Category Archives: Economy

You’re Like A Suburban Midlife Crisis In America–No Middle Class

peacock mid life crisisHooray! Last week I entered my midlife crisis! No Saturn Return, no Pre-Midlife Crisis, no Late Onset Puberty; I’m talking the exciting big mirror in the aging face “Oh $hit What Am I Doing With My Life” Crisis. I’m at the point where adults finally become mature and live out those inspiring second chance stories that give people hope and aging rock bands one last chance to tour. And since so many people before me have been through it, I know I only have to survive some existential hell for a couple of years until I come to the conclusion that what I really need is to get rid of my old life and start a flashy new one! Problem is that with the middle class going extinct, middle class protégés like myself are finding that we are no longer able to afford the kind of satisfactory crisis that we are accustomed to. While some fear that with the demise of the middle class, motivated stoners and Teva wearing revolutionaries will finally rally to overthrow our current capitalist system, I fear that it will cause my midlife makeover to suck.

Without the same time and resources the middle class once enjoyed, the peacocky crisis we’ve come to know and mock will soon be a thing of the past. Of course there will still be two others available. There is the Rich Man’s Crisis carried out by those in the upper stratospheres of rich. This crisis as opposed to others, does not question career paths taken since the wealthy have always had the money to do whatever they’ve always wanted to do. These enviable midlifers are only subjected to the fear of losing their youth and the promise of impending death. So with a few new spouses (each one younger than the other), Botox shots and some hot sweaty yoga their midlife crisis is complete…ly Zzzzzzzzz.

Then there is the Poor Man’s Crisis, also known as The Struggling Artist’s Crisis. These are the ones who in their 20’s and 30’s did everything people in the other classes of crises try to emulate at 40 or 50. These creative types always dated much younger people but for like-minded conversation not for youth-sucking purposes. They chose day jobs that required little commitment so that they could concentrate on an artistic career that nearing 40 they discover never happened. Tired of living with roommates for 20 years and wishing for a few creature comforts they once scorned (Brookstone foot massagers), these once rebellious folks suddenly question their lifelong misgivings of society’s norms and immediately want to shed all semblance of their nonconformity. Ready to prove that they can succeed in a conventional way, they suddenly work hard to find someone their own age to marry, find a “real” job and settle down by buying a home or a fuel-efficient car in place of the incredibly cool beater or Volvo station wagon they swore they would keep until they died. Even less exciting than the rich, the poor man’s midlife crisis makes me go through another midlife crisis just reading about it.

It is because of the rich and the poor man’s midlife crises that we need to safeguard the middle class. Theirs is the iconic American midlife crisis. They followed the rules for so long they’re ready to break them! With 80’s style self-reflection and real jet-ski consumerist pizzazz, here in the middle you are promised toupees, red hot convertible sports cars, motorboats, cheesy young dates, divorces and the chance to sell that suburban home to buy yourself a downtown loft and finally live like all those cool artist types you stood in line with at the coffee shop and hated on your way to your 9-6-or-more job. You can go out to nightclubs, get college-style wasted on Manhattans and Old-Fashioneds because that’s what you last heard was hip from a temp a few years ago, leave your job in corporate America and make a new small business venture in something cooler like a distillery that makes bacon flavored whiskey with kitschy bacon flavored fruit roll-ups or by making specialty facial hair clips for wine tasters in Napa Valley, then get photographed in Sunset Magazine and show it off to your new family you just made with that temp you met a few years ago in your long-gone corporate job! That my friends, is a real crisis! Something I was ready to join in until I realized I couldn’t.

mid life crisisLike a chubby girl who lost weight but still sees herself as chubby, I like so many others raised middle class, learned that I had been mistakingly considering myself middle class when financially I am nowhere near it. So when my crisis turned up as a 16-year-old me to evaluate what I had made of her life and was unimpressed, I couldn’t escape or hurriedly make things better in a colorful, over-the-top, expensive way. I was sorry to let Young Me know that Now Me can’t just pack up and move my family to Paris or New York and live the life she wanted because I can’t afford to. Instead, the two of us have had to settle for lying in bed to piece together what makes sense from my past, discover what traits hold me back, support the ones that move me forward, take a close look at what’s important, what I want to spend my time working on and how to go about doing it. I discovered that I am part of a new class that is gaining traction in America, and our Lost Class Midlife Crisis is completely…ho hum practical.

*16-year-old me is completely over me and has moved on to her next victim.

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Should I Raise My Kid To Be A Jerk?

Aw man… I thought this whole time I was supposed to figure out how to raise my baby with good old-fashioned values passed down to me from the historically popular ethics specialist, Dr. Jesus Christ. You know, do unto others as you would have them do unto you. That way hopefully the kid will become a good person so they can have the love, empathy, heroism, independence and drive to succeed in life. Sure enough, I was wrong. In July, I read the New York Magazine article “Money-Empathy Gap” and it turns out being nice just makes you sad and poor. My alternative? Raise the kid to be a jerk. Even worse, maybe even a douchebag.

Wait how does that make any sense? Isn’t success all about the people you know? Don’t people promote people they like? In research conducted by Timothy Judge and his crew at Notre Dame, folks seem to be drawn to promote the people they don’t like at a company rather than their friends. This is because those who are less “agreeable” are more likely to be associated with money, and therefore higher positions–whether or not they are actually qualified doesn’t matter, they are still seen by others as a better fit for upper management than the “agreeable” type.  Basically it comes to this: the average person sees rich powerful people as jerks, so when they meet a grade-A asshole and a position of power comes up, the  average person will automatically link the asshole with the position whether or not he/she can do the job. After all it’s a natural fit, right?! So to those men who complain that women only like jerks… well, it turns out it’s not just the ladies who like them, men do too.

I can’t help but think, everything I ever learned that I felt so ready to share with my kid…is any of it relevant? In terms of having a happy relationship, I can definitely hand that over, but how to be a good person always looking out for others, I just don’t know if that will make them successful and therefore happy. Yep, I said it… success=happy. I know it’s not cool to even think it, but there is nothing worse than being out of a job and feeling like you have no place or need to fill in this world. Even research shows that poor people are less happy and more stressed than the rich. I don’t want that for my kid. I want my kid to kick ass in his/her field of choice. I wish I could beg the world to stop being pushovers and stop promoting meanies or letting them slide, but wishing won’t get my kid anywhere. Instead I’ll accept the fact that people like the unlikable and stop promoting this fantasy that the nice hardworking person always wins in the end.

So now how do you teach your baby the opposite of everything you know? How does a nice person teach their kids to be jerks? And how do you handle having to live around a douchebag of your making? And so I have my dilemma: for his/her own good should my kid be raised to think about money, getting ahead and feeling entitled enough so he/she will end up entitled in the future; or for my own sanity make my kid the kind of likeable person I would want to hang out with for the remainder of my life?

Aw man… I hate douchebags and everyone who’s contributed to my having to possibly raise one.

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Keep Your Hair Down Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton Having FunFor any woman out there going through mid-life crisis and wishing you had buckled down and partied less, Hillary Clinton has come to relieve you of any regrets. This week photos broke out showing Hillary downing some beers (straight out of a bottle it was noted) and dancing with her girls from work flashing a massive smile on her face. The result of this one night mess was a new love for the Hilly. Websites everywhere started taking a look at Clinton’s surge in popularity, and on KPCC’s Madeline Brand show, guest Margaret Carlson said she believed Hillary could even win the presidency in 2016 now that people have seen her let loose. So what can the rest of us gain from one woman’s move from the bottom of popularity to the top? Stop shunning your inner party girl ’cause she’s your ticket to getting ahead in your profession!

As women, many of us are made to feel that we need to seem serious and grounded to succeed in our careers, which is a huge shift after being raised to be cute and giggly. Soon after leaving the nest we learn that joyful giddiness is not a sign of heart-melting enthusiasm but rather an obnoxious trait signalling a lack of self-esteem. I even had a freshmen high school teacher and nun we called Big Bird who was so worried about this transition for her students later in life, that she made it part of her curriculum to make our lives hell. Each week she’d pick on a different student and if you survived her taunts without whining, she’d leave you alone the rest of the year. If you couldn’t handle her telling you things like, “If you keep stuttering when you read I’m gonna throw you out the window and hope a truck comes by,” or, “If you keep saying “ax” instead of “ask” I’m gonna get an ax and ax your head off,” then she’d badger you until you stiffened up and grew up.  She knew about the pressures ahead of us, and believed as so many women do that we need to become stern and dour if we ever hope to be taken seriously.

I wonder if men ever go through this need to be taken seriously? When they’re growing up they’re never encouraged to be bubbly, but they are encouraged to know how to play with other guys and have fun through activities like group sports.  Sure women play team sports as well, but they’re usually the exception and not the rule. Which is a shame since group sports are one of the few areas where you can experience the balance of fighting hard to achieve something while bonding with others and having fun. No wonder there’s a boys’ club mentality, it’s ingrained in men the minute they play their first game of football.

Now most women talk about the boys’ club mentality like it’s a bad thing, but I say why don’t we just learn from it. After all people just want to work with people they get along with. Instead of suffering our way through life trying to be a boring overachievers, why not take note of those CEO’s in suits playing golf, grabbing drinks with their buddies and having a good time? If only more women did this they could also experience the kind of confidence that comes with being able to enjoy what you do because you’re enjoying life. I mean sure you’ll see department staffs here and there go out for lunches and happy hours, but it’s usually to let off steam rather than play. I want to see top-level female executives getting together laughing over champagne, having fun discussing money while, I don’t know, going out sailing. Does it not happen now because we’re afraid that we won’t be seen as hard-working? Well guess what hard-working gets you, ladies…Secretary of State. Want that grand prize of President…let go Hillary Clinton and keep having fun!

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How to Survive Extreme Interviewing

Hunger GamesFor those of you like me who were ashamed to admit they were reading the Hunger Games trilogy, you can put that shame away. The story it turns out is not fun fluff; it is a serious guidebook for how to survive job interviews today… without blood… yet. Employers are finding more extreme ways to mess with the jobless, which may be fun for them, but for the unemployed looking for a way to pay for food and rent, it’s a fight for their lives. According to the LA Times article “Job Interviewing to the Extreme” there is still a glut of job seekers in the market. As a result, employers are able to take extra precautions to hire the right people while having some fun at the expense of hopeful candidates.

After watching enough reality TV, recruiters are learning that resumes, references and regular interviews don’t give them all the information they need; it’s better and more entertaining to throw job seekers into unexpected obstacle courses with no tools or preparation. After all, work life is like a reality show–you are always given random deadlines, everything is made out to be a bigger deal than it is and there is always someone who is waiting to throw you off the island. So what can we–the desperate for work–do to get back into the workplace? Train yourselves job seekers–we have become contestants in our very own reality show with amateur producers.

Be Creative

Companies like Google and Zappos know you’re expecting the one dreaded question, “What is your worst trait as an employee?”  But are you expecting questions like:

What’s your theme song? What super hero would you be? How weird are you on a scale of 1-10? Out of 25 horses, pick the fastest 3 horses. In each race, only 5 horses can run at the same time. What is the minimum number of races required?

Did those throw you off? Don’t let them! Believe it or not, you’re the one in control in the interview. Recruiters will try to tell you that these questions are a way to learn how creative you are and if you’re left-brained or right-brained. But like every amateur reality show producer, they just want to know if you thought their challenge was creative and clever, so treat it as such and play the game.

As you would for any contest, arrive prepared and have a simple answer that will work for every random question that doesn’t pertain to the job, like the word oneOne is a perfect answer for math problems and personality questions because although it’s not always right, it’s just as random. After saying, “One,” make sure you have a reason for your answer should they ask for it. I advise coming up with something that takes as much effort as they put into making your fun senseless question. This is where one really shines. With so much implied meaning behind the number, the bullsh** possibilities are endless!

My theme song is “One” because I’m a passionate team player that believes we should all work as one for your mission here at X Company and because I’m as amazing as Bono and I will save the world.

Or…

The minimum number of races required is one because I run the track and I said so!

When creativity is what they think they’re looking for, try thinking like a kid who has gotten into trouble. Kids come up with the worst excuses but always have the most entertaining stories to back them up.

Think On Your Feet

People love talent shows. That’s why we love America’s Got Talent and Top Chef. So before you go in, think about your special talent and have it in your bag of tricks. Should you get a question like:

Just entertain me for five minutes; I’m not going to talk.

Easy peasy. Sing your favorite karaoke tune. Dance a jig while sitting down. And if you’re greatest talent is throwing back things in people’s faces, hold up a mirror to the interviewer for five minutes. I’m sure he/she will be entertained. Just be sure that no matter what you’re good at, only present it with as much enthusiasm as your interviewer is showing you. No more, no less.

Sociology Experiment / Work Well Under Pressure

Sometimes recruiters want to see how you play with others and take the interview process out of the office and into unexpected environments like a restaurant or bar. Then without notice they add other candidates to your interview time to see who may turn out to be catty and who plays well with others.  What?! You might be thinking… This isn’t what I was expecting. I’m already run down and scared because I haven’t had a job in over two years and these interviews mean more to me than just a silly game. I don’t know if I can handle this. I don’t know how much longer we can afford rent and I just want to be able to feed my husband and kids. And now I have to face other candidates for the job who may be more confident or have connections I can only dream of?

SNAP OUT OF IT! Extreme Interviewing is always waiting for one psychological breakdown. Of course you can unravel with other unemployed people because they feel your pain, but those with jobs never will. After all, interviews are about making the other person believe you’re one of them, so be psycho for a day and pretend you’re like them: employed, well-off and with little regard for how much this job means to you.

The Truth

In the end, there is one thing all of these interview processes that are meant to keep you off-balance can’t do, and that is determine which applicant will really flourish in the company. So to see how well someone will do in the job before they get the job is nothing more than a game for game’s sake. Some job applicants who excel in playing “Choose Me!” are great at interviews, but once given the security of a job and paycheck, may spend more time on Facebook than delivering top-notch ideas and productivity. And who knows, if you offer a job to that person that wasn’t as interview savvy but had great references, you may find yourself with someone who will give you more than you asked for once they can stop worrying where their next paycheck will come from. Does approaching job seekers this way sound fun, exciting, challenging or mind-bending? No. But neither should it be. Messing with people’s minds is a great way to find other people who are good with messing with people’s minds, but during this recession, it would be considerate of recruiters to stop messing with people who feel messed with enough as is.

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High-Speed Fun

Bullet TrainOnce again the California bullet train is under fire. Why? Because everyone is afraid it will cost too much. Of course it will cost too much! What absolutely cool thing that lasts more than a few years doesn’t cost a lot: skyscrapers, big budget blockbusters, designer clothes?  And does every naysayer really need to bring up the obvious: ” It’s going to run way over cost estimates.” I believe the correct response to this argument is, “Duh,” (unless you’re the type of person that believes in politicians, lawyers and girls that act sugary sweet only when they need something from you). No one supports the building of a large public project because it’s a bargain or will actually finish on time and under budget, you support it because it’s cool. Just ask sports fans–they get their stadiums built all the time with public funds and have large cost overruns, but no one ever seems to make a big national and political stink out of it.

Proponents want a high-speed train for the romance, mystery, adventure and promiscuity it promises. Those who support it have most likely ridden one and remember what it was like to wander aimlessly down the aisles through connected coaches for no better reason than to let your inner ADHD kid get up and move.  Or perhaps it was for the chance to lock eyes again with that handsome stranger you saw at the train station and hope to bump into on the way to the on-board bar/cafe.  On planes you’re too uncomfortable to move and everything goes by too fast to make anything happen. Trains, especially high-speed well-designed ones, give you just the right amount of time to meet someone special. Trains after all are sober people’s beer goggles. Opponents don’t seem to understand that trains make everyone look foreign and therefore sexy–not even an American barking his English can dissuade this perception. Somehow under the spell of train travel, passengers find themselves overlooking flaws and melting at the sight of someone wearing a backpack.

Are opponents therefore asking Californians to not live such a dream? Republicans and haters need to control their party pooping ways and let us Californians roam free. Yes Mr. Proud to Reject High Speed Rail Projects Congressman, you might have the money to travel or pay for your kids to travel and experience the mystery of riding on tracks, but not all of us can. Let the masses have a blast and let us put ourselves in debt now for a great time and good investment later.

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