I grew up hearing over and over, to the point of tedium, that “hard work” was the secret of success: “Work hard and you’ll get ahead” or “It’s hard work that got us where we are.” No one ever said that you could work hard—harder even than you ever thought possible—and still find yourself sinking ever deeper into poverty and debt.
Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Barbara Ehrenreich started this project to try to survive on minimum wage 16 years ago, but not much has changed since. Minimum wage has barely budged in most states, and just last year Walmart (one of Ehrenreich’s employers in the book) was criticized for putting out a donation box for their own employees rather than paying them a living wage. This is a very important, and disheartening, book.
Sure, some news is bigger than other news. War is bigger news than a girl having mixed feelings about the way some guy fucked her and didn’t call. But I don’t believe in a finite economy of empathy; I happen to think that paying attention yields as much as it taxes. You learn to start seeing.
"Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain," The Empathy Exams by Leslie Jamison
"And you only have this once, you know," she continued.
“This. We get to be this happy now, don’t you see? Before the awful things happen.”
“And if they don’t happen, well, that’s almost worse. Then we’ll just be old. Skulking about, eating too much, complaining about… I don’t know. Babies? Work? I mean, look at the Eat, Pray, Love ladies. You’ve seen them, right?”
I knew exactly what she was talking about. They were all over. Forty and up, solo, filmy dresses, clutching guidebooks, nursing glasses of wine alone in public cafes waiting for their Italian lothario to materialize.
“It’s pathetic. Life is going to get so horrible someday. For all of us. But it doesn’t have to be dreary now. We’re in a magical place, don’t you see? I want you to enjoy it. Because someday you may very well be miserable, or sick, or chained to a desk and living with a cat.”
…She left soon after with a bag full of my clothes, but her words lingered, leaving me dizzy.
…I … looked at myself.
We get to be this happy now.
Was it a promise, I wondered? Or a threat?
In a way fighting like this was just like using magic. You said the words, and they altered the universe. By merely speaking you could create damage and pain, cause tears to fall, drive people away, make yourself feel better, make your life worse.
Luca strode briskly away, a man escaping the dreaded front-door good-bye ritual.
Jo watched him go. A terrible feeling of emptiness came over her. Now she understood what “being on your own” meant. Not being on your own as in paying bills or raising children by yourself, but being on your own because the man you hoped would take you in his arms is walking away. I’d rather be alone with the bills, she thought as she pushed the elevator button. At least you know where you stand.
He thought women were every bit as intelligent as men, every bit as capable of figuring out how long it would take for train A to crash into train B if the two were moving toward each other at an average speed of C. They were as capable of rational thought; they just didn’t appear to be as interested in it. They were happy to apply rational argument to defend what they already believed but unlikely to be swayed by it, not if it conflicted with inclination or, worse, intuition, not if it undercut a cherished opinion or nettled their self-esteem. So many times, when Nate had been arguing with a woman, a point was reached when it became clear that no argument would alter her thinking. Her position was one she “felt” to be true; it was, as a result, impermeable.
The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P. by Adelle Waldman
It was really interesting to read this “modern young man” perspective… and a little scary to hear that people have been saying it’s pretty accurate.
You spend your childhood watching TV, assuming that at some point in the future everything you see there will one day happen to you: that you too will win a Formula One race, hop a train, foil a group of terrorists, tell someone ‘Give me the gun’, etc. Then you start secondary school, and suddenly everyone’s asking you about your career plans and your long-term goals, and by goals they don’t mean the kind you are planning to score in the FA Cup. Gradually the awful truth dawns on you: that Santa Claus was just the tip of the iceberg - that your future will not be the rollercoaster ride you’d imagined, that the world occupied by your parents, the world of washing dishes, going to the dentist, weekend trips to the DIY superstore to buy floor-tiles, is actually largely what people mean when they speak of ‘life’. Now, with every day that passes, another door seems to close, the one marked PROFESSIONAL STUNTMAN, or FIGHT EVIL ROBOT, until as the weeks go by and the doors—GET BITTEN BY SNAKE, SAVE WORLD FROM ASTEROID, DISMANTLE BOMB WITH SECONDS TO SPARE—keep closing, you begin to hear the sound as a good thing, and start closing some yourself, even ones that didn’t necessarily need to be closed …