Friday, May 22, 2015

Wife Bonus

Will wonders never cease?

Finally, after four months of a semi-dedicated search for gainful employment, I am the joyous recipient of that Holy Grail of all job seekers: 

The callback.

The callback came right after I had gone to talk to the charity thrift shop people about being a volunteer.  Of course it did.  It's like lighting a cigarette at a bus stop.  As soon as you do, the bus comes, as if summoned by a higher power.

I am well-versed in this phenomenon, and its accompanying disappointments, so I understand that a callback is not the same thing as getting the job.  But I have an interview next Tuesday and, if nothing else, I will have an excuse to dress up, go downtown, and - after the interview - spend the rest of the day at one of my favorite museums (note to self: bring flats).

That's all I'm going to tell you.  Until then.  So, woo-hoo! wish me luck.

In the meantime, in an effort to dissipate some of the nervous energy currently surging through my brain, I'm going to contemplate something that has recently been brought to the attention of the world:  the "wife bonus".

I consistently seem to be on the south side of trends that, were they happening when I was, I would have been genuinely interested.

One of these was the "push present".  And now the "wife bonus".
The push present, I get.  After the birth of my first child, I immediately understood (in spite of, or maybe because of, my penchant for uber-radical feminism) why men should buy women jewelry.  And open doors for them.  And walk behind them when entering a room.  And go out and hunt mastodon.  Personally, I think mothers should receive the same benefits as military veterans, especially if they stay home to raise the little buggers.  Unfortunately, I was of the generation who was bullied into "natural" childbirth.  Two of them.  One was almost ten pounds.  For that, there should be a Congressional Medal of Honor.  And don't tell me I'm a whiner.  That's what they told me in Lamaze, and they lied.
Now we have the "wife bonus" amongst the rich and powerful in New York City (and elsewhere, too, I'll wager, it's just too good), according to a somewhat casual anthropological study by one of the denizens of this caste.  A wife bonus is money given to a stay-at-home wife/mother who lives up to the expectations of the working, mucho-bread-winning husband. 
The criteria for the amount of money awarded is somewhat vague, and apparently varies according to the couple.  It seems to involve producing multiple offspring, terrorizing them into accomplishments, not getting fat, running the households (plural) within a prescribed budget, and throwing dinner parties culturally indistinguishable from those on Downton Abbey.  What's not to love?
Is there a performance review process?  I hope so:
"Please step on the scale.  Right.  Two pounds up."
"But still, under the maximum limit."
"True.  But I'll need to put you on warning.  How are the kids?"
"Three of them are fine.  One keeps setting his East Shore Country Day Pre-Pre-School classroom on fire."
"I don't know.  He can't talk yet."
"Hmmm...Household budget?"
"Ten thousand over.  We needed a sailboat."
And so on.  Perhaps this is a trend that will trickle down.  Imagine the same concept interpreted for a more typical American home:
"Please step on the scale."
"I'll step on your head."
"Go on, get up there.  Right.  JEEZ, lay off the cheeseburgers!  How are the kids?"
"On probation."
"Good!  Household budget?"
"Five hundred over.  The kids are out of jail, they gotta eat."
I happily welcome the phrase "wife bonus" into my vocabulary, as will Webster's in some future edition, I predict.  I will amuse myself with this for years.  For instance, what kind of bonus could I imagine for myself...?
Nah.  Forget it.  Too complicated. 
I would prefer just to be tipped.  

Tuesday, May 12, 2015


I am a big believer in omens.

This has always driven my children crazy.  My pathetic attempts to console them in their disappointments were mostly centered on "going with the flow" and what was "meant to be" and what wasn't.  Which, obviously, was inadequate since they were/are worldly, informed millennials, and I am:
  1. An old hippie;
  2. A second-generation Sicilian;
  3. Slowly coming to believe that what I know as "reality" is actually a highly sophisticated computer simulation game, played by what appears to be a disgruntled teenager, living in the far distant future.  Whose parents don't understand him, either.
Whatever the case, it's worked for me as often as not, so I have no reason to change.  Lately, I have begun to suspect that my inability to find a job is "the cosmos" telling me  that maybe I have enough money and there's something else I should be doing.  Which is so much nicer than thinking that I'm just washed-up.

At any rate, I went online yesterday looking for volunteer opportunities.  And I came upon an opportunity to volunteer at a local thrift store, the proceeds from which go to provide services for disadvantaged families in my community.

My son called me last night:

"Hi, Mom!"

"Don't laugh at me."

"I won't laugh at you."

"I've put in a request to work at 'Little Treasures'.

"I'm not laughing."

"It just seems like a good way to 'give back'.  Even if I do it just until I find a job."

"Well, you're the Queen of Retail, so I'm sure you'd be great at it."

"I mean, I could be doing something like working with children with disabilities, or the homeless, or something, but..."

"Yeah, I know.  Me, neither.  I don't have the bandwidth."

Bandwidth???  Bandwidth!  I love that!  What an amazing insight!  Kinder and gentler than blaming oneself for straight-up "emotional cowardice" or "sheer laziness", the concept fits in - perfectly - with my #3, above.  Thank you, dear child of mine, for taking the edge off my occasional bouts of self-loathing. 
In fact, I may never have another bout again.   I feel empowered now to combat the amalgamated guilt of a lifetime caused by:
  1. Catholic schools;
  2. the '60s;
  3. public radio;
  4. Spike Lee;
  5. vegans.
And now Amal Clooney is going around demonstrating what kind of perks come with NOT spending your formative years being stoned all the time.
Bandwidth.  With a word, what was elusive comes into focus; and with a name, the unknown is known.   
Along with "bandwidth", there are some other wonderful phrases brought to our colloquial consciousness by our preternaturally wise millennials:
  1. "my bad";
  2. "don't judge";
  3. "because duh";
  4. "NBD";
  5. "nope"
Love me a generation who knows how to say no without feeling guilty.  Without making excuses.  Who can be fearlessly honest.  Who waste no time with self-recrimination and, instead, deal with what is.  This may be the biggest leap forward for humankind in history, our collective spiritual release from the endless succession of tyrants who have always known so well how to use our own minds against us.  These children cannot be fooled.  And they have brought to the lexicon simple phrases that convey a depth of understanding of human nature that boggles my mind and calms my soul.
You think I'm kidding.  I'm not.   
High time, I say.  And Bra.Vo.   

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

My Grey Hair - The Final Frontier

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ...I have grey hair.

And you don't.

In fact, now that you want it, it's going to cost you bucks.  Big bucks.  Like hundreds of dollars.  And all I had to do was get old.  Fucking brilliant.

It wasn't always easy.  While you all were hastening Silent Spring with your chemical dyes, I was suffering sympathetic looks ("Poor lady!  Is she homeless?"), negative judgemental treatment ("You are obviously too old for this job."), and the occasional verbal abuse.  This, from my dearest aunt:  "I don't know what you think you're doing.  And don't tell me that it looks good.  'Cause it don't."
Ha!  Tell that to Rihanna.

The list of the enlightened is impressive.  Besides RiRi:
Nicole Richie
Kylie Jenner (who spent 12 hours in a beauty shop going grey; good candidate for an astronaut)  
Kate Moss
Lady Gaga
Nicole Kidman
Stacy London
Emmylou Harris
Helen Mirren
Miranda Priestly (a ficticious character, but Meryl Streep never looked so good)
Sharon Stone
Nichelle Nichols (the original, and best, bad-ass babe)
Of course, there are the old stand-bys, like Jamie Lee Curtis and Judi Dench, who have been laughing up their sleeves at their over-processed sisters for years.  Just like me.
And is it a coincidence that "mom jeans" are also having a moment, as is Baddie Winkle?  What's next?  Asking your plastic surgeon for a wattle?
Actually, I know what's going on here.  There are two forces at play:
  1. Fashion, like The Environment, is going through a conservation crisis.  With social media spewing out trends faster than society can integrate them, we've used up all of our resources.  There's simply nowhere else to go, grey is the final frontier;
  2. In a world where everyone can make themselves perfect, the exotic beauty will be the girl with the space between her front teeth.
Something else I've learned:  the secret to fashion is that everything (even denim-on-denim) will eventually be in style.  So do what you want, be patient, and wait.  Know that, one day, you will wake up to paparazzi. 
Speaking of hair, let's talk about Hillary's.
As I have mentioned before in these writings, I am a dead (albeit somewhat younger and more fashionably dressed) ringer for Hillary Clinton.  (Our eyes are a different color, but when I'm wearing my "brain damage" glasses, it's not noticeable.)  And, for years now, I have noticed that, whatever I do with my hair, Hillary is not far behind.  If I let it grow, she lets it grow.  If I add layers, she adds layers.  If I cut it short, she cuts it short (I was in Spain when she went all helmet-head, so don't blame me).  And my latest haircut...
This is what I think is happening:  Clinton Foundation drones surround my house, monitoring my coiffures.  Imagine this:
"Honey-bunch?  That underemployed lady in Chicago cut her hair again."
"I'll make an appointment tomorrow."
"Looks like she's going with a full bang.  Looks good."
"Wonderful!  Cancel my Botox." 
"Oh, and...Honey-bunch?  It's just a thought, but..."
"Bring it, Bill."
"...maybe you should think about going grey."

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Still Waiting...

I have now submitted five applications for jobs.  All of which I would be perfect for.
More than perfect, which is why I wait in confusion with my silent telephone wondering what the hell is going on.  I figure it has to be one of three things:
  1. Flat-out ageism.  No, my age is not on my application.  But the year I graduated from college is.  Which gives me pause, since it took me ten years to finish college.  Don't judge;
  2. Bad karma.  I'm overqualified for most of what I'm applying to, and since - once, long ago - I turned down a job applicant because he was overqualified, I might be getting a cosmic taste of my own medicine.  I'm sorry I didn't hire you, mister.  Very sorry.  Because the dork that I hired instead of you turned out to be a 24-karat freakazoid, which should have punishment enough, but I guess not.  I hope you found a job.  I hope it's not the one I want;
  3. My resume.  I seemed to have lost a year somewhere.  Whatever.  At this point, I just can't keep track of every little thing.
And it is true that one of my references goes by the name of "Final Boss" on his Facebook page, but I should think that would cancel out any reluctance on the part of a potential employer related to item #1, above.
So I'm still waiting.  Like Rapunzel.  All this silver hair to let down and no takers.  It has been suggested that I go blue.  I wonder...
In the meantime, I am keeping myself busy and happy with other things.  I keep busy studying mathematics and Italian online (which has made my Spider Solitaire "win" percentage go up a point), and I keep happy taking pleasure in small things, like noticing that Amal Clooney has short legs.
It's not that I don't love Amal.  I do.  She broke my heart marrying George, but won it back again by being photographed wearing stockings.  It's just that these superwomen, like Amal Ramzi Clooney (beautiful, thin, rich, Oxford graduate, barrister, author, human-rights activist) and Sophie Hunter Cumberbatch (beautiful, thin, rich, Oxford graduate, theater and opera director, playwright, actress, singer), loom a little large over my underachieving ass.  And keep marrying my favorite actors.
I can't go all Yoko-Ono on them and resent the very existence of these demigoddesses in our midst.  I am older and wiser now, and I understand that the world of the "beautiful people" is a world apart, an Olympus, one I will never understand nor have the opportunity, and that there never really was a chance of me ever even meeting a Beatle, much less marrying one.
But still.  I hope they can't cook.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015


As we emerge from a beautiful weekend of spring celebration, I can definitely say that things are looking up.  Having cleared two (count 'em) hurdles in my life this past week, I think I can lighten up on the deep breathing. 

The first hurdle was a visit with my periodontist.  I was expecting bad news for two reasons:
  1. Since my 50th birthday, very few doctors have given me good news; and
  2. My periodontist makes these unhappy little grunting noises whenever he looks at my x-rays, followed by a disturbing evasiveness and discontinuation of eye contact.
What's a girl to think?  At our last visit I was sentenced to having all four of my wisdom teeth extracted.  And I was prepared for things to go downhill from there. 

But to my surprise and delight, and in spite of more of those noises, I was told that everything was fine so far and that I should return in two months.  A reprieve.
The second hurdle was a job interview.  True, it was only a temporary agency, but I have been laboring under some post-traumatic job-interview stress stemming from my experiences of the last ten years.  In order to remain gainfully-employed-with-health-care-benefits I have had to make a lot of compromises which I certainly was not in the mood to make. The "downgrade" to underemployment, for one.  Competition was fierce.  A 53-year-old woman with a family to support was no match for the hordes of absurdly well-educated young people willing to work for ludicrously low wages.  And some of the hoops through which the prospective employers felt entitled to make one jump had the potential to scar one for life.

I wasn't truly scarred.  But the experiences did leave me skittish:  interviews that lasted for hours, second and third interviews followed by ominous silences, and - most especially - the "psych" tests.  Over the years, I have been given to understand that my personality is seriously imbalanced - lacking in the most basic social skills and utterly devoid of compassion, while scoring heavily in the "inspirational" and "dominating" categories.  An appealing profile, if somebody were to have an open position for Mussolini.
The good news is that this job interview was blissfully free of bullshit.  No quirky little test sessions sprung from the unfortunately fertile imagination of some suit at a meeting.  And I was very well received.
At least I think so.  The company seemed anxious to know when I could start, and had me fill out all the forms necessary for me to get paid.
I've heard nothing since.
But, of course, it is entirely possible that somewhere amongst my references there is a person who responds to inquiries about me by telling the inquisitor that I am a crazy bitch who still owes him ten dollars.  Though I can't imagine who that person might be, it is true that I have been out drinking with all of them, which means there exists the possibility that, at one time or another, I have made unflattering references to their mamas.

So, in the absence of anything else, I am going to Plan B.  Plan B consists of applying for jobs at museums in Chicago until I get one.  Why?  Because I like museums.  And I like Chicago, even though its citizenry has bad taste in mayors.

I'll keep you posted.


Monday, March 30, 2015

Interview Eve

Tomorrow I have an interview.  My first in five years.
It is not an INTERVIEW-interview.  Tomorrow I am being screened by the same temporary employment agency that has been desperately trying to get me to work in the suburbs (see previous post) for the past few weeks.  Wow!  that must be a hard sell, because now I am up to five (5!) people with suburban area codes who have contacted me.  Who all tell me that my resume is "awesome".  I have told all five of them that I only want to work in downtown Chicago, and short-term assignments to boot, but they keep trying.  I have to admire the perseverance and, in salute, I am going to their office - in downtown Chicago, at last! - to be formally interviewed.
I am required to bring three copies of my resume, two forms of identification, and three references.  The obvious question is:  if you already have my resume, which I have sent you (twice), and which is why - I assume - you are calling me so frequently, can you not just print out two more copies?  Or are you trying to see if I can follow instructions?  But, if that were true, then why did you call me today to confirm my appointment time?  Whilst I appreciated the reminder call, would it not be a valuable clue to my maturity and competence, or lack thereof, if I didn't show up?  Or showed up late?
And guess what?  My three references could merely be three random people that I have slept with in order to get them to answer the phone and say nice things about me.  They aren't.  But they could be.
Just saying.
Of course, this all could be the preliminaries of what is known in the vernacular as a "stress interview", a truly sorry waste of time and human dignity.  I have witnessed these before, and have come away convinced that the same results could have been less-painfully achieved simply by noting if the applicant's shoes were shined.  What further  awaits me?  A background check?  Fingerprinting?  Drug testing (don't waste your time, I won't pass)?  The Fashion Police?  I shudder to think.
Speaking of the fashion police, what should I wear?  I no longer own suits, though I used to look good in them.  Now I think I would look like a prison warden.
So I will be sporting a tweed midi skirt, a little black sweater, big silver hoop earrings (something unexpected), my cute new watch (everybody knows that the cutest watches in the world are Anne Klein from Nordstrom Rack and never cost more than $24.99, right?), my thrift shop Burberry trench coat, a silk scarf, and...
...oxfords.  I am not wearing heels.
It's best to get some things clear right from the start.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

For Real?

Well, that certainly didn't take long.
I officially started my job search - what? one or two weeks ago?  And, to be truthful, it has been a lackluster experience.  Nothing that would prompt the writer's urge to share with the world.
Until yesterday.
Two weeks ago, I started down the yellow-brick road with a review of my resume, last updated here.  It looked okay.  Just a small change, replacing the word "present" with the end date of my last job, and - as far as I could tell - that was all the news fit to print.  Not especially thrilling, and even my exemplary skills could find no way of turning that into fascinating reading.  Of course, I was in a bad mood, just having had my wisdom teeth extracted, so maybe a re-visit is in order.  Perhaps I should follow the lead of one of my friends and add "Cat Wrangling" to my list of "Skills", just to see if anyone is really paying attention. 
It should at least weed out the drones, of which - if memory serves me - there are many.
I have discovered since that I am still sort of on the fence about whether I am ready for a new commitment to underemployment.  Hence my job search has proceeded in a rather halting and haphazard manner.  I did apply to a "dream job", a part-time position I would be absolutely perfect for and would love with all my heart, but - of course - I haven't heard anything (nothing new there).  Let's call that my "reach" job, because I have not yet given up hope and intend to keep applying to every open position they have until I am hired.  This could take some time, so I am in the process of identifying some "safety" jobs, too.  I confess that I have not applied to any of them, because every time I make the attempt, I start thinking about someplace I want to go.
What I did do was apply to some temporary agencies.  I had assumed that by the word "temporary", it  was intended that a native speaker of English would understand "transient, impermanent".  Perfect.  No long-term commitment required.  No headlong rush into job hyperspace.  Instead, I found that I was being asked to browse zillions of open "temp-to-hire" positions, none of which were enticing enough to stir me from my ennui.  And, BTW, why do companies think it's a good idea to include their stupid-ass company "vision" (bonus points if it's an acronym, double bonus if the acronym is also the name of the company) on their job listings?  Do they not understand that there is no extreme of desperation that would induce a reasonably intelligent person to spend the majority of his or her waking hours trying to live up to an acronymous Pharisaism?  That leaves the idiots and the crazies.  Which probably explains the visions.
A day passed and I received a phone call from one of the agencies.  A young lady named Allison, informed me - brightly - that I had a "really great-looking resume" and said that she would like some more information about the sort of "positions I was looking for".  I told Allison - also brightly - that I was looking for true temporary, not temp-to-hire, and that I wanted positions in downtown Chicago.
There was a silence.  "Oh," said Allison, clearly disappointed.  "But you live in the suburbs.  We have lots of openings here in the suburbs."
Ah, yes, Allison, I'm sure you do.  And with good reason.  But I don't drive, thank God, and rely on public transportation, of which - in the suburbs - there is little or none.
By now, Allison was losing interest.  Obviously, I was not going to help fill her suburban quota.  "I'll pass your resume onto our Chicago office.  I'm sure they have something like what you're looking for."  Fair enough, Allison, and thank you for calling.
The next day, I got a call from another young lady from the same agency.  I think her name was Lauren.  She, too, spoke brightly about my resume and enthusastically about all the work they had for me.  A little warning bell went off in my brain.  I repeated the stipulations I had given to Allison.  With identical results.  "Oh," said Lauren.  "I'm based in the suburbs."  Evidently, my resume had missed its intended target. 
Explaining my constraints again, I received Lauren's assurance that their office in Chicago had plenty of jobs and that she would send my resume to them.
The following day, Todd called. 
Same agency, but now they were sending in the Big Guns.  I immediately sensed that a preemptive strike was in order, and started the conversation by stating my need for short-term assignments located in Chicago. 
"Well, I'm in the suburbs."  
Wow.  Again?  I tried to cut the conversation short.  But Todd was nobody's fool.  Enough of this shit.  I lived in the suburbs, therefore I would work in the suburbs.  Per Todd.
"We have plenty of positions that match your resume.  Right out here."
Yeah, I already got that.  Three times, now.  But I don't want to work "out here".  Buyer's market, Todd.
He gave a short, bitter laugh.  "You know, I have to wonder about that.  May I ask why you don't want to work in the suburbs?" he asked, his voice dripping with contempt.
Todd was trying to bully me!  For real?  Todd, a man whose vocal register gave me pause to speculate on the size of his cojones.  Bullying me.  There was a time in my life when I would have been truly outraged.  Now I was highly amused.  I had to admire it.  I also had to wonder how the likes of Todd had a job, whereas I did not.
No, Todd, you may not ask.  I held my ground, and finally he had to cave.  But before he signed off with another promise to send my resume to the Chicago office (apparently, the Valhalla of job resumes), Todd asked me if I had any call center experience.
Call center experience??? 
The thought had never entered my mind.  No, seriously.  Reality flooded in.  With a shudder. 
Maybe this would be a nice time to go to Ireland.