The Meaning of Life

The Grey Lady treats us to this simultaneous hagiography/hit-piece/elegy called “Poor Little Rich Women”, discussing an alleged sociologist’s case-study of around 100 pampered glam-SAHM’s (glamorous stay at home moms) of the Upper East Side, which, as this Gothamist observation notes, ,correctly, , is the Grey Lady’s core demographic, to wit, the aging rich White folk of the Upper East Side of Manhattan– specifically, the parts between 63rd and 94th between Lex and 5th… roughly a square mile or so, at most, which houses an insanely high portion of the Masters of the Universe.
The big takeaway from the piece seems to be the “Wife Bonuses”– that is, apparently, some kind of cash incentives/rewards for “good service” or “hitting numbers” or whatever (be they as ordained by pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements, or perhaps simply in the discretion, whim, or pattern and practice of the various male Masters of the Universe who dispense said bonuses to their, ahem, beloved). But yes — annual, cash payments from husband to wife are an integral part of some number of these relationships (the only thing we can say for sure is that the number is at least two, as the author– with the uber-cool name of Wednesday Martin– noted that the bonuses were “plural.”)
“The rich are different from you and I,” famously said Fitzgerald, to have Hemingway archly add, “Yes, they have more money.” The fact is, this “lifestyles of the rich and famous” paradigm: fabulously beautiful and fit moms toting around the fabulously bright and beautiful tots to the first-rate schools and social engagements and keeping the Master’s houses (always houses plural) in order… is not only the American Dream, it is, in fact, the epitome of the American imagination. These are the lives we desire most of all (and certainly what we are constantly told we desire from every television and computer screen, billboard and passing transit ad imaginable)… Indeed, so many of us feel we are but a lottery ticket away from them! Yes– the most intimate of relationships– hearth and home– are just another basis for monetized transactions— another monetary bonus to be doled out for services well-rendered, whether the “the Mrs.,” or to a brilliantly performing personal assistant or division chief… cash is life’s sweetest reward– whether on the giving or the receiving end.
The funny thing is, Ms. Martin the author’s upcoming book has the title “Primates of Park Avenue.” She has stumbled into the relevant observation, which, perhaps, she will make in her book (hint: it’s actually not about mocking the Stepford Wives lifestyle of her subjects… though I do wish someone else would have made that observation). Actually, I was going for the observation that human beings– even the rarefied ones of the Upper East Side– are actually primates at all, to wit, products of biological evolution. Sure, social Darwinism has put them (and especially their masters powerful husbands on top of the social heap… but all they really are is the product of the logical omega point of American life… to wit, nothing is merely about “love” (let alone “honor” or “social obligation” or even “biological imperative” or “just because.”) Every transaction must be monetized. Not merely the employment of (presumably a vast army) of household servants, but the family members themselves… “wife bonuses” are discussed, but doubtless, children have various financial incentives in their allowance structures for good grades, athletic performances, perhaps even for landing the right life-partner (corporate mergers and acquisitions are handsomely rewarded, and since all-is-money, it is inconceivable that Junior or Juniorette wouldn’t be either for making a smart catch). This is, on the one hand, simply a throw-back to Victorian costume drama type novels of the Jane Austen variety– the English Upper Class revisited.
But it’s a little bit more than that. Oh yes. Back to the primate thing. You see, back in the Victorian era, social relations of all kind were governed by all sorts of things. Some of which, were social constructs, like money for things like dowery/bride price, to be sure. But some of which were broader senses of family honor, some sense of class noblesse oblige, and some sense of only-recently broken off dynastic and feudal ties. Most of these things were actually not easily convertible into pounds and shillings. But I’m still going far afield.
This is really a “communism/capitalism” thing. Most families the world over– including, I bet, yours and mine– are organized communistically— that is, the entire resources of the family are, for the most part, available to every member of the family, and in any event, are not doled out in accordance with some measure of “economic value.” Apparently, that is not how we should be living, of course, as Ms. Martin’s article tells us: real men bring capitalism into the bosom of the family, and money and family resources are dispensed on the basis of economic value, as it should be. This, in an American society where so many functions– attending to children (including educating them), preparing food (and at one time growing it), cleaning the house, personal grooming– have now all been “monetized,” reduced to monetary payments, often to unrelated people or institutions. Obviously the truly advanced above us have set about making sure that we have a paradigm before us of monetizing
everything… the last great frontier of still-not-monetized American existence is a Man’s (always a man’s) “relationship” to his wife and children… now, it seems, a few truly enlightened individuals have figured out a way to monetize even that. Kudos are clearly in order.
The irony is that, in order to be a Master of the Universe in finance (what most of the UES Masters described by Ms. Martin presumably are), one probably works for institutions that were the beneficiaries of psychotically large amounts of government largesse after the last financial crisis (the one caused by the very same Masters of the Universe in Finance). So… we’ll overlook that, because they earned their places fair and square by being the right place in order to bribe convince the government to hand them (immense amounts of) the taxpayers’ money, which they then benefit humanity by allocating to the efficient employment of capital themselves.
Got all that? If it seems a tad grim to you… perhaps we should question your bona fides as an American.