Sunday, November 18, 2012

Romanconomics - Greek Life

Greece sexual economics
"... and I'll tell you how the
root of that word is Greek."
So, I know that I coined the clever term "romanconomics" to describe the market forces at work in the dating market at large, but for just a second, let's pretend that the root word of "romance" sounded more like "Greek" and less like "Roman." This adventure was inspired by Greece ... and not the roiling mass of austerity riots we've come to know and love. No, this adventure was inspired by Lysistrata.

See, earlier this week, I was procrastinating by reading social commentary (please, continue to think I'm cool) about how not everyone loves the hook-up culture. How in fact, some women think that the hook-up culture is a rip-off. And how sometimes, women feel stuck because we don't have much of a functional dating market, and like maybe we shouldn't have high standards, because so many other competitors are willing to undercut you. Or in plain English, how sometimes it's hard to not date much because you don't casually hook up, and that's what's expected these days.

Christian Sexual Economics
Granted, just now, I read an article on Salon about how "Guys Don't Want Casual Sex!" This article cites all sorts of exciting statistics, like how "15%" of guys are "very religious" and are interested in "courting," or "going on dates," to which I said "bahahahahaha, please. Continue to tell me how fun and simple the Christian dating scene is."

 My favorite part of the Salon article is where they discuss how only 15% (a popular number) of guys are real Cassanova types, hooking up with three or more women in a year. Here, 15% is a small number, so we're told that all the undergrad co-eds who think that all the guys are just interested in sex must be wrong. This is big news, because it's one of only 17 times since Descartes that we've been told that someone's own experience is wrong. So, mindless logical jumps aside, that statistic has some really fascinating philosophical assumptions hidden in it.

The point of all that is to tell you that you can find an article espousing* just about any romanconomics theory you might be interested in, but absolutely none of them are going to be as fun to read as mine. So, get excited.

Cartel Sexual Economics
Cartel members used to wear suits.
Anyway, the general theory of the original article was that "perhaps if all women banded together and quit hooking up so easily, maybe we could get a nice dinner every now and then." This tactic, of forming a sort of "battle of the sexes cartel," is famously brought to fruition in Lysistrata, the Greek play where Greeks get so tired of going without sex that they agree to end a war.**

There are two important economic concepts at work here: cartels and bilateral monopolies.

Drug Cartel Sexual Economics
Cartel members now wear guns
and no shirts.
First, we turn to cartels. Essentially, this is where competitors band together and price-fix, thus raising the price of a single good (until someone undercuts them). Typically this works best with an oligopoly, because the more people you involve, the more likely it is that someone defects, hoping to make more profits by stealing customers than by enjoying a higher price.

In the dating market, this is especially difficult, because different people have different standards and different goals, and if you're in some sort of a bidding war for the same guy, the first shot may just decide everything. Tense.

Coffee Sexual Economics
This leads us to the second economic concept, that of a bilateral monopoly. A bilateral monopoly is when there is only one buyer and only one seller, and so they have to bargain with each other. This happens when you're really only interested in one guy, and he's really only interested in you, but you're not dating because the transaction costs of dating are really high, because of a lack of market standards. In other words, because of a lack of a "social script," there's not a clear-cut answer to important questions like "How do you show you're interested via tone-less text messages?" "What does 'let's get coffee' actually mean?" and the classic "If two people go on a date, but no one calls it a date, was it actually a date?"

Questions like this make male/female communication, which was already difficult, even harder. Everyone is confused - and the poor girl is stuck sending idiotic text messages like "Of course! 8:30 sounds great! See you then! :D" because saying "8:30 is good" somehow sounds like you're being short because you're mad. So, even though in a bilateral market you're not competing with everyone else, the behavior of others still affects the transaction costs of any single relationship.

Rules Sexual Economics
The book for everyone else
Thus, Lysistrata-like ideas start to sound really appealing. Maybe you buy a book explaining all the "rules" of dating, or maybe you try blogging about ideal market functioning for the dating market. Regardless, you probably don't get very far. Why?

Because at the end of the day, the dating market is more like a conglomeration of bilateral monopolies than any sort of market. Even though some "industry standards" would be wildly helpful, every relationship is different—full of its own little quirks. And on that sappy note, I'm going to decode some text messages.

I considered cartels and bilateral monopolies in:
Black below-the-knee pencil skirt, blue and black sueded button-up with military detailing, silver hoops, blue glass necklace, black and silver watch, armored rhinestone ring, and floral platform stilettos with lace-up detail.

*E-spouse-ing. See what I did there?

** For those of you keeping track at home, this is the exact opposite of what American college children tried during Vietnam. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Binders Full of Feminists

Binders full of women.

Yep. What may be one of the greatest rhetorical gaffes in history may have accidentally illustrated just what's wrong with all the politically-correct feminist tripe. The hoops politicians have to jump through to win women voters are getting out of control—and I'm not talking embroidery hoops here.*

The glass ceiling can't flatten
our ambition ... or this hair!
See, Romney made the "binders full of women" comment when discussing how he worked to hire women. This is after being asked a bogus glass ceiling question about how women make "72% less" than men for "the same" work. I mean really. Let's party like it's 1989. Or let's ask questions like Hillary Clinton is running (not just taking the fall for Obama's foreign policy failures a couple of weeks too late).

Back to the point at hand, Suzie-Audience-Member wanted to know how *sniff* the workplace *sniff sniff* was still SO UNFAIR *gasp sniff sob* that women made less and how that *humph* dirty capitalist Romney could live with himself. *sniff*

This puts Romney in a position where he has to sound like a jerk to answer the question.

Q: How did you work to get WOMEN good jobs?
A1: I looked through a bunch of qualified women HR compiled for me?
A2: I tried to fill all positions with women?
A3: I didn't, because clearly I hate women so much?

This isn't forced. No really.
None of these answers really sounds great, because when you ask someone what extra steps they went to to hire women, they're going to tell you all the extra steps that hiring women took, which makes it sound like hiring women is this great and inconvenient chore, and may or may not be indicative of actual events. If you ask a sexist question, don't be surprised when the answer sounds sexist.

Next, Romney explained how he worked to give women more flexibility in their hours because they asked for it. Despite the blogosphere's righteous indignation that any woman would possibly want to leave her office and make dinner, this is actually a great policy.

Just saving the world here.
See, last week I watched my younger siblings because my parents left town, and I'm the only family member around. So, for three and a half days, I pulled "double duty" as a law student and a suburban mom. And guess what? It was hard.

Let's not get carried away. On a full day, I have a whopping 3.4 hours of class. This is a far cry from the eight-hour standard work day. Yes, I also have homework, and no, those class hours aren't all consecutive. But from the start of my first class to the end of my last one is a span of just over six hours. It's a pretty "flexible schedule."

Defenestration: history/vocab
jokes in the making.
I'd then head back across town to beat rush hour, and say hi to my sister, who had gotten a ride home from school. I'd pick up my brother from football practice, we'd eat dinner (which my sister nicely made, even though I like cooking), and I wouldn't do any law school homework, because I'd want to talk to my siblings. We joked about defenestration and denominations and other intellectual things, because my siblings are awesome and hilarious. And guess what? They're not even MY kids.

I'd like to get married and have kids and get to spend time with them. And yes. I'd be willing to sacrifice a few rungs on the legal ladder to do that. And no, it's not because finger-painting is way easier than litigation.

What I've just said would get me all sorts of hate mail from feminist groups if feminists read fashion and economics blogs (don't worry - I lost them at "stilettos"). But let's stop and think about this for a minute.

I don't do nature swings.
I'm a woman. Not to brag, but I'm a pretty smart and driven woman at that. I'm not really into touchy-feely "spend your precious moments on people you love" sentimentality. And I'm not allowed to give up any of my ambition to have kids, because it would be some sort of insult to the feminist movement.

Well guess what? If we're all about empowering women, let's actually empower women, and not just a bunch of angry butch bloggers stuck in some parallel universe where the only way to get hired is to eschew skirts, fight for sex-based quotas, and then be indignant when businessmen look through "binders full of women" to make hiring decisions per your request. Let's quit acting like being a powerhouse in the corporate world is the opposite of being able to whip up a delicious dinner and help your kids with math homework.

Admittedly, I'm happy to have career options open to me as a single 20-something female. But it's insulting to women who broke into industries and gracefully juggled families and career aspirations in much more hostile environments to pretend that my world is full of discrimination. I have lots of opportunities—so instead of complaining that they're not good enough, I'm going to say thank you and take advantage of them. I want kids, I want a career, and I'm willing to sacrifice the latter for the former. So sue me.

Oxymoron? Hardly.
If women can balance a career and a family, but would like more flexible work hours to do so, shouldn't we let them make that choice? Or are we going to pretend that women are only worthwhile if they abandon all family life to throw themselves into a career?

Feminists are putting women in either/or binders. Romney and other capitalists are letting them out.

I drove kids to school and learned the law in:
Black below-the-knee pencil skirt, teal semi-sheer sleeveless button-up blouse, black cami, black blazer, black rhinestone hoop earrings, gold and gunmetal watch, gold geode-inspired ring, and black and cream snakeskin pumps.

Oh, you stitch those flowers girl. 
*For those of you wondering, an embroidery hoop is what ladies (and probably a few men) use to stretch a piece of embroidery out so they can continue beautifying it. They are readily available at craft stores and when Pinterest finds out they exist, it will be a big day. Here's a picture. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Them's Fightin' Words

So, it turns out that sometimes, people call you names. If you have a long-ish first name, and you don't shorten it, people might call you by shorter versions of that name. My name is Alexandra. Often, when I introduce myself as Alexandra, people say "Hey, it's great to meet you, Alex!" Um, really? Are you deaf?

I'm clearly headed for a respectable career
Sometimes people call you names that aren't related to your actual name. They might call you "Homie" (outdated gangster slang). They might call you "Tex" (because presumably you drive a pick-up truck and are kind of a tough guy). They might call you "Miley" (because they realized they named you "Destiny Hope," and so the only career path open to you would be as some sort of inspirational/motivational stripper). I mean, there are a lot of options out there.

Sometimes, they could call you a mercenary.*

Apparently Australia is not heaven. 
For those of you who rusty on world history, mercenaries are hired soldiers. They're like rent-a-cops with actual power. They are typically thought of as "scum." After all, war is a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad thing (an Alexander had a day like that, and an Alexander fought a bunch of ancient wars, and even though that name is very close, it is still not my name, barista-who-does-not-understand-gender-specific-nomenclature).

We do have some notion, though, that war might be vaguely permissible if it were tied to a sincere and temperate love of country or cause (this is why we all love Braveheart.) But mercenaries have no cause. Instead, they turn themselves into fighting machines for just a little filthy lucre. In fact, if you could create a mash-up of the worst possible ends and means, it would probably be someone who fights wars (bad means) for money (unworthy end).

And someone called ME one of those! And I wasn't offended.

My courtroom look
See, as a lawyer, I will lend my services (researching, writing, arguing) to those willing to pay for them. And because this will occur in the context of legal battles, it's sort of like hiring someone to go fight for you - except, instead of fighting with guns and swords, we're fighting with summary judgments and lesser included offenses. (Please, note the impressive blending of legal jargon into a military analogy!)

At first, it might seem sort of unjust that you could pay someone to argue your side of an issue. But wouldn't it also be unjust if those without excellent researching, reasoning, and rhetorical abilities had to try to fend for themselves in a legal system? The current system offers specialization, a market for a service, and even discounts said services when needed (it's called pro bono, and it means "I will do this for free because I am a wonderful human"). It's actually pretty great.

This is the way our world works. If I need stitches, I don't have to fend for myself. I go to a doctor, who stitches it up for me, and charges me (or my insurance company) for the service. If I'm tired of cooking, I can buy a burrito. If I need to get to New York in under eleven days, I can get on an airplane that I did not build (it took a village, really) and that I cannot operate, and I pay someone to take me there.

"Self-sufficient" snobs
This is what economists call "specialization" and what four-year-olds call "what you want to be when you grow up." Happily, we don't all have to do the same job. We don't all have to fend for ourselves, trying to be completely self-sufficient (unless you live in Brooklyn, where you'll grow a garden and ride a bike and shop at thrift stores just to prove you can). We don't even have to stay in the first job we try - with an astonishing amount of flexibility, we get to choose!

Thus, based on talents and interests and needs, we get a society full of chefs and nurses and lawyers and railway workers and engineers and accountants and doctors and cashiers and oilmen and farmers and entrepreneurs and mechanics and middle managers. And people do what they're good at, and get to charge money for it. So, in a sense, we're all mercenaries. But lawyers are mercenary in a special sense, because our jobs require fighting.

So, I take mercenary as bit of a compliment. Because even though others will cook and operate and sing and build for you, lawyers are the only ones willing to fight for you.

I got called names in:

Grayish pencil skirt, blue sleeveless button-up shirt, gold and colored glass necklace, gold earrings, coral bracelets, and chartreuse platform stilettos with bows.

*Here, we encounter a first in Adventures in Business Casual. We are blending two conversations into one seamless thought stream, because these two conversations happened in uncanny chronological proximity, making them the verbal equivalent of conjoined twins (but without their own show on TLC). 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Micro-Welfare-State Runs on Coffee

So, as some of you may have noticed, I'm in law school now!
Oh hey, caramel cheesecake friend
This is hilarious and unexpected, mostly because a year ago I thought I wanted to grow up to be an economist and that I'd never ever ever go to law school or be a lawyer. Surprise! I was wrong.* It turns out law school is everything I ever wanted - it's full of hard books where grammar and punctuation matter, your brain gets lots smarter, and you can get into a really heated argument about an imaginary case for fun. Yep - for fun. It's like if you lived your whole life as a vegan, and then discovered cheesecake existed. AMAZING.

The bird is actually on a pizza stone 
So while I'm over here noshing on some intellectual cheesecake, it turns out that the cafe/food service at the law school is in the process of being replaced. Now, I just came from a tiny college where we didn't have a food service, and instead fended for ourselves in the streets of Manhattan (I was playing the Hunger Games before you thought it was cool. I've battled for the last piece of free pizza - and lived to tell about it). So, in my mind, being without a cafe/food service is part of life. But this is not true.

See, in this magic place called "law school," there are amazing things called "endowments" and "donations," which lead to "free things." For the past two weeks, this has meant that every morning, we have coffee, cream, sugar, bagels, cream cheese, and sometimes yogurt. The first day, it was a surprise. The second day, it was a happy "oh, it's here AGAIN?!?" All subsequent days, it was a veritable bloodbath to get there before the free coffee ran out.

What happened? Simply, a little bit of grace became an entitlement.

The first day of law school, I walked past a table with bagels and coffee and figured either I missed an email (which, considering the amount of time I spend checking email is kind of impossible), or this was a nice "in case you forgot your breakfast, here's a happy little bonus for you" gesture. I thought "awww, how sweet. What idiot forgets his Wheaties on the first day? I don't need this."

The second day of law school, I walked past the same table of food and thought "Hmmm. How long is this going to keep happening? Is there a sign?" Sure enough, a little sign said that this would be there until we had food service again. I got some coffee.

The third day of law school, I held out on coffee for a bit, and then walked over, only to find out that the coffee was GONE. I was indignant. How dare they put out free coffee and RUN OUT? Didn't these people understand that we were very tired law students? And the nearest coffee shop was a seven-minute walk in 103 degree heat. INJUSTICE! I was supernaturally fatigued, so I went home (five-minute walk) and made my own coffee. After I got back, they replaced the coffee. I looked at the time so that I'd never miss the afternoon refill again.

Look at my all-natural food mound!
The fourth day of law school, I decided to be polite and wait a bit before getting coffee. It was all gone. I was hoping they'd have some yogurts, but there were none out. Bummer. I ate a protein bar I had along.

This has continued, in varying degrees, for seven days of law school. And guess what? Pretty much everyone has had a similar reaction. It's gone from a novelty to a research project to a system to beat to something we can't live without to something to use only if it's better than what you already have.

In other words, UT Law created a micro-welfare-state. And it offered the same alarmingly bad results, just in a shorter time frame as the American welfare state.

First, it was something there as a bonus. A little bit of grace if you fell on hard times and forgot your breakfast or lost your job.

The goal.
Then it was a system with its own set of rules. It would last until new circumstances arose (like a working food service, or you getting a job). It implicitly created perverse incentives for those new circumstances to arise. (You're rooting for freebies.)

Third, living without it became a crisis and a personal insult to you and your way of life. An inconvenience became a grave injustice. Life without free coffee (or a check from the government)? AN OUTRAGE.

Finally, it's a system to use if it's a little better than what you could be doing. Make minimum wage for 40 hours a week, or collect a check for no hours of work? Meh, government check is good, unless I have something better. No yogurt? Meh, I'll eat this protein bar I have laying around.

Readers, you know me. You know how much I love a bargain. But if that bargain isn't sustainable, if that bargain reads like an effort to create a free lunch, if that bargain creates perverse incentives, then that's not a bargain. That's a very expensive way to give a little grace. Sure, we all need a little grace sometimes. But if giving out a little grace ends up costing billions, perhaps we ought to scale back and only give a little grace, right?

I acted really entitled in a micro-welfare-state in:

Multicolored striped pencil skirt, blue sleeveless button-up shirt, gold earrings, brown watch, brown and gold flower ring, and russet platform wedge sandals.

*This may be the only time I admit in writing that I was wrong about something. Don't quote me out of context - the last thing I want to do is turn on the TV in 40 years and see some blurb running across Matt Lauer's knees (they will have kept him alive, convinced he's the answer to ratings) about how "Promising political candidate Alexandra ___________ [please let my last name have changed by that point] admits "I was wrong." More, right after our water-skiing hamster bit!" NOT. HAPPENING. 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Coming Apart: Two for One Churches

So, a few weeks ago, we dropped my sister off at college in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For those of you not from Tulsa, you should know a few things.
1. There is a QuikTrip (the cool kids call it QT) at every intersection.
2. The three remaining corners in the intersection will have at least one of the following:
  • A church
  • An Indian* Smoke Shop
  • A place to buy fried food with ranch dressing 
Since we know a bunch of people in Tulsa, when Sunday morning rolled around, it became imperative that we visit not one, but TWO churches.

That's right kids. Two churches. One Sunday. Oh yeah.

Do I look like a hallelujah?
The first one was an 8:00 service at my uncle's church. I know that 8:00 sounds like a reasonable time to begin something, but when six people are sharing a bathroom, you have to get up early to get ready on time. I mean, really early. In fact, my mom said she was pretty sure that Jesus was still in his robe and slippers. (This is the part of the show where I insist that it was my mom who said that, and that I would never ever make a joke with such bad theology ... unless I had thought of it first, of course.)

Not the Holy Spirit made visible ...
Since my grandma goes to that church, and my uncle preaches there, we were sitting in the second row (which for all practical purposes was the first row, because the first row was empty). Somewhere around the second hymn, I got a terrible sneezing attack. Sometimes (typically at socially inappropriate moments), my nasal lining just freaks out and won't stop sneezing. This was one of those times. My mom handed me gum. The sweet old lady behind me handed me a bunch of tissues. I tried to keep it together. I mostly just sneezed in front of the entire 8:00 AM congregation. Sneezing aside, it was the last Sunday for their music minister, and it was a really nice service. We took communion, we saw family friends, and I finally stopped sneezing. All in all, a success.

After church 1, we went to church 2! Here, we enjoyed a fellowship breakfast before the service, and my nose decided to not freak out, thankfully. We saw people from our missions trip to Honduras earlier this summer, and saw more family friends, and we took communion again.** Again, an overall success.

Not Me. Really. 
Now, granted. I don't usually go to two churches on one Sunday. But I always go to church.

I'm not saying this to be some sort of "holier than thou" uppity snob. Instead, I'm trying to explain that for as long as I can remember, church has been part of the rhythm of my life. Not only is church a big part of my schedule, but Jesus is a big part of my life. My best friends have come from church. My most difficult intellectual problems have been theological. Most of my decisions stem from my relationship with Jesus.

And it turns out that that's really important in a free society.

As Charles Murray points out in Coming Apart, a free society doesn't really work without what he calls "religiosity," and what I'm going to bluntly call Christianity. In order for people to operate largely without government intrusion, sure, they need to be industrious, they need to get married, and they need to be honest. But most importantly, they need Christianity.

Youth group - where 12-passenger vans live on
Christianity (or, in Murray's book, religiosity at large) provides people with a moral compass. Additionally, church provides a social glue—a foundation upon which to build a community. Church in the West has been there for the weddings and births and deaths and picnics and youth group trips and homeless outreaches and a hundred other things. It provides a social gathering, a place to form deep relationships, and a hub from which to serve others. Church is important.

Even for those only nominally committed, church has huge benefits to society as a whole. It makes people more trusting of their neighbors, which encourages actual neighborly behavior. (It turns out when people hear about the Good Samaritan, they're more likely to be one ... and more likely to trust someone else to be one, too.)

When you put it like that ...
As we close our discussion of Coming Apart, I have a small public service announcement. Murray explains that one of the downfalls of our society in the last 50 years has been that the upper-middle class knows how to live successfully, but they've quit sharing those strategies (industriousness, marriage, honesty, religiosity) with others. They've become ashamed of having the right answers. So if I've sounded bossy or like I have all the right answers, I'm sorry. But you knew that this was a snarky blog, so hopefully your feelings will recover eventually ...

If we want to be a free people, a people committed to industriousness, marriage, and honesty, then we need to be a religious people. That doesn't mean going to two churches every Sunday. But it means going to church. Even if it makes you sneeze.

I went to two church services in:
White and purple medallion patterned sheath dress, purple pendant necklace, green crocheted earrings, black wooden bracelet, and green stilettos with cork platforms.

*It's never a "Native American Smokeshop." It's an "Indian Smoke Shop." I don't make the rules ...
** I'm non-denominationally protestant, so this was a lot more communion than I get on an average Sunday.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Coming Apart: Pants on Fire

Small confession: sometimes, salespeople* say terrible things.

The same clothes. Over and over ...
As a salesman, sometimes I just have to have a lot to say to people who don't really know what to say to me. Sometimes, this is about the clothes that I look at for about 32 hours each week, that they're seeing for the first time. This kind of familiarity allows me to say things about the clothes that might be missed on the first try.

Thorny necklace. Thorny hair. Ick.
For example - we had some teal chinos in the front display. If you want a challenge, try selling teal chinos to middle-aged men in an upper-middle-class shopping center anchored by a grocery store. Yeah. It's not even as easy as it sounds. In fact, most customers who come in the door comment on how really terrible it would be to have to wear teal chinos - somewhere between "get a haircut like Miley Cyrus" and "listen to Miley Cyrus."

One day, though, a customer approached the teal chinos, and said, "well look at those!" This is, of course, a trick phrase. It could be followed (with equal plausibility) by either "they're great!" or "I just threw up in my mouth!" So, I replied with an equally tricky "Mmm!" He then asked "so what could you wear these with?"

Not exactly my high school experience.
Curses. He was interested. And, having not grown up on the East Coast, I couldn't answer the "how-would-a-grown-man-wear-some-very-preppy-summer-vacation-pants" question with a whole lot of confidence. So, I bluffed. "Well, it's like a blue jean, but with more spunk! So, theoretically, you could wear them with a whole bunch of stuff." One of my coworkers shot me a look of "did-you-really-just-try-to-sell-a-straight-man-some-teal-pants-by-appealing-to-their-spunk?" and I knew that my bluffing maybe wasn't as convincing as it sounded in my head.

In Charles Murray's excellent book Coming Apart (which I'm reviewing this summer) one of his key ingredients for American virtue is honesty. Now, he doesn't specifically address the gray (or teal, as it were) areas in which salesmen sometimes find themselves, but he stresses the importance of honesty in building trust and community. If honesty builds trust, trust builds reliability, and reliability means you're able to get to know your neighbors, which builds community. This has all sorts of positive benefits for society, and creates a flywheel for civic involvement. How does Murray measure honesty, you ask? Disability claims.

"Owwww! I can never work again!"
See, American workplaces have gotten infinitely safer in the last 50 years. Not only are more people in cushy "white collar" jobs (pick me!), but blue collar workplaces have better equipment and safeguards than ever before. So why, in such a safe working environment, have disability claims risen? Murray points to a general decline in honesty in American culture. Fudging the numbers, making up white lies, or trying to "work the system" have all contributed to a culture that's more willing to apply for a faulty disability claim ... or sell some really terrible teal pants.

Murray's classification of honesty as one of the chief American virtues makes sense, considering our tradition of free markets and limited government. If people are going to be free to do as they please, they need to be the sort of people who don't need constant policing. In other words, they need virtue - and honesty is virtue in one of its most basic forms. If honesty is on the decline in the US (as Murray demonstrates), we must ask ourselves whether it is better to rule a dishonest people with an iron fist or a caressing hand - and either option spells doom (the handwriting just looks a little different). The thought of America without honesty (or any of its other chief virtues: industriousness, marriage, and religiosity) is a terrible thought. Even more terrible than teal chinos.

I bluffed my way through prepville in:

Black below-the-knee pencil skirt, cobalt blue blouse with bow neck, blue and silver earrings, black and silver watch, silver cocktail ring, and black pumps.

*Gee whiz - that's a clunky word. I'm going to refer to myself as a salesman from now on, because I still believe in the inclusivity of the word "man." "Man" can mean humanity-at-large in English, because we don't have a gender-neutral pronoun except "it" (which we've all agreed only applies to demonic clowns). So don't yell at me for my moderately outdated but elegant and inclusive usage choices, please. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Coming Apart: Wedding Season

It's always wedding season on TLC
Well hello there. I bet you didn't notice that you are sitting in the very throes of wedding season, now did you? Congratulations - you are. (Also, bonus points for anyone who catches all of the wedding allusions in this post. I'd offset them all with punctuation, but then it would be unreadable. So, just chuckle to yourselves.)

No time to waste on that ring by spring ...
If you haven't been invited to a wedding this summer, be sad. I mean, be really, truly, deeply offended. Because either no one loves you, or you've never met anyone who went to a Christian college. Regardless, I'm sorry.

If you still have weddings on your list, please keep in mind that Jos. A Bank sells great suits from friendly co-eds trying to pay for law school! *wink/product placement*

Please, kitty. Please. 
But seriously. Back in June (the traditional wedding month), I got to go to my cousin's wedding. It was AWESOME. For reals. Not only is mawwiage what bwings us togevah today, but this wedding had an awesome band, and I saw my family bust out super white-and-nerdy dance moves all night long. Priceless.

As much fun as the reception was, though, weddings are actually hugely important, because they signify that marriage, that bwessed awwangement, is taking place. Not only is marriage important to individuals, it's important to society. That's why it's one of Charles Murray's four founding American virtues: industriousness, marriage, religiosity, and honesty. (If you missed the intro or first post in this series, quick! Read them!) Not only does Murray expound on the huge, life-changing benefits of marriage, but the New York Times recently ran an article revealing the same story through narrative, while Murray uses charts and data.

Red pill, blue pill? (Dr. Seuss for philosophers)
Whether or not you marry, and whether or not you marry before having children, marks two divergent paths with snowballing consequences (please, bear with me as I paraphrase about 342 pages of sociological data).

MOST families turn out better ... 
Option 1: You get married, and have some kids. In addition to all of the emotional, professional, and health benefits you and your spouse now personally enjoy, you're giving your kids a fighting chance. If you both work, you have two incomes. If one stays home, you have more specialization, but you still have both parents adding tons of monetary and parental value (two perspectives, free cooking/laundry/cleaning/driving services, one full-time income, etc.). Your kids may grow up to be angsty teens, or have weird political views, or any number of things. But chances are good that they'll end up just fine.

Most FAMILIES turn out better
Option 2: You screw around, and have some kids. At some point, you're cohabiting. Maybe with your baby-daddy, maybe with a new boyfriend. Regardless, you now lose out on all of the emotional, professional, and health benefits of marriage, and experience a general lack of stability. If you're cohabiting with someone, you might have two incomes. Chances are good that you're only on one or one and a half, though, and the other adult isn't compensating in the same way a spouse/parent would, because they're not a spouse/parent. Your kids grow up without familial stability, a role model, or the benefit of after-school activities and the like. They're much more likely to be poor, uneducated, and end up unmarried themselves. Growing up without your father is one of the best ways to grow up in poverty. 

Thanks to the laws of logic, we know that you must be either married or unmarried. If you have children, you're either married to their other parent, or you're not. There are no other options.

If you can't hear the bells yet, let me offer you a piece of advice from the classic American musical, Guys & Dolls: "marry the man today and change his ways tomorrow."

So, all that to say, not only did I (and you, if you have friends entering that dweam wifvin a dweam this summer) get to witness my family all doing the "sprinkler" while biting their bottom lips, I also got to see my cousin and his wife make one of the most important decisions they'll ever make. It's important for them, and it's important for society. Now go and do likewise.*

Wove, Twue Wove, Will Follow You, Fowevah
I saw my cousin get married in:
Cobalt blue dress with asymmetrical ruffle, multi-strand pearl necklace, pearl earrings, cocktail ring, and cobalt blue and black concealed platform stilettos.

*Wondering where to get started? Try some of my "Romanconomics" posts for ideas and hilarity!

General Romanconomics (the economics of romance):
Romanconomics: I Wanna Be Yo Mamma
Romanconomics: Pick-Up Lines
Romanconomics: In Line For Love (Sort of)

Three-Part Romanconomics Miniseries:
1. Romanconomics: How Many Fish in the Sea? 
2. Romanconomics: Structural Singleness
3. Romanconomics: Red Flags in a Bull Market

My Personal Love Affair:
Romanconomics: It's Tebow Time!
Romanconomics: Tebow on the Hill 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Coming Apart: You Can't Measure Industriousness in Feet

A Book and Its Man
In case you missed it, there's a glorious introduction post (bolded and hyperlinked for your convenience) about this A in BC miniseries. In this four-part-plus-an-intro series (really, click that link!), we're exploring America's four founding virtues, as outlined in Charles Murray's book Coming Apart, the State of White America 1960-2010 (please notice picture of book and author). The four virtues Murray outlines as essential to the American spirit are industriousness, marriage, religiosity, and honesty.

And now, after that killer introduction, a word about industriousness. (We're playing a game called "bold the key word." I'm winning.)

A few weeks ago, I started a glorious job. I am selling suits at Jos. A. Bank. ... Jos. A. Bank, kids! This is exciting for the following reasons:
1) I get to learn about a new realm of fashion
2) I get to look at suits all day (!!!!!!)
3) I get to help men experience the transformative magic of a quality suit.

Clearly understands the need for suits
If a tailored suit can't make you feel 100X more qualified for something, I don't know what will. I mean, why do you think superheroes wear supersuits? Hmm? It's because "the refined power evident in the authoritative broad shoulders, professional buttoned-down front, and elegant silk tie speaks to a man's capability for the job. A good suit says a man is capable, well-mannered, and cultured." (I wrote that in my cover letter. I got the job. I charge $50/hr for resume consultation ...)

Anyway, personal horn-tooting aside, it's a job I'm excited about. It's a job I'm getting paid for. It's also a job that involves a lot more standing on my feet than I usually do.

"Ow! My job is so physically strenuous."
See, something Murray discusses is how none of the new elite really do manual labor, or any labor that involves something more painful than sitting in a desk for eight hours. And, as much as I hate to admit it, I typically just sit and type. And it's easier to wear adorable shoes when you're sitting all day. (To my credit though, I do sit and type.)

My first day of work, I wore sensible shoes. SENSIBLE. That's not something that happens often. And even still, it was miserable. My feet hurt. My back hurt. Every speck of energy had been zapped out of my body. I was a zombie.

The depressing thing is that my job isn't even technically hard. I stand and sell suits. It's not like I'm fighting wars, or chopping down trees, or wrestling alligators. I'm just standing. And it hurts. And I go back. 

The "I'm wildly successful and wear hoodies" look
Industriousness, hustle, or that go-get-em, work-until-you-drop, attitude is a key ingredient in successful America. Even though the new elite has largely channeled their industrious spirit into white-collar management jobs (or the "creative" jobs that encourage super-casual work-wear [ewwwww]), they still work. Murray points out (through multiple graphs and charts) that the lower class is finding more ways to collect a paycheck without work (more generous and attractive welfare benefits). In other words, we're encouraging people to not work. By encouraging people to not work, we're demonizing one of America's crucially important virtues. This can't be good, kids. 

Even though working might be tiring or unpleasant (whether at desk or sales counter or lumber mill), it's essential. You can't go to sleep at night feeling good about your day if you sat around and didn't get off the couch. You might feel good about it if you sat around and ate salted caramel brownies all day, but then you couldn't fit into your business casual. But I digress.

If we want to encourage industriousness, it's going to be important for the "new elite" to keep working hard, to tell the "working class" how important it is, and for the government to stop setting up perverse incentives that encourage laziness and discourage industriousness. And trust me - we want to encourage industriousness. Because without it, America will soon be just another bunch of broke socialists, who have finally run out of other people's money (thought credit to Margaret Thatcher).

All that to say, sometimes industriousness involves standing for long periods of time. It may even involve actual physical labor. And it may hurt. But the next day, we get back to it. Why? Because men need suits. And America needs industriousness. May the last one standing win.

I started my job at Jos. A. Bank in:
Black pencil skirt, blue and black faux halter blouse, black blazer, nude hosiery, and black patent pumps. 

Monday, June 18, 2012

Coming Soon/Coming Apart: Four Adventures

So, as you may have gathered from my last post, I'm now a college graduate. Whee! As an educated member of society, I've taken it upon myself to be a "lifelong learner" and not just succumb to blissful nights watching re-runs of What Not to Wear (I interned for them, you know!) on TLC. This means two things - 1) I will be spending loads of money going to law school 2) I still read books.*

Either the Olsens ...
Or Cruella-like Grandmas
Since I read books and you read my blog, I figured we should skip a step, and I could tell you about some of the books I read. (Note: this is not the transitive property. I know it sounds a lot like the transivitive property, but it's not. It's kind of like how the Olsen twins look like old ladies, but aren't.) Anyway, to kick off this summer of literature, we'll begin with Charles Murray's fairly recent (it's still in hardcover!) book Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010.

The book I'm telling you
In Coming Apart, Murray describes a frightening shift in the US away from a large and socially homogenous middle class towards an elite and highly educated upper class (he puts them in a city called "Belmont") that's completely disconnected from a less-educated and less-refined lower class (residents of a city called "Fishtown"). He then explains how Belmont's "new elite" is failing to pass on four virtues crucial to the American way of life. He argues that these four virtues—Industriousness, Religion, Honesty, and Marriage—are getting harder to find than Big Gulps in Bloomberg's NYC (please, ask me how I feel about that sometime).

Since I love America, and since these four virtues pop up in my everyday life often, we're doing another mini-series here in Business Casual Adventureland!

But please, follow me on Twitter!
We'll kick it off with four posts from Murray's book, and then follow it up with other exciting things I'm reading this summer. Through these efforts, we'll come to feel like fabulous, educated people, who go to ritzy-pants cocktail parties and discuss important ideas, and wear neo-vintage clothes, and revel in the irony of "neo-vintage," and acquire intellectual lithpth, and are "a few credits short" of finishing their MA in Creative Writing, and certainly have a Pinterest board titled "ee cummings musings."(You know you've met one.)

Real. Life. Awesome. 
In other words, by helping you feel a bit snobbish and upper-crust, I'm actually helping you become part of the new elite, and thus helping destroy America. The only problem is that if you want to know what life is really like out there, you probably shouldn't be reading blogs. You should probably be wrestling an allie-gay-ter. Like in Swamp People. Except that you'd probably get eaten. So maybe ease into real life.

Also, clearly, I'd never want to destroy America. Since awareness is the first step, I'd like to raise awareness. We're losing the founding virtues. Me. You. We. And we've got to get them back. So everyone, buckle up. We're going reading this summer. I'm easing into real life right there with you.

I'm easing into real life in:
Blue polka dot faux-pleat sweetheart dress, blue glass dangle earrings, oversize silver cocktail ring, and gray platform sandals with column heel (that were FREE).

*I recently found out that your entire education is sort of pointless if you haven't read The Republic. I know, right? Sooo, I'm working on fixing that. We probably won't explore all of that one, though.