURPRISE finding was that those who decided to stay together (usually "for the sake of the children") were much HAPPIER than at the time of the crisis... Now, of course there may be specific cases and details--e.g., perhaps those choosing to stay together simply had more willpower, I dunno--but more generally it seems that happiness in marriage has more to do with commitment to the MARRIAGE (as opposed to the SPOUSE) than is generally understood. Happiness is a funny thing...

I am for reformation of marriage and divorce laws: marriage should be harder and divorce more difficult... (i.e., take responsibility for your choices), but that is another story.

I'm against affirmative action, flat out.

It is my view that affirmative action has, on balance, done more damage than good. It seems to benefit disproportionately those who did not really need it, while making life more difficult for those who should objectively benefit. There is often a disconnect between philosophy and reality, between concept and execution.

This is easy and it is consistent with my philosophy, but help me understand why I should be for state sanctioned marriage that simultaneously opposes same sex couples.
  • I consider homosexuality to be one of many "natural" modes of human existence. (Hence, Nature has some effect on one's sexuality.)
  • I consider sexuality to exist in a continuum, and not in a binary form. (Hence, Nurture--or choice--has some effect on one's sexuality.)
  • Consenting adults should be largely free to conduct themselves as they see fit in the privacy of their homes (this extends along quite a spectrum of human activity).
  • Opting out of whatever the society in which one operates deems "ideal" (or worthy of promotion or of incentives or tax breaks or what have you) is certainly a right, but with that right comes responsibility and, hence, the consequences are not always fully protected (i.e., do not and should not benefit from the incentives and promotions put in place by society; in other words, because something is NOT ILLEGAL does not make it worthy of REWARD).

Society sets limits around certain activities, e.g., murder (generally bad, although revenge killings were protected at times, and honor killings are still common in some societies), underage drinking (variable over time and place), exploitation of children (variable over time and place), driving (age limits and certain testable, mental, and physical requirements), and marriage (another regulated activity).

We set certain limits on marriage, e.g., marriage to children (variable over time, but generally with some lower limit in the U.S.), blood relations (variable by state but with some lower limit), one spouse at a time (even advocates of so-called gay marriage do not, at this time, seek to overturn the one-per-customer rule; as an aside, it seems absurd to me that we allow all the activities of polygamy--indeed, some "celebrities" brag about it--but refuse legal recognition, but I find it important that we DO exclude polygamy, at least in the U.S., from what is acceptable). So, we have the generally accepted power to limit certain classes of people from "marrying."

What, then, are the classes we allow and why?

My arguments are rather banal, but settle still on the idea that babies will be born regardless of all other considerations, and that to the extent possible, we would do well to promote the vehicle proven optimal for those children and, for other reasons still under debate and attack, for the parties involved and for the nation as a whole, i.e., a stable, low-conflict marriage consisting of that child's biological parents.
  • YES other modes exist--and should be allowed to exist (although society's acceptance of single-parent households is, like affirmative action, ultimately and on balance.
  • YES families disintergrate and re-form (although we should really work on this, for everyone's benefit)
  • YES children adopted by non-traditional families are likely better off than remaining unadopted
    Given that we set limits (do you agree that we should?), how do we define those limits? In other words (and once again) what is marriage for and why do we care?
Currently, I take the stance opposite yours: you posit that ALL units (btw, do you exclude ANY configurations? If so, which and why?) should receive government recognition, leaving it to the non-governmental organizations (e.g., churches) to pick and choose what they will permit or deny.*I* say, get "married" (or whatever verb you want to use) in whatever non-governmental faciltiy you choose (Wiccan, Unitarian, Gaian, Druid, Atheist, Forest of Arden, WHATEVER), but reserve governmental sanction for that which has been proven ideal for children and, hence eventually, society in general.

I remain unconvinced that marriage is irrelevant, unsalvagable, or dead. Instead of furthering its demise, however, I would prefer to bolster it.
Getting long-winded here. Let me summarize your questions and my response:
You asked "what about adoptions by same-sex units"; I say "Fine: lump 'em in with all other non-marriages, gotta be better'n the orphanage..."

You asked "aren't happy parents better than unhappy parents?"; I say "Sure: ideally, a child's biological parents would be in a happy marriage; I am against outlawing other sub-optimal configurations, but denying that they are sub-optimal does not stop them from being so."
You stated that you are against affirmative action; I agree, generally, but ask that you expand your lens of "enhanced individual/civil rights" to examine, e.g., the effect of the weakening of marriage. By "empowering" (some) women, women are more apt to choose out-of-wedlock motherhood, a proven path (at the macro level) to sub-optimal outcomes for ALL involved. BTW, not only does single motherhood hurt women and children, it hurts MEN as well, as they are "free" to remain the boorish children that they would like to be and are stripped of the proven health and financial benefits of marriage and fatherhood. My take is that this is a vicious cycle, and I am concerned about the end-point. But these ideas require much more space to examine and develop...

This is a collective good versus individual rights thing... and the tilt over the last few decades has been decidedly towards the individual, and now the group (the U.S., society, humankind, whatever) is suffering. JUST AS AFFIRMATIVE ACTION has led to unintended and detrimental macro-outcomes, so has the emphasis on "individual rights" generally (to include the weakening of marriage).

The rest of my stance is that A)any group can use the legal (contract) system to protect rights and wealth; no one (of import) is seeking to outlaw homosexuality or the right of individuals to consort with whom they choose and B)if we are going to expand the franchise then, please, let's be honest and either expand it universally (which we are not) or dissolve it (which you, among others, appear to seek).

I, for one, perceive societal value in the institution of marriage, hence I choose not to promote its dissolution; further, I do not perceive that any marginal benefit obtained through expansion of the franchise outweighs any potential long-term damage, either direct (via further weakening of the bonds between men and women or between progenitors and their children) or indirectly (through losing the ability to logically defend "marriage" against further expansion to other interested parties).

Marrying My Father (The First of the "Defining Moments" Series

What is the limit of the father/son bond? How far should one be willing to go for one's father?

For certain reasons, my father came to live with me when I was a graduate student. He was elderly, destitute, and in failing health. My school had a policy of extending health benefits to same-sex partners. The two written conditions were that the two parties be "emotionally and financially intertwined." Despite meeting the stated requirements, the school's position was that father-son relationships did not qualify. (I will also spare you the disdain, humiliation and, ultmately, the threat of legal action that I withstood in pursuit of health care for my ailing father.)

Had the state had some sort of civil union statute and I had pursued the matter, should I have been allowed to "marry" my father? If not, why not? What if he were my stepfather, i.e., no blood relation, what then?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Pesky Marriage "Debate"

Some people are not legally married, but go to a priest or minister or rabbi or whatever and become married "in their hearts" as they like to say. Is that a marriage? A civil union? Both? Neither?
Without government imprimatur, it is not a legal marriage (even common-law marriages require legal imprimatur, even if only post hoc, i.e., they are deemed, retroactively, to have been legal marriages). How people "feel" (even "in their hearts") is irrelevant to the law.
It can't be a civil union, because it was not a legal union, but a religious one. it a marriage or not?
Do you include two non-religious folks who pledge fidelity in, say, a Shaman ceremony? Wiccan? Gaian? Klingon? How about two children? The requirements of a legal marriage are clearly specified in the laws of each state. Once again, a marriage outside of government sanction is not a legal marriage (you know, that whole separation of church and state thing...)
If there is no difference between a marriage and a civil union, then what is the debate about?
Who said there is no difference?

Are you really committed to understanding the mainstream point of view vis-a-vis marriage? Let us find out!

Defining marriage (outside of the federal definition of a legal and state-sanctioned union between one man and one woman who meet eligibility standards) is not easy, and anti-marriage activists use that difficulty to their advantage, claiming that "universal marriage" is about equal rights, which it isn't. Examples include polygamy (although it is perfectly legal to father children among multiple women simultaneously, the U.S. government chooses not to sanction it, not even if all other "common law" definitions have been met; conversely, one woman can bear several men's children--sometimes simultaneously, believe it or not--yet these men will not be classed as her husbands) and marriage between certain blood relations (although this varies by state). My point here is that we (generally) agree that certain classes of adult-consented unions do not meet our definition of marriage (even an unspecified definition, i.e., we just know "that ain't right"). Right? So it is *not* strictly an "equal rights" issue.

So, what is marriage then or, rather, why do we care to define it at the federal level?
Because the State has an interest in promoting certain behaviors. Think broadly: the State rewards you for all sorts of things--charitable donations comes to mind. The government also encourages certain behaviors ("be wise, ex-er-cise, move a-round, have some fun"; "It's a matter of life--and breath"; etc.) because the State has an interest in promoting positive behaviors (a cynic might add--to increase lifetime tax revenues, but I digress...).

Let us shoot up to the macro-level; ready? First, remember that our government is of, by, and for the people. Our government (and, hence, we as a nation) recognize and have decided to codify that:

  • Children represent the future (literally), and thus,
  • Societies need babies.
  • Men and women, despite any and all technological (e.g., birth control) or governmental (e.g., China) controls, are GOING TO MAKE BABIES.
  • Currently (and for the preceding millenia) babies can ONLY BE MADE BY ONE MAN AND ONE WOMAN.
  • Ideally (and I am not pulling this out of my butt, I am merely reminding you of the concepts underlying oru marriage laws, i.e., what marriage is and why it is important--I repeat, IDEALLY), any and all children will be raised in a family structure headed by two biological parents in a low-conflict marriage.

Children in single-parent families, children born to unmarried mothers, and children in stepfamilies or cohabiting relationships face higher risks of poor outcomes; while such sub-optimal structures exist should--and not bring condemnation per se--the fact remains that FROM THE STATE'S PERSPECTIVE, there is value in promoting strong, stable marriages between biological parents.

And before you get going on the "not all marriages produce children," YES, THE STATE IS AWARE OF THAT, but the State is (thankfully) not in the business of figuring out whether any individual is fertile or not--it is unimportant from the macro level. Further, before you get going on the "marriage is not about children," uh, yes, from the State's perspective, it IS about family (to include children). Let us delve a little further; remember, the State ALLOWS other formats, but it holds out as IDEAL(via benefits and incentives) the one man/one woman set-up.
Remember: you are ALLOWED to be a lousy driver, but the BEST drivers enjoy premium rates. You are ALLOWED to cohabitate with whomever (or however many) you choose (and praise be!), but if you seek the State's Stamp of Approval, you're gonna play by thesociety's (current) rules as enforced via the mechanism of government.

So...why is the State against so-called gay marriage? Because it falls away from the ideal. Just as homosexuality is not "normal" (in the statistical sense), only ONE format (of anything, really) can be ideal. I am not saying that gay couples represent worse outcomes than any other variation (e.g., heterosexual cohabitiation, serial marriage, or whatever), I am saying that only ONE is IDEAL (and our society and government--and most of the world--have decided, based on experience, research, and Darwin, that the IDEAL is one man + one woman).

Sure, marriages suffer all sorts of problems--so does any human endeavor. Ideals, by their nature, are difficult to achieve. By including same-sex couples (and excluding other viable alternatives, by the way), the government would be inluding that format in its espoused ideal.
Whew! hope that made sense.

By the way--if you actually read what I wrote, and chose to understand the reasoning, congrats! Believe me, I understand the opposing view, I even empathize with the mechanics of the argument at the individual level. Where I differ is that weigh the societal good (large) differently than the perceived marginal individual "good" in this case.

Further reading:

Monday, May 7, 2007

More on Lawyers (Yes, I meant it to be read aloud)


ExiledbyHVMA wrote:

Men have for centuries (if not millenia) relied on a dedicated and hardworking wife to raise a family while they competed to succeed in their professional careers. Even a strictly 40-hour-per-week job gives little time or flexibility to raise children, especially in a day and age when young children cannot safely play on their own after school at a neighbourhood park.

For family-oriented women to dedicate themselves to, and succeed in, the professions, they need the exact same support at home that men have so long had. They need to demand and expect this from the father of their children.

But how many women are willing to commit themselves to being primary, or sole, breadwinner? How many professional women are actually looking to marry, and start a family with, a man "on the daddy track," someone for whom money and work is less important than raising children and keeping house.

These men exist, by the thousands. But what professional women wants--let alone seeks out--such a partner? How many would genuinely respect a husband willing to take on such a critical--but so long belittled--societal role?

Let's also not forget how hard it would be for such a women to "explain" what her husband does. Would this situation perhaps even cloud her chances for promotion?

We are trapped in our past by a market-driven workplace that rewards singular dedication. There is a way out, but it requires both men and women to reassess and reward the role of "home-maker."We may have to wait another century (or perhaps millenium) before our society can make this leap.- a former, stay-at-home father of two boys

Posted by
anonymous_bosh on 10:41
For family-oriented women to dedicate themselves to, and succeed in, the professions, they need the exact same support at home that men have so long had. They need to demand and expect this from the father of their children.

While your argument makes sense on the face of it, you answer yourself the begged question of why this does not happen (i.e., professional women want professional men). Let me put the question another way: For family-oriented men to dedicate themselves to, and succeed in, childbirth, they need the exact same support that women have so long had. They need to demand and expect this from the other parent of their children."

My point? Demand and expect all you want, but men will not bear children. Similarly--and for whatever reason--women want their offspring to be competitive among children (even if "competitive" is not defined along, e.g., sports or academic lines); in other words, they are seeking competitive genetic material.

How many [professional women] would genuinely respect a husband willing to take on such a critical--but so long belittled--societal role?

Belittled? Belittled by WHOM? Are MEN going around belittling the mothers of their children? Their own mothers? Please direct me to this belittling, for I haven't seen it. So far as I can tell, the stereotypical male view of motherhood is emedded in such phrases as "my mother was a saint." Belittled you say?

We are trapped in our past by a market-driven workplace that rewards singular dedication. There is a way out, but it requires both men and women to reassess and reward the role of "home-maker."

Trapped? Funny, I do not FEEL trapped--nor, apparently, does my full-time wife and mother of and to our children. I asked her last night whether I had "forced her out of the workplace" (as some feminists contend) and whether I was "oppressing her freedom of choice." When she stopped laughing she reminded me to stop reading online boards and to focus on furthering my career in order that she could better provide for the family. She also reminded me that, as a former lawyer, she had written all contracts to her benefit, that I was not getting out of our marriage alive, and that I was darn lucky to be allowed in her very presence, not to mention her bed. Funny thing is, I agree completely.

But before I go looking around for my next promotion and pay increase, I must ask: you, O Tantalus, state "there is a way out," but then fail to elaborate. Perhaps you could rectify the oversight?

A proud and grateful contributing member of a successful family unit with a consciously applied but ultimately traditional division of labor enjoying all the current and (so far as one can project) long-term familial and financial satisfaction enabled by such a structure (and who would like to be considered among acquaintances by my stage-name, Nada Weiner).

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Young Lawyers in Love

Pursuant to a Boston Globe (oh how I despise that rag) article decrying the percentage of female lawyers leaving the industry
I will get around to commenting on the summary eventually: report summary.htm

In the meantime, in resonponse to another's post on the Boston Globe boards, I wrote:

A thoughtful and incisive post:
"...[T]he absence of female [leaders] all about the billible hour. ...Neither my husband nor I wanted the children to be raised by their nanny, so we ... decided that I would stay home.
There are a limited number of hours in the day, and most of the moms I know cho[o]se to spend as many of them as possible taking care of their families... [M]others will be unable to [commit fully to a career] without putting their families second."

Why do men prefer (i.e., derive greater satisfaction and choose) to provide via income (which translates, e.g., to mortgage and tuition payments), while women prefer direct caregiving?
The answer is irrelevant. Apparently, the fact is that in a significant percentage of two-earner families with children, wives prefer that their husbands remain in the workforce. For most families with children (even non-traditional or same-sex arrangements), AT LEAST ONE head-of-household must work, and oftentimes--if the opportunity is there--the person in the role of wife decides that the person in the role of husband is the one that must work. Oftentimes, the husband is DEEPLY GRATEFUL for the sacrifices made by the wife, and sometimes even REDOUBLES his efforts to prove that the wife made the right choice.

What do G-d, gut, Darwin, and other The Powers That Be indicate? Wives, when you see a stay-at-home Dad lounging around on the park bench sipping Starbucks while his offspring play nearby, what is your gut reaction? Is it ever "GET TO WORK, LAZYBONES?" (It is for me, I am surprised to admit.)

Another important question in this "equality" debate: Ladies, would you hire a male babysitter? Would you drop your children off at an all-male-run daycare facility? How about a stay-at-home dad's home daycare? If not, then ask yourselves, why not?

Equality of outcome belies individual preferences. It is not just that some women CHOOSE to stay at home, clearly (given that some could hire nannies) some women PREFER (and prefer at great cost) to raise their own children. Why?

So, those women who read this law report (or the currently hyped "gender wage gap") and are outraged, please also explore your own honest reactions to the world around you.

In a world without men, we likely would have no gasoline (*I* am not going to work on a North Atlantic oil derrick, THAT'S fer shur!), no Alaskan crab legs, a lot less lobster, fewer diamonds, much less coal, and so forth (and, yes, I anticipate the "yes, but we'd have a cleaner/softer/fluffier world" comments...).

Why are their fewer law partners? Because 100-hour weeks SUCK (and I do not exaggerate the hours), and men are too macho (or stupid) to refuse them (or to refuse to go down the mine or onto the lobster boat or into battle or on the beat).

As others have posted, I would have liked the survery to include the smaller boutiques for a better sense of what women ARE doing outside the realm of big law or big biz.