Happy Women

What does woman want? This was Freud’s big question, because Freud based all of the male’s needs on the fact that males had a penis (Freud was a proto-glittery hoo ha) and so he couldn’t imagine what women, not having a penis, had at the center of their needs. (If I had a time machine, I’d bring Freud forward and show him that the glittery hoohas do quite well with thinking with the innie, just as much as some guys do with the outie. No, more so, since they’re persistent and relentless. But then he would go back in time and in a minute, I’d find myself in a burka, locked somewhere in the house. No.)

So his entire idea was that not having a penis, women were mostly moved by that fact and suffered from penis envy. (Maybe I DID bring him forward and he read some of the GH’s blogs?) I will confess that I did suffer from penis envy round about six, but it had nothing to do with sex (and even then I thought having to deal with that thing hanging down inside your clothes all the time would be a pain) but with the fact that my – mostly male – play friends could pee standing up. I couldn’t, so I had to leave the rousing game and go inside to use the bathroom. Which meant by the time I came back they were doing it wrong! (If there had been a ban bossy campaign back then, pigtailed, glowering me would have been the poster girl. And btw, if I’d been taught to curb those tendencies at that time, it would have made high school MUCH easier.)

So what do women want?

I don’t know. I know what I want, and what my friends want.

I’ve been moved to write this by a few surveys recently, which claim that women are far happier being wives and mothers than being wives and mothers and working women. Combined with the fact our population (I suspect worldwide, but we can only prove it in developed countries) is dropping like a rock, and the inescapable conclusion is that women should be back in the kitchen and pregnant.

I don’t like inescapable conclusions. Not when it comes to humans. I’m not a “feminist’ who thinks women should be a sort of ersatz male and views pregnancy as a violation. (Yes, I know that’s not what they say they think, but if you read them, you end up getting that very clear picture.)

In fact from a certain point of view, if you squint, I took a very traditional path. We got married and I worked a little until the kids came when I stayed home with them. If you stop squinting, it’s not so traditional. For one, we made the decision based not on who had the outie and who had the innie, but who was bringing in the real money. Given my job which was like writing and required me to establish myself, etc, I was making almost nothing. And then there was the fact I wanted to write, which made staying at home and looking after the kids perfect. (In execution it was more fraught, which is why progress was so slow. There were years I could only write in a two hour window, while the kids were sleeping.)

But then there’s the other side of the coin.

I grew up in a village.

My path was the most common one. Every mother I knew was a working mother, usually while totting behind/around them a vast number of children. (Okay, not so vast. Three or four was many, but that’s also because so many died in childhood, infancy.)

The myth of the stay at home mom who eats bonbons and watches soaps exists only in the heads of people. I don’t think it was ever that way, save for a very small, very wealthy or very devil may care minority.

I mean if you squint and look sideways my mom was a stay at home mom. Only she wasn’t. I mean, she worked at home, and for the first fifteen years of her career she worked from a three room shotgun apartment, where the kitchen table got cleared and used for her work table. If she couldn’t clear it or was on deadline, she might send us next door to grandma for supper, but that happened rarely as the two had a “competent mother” competition going.

Grandma too, if you squint and look sideways was a stay at home mom and for most of her life a single one, as granddad was in various countries, making money. But if you stop squinting, she brought up four children while running her own business, tending the … backyard farm (it’s hard to explain how this works. We had a relatively small space in the backyard. Like your average suburban backyard, say, but none of it was lawn and all of it was fruit trees/vegetables/vines and the place for the potatoes (the open center, which got enough sun) except for about a fifth of it which was “put to” flowers because grandma considered flowers an essential part of housekeeping. (And in a way it was, since doing the flowers in the cemetery was the woman’s duty every weekend, on all the graves of the departed family, and if you didn’t do it people would consider you bad or neglectful. This might very well be a roman custom for all I know.)

But then there were also properties we had “a right to.” These were either still or originally owned by the family and either sold or rented out, with reservation of the “right to”: the right to wine (i.e. the vines growing on the land were still ours), the right to till (i.e. to plant and harvest what we wanted in parts of the property) and so on. I suspect all together it amounted to d*mn near a small family farm. We surely didn’t buy anything but exotics (grandma’s attempts to get the hazelnut tree to fruit never worked) and meat/fish. And grandma ran all of that (up to the time she died, pretty much, when she was paying for someone to come do the actual work, but still running it and distributing the produce.) I understand before I was born, ie before grandma’s mom died, and she had to face killing things she’d raised, we also grew a lot of the meat up to and including a small calf. (When I was a kid the chickens were mostly layers and a lot of them became pets and were given “retirement.”)

So, woman in the kitchen with her children about her is rather a wrong idea.

But never minding that”: were most women in the village happy “just being wives and mothers” Well, most of them weren’t. At the very least they were housekeepers in time and place where this involved sometimes carrying clothes to the public washing through (built by Trajan. The inscription said so. The weird thing is that it was called “the river” though it wasn’t, but a stone square with the water diverted to flow through it and down into the drainage ditch. BUT before it was built women washed in the river and linguistic habit is an odd thing.) then beating the living daylights out of them, after soaping them with soap you might or might not have made, then carrying the sodden mass back home in a huge basket, to hang in your own property. (We didn’t have to do that because we had our own “tank” which was more like the “river” than like washing tanks you’ve seen. Family lore says my brother went head first into it at three, but they fished him out in time to revive him. I wasn’t allowed near it till I was tall enough to stand in the water.)

Still let’s call these women “just wives and mothers” since most of them had no career in the modern sense.

Were they happy?

What do you mean by happy? I mean, seriously. Sometimes I think happy is a modern invention. Very modern. Acquired through radio, television, books.

What is “Happy”? Does anyone go around in a flutter of blue birds and singing Disney princess songs, all the time? Or do you call “being generally contented with life” “happy”?

This is important, because it has a bearing on the conclusion of whether women should stay home with children to be happier.

I think if you’d asked most of these women if they were contented with their lot, they’d have said yes, even though a significant number of them were really tight on money and a lot of them got beat at least once a week.

But see, here’s the thing: this is what they’d been taught to expect. They’d grown up expecting this sort of married life and looking forward to its consolations: children, a home of their own, an old age surrounded by grandchildren who respected them. Hankering for a life where they weren’t beat, or a life where they had a “career” in the modern sense would never occur to them, and no it wasn’t oppression necessarily. Well, being beat was, but not not having a career. Most of them would have said “but I don’t want that. Don’t I have enough to do with the kids?” And the idea of not getting married at all would have made them very unhappy because, being normal women, most of them liked men.

So if you took a survey of their contentment, most of them would be pretty high.

On the other hand, if you took a survey of women like my mom and grandma – women of the striving class – you’d get a much lower level of contentment. But if you thought it was because they (and my grandmother’s grandmother before her, etc, world without end) didn’t like working, you’d have it backwards. Women in my family worked because they weren’t contented with “just” being wives and mothers. They expected more and had ambitions, so their level of contentment was always lower, as they wanted to get further ahead/do more. Stopping working wouldn’t make them happy. It would make them more neurotic. (My mom had to stop working for health reasons when I was twelve. We’ll draw a veil of decency over about five years, until she discovered investing and jumped into that, leaving me – thank heavens – in peace and no longer micro-managed.)

So, would sending all women back to the kitchen and children make them happier? I don’t know.

Look, most women, like most men don’t want a “career.” They work because they have to, because our system of taxes makes a one-working-parent family nearly impossible (trust me I have reason to know. I didn’t start making any money at all from writing till Robert was about six.) Some percentage of the women also work because they’ve been shamed into it. (At the lowest level, the cost of daycare, work clothes, transport, outweighs the money they bring in. Not to say her job is useless. Just having resilience during layoffs which are a feature of our time, is worth it.) But a large percentage of men and women have no lofty ambitions and are never going to set the world on fire in a career.

Staying home with kids might make these women (and men) happier. But then you have to wonder if they’d be a material addition to the household, if they hadn’t learned to make and scrape. But that’s something else.

Part of the problem with the “everyone would be better for a career” movement is that it comes from people with a career, people who always wanted to have one and who learned and studied and who would work even if they became millionaires tomorrow.

Cast your mind back to high school. Remember the vast mass of your classmates? They were there because they had to be there. For all they learned and all the pleasure they derived from it, they might as well have quit in second or third grade. (Even if this were when schools still taught.) Why would you think this changes with adulthood? Why do you think women (or men) want to devote eight hours of their lives to some random activity they get paid for?

The essence of humanity is to do just enough to get by. People like me who are compelled to work at something are broken. There’s something wrong inside us. (The fact that hobbies are much higher and taken more seriously – like mini-careers — among Americans than anywhere else in the world makes me wonder if we have a higher percentage of people born broken in that peculiar way. It would explain much.)

There is something else to consider which those who were never mothers might or might not know. I was not ever a particularly good mother. I like kids, but they’re not the center of my existence. However, when I had to work when the kids were little, like when Dan was unemployed and I took a job while he was looking for one, I missed them constantly. Even when my work was doing better, and we hired someone to look after the kids so I could write more, it only lasted a year, because I realized no, this was NOT the part I wanted to subcontract. House cleaning, sure. My kids, no.

There was a very strong sense of ownership and also the ah… sense of responsibility for them. But there was also an instinctive-level attachment which I think would have been painful to break. I wondered what they were doing, ALL the time.

As for “we’d have more children if women just stayed home,” it’s probably right, but it misses a factor. It would greatly help if men either stayed home or had more flexible schedules. With all the will in the world, there were long periods of time that Dan came home, collapsed into bed for four hours, shaved and went back to work. You can’t – ahem – rouse the dead. And this was normal scheduling for programmers in that day and age. Which means our kids are that far apart because he was establishing himself in his work.

If having kids is a priority – and I think it will be, and soon enough. We might limp another fifty years with trick statistics, but sooner or later we’re going to “get” it and panic – then the best system for it would be work from home which I suspect is the way we’re going anyway. For men and women.

As for happiness… meh.

I suspect most of the women who are happier staying home with the kids would have been happier doing it even if they had a work at home job. It’s all in what you expect.

The women with “careers” who are impelled to it to “show” the men and who never married because of their feminist faith, etc. they’re the other side of the coin. I don’t think they’d have been happy ever, at any time and with anything.

And then there’s people like me. What does woman want?

Impossible to say. Freud, like Marx, is dead. There are some basic things all women want including food and shelter and food and shelter for their kids, and possibly someone/something to love.

After that needs vary. This particular woman– and most women she knows– wants all that, plus she wants her kids to be successful and happy, she wants her husband to be happy, she wants to continue working at her craft since she feels compelled to, and she wants to make a decent living out of it.  Most of all, she wants the chattering heads to shut up. She would have been just as unhappy in a corporate career as she would have been in “just” motherhood. Both would have bored her to tears.

In the current state, despite the fact she has nine kids less than she wanted and all the uncertainties and upheavals of this stellar economy, she’s pretty happy. I mean, not right after she reads politics, but pretty happy. And she wouldn’t trade all of this for queenship over the known universe and the fawning of courtiers.

So I guess this woman has got what she wants*.

Let women be individuals just like men are individuals and stop pushing them this way and that.  Let them find their own happiness.

*And since she’s lapsed into talking of herself in the third person again, it might be wise to give her an evil-villains lair stat before she decides what she wants are some minions in the piranha tank.

412 thoughts on “Happy Women

  1. Isn’t it interesting, in order to be ‘free’ women have to be pressured to pursue specific goals and eschew others? Those latter wave feminists sure have twisted freedom into convoluted knots.

    1. That’s what’s so fun about freedom. For one thing, there’s no way to test for it.

    2. I never had to be pressured. But I did appreciate the fact that I wasn’t barred from making the attempt. It’s up to me to decide whether it’s worth it, not for others to decide whether to protect me from disappointment.

      1. Yes. Which is the primary difference I see in early and late feminism. Early feminism fought to see women free to choose whatever they thought would best fulfill them. Latter waves are aiming to restrict women’s choices, but the choices are approved by feminists so all is to the good.

        It’s not an original thought, but I think it bears repeating. Labeling women as gender traitors for choosing domestic work, or children, or (lately) men is repession. That it’s done in the name of freedom changes nothing.

        1. I totally agree with you there. Any time we see people claiming they need to decide for someone else whether a pursuit is fulfilling enough, the alarm bells ought to go off. Why is it, exactly, we can’t trust them to recognize what’s fulfilling and what’s not for their own lives? Where do we get the idea that all women are responsible to some man (or woman) for validating his chauvinist (or her feminist) ideas of how all women can best spend their time?

          Nevertheless, I bristle when men lecture women about how fulfilling they should find a lifestyle into which they were once herded with little choice, and which the men themselves consider beneath their dignity. That’s why I’ll listen to it from stay-at-home fathers but from few other men.

          1. …I bristle when men lecture women about how fulfilling they should find a lifestyle…

            Indeed. And contrariwise.

            1. Right! Who wants to hear a woman complain that men should be grateful for enjoying the romantic life of a sole breadwinner, when she’s never tried it and has no idea of the stressful competition, the anxiety, the loneliness, and the alienation from home life?

              It would be better all around if we didn’t try to instruct each other what we should enjoy most.

              1. I find it fascinating that I never hear the glittery hoo-ha crowd agitating for equal representation in the trash collection or plumbing industries.

                1. Exactly. It would irritate me no end to be legislatively barred from working as a trash collector because someone was sure I wouldn’t like it, or it wouldn’t be good for me, or I’d displace a man who needed the job more because he’s a natural breadwinner and I’m somehow not. But as it stands, as far as I know, I’m perfectly free to apply for a job as a trash collector, and the fact that I don’t do so means only that I don’t have any ambitions in that direction. So I have to struggle through life in the terrible knowledge that the evil patriarchy has failed to achieve gender parity in trash-collection employment, and that I’ve personally contributed to the injustice.

                  I’m assuming, of course, that trash collection is mechanized everywhere now, so it doesn’t matter whether I can lift and throw the cans. The old-fashioned heavy-lifting variety of trash collection is something I’d never have been tempted to try, because why would I choose to compete in an area where I have a natural disadvantage when there are areas where I have natural advantages?

                  1. Here’s something I’ve never investigated. Were women actually barred, by law, from entering anything but the traditional women’s professions as of the Dark Age of Women (ie the 1950’s)? Or was it simply that employers weren’t legislatively forced to hire women, and so generally didn’t for whatever reasons?

                    1. I think it was more that women didn’t end up in very high levels of things because– well, babies. When you look at everything by going “who is officially in charge” and looking at only the names, ignoring that the wife was probably doing a lot of the work (not counting social stuff) and everyone knew it as a matter of course…..

          2. “Nevertheless, I bristle when men lecture women about how fulfilling they should find a lifestyle into which they were once herded with little choice, and which the men themselves consider beneath their dignity.”

            It would help if most *women* didn’t *also* consider it beneath men’s dignity. How likely, in the marriage market, is a man to be successful at finding a spouse when he describes his ambitions as “I only want to work at something easy until we have kids, then I’ll stay at home with the kids and look after the house while my wife works”? Even women who want husbands who are more involved around the house and with their kids — more than, say, their own fathers were — tend to draw up short, I’ve noticed, at the idea of a man who doesn’t want *anything* else.

            This may be a side effect of feminism’s persistent indoctrination that homemaking is an apathetic and unambitious life choice by definition; well, if that choice is beneath women, isn’t it going to look just as beneath men, if not more so? The tragic paradox, if true, is that the women who would most benefit from husbands of this type — the motivated, ambitious career talents who genuinely would be happier with motherhood as a second vocation, if at all — are the ones most likely to have no interest in the men who actually exhibit the necessary complementary traits.

            1. Exactly. I’m in enormous sympathy with women (or men) who consider the making of a home and the raising of children a fulfilling and important task imbued with happiness and dignity. But as soon as I detect that someone holds childrearing and homemaking in contempt, I stop listening to his argument that it’s good enough for other people, just not for him.

              People who find it fulfilling and important should do it, and not have to listen to carping from those who think they should prefer something else. People who find it less than fulfilling should avoid it, and quit telling other people to be satisfied with it.

            2. if that choice is beneath women, isn’t it going to look just as beneath men, if not more so?

              Definitely more-so– the guy isn’t going to spend the better part of a decade either pregnant or nursing just to hit replacement, assuming at least a year after birth before the next pregnancy. (What all my post pregnancy lit says is to be expected. They also say I should pump myself with hormones ASAP, though, so YMMV.)

            3. I had to chuckle at that. If a young man were to approach me and tell me that he wants a wife that will be a stay-at-home-mom for his kids while he provides, I’d think, “Good for you.” But if he were to approach me and say he wanted to be a stay-at-home-dad, I’d have an immediate urge to regard him with suspicion and/or lower him in my estimation of his character.

              It’s not because I think that housework is beneath a man’s dignity. It’s because of the generalization of women nurturing and men breadwinning. It’s practical, and, I think, it’s typically best for the kids.Men don’t get pregnant, nor do we breastfeed. Generally, I think women are better equipped to nurture little children. I think kids generally turn out happier and healthier with a mom at home and a dad who is a breadwinner. It provides good modeling for relationships.

              Don’t get me wrong. Dads also have to help out around the house and definitely need to be involved with raising kids and mentoring them. And situations vary. But I think it’s a healthy generalization that a stay-at-home mom with a breadwinner dad is a healthy dynamic for kids to be raised in.That’s why the model has endured for millennia.

            4. “It’s not because I think that housework is beneath a man’s dignity.”

              Now, why am I so unconvinced? 🙂 I can see the direct connection between physiology and breast-feeding, of course, but it’s much less persuasive as an explanation for why it would “just make sense” for women to do the laundry and the floors. Yes, there is a tradition going back millennia, but it was a lot more persuasive when men were out there plowing fields and fighting off bears and Indians than it is today, when only the rare and occasional job offers men a natural and inherent advantage over a woman.

          3. Followup to above: It should be established here that I am talking only about general tendencies that I have perceived in Western culture at large, not about any individual person or couple posting here or known to those posting here. Generalizations are all riddled with exceptions; that’s why they’re cheap and easy to make.

            1. Why do you feel you need to add weasel words to what is, with the exception of the last paragraph dead on? I’m not criticizing, just calling attention and asking.

              Women (statistically speaking) do not want stay at home and do the housework men. They either (a) want a family breadwinner, or (b) a corporate partner who will help them buy their huge house, bmw/mercedes/lexus and vacations. They tend to PREFER men who make more money than them.

              It’s called “hypergamy”.

              1. Mostly because I didn’t want to make statements about “what/how women think” that were directly contradicted by some of the actual posters to this thread, and thus give the impression that I didn’t believe or were dismissing them. I am a big believer in the principle that individual data points should take priority over statistical inference wherever possible, and especially where real people are involved.

                Hypergamy is a real tendency, but like all statistical tendencies, it becomes less and less reliable as an individual indicator the smaller and more atypical the data set being analyzed is.

          4. My understanding (alas, I have no citation) was that the hausfrau lifestyle was seen as a liberation for women, so they wouldn’t have to endure the soul-deadening grind that men go through in order to support their wives. It wasn’t a matter of depriving them of options so much as freeing them from burdens.

            I wish I could remember where I read that, because at this point I don’t even remember whether that was supposed to be from the male or the female perspective, nor whether it was just part of the zeitgeist or just one person’s perspective:-(.

            1. It stems from the separate spheres idea that got going after the American Civil War. Women (middle class and above) were the guardians of the household, staying at home and raising good children and making a haven of shelter for their husbands. The man’s sphere was to do battle with the world, the woman’s to provide rest and comfort.

              1. Pretty much that way in Victorian-era America, also. Lower class and working class wives worked in the family business as a matter of course. Sometimes they were the drivers of the family business. Upper-class? Ooooh, work! Cooties! Well – in most places, this was the case. On the frontier – very, very different.
                I’ve had some fun exploring this in my books – about the wives who were anything but the angel in the parlor.

                1. Well, there were a lot of advice writers who included advice about working. All-American Girl has a whole section on it.

                  Of course, that wasn’t just for wages. (Reading about “employment” in the era can be bewildering until you realized “paid employment” is not redundant.) Yes, you might have to work for wages if your father’s business failed. On the other hand, you might also work at it, thus saving the wages. Or work at home, thus saving the servants’ wages — and being able to resist demands for higher wages, knowing you were not helpless if they left. Or, if you were really of the upper crust, charitable work.

                  1. *looks at family calculations about how she saves the family more than her husband earns, by being at home; doesn’t count “calls and asks and thus gets discounts” stuff*

                    Sounds familiar.

              2. So she was as active – if not more so – but she didn’t do for the filthy lucre, but for other, less immediately fungible currency.

                  1. The general expectation that “we” will together enjoy the eventual fruits of “our” thrift is more today a leap of faith than ever before.

    3. Of course, didn’t you know that freedom is doing what Those Who Decide Things want you to do? O_o

  2. I wonder if the American rate of hobby fascination (and English, from what i understand) is a lingering bit of the idea of a vocation, something that you are called to do but that might not necessarily be what you do for a living. Or to use another phrase, things you do for love instead of lucre. If you can combine the two, hey, wonderful, but otherwise you work for a living so you can have a separate life.

    This woman wants stability, a chance to work at something that is not completely monotonous, and that will allow her to help her family when they need it. My dreams of (several) Great Careers collided with the rock of Reality. I can’t have it all, heck, I probably won’t get half (house, career, spouse, kids, pick two). But I want to have enough resources – financial, social, cultural, spiritual – to get along and to help others if they need it.

    1. I’m sure men have hobbies as an excuse to get away from their wives and screaming kids.

      (I meant that as a flip joke but actually I think there’s a certain amount of truth in it)

      1. There used to be institutional spaces that served this function, as well. They’re going away, in the name of “equality”, however.

        I think there’s a reason every primitive society I can think of had some sort of gender-based refuge for both sides of the equation. You can’t spend 24/7 time with someone, and not wind up either losing your mind, or killing them. Healthy relationships have space for both parties to do their own thing, as needed.

        1. Part of why women are “taking over” the guy areas– outside of the activists– is because the male side has a different pattern than the “Lady’s Auxiliary,” and the LA doesn’t work well with a work-day schedule.

          The LA’s usually did a LOT of the work that enabled the Men’s Clubs to work. This is part of why they are dying, because their logistics crashed and burned.

          1. Yeah, but…

            I would submit that the only reason a lot of those organizations “did things” was that the Ladies Auxiliary insisted on them doing them. Odds are, the guys would have been content to sit around drinking beer and be silent together… Away from their wives and kids.

            1. I wouldn’t know enough about the intimate psychology of the guys to comment on that, I just know from watching the (mostly LA side) of the equation… and noticing what groups are dying, and talking to folks who are in the now fully integrated groups, and trying to break into the now-fully-integrated stuff that use to be Lady’s things.

              I’m under 60 and have small children around me, so there’s no place. Even though I can move in five minutes what takes the little old folks all day, two or three cans at a time. (There’s other stuff, like that I am an interloper and don’t “know” anybody and their quirks…but still. It’s sad to see the stuff I know my grandmother did while holding down a flexible full time job go begging.)

      2. Thus one of the motivations for a career-outside-the-home: spending some hours each day with a different set of people, in a different place.

      3. I’ve heard it describes as men being basically “banished” from the house, and this, all manliness has to be kept confined to the “Man Cave” i.e. the basement or garage. We try to paint a nice face on it, calling it an escape, but really, it’s a banishment. He might be paying for it, but he’s not allowed to live in it and use it as he chooses.

        1. Every time I see one of those bedroom interior design things in magazines and it’s all frilly, fluffy and ick (dust traps), I wonder if the poor husband/lover ever had a say in it. Something inside me says “no.” Which is profoundly unfair, unless it’s one of those things where he has his own bedroom by choice.

          1. When I got engaged, I gave my wife a frank discussion about how it’s best and healthiest for kids to have mom in the house, so when kids come along, I expected her to stay at home with the kids. I would be involved when not breadwinning; I would not be out with the guys on weekends and certainly not tomcatting around, I would be at home. But I would be breadwinner, and she would mother the children. When they were all in school I was OK with her continuing education and/or getting a job; once they were all out of the house, I would be fully supportive of further school/career etc. If she didn’t see things the same way, then there would be no hard feelings, but we wouldn’t be getting married.

            After we got married and the children came along, I told her, “You’re in the house pretty much all day. I’m here in the evenings and on weekends. You can choose how to decorate the house. I want you happy and comfortable.”

            There are a LOT of girly trappings around our house. And I’ve never gotten over the time my wife took a dislike to my favorite chair and decided that I needed to haul it away. Something about it being ugly and uncomfortable and she was tired of looking at it… Maybe I wondered when she’d start saying that about me? 😉

            That said, I have a tool shed in the backyard where I rebuild engines, work on cars, etc. My wife came out one day and said, “You should put this here and that there, and get rid of that half of an alternator. It’s junk and it’s clutter.”
            I said, “Stop right there. The house is YOUR space. This is MY space.”
            She sputtered, “But… but…”
            I said, “I work here, and I’m the only one using this space. I need it to fit MY needs so I can keep the cars on the road and we won’t have car payments. And you spend no time out here. So I get to decide what’s junk and how to arrange this space.” She agreed. That half-of-an-alternator is now nailed up over the shed door and has remained there for many years now.

            No, I have no idea how she puts up with me either. 😀

        2. I can’t speak for any other man, but I’ve never felt like my space was a banishment. On the contrary, the Oyster Wife was the one that emphasized to me years ago that I needed a sanctuary, a space of my own; I’d never really sought one nor even considered it much. I have an office now, so that I can close the door, and retreat there when my temper or my sensory issues start flaring too much, or when I just want to be alone. Since then she’s done all she could to preserve that space, though we haven’t the room for a space that is wholly and solely mine. So I say again: the more I learn of other men’s wives, the more I appreciate my own.

          1. I used to have an office. Then we started having more kids, and I was allowed to have a closet to store my Army gear in. Then my Army gear got scattered to three or four strategic corners. Then my wife had me put in a pull-down attic ladder and start putting down plywood decking in the attic, and my gear went there. Until my wife realized that all those Christmas decorations would fit nicely up there. Don’t know how I’m going to make it to retirement without having a nice fat statement of charges at the end, but I’ve made it this far.
            At least my shed has a padlock and stinks like car chemicals. She Who Must be Obeyed has no interest in taking over that space. Only in reminding me that I need to get Those Junk Heaps out of her driveway. Right after I finish sheetrocking another bedroom in what used to be storage space, and ripping out the wiring in the upstairs for a redo. And installing another downstairs bath, and… Why are Those Junk Heaps still in my driveway? 😉

    2. I’m wondering how the Japanese Otaku rates against the American hobbyist.

    3. There is ample evidence that once you avocation becomes your vocation, you stop enjoying it. Lots of complicated psychological reasons but essentially your soul decides “If I am being paid for doing this I shouldn’t also be enjoying myself.”

      As always with such studies, individual results may vary.

      1. I think it more has to do with the fact that, once it’s your income source, you can’t just have fun with it, you have to work at it, even if you don’t feel like it. Then it becomes no fun any more.

  3. This woman (yep I am talking about me and not you in the third person) wants to make a steady income above and beyond a home, hubby, and writing. Oh yea, and health– I would be happier being healthier.

    1. You could always take up building reproduction wiring harnesses for vintage automobiles. The overhead would probably be very low, and I hear selling them on Ebay is very lucrative. I’ve thought about getting into this business myself, especially after repairing an LHS platform Chrysler that the dealership no longer makes parts for (“The car is only 15 or so years old and only has 197,000 miles on it! What do you MEAN you don’t make parts for it?” [PUTS ON ANGRY FACE]). 😀

      1. *sigh building wiring harnesses– sounds like heavy and hard work… I don’t have the strength I had before illness. Interesting thought though.

        1. Well you could start out by building replacement heavy duty wiring harnesses for Arctic Cat ATV’s, smaller and less intricate than most automobile harnesses. They may still make them, but somebody certainly needs to design a more robust one for the newer EFI ATV’s, because the factory one is a piece of garbage that sells for a few hundred bucks.

          1. I used to do build lists for farm equipment, which were mostly taking the shop-guys’ notes and putting them into the database so I could order and pull parts lists at need for assembly. With a library of harnesses broken down to wire and connector specs, you could custom build for a series of shops and have costs at your fingertips.
            I am sure that having a drop-in wire harness for that ancient car is lots easier and takes less time than running individual wires or tracking down the intermittent short.

  4. On “The myth of the stay at home mom who eats bonbons and watches soaps”, I remember a Family Circus comic where this young female poll taker asks the Mother if she works outside the home. When the Mother says no, the poll taker proceeds to ask “as a non-working woman…”. We see in the Mother’s mind all the things she does. Then the Mother shuts the door in the poll taker’s face. [Evil Grin]

    As for my family, Mom worked as a school teacher, then came home to fix meals, did stuff relating to our Church, etc. Mind you, there were times where Dad suggested that she say “no” to a lot of her non-teaching “work”. Was she always happy? I don’t know but I think she would have been more unhappy if she didn’t help out.

    1. You want to start a fight in my house? Just tell my stay-at-home wife that she doesn’t work.

      Her biggest complaint is that by not working outside the home, she never gets to take a vacation! It’s true, but she wouldn’t have it be otherwise. I definitely have the better end of the bargain and we both know it.

  5. For a lot of women, what they’re going to discover in the near term is that the recent history in gender relations has irretrievably poisoned the well for them. There are a lot of men who’ve looked at this whole thing, and decided they want nothing to do with it, or with the women who created the disaster that is gender relations in the modern post-industrial West. The upshot is that there aren’t going to be very many willing partners for this “return to sanity”. The glittery hoo-hahs have won, but in a bitterly ironic fashion. I wish them pleasure of it all, but I don’t relish the thought of the likely effects on personal lives around me.

    I have this acquaintance. She was a most annoying person, when it came to espousing the precepts of feminism. What’s been amusing for me, these last few years, is watching the karmic police have their way with her. She fell in love with, and married a man, you see. What’s darkly ironic about that? She’s getting to enjoy the abuses of the family court systems third-hand, as he is being slowly stripped of assets and bankrupted by his ex-wife, who is using her three kids with him to wage economic warfare on he and his formerly-feminist new wife. She’s had to go back to work to support him and the two kids they have, because the judgments of the courts are that onerous–With what her husband has left, after the monthly child support and alimony go out, he could maybe afford to live in a very low-end trailer park somewhere.

    After listening to this woman rail for years about how divorces ought to bankrupt men, it’s kind of fun to watch her live out the implications of it. The ex-wife lives in luxury with her boyfriend, in the husband’s former home, while the current wife can barely make ends meet in a tract home they’re renting.

    The whole thing is rather deliciously ironic, if you knew her from years ago.

    I honestly don’t know how it is going to work out, but I suspect that we’re going to have a huge dysfunctional swathe of society either die out, or wind up forcibly converted over into a more rational mode of life. And it is not going to be pretty or pleasant for a lot of them.

    1. My lovely bride’s got a friend who constantly ‘tested’ her boyfriends, and the ones who didn’t measure up to her expectations (of generosity, status, etc) were dumped. She was a nurse in the Navy Reserve, and there were always new possibilities – right? Pilots, especially – she got a posting in Pensacola hoping to snag one… which kinda fizzled.

      And those possibilities came along less and less often… to a point where now they don’t come along at all.

      She’s a trifle bitter about it, but she’s also satisfied she maintained her standards.

      1. She’d rather be alone and keep her standards? Testing your boyfriend doesn’t sound like a productive thing to do. You could chase off all the candidates that way. How would she feel if her boyfriends had done that to her?

        1. But Emily! Women are allowed to do that but men aren’t!!!! [Sarcasm]

          Just like women are “allowed” to manipulate men into changing to suit the women but men *must* accept women as the women are. [Sad Smile]

        2. Women do it all the time. If they say they don’t they are either lying or don’t notice themselves doing it.

          Men do it too. And most of them don’t realize it either.

          It’s called “dating”.

          1. I disagree. When I dated I got know the guy to see if we’d be compatible. I didn’t test him.

          2. They usually don’t do it to me more than once. I’ve literally looked at more than one woman, told her I realized I was being tested and the deliberately done the WRONG thing. At least I found out how SHE would react. I mean, if a woman tests me, it’s only right to test her back.

        3. By what my wife says, her mother brought her up with certain expectations for what an ‘appropriate’ husband would be like. And those expectations have never been met, so…

          (Whether the expectations were realistic in the first place is worth asking. Let’s just say that as happy as my lovely bride and I have been for the last 21 years, I wouldn’t even have made it to possible first date status if she’d had the same standards as her friend.)

          As far as how she would have felt about the men testing her – I don’t think she ever really thought about it. After all, they should consider themselves privileged to even be in her company…

      2. I suspect that both she and the boyfriends who didn’t meet her standards are happier for this.

        We’re all human. And except in fairy tales (I include romance novels in this class) there ain’t no such animal as a perfect mate.

        Over the years, I’ve seen many marriages. Some lasted for a lifetime, some only for a few years. But among the lifetime marriages, the biggest thing I noticed wasn’t that the people were perfect, but that they were willing to accept that their spouse *wasn’t* perfect, and that the things they loved outweighed the bad. And that even in the worst of times they generally enjoyed being together, and were willing to work together to fix any problems.

        Being “not a good match” isn’t a value judgement as much as a *values* judgement. If you don’t want many of the same things out of a relationship, at least one of you is going to be unhappy. Nor, despite your many good qualities, are you likely to have *any* successful relationship if you expect your partner to check off every one of your must-have items (while, presumably, you check off all theirs).

        I know I’m not perfect – I’ve got many strengths, and a handful of habits that I’m both unlikely and unwilling to change that would drive most women mad.

        Nor is my wife perfect – she’s got a few habits that I find incredibly irksome. But for me, the things that sometimes drive me crazy are far outweighed by the many, many, traits that I value. And I sincerely hope that she continues feeling the same way about me.

        I’m lucky – when I met someone who valued most of what I did, and was as pragmatic (more, she’d say) as I am, we both recognized that we might be a good match, and were willing to take a try at building a relationship. We had our ups and downs, and our severe disagreements, and times when we’ve been tempted to beat our head against the wall due to our partner’s impossible obtuseness. At a rough estimate, on decisions – ranging from “where will we go on our night out” to “how shall we prepare for the future” – we might have 80% of the time we totally agree, and 10-15% of the time we mostly agree. That remaining 5%? Usually, it goes the way of the person who feels more strongly about it, or we work out a compromise we can both live with.

        But we’ve been married for more than 30 years now. I’m hoping – if we’re lucky – for at least that much more. All things considered, I feel incredibly fortunate that we found one another. Maybe there’s some “perfect” mate out there who would have made me even happier, but I haven’t met her. I’ve surely met quite a few, including some old girlfriends, that I feel *very* fortunate that I didn’t marry (and, doubtless, they feel much the same about me).

        But I’m absolutely certain that I would have made one of those “perfect match” people *desperately* unhappy. And vice-versa.

          1. We just celebrated our 25th a couple days ago with a say filled with Dentist and Doctor’s appointments. Followed (finally!) by a nice dinner.

        1. “I’ve surely met quite a few, including some old girlfriends, that I feel *very* fortunate that I didn’t marry (and, doubtless, they feel much the same about me).”

          Oh, hell yeah. Some I barely escaped.

          1. Musically expressed:

            I don’t think most people actually know what they want, don’t know it when they get it and don’t miss their water until their well runs dry.

    2. If it weren’t for the fact that kids are often involved, people suffering the effects of their own politics would be a great source of entertainment.

      I think Brigham Young once said that if the Lord really wanted to punish us, all he’d have to do is answer our prayers. 😉

      1. Having happened across a few things over the years that he wrote, that does sound like something he would have said. It’s been a while since I’ve read any, but I remember thinking he had this fascinating fusion of optimistic faith and cynical realism. I’ve seen it in some of the other Christian apologists and pundits I’ve read (not sure how you’d categorize folks like Lewis and Chesterton). Had some decidedly queer ideas, did Mr. Young, but looking at my neighbors here, he seems to have gotten his job right. One of the more successful Odds, I’d say.

        1. Well, I think any man providing for over 50 wives (no paid clergy) and all those kids had better be an optimist and is going to be fighting his cynicism to his dying day.
          I think that working farms was a major help to those men, though. “What? Sister X lost her husband and is looking at poverty? Yes, dear, I understand. You’ve already talked to her. I’ll have the older boys go build her a room on the South side of the house. I’ll have the younger boys hitch up the team and start plowing another ten acres.”

          Like I say, I’m glad it wasn’t me. 😉

  6. You wonder what Freud would think of GGHs. I’m wondering what he’d think of Ms. PIV. 😉

    1. LOL Oh my. Now, you know that “fantasy dinner” that you’re always asked about at boring cocktail parties? I would LOVE to just sit back and watch a conversation between those two.

      1. Wherever that old charlatan Freud is today, I hope the temperature is set to “Broil”.

  7. I enjoy my leisure more than I ever enjoyed my paid work. Having said that, I think it would be a lot easier to talk sensibly about what people actually want, and what they should want, if we didn’t feel compelled to put fences around them and restrict their choices. If a budding Jane Austen doesn’t want to be an author, fine. But to whose benefit is it to tell her that “nice ladies don’t publish books”? Or to tell her that she’d be more fulfilled, in the long run, if she didn’t try? Maybe she’d have been happier if she’d married and had kids, I don’t know–but is it really up to us to make that choice for her?

    If guys think it’s going to be fabulously fulfilling to keep house and raise kids, they’re free to give it a try, too. They might find they enjoy leaving the rat-race behind. Of course, they’d have to worry about finding someone to trust to bring home the bacon. It’s not all fun and games.

    1. Actually, my little brother the graphic artist is the stay-at-home parent for the two children that he and his wife has, and he seems to find it quite fulfilling. (Wife is full-time schoolteacher). He is a fantastic father, too – and manages the home and his freelancing with great efficiency.

      1. I worked with a couple of women whose households were set up this way, too, and I’d happily listen to their husbands advise wives not to miss out on the joys of being stay-at-home parents.

        1. A lot of my friends who are male and writers are stay at home parents, for this reason.
          To be fair, Dan is probably a better stay at home parent than I am. He is SO organized. But he made/still makes a lot more money, so…

          1. I guess you can chalk me into that category. I’m not making a living with my writing, but I’m writing and taking care of my 2 year old daughter.

            Of course, Pre-K won’t get here nearly fast enough for me. 😀

          2. I’d make a LOUSY stay-at-home dad. Too many years in the Army. If I see kids sitting around, slack-jawed in front of the TV or the computer, my first impulse is to give them something productive to do. Last year when I took two weeks off, my kids learned how to do the laundry and the dishes. My wife had been frazzled earlier that year due to being overrun with laundry and kitchen duties. I had suggested to her that this would be a good thing for the kids to learn. I showed them how, but the wife at that time was not a good enforcer. After two weeks of the kids shouldering most of the workload for a clean house, her perspective changed.

            My new motto as a parent is, “You’ll need to know how to do this when you’re out of high school and living on your own. And Mom and I are tired of doing this for the whole family. So EVERYBODY WINS! [INSERT EVIL GRIN HERE]”

    2. The problem is that we do want to put fences around them and restrict their choices. Would anyone here object to the notion that “nice ladies — and gentlemen — don’t work for the Southern Law Poverty Center”?

      1. I have no problem with asserting that some things are right and wrong, for human beings of either gender. What I object to is deciding that women will be happier if they’re debarred from some activities that are fine for men. Whose business is it to ensure that half the human race must be kept in a box in order to be happy? If what’s in the box is all that great, I’m sure they’re grown-up enough to choose it for themselves.

      2. Yeah, I’m gonna object. This is a statement of objective fact: the folks who work for the SPLC are not nice. I would have far less objection to the SPLC if they did, in fact, employ some nice ladies and gentlemen. Now, if you want disagreement on “nice ladies — and gentlemen — don’t work the streets renting their — or other people’s — genitalia,” I can’t provide it. Just because a person earns their living in such way does not preclude their being nice, but it does make it unlikely.

  8. Strikes me that those “broken’ souls not satisfied with just enough are the very same folks responsible for every advancement in the history of Man. For much if not all of the wars and suffering as well of course, but change is always a double edged sword.

    1. The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

      G. B. Shaw.

            1. eh, if we’re going to size, we might as well use the Leviathan. . .

              Perhaps Emily wished to modulate the punishment for the offense.

                  1. I am authoritatively advised, by women who I would presume knowledgeable, that size isn’t everything,

                    And you know that it’s the truth, unless, of course, you find otherwise for your own preferences.

                    1. Years ago I read a lot of star trek slashfic — I SWEAR — to help a friend with her dissertation. ONLY one phrase stuck with me (because traumatic circumstances, trust me on this) “It’s not the size of your force. It’s the mode of your deployment.”

                  1. I’m feeling like Rodney Dangerfield here. I don’t get no respect.

                    Wait, what was I thinking? Where am I again? Never mind. Back to your regularly scheduled carping.

                    1. Yeah, I was about to say, if you want to see no respect, bring in one of these womynist mouthpieces in here.

                      I somehow suspect those individuals would really feel the meaning of “no respect” 😀

  9. I think people as a whole were made for struggle. Having lived as a lower income American (which I recognize is significantly higher class than a large swath of the rest of the world) as well as having lived as a fairly upper middle class American with my parents when they were finally getting their business off the ground- and then lower income again having married an enlisted military man… one thing that I’ve noticed in American culture is that everyone craves a struggle. And if no real struggle can be found to be fought, women (and I suppose men- though being a woman I notice it more there) will create one out of thin air.

    I’m convinced this desire for struggle is the real motivation behind the neighborhood gossip who is always looking for drama to convey. Or the helicopter parent who falls into hysteria because her little Jimmy actually spoke to the octogenarian who takes his tiny dog on shuffling walks every day through their neighborhood. (AHMAHGAHD STRANGER DANGER HE MIGHT HAVE KIDNAPPED MAH BAYBAY) Or the militant feminist who gets her rage on when a waitress calls her “honey” or a man holds a door open for her.

    These are not battles worth fighting, but in the absence of actual purpose, these people have manufactured conflict.

    I don’t know that any woman can identify one specific thing that would make all women happy, but I do believe that all women need purpose to be happy. Whether that be caring for children, cleaning a house, or telling beautiful stories- having goals and working toward making them a reality is absolutely necessary.

    1. Yeah. Orwell observed at the time that the totalitarian states offered difficulty and struggle, and people threw themselves at their feet.

    2. There’s some proverb about the devil making work for idle hands. I’m sure it can’t be relevant though because it’s religious and religions are tools of the patriarchy

      1. Only the devil can be substituted with something else, like severe depression.

        I know of several people, including myself TBH, who after learning or re-learning a skill that required us to use our hands constantly like crocheting, knitting, sewing, woodworking etc and then finding dozens of small charities that accepted said items once they were finished, found themselves beginning to recover.

        Even if the purpose is several small ones, piled together, it can make a huge difference.

          1. John Stossel, back when he was still at ABC, did a program on Happiness which reached the same conclusion as your grandpa. Maybe it is because humans need to feel useful, which would also explain the general tendency of society’s leaches to be miserable folk.

      2. Well, yeah. “The essence of humanity is to do just enough to get by. ” Unfortunately, when that’s nothing, boredom kicks in:

        “They have no cultural activity they can call their own, and their lives seem, even to them, empty of purpose. In the welfare state, mere survival is not the achievement that it is, say, in the cities of Africa, and therefore it cannot confer the self-respect that is the precondition of self-improvement.”


    3. Possibly “struggle” is a proxy for “purpose” – as in, “is my life good for anything?” Because hopefully, if I am engaged in struggle, and haven’t chosen too badly what to struggle at, I am fulfilling some purpose even if I’m not sure where it is all going.

      1. Oh, yes. Dalrymple often observes that the welfare state strips lives of basic purpose and so ensures misery.

  10. Whenever I hear or see a discussion involving “happiness”, I am reminded of the memorable words of Tom Utley: “If you think of life as a series of duties — and of happiness as an undeserved blessing, rather than a right — you are likely to be much happier than if you think happiness is yours by right.”

    1. Interesting. Does happiness follow when we have duties to perform? Or, responsibilities- if I can change the phrasing?

      Or does the secret of happiness require us to not look for it, but be grateful when we find it?

      Or both?

    2. As always, there are a number of ways one can look at it. I remember how hard it was to homeschool our kids all those years, and how much we sacrificed to do so. Then, years later, my son was asked in a survey whether he felt that he could ask us any questions about his studies. His response: “Of course I did. My parents are the two most intelligent people I know, and they always answered my questions: it was never a chore for them. Everything I’ve learned, and whatever I’ve achieved, is because of their example.” (He didn’t know that I could hear the conversation.)

      Ask me if I had a rush of happiness when I heard those words. And I never went looking for it — it all came about because of the work I’d done.

    3. I think the modern concept of happiness can be roughly translated as: “what advertisers would like you to think you’ll have if you buy the product or service being advertised”.

    4. I’ve had a Motto for a long time: “If your happiness is dependent on the actions of others, you’re bound to be unhappy.”

  11. Looking at it in hind-sight, I think I would have been perfectly happy staying at home with my daughter (and any other children I might have had if it had all worked out with her father) and maybe working part-time when she was old enough to go to school. I would very happily been the other half – and I believe that he certainly would have gotten a lot farther in a military career if he had stuck with me.
    Ah, well – water under the bridge. And I am certainly happier in the work I have now, as a writer and publisher and editor with my own Tiny Bidness. YMMV.

  12. “Yes, I know that’s not what they say they think, but if you read them, you end up getting that very clear picture.”

    How true. You can slice and dice it anyway you want, but a feminist who argues that abortion is necessary for equality means that women are indeed mismade men, that our inferiority lies in our pregnancy, and that society is entitled to treat us as inferior until we fix our inferiority.

  13. I don’t know. I know what I want, and what my friends want.

    Are you sure?

    1. Yeah. I am rock solid sure of what I want (took me years to figure it out, but I want what I have. It’s good. I’d be happy if the kids got their start and moved off, but it can wait a little) and I think I know what my friends want.

  14. Telecommuting ought to fix much of this “work-life balance” thing right up. It’s even good for the environment, because then people won’t drive as much. It’ll certainly save you gas money!

    1. I have a friend with three young daughters (six and under) who runs a writing agency out of her home. (Articles on demand, ghostwriting, even just editing assistance.) I don’t know how she does it, but she’s the type of personality that thrives when she’s super-busy. Her husband is search-and-rescue, so he has irregular hours, too.

      I think I’d like something similar (though not writing; I’m a competent copyeditor and decent writer but it’s not my goal.) My sister has told me to get into “consulting”, which is basically telecommuting piecework as she describes it (PDF conversion here, small artwork there, and so forth), but it’s figuring out the leap in to where people will hire you that is the hard part. Enough to fulfill my creative jonesing and get a little money on the side while not interfering with the older kids. Naturally, though, I’ve got a baby on the way, so farewell to free time for months after that event… (“free time” does appear in tiny little minutes-long chunks after that, I can use that. I’ve had to before.)

      Different women want different things. Imagine that.

      1. I see your point. All the more reason to telecommute; in the past, “working from home” (because you had a farm to tend) was the default. Besides, I’m sure your home is happier than any office will be.

      2. Shh, don’t spill the beans. If THEY keep thinking we all want the same thing, then those of us who like other stuff might have a chance to sneak out of the meeting before they notice. 😉

      3. Someone who can figure out a temp agency for stay-at-homes— paid by the piece, sort of like Mechanical Turk but with more individual weight– deserves to be insanely rich.

          1. It’s very…. Post-Stuff-Random-People-On-The-Sidewalk-Can-Do heavy. “Take a survey” sites to the max. (Even in the “write an article for money” area. Did a lot of those.)

            I’m thinking more like “have a consistent group of people with skills that you can offer jobs to” thing.

            1. My sister lives in the Bay Area and there’s sort of an organization there that helps gather information at a central location. The problem is that most of the current sites up are 1) confusing as heck (UI design chops count, folks!) and 2) very vague about things like reliability or payback. It’s almost a case of “to get hired, you have to be on the list, and to be on the list, you have to get hired.” It’s the getting started and getting good ratings that’s the hard part.

    2. I’ve been telecommuting in various ways for about 10 years now. I’m not sure that it is quite as good as its proponants claim. I’ve recently been more in the office and I’ve founf that I’m a lot more productive when I’ve got people to talk to and discuss things with. And generally speaking I discuss better in person than over skype.

      I think offices where you come in 2 or 3 days a week probably work quite well.

      1. I think offices where you come in 2 or 3 days a week probably work quite well.

        Sounds like something worth trying. The point is that you don’t always want to shackle workers to the cubicle.

        1. I found that an 8 by 8 cubicle was a lot nicer environment to work in than my home.

          1. Interesting. I like to have a lot of space when I work…but I don’t always get what I want, so I make do.

            1. Well, 8 by 8 was a step up from what I had at home, both in terms of space, and for some other reasons. I wasn’t even using all the space.

              1. Whatever floats your boat. 🙂 I still say telecommuting is underutilized. It’s not best for everything or everyone, but it should be more of an option.

      2. I’ve been telecommuting since 1999 and find it works very well. For me, at least, it was a huge improvement over life in an office. It’s easier now than it once was to stay in touch with team members by phone and email; we no longer need to pal around in person in order to reinforce the bond. I never feel pressure to be in the office to “show the flag”; if I’m working, I’m genuinely producing value for the client. If I’m not producing value for the client, I’m home and doing what I like. My old office life was far too cluttered with pseudo-“fun” events on evenings and weekends.

        1. Mandatory fun is the worst.

          It’s weird, because I’m an expert in goofing off, but what I always termed as mandatory fun just felt like a waste. I should have loved it, but when I’m looking at something ridiculous I’m expected to do that should be purely for entertainment, and realize I’d much rather go back to work instead.

          An example was an “annual meeting” when I was a defense contractor. We did it for two years. The first year, it was basically a big cookout. Everyone milled about, a fair amount of alcohol was consumed, and it wasn’t a bad time at all.

          The next year, they tried to give us “structure” with all these speakers and activities. It was ridiculous. Of course, I contributed to that when I answered the question of “what motivates you to do a good job?” with the answer of “fear”.

          The speaker was not amused for some silly reason.

          1. It’s weird, because I’m an expert in goofing off, but what I always termed as mandatory fun just felt like a waste

            “Go and relax with people who can fire you, and may take offense at the idea that you are having fun.”

            Yeah, not cool.

            1. To some extent. Mostly I think it just bothered me that the things they had planned didn’t take into account the kinds of things most of us actually did for fun.

              The only thing as annoying in a workplace are “team building exercises”. /eye roll/

              1. I got ONE good thing out of mandatory fun days in the Navy:

                While that is good, it’s not worth roughly two lumpia per hour of suffering…..

                    1. We handled our own supply. (actually took a supply class as part of Pharmacy Tech “C” school)

                      There just isn’t any excuse, damn it!

                    2. All you really needed was to get stationed in Hawaii. Lumpia! Lumpia everywhere! Also malasadas, kalua pig, poke, and loco moco. Downside is rock fever. And the roads. And too many cars on a too small island.

                    3. Seattle, too. Part of why I don’t complain more about living inthe blob. (That and having discovered Thai instant hot and sour soup.)

                    4. Sadly, no. Home valley doesn’t have it, for example, or any of the nearby small towns. It’s a two hour drive to the town with Walmart that might, and I think Safeway would… but it’s not the imported ramen sorta stuff. (block-of-noodles ramen, not the original Japanese stuff.)

                  1. Super-delicious, is what lumpia are. Though I suppose that I preferred siaopao, (and I’m sure I’m not spelling that right, but it’s basically a steamed pork bun).

                    1. http://panlasangpinoy.com/2009/08/07/how-to-make-home-made-siopao-asado-recipe/

                      I’ve made these – after I got tired of having allergic reactions to grocery store bought ones here in Australia. It’ll take some practice learning how to do the filling and filling the bun without a mess, but the results are worth it and you can use the bun dough as just a steamed bun (Pao) and you can make sweet red bean filling (I think you can buy the Japanese anko from Asian groceries, canned). They last a long time if you freeze them, and then re-steam them either via the microwave or via a steamer.

                      You WILL need to make little squares of baking paper for them to sit on so they don’t stick to the steamer bottom.

                      Popular in the Philippines when I left were the flavored mashed mung bean / sweet potato filled minibuns – chocolate, Japanese green tea, ube, ‘cookies and cream’, peanut, and strawberry.

                    1. I remember the lectures on “places you’re not allowed to go” before pulling in. We took notes as those were obviously the interesting places.

                    2. I got in trouble at one once when, as the class first started, I raised my hand.

                      Instructor: Yes?

                      Me: I’m not sure I really need this class.

                      Instructor: Petty Officer Knighton, the Navy mandates sexual harassment training for all personnel. You have to be here.

                      Me: But I already know a lot of ways to sexually harass women and, since it’s the Navy, I could probably apply it to other guys, though I wouldn’t actually admit to that due to Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.


                      The CO wasn’t nearly as amused as I was. CMC? Whole different ball game.

                    3. At the first one I ever attended, the HR person came into the room and asked if we all knew why we were there. One of the guys, who was a clown anyway, yelled from the back of the room, “Because you’re a babe!”

              2. I despised team building exercises with a passion. I had a four hour commute, minimum, going home if I took those fifteen minutes to chat about nothing. To escape the four hour commute going to and going from work, I got up hours before dawn and slept in the break room for two hours, and ran a kilometer or so to reach my station. I had priorities outside of drinking myself silly and using up my money to eat in expensive restaurants. I had a daughter and I was a single parent then. My supervisor complained to the floor manager that I was antisocial and ‘not a team player’ – when we were in a call center that had us scattered across the floor and isolated from each other. I asked if there was a complaint about the quality of the work I turned in. When they said ‘no’ I replied “Then what’s the problem?”

                Then it turned out that said supervisor was using these team building events and outings to find out which women were willing to sleep with him, to give him the spice he wanted outside of his marriage with two children.

                1. Yet another reason to hate team building exercises.

                  My wife’s previous job, she had a supervisor who was a big fan of team building exercises. At the same time, she was gone from the job site much of the time (part timer…why a part timer was made a supervisor is beyond me), while being a micro-manager who was out to “catch” employees the rest of the time.

                  Meanwhile, I worked in a warehouse on a Marine base. No team building crap, and we were as tight as any group I’ve been part of outside of the military and the Masons.

                  The difference was we had a supervisor more interested in building a team than looking like she was building a team.

                2. Yeah. I once told a moderator at a leadership conference that our “Teams” were artificial constructs that were geographically collocated. I said, “My work comes out from the void and goes back into the void when I’m done. If I’m in a foxhole, I care about my work because it affects the people around me. Either I care about them and not making a mess for them, or I care about not hearing from them what a screw up I am. But my work here affects nobody that I see. There are days where I take great advantage of that with regard to the quality of my work, and I can tell you that this attitude is epidemic.”
                  [INSERT ROOM FULL OF GLARING O-4’s HERE]
                  Yup, I’m an NCO, and I’m a combat veteran, and I have EXACTLY the kind of manners that don’t keep me from saying stuff like this.
                  To his credit, and for all his faults, the OIC changed our work structure and gave more autonomy to the Majors while making it so individual teams handle work from start to finish. There’s no longer anyone to blame failure on. If your team screws it up, your team screws it up.

          2. The only thing the military does worse than “mandatory fun” is “Leadership Training.” The Major, Lieutenant and NCOIC were all out of town, and “Oh, my gosh, our team has to be represented at the leadership conference!” so I got picked to attend.
            One Major was discussing how to motivate the civilians and said, “I don’t care what the minimum standard is for our work. I care about what I think each person is capable of! If they’re not producing what I think they’re capable of, they’re on my bad list!”
            I raised my hand and said, “With all due respect, I’m on board with getting the highest efficiency out of our employees. But we have a minimum standard outlined in our hiring contract. Once our employees have met that, we’ve gotten out of them what they agreed to. We’ve gotten our money’s worth, so to speak. We don’t reward them for producing more than they agreed to, at least, not financially. So if we continually push for them to produce more than that, the only thing we’re going to motivate them to do is to look for a job elsewhere in which their bosses don’t demand that they produce more than they’ve contracted to do without rewarding them for doing so.”

            CURSE the NCO Corps for bringing human behavior and the laws of physics into a brilliant Major’s pontification!

            Yeah, I think I’m on that Major’s naughty list.

            1. Sounds like there would be a metric butt-ton of people on that Major’s naughty list.

              The truth is, I was once one of those civilian workers. I worked on a joint project housed at Marine Corps Logistics Base Albany. You were absolutely correct. If my boss expected me to do more than I was required to do with no compensation forthcoming, it wouldn’t have taken me long to go elsewhere.

              Now, I’d put up with it for a while, convinced it would be reflected in my next pay raise, but if it wasn’t? Then I’d be sending resumes out left and right.

              If there is a standard, and I meet it, you’ve got no right to bitch. The “me” I am now will exceed it, because that’s who I am today, but I also expect for it to be recognized. I don’t like seeing my own personal “standard” adjusted upward simply because they figure I should be expected to do more.

              1. Yeah. I think the ROTC’s solution to teaching Lieutenants leadership is to say, “Tell them they need to be more motivated. Put two scoops of Hooah in their coffee in the morning.” They don’t realize this approach works for no more than a matter of hours with the NCO Corps, and then NCOs start looking for ways to replace their OICs.
                How does that quote go? “Enlisted men are stupid, but extremely cunning and sly, and bear considerable watching.” Attributed to the U.S. Army’s Officer Guide, 1863.

                1. And, what many officers don’t realize is that the enlisted are the ones who routinely have their nose to the grindstone everywhere you don’t want people to be pissed at you. Payroll, medical, the galley/mess, etc.

                  It’s not like it would be the first time I saw shot records accidentally fall into the shredder, thereby making it so the individual had to go through a full battery of shots.

                  Probably wouldn’t have been the last either. 🙂

      3. If Dan ever retires into writing (something we thought quite doable in ten years, except now the health care thing is… complex) we will each have a co-worker 😉

      4. That works when your workplace in close driving distance to where you live. If it’s on the other side of the country from you live, telecommuting might sound better.

        1. That is one reason why I was telecommuting for the last decade: I worked at places that were at least an hour in a plane away from where I lived (and for the last few years about 1/3rd of the way around the globe).

          Telecommuting is better than getting on a plane on Sunday night and another one on Friday (which I also did for 2 years) but I think that in an ideal world you would have a short (1-5 mile say) distance to go to work and do that a few days a week. I understand that this isn’t always possible though.

          One other thing. Our office is in a Regus where many small companies have offices so there are a lot of other people that you meet at the coffee machine etc. that aren’t your coworkers. For those of us that are not happiest away from others, that works well for getting a bit of human interaction.

          1. I once was working in an office that was a four minute drive from home. What a bad idea that was. Four minute drive wasn’t long enough to come down off the work environment stress before going in the front door. About a 15 – 20 minute drive was ideal.

            1. so could you not use a bike or something? A 2-4 mile bike ride would be pretty much ideal I’d think.

              1. I can’t speak for SPQR, but bike commutes have their own issues. I actually living within a 15 minute *walk* of my workplace, but because it’s too darn hot in the summers and too darn cold in the winters, I rarely walk or bike in. Rain is rarely an issue hereabouts (alas), but could well be for others.

              2. Actually, biking wasn’t going to work with the dress requirements and occasional out-of-office trips for appearances and such that that job entailed.

            2. I’m 13 minutes from work going 5 MPH over the limit and hitting all green lights. I concur.
              On the upside, I’m starting to bike to work. It’ll burn fat AND help obliterate stress.

      5. I telecommuted, off and on, for the better part of 15 years. Coming in once, occasionally twice a week, turned out to work about the best.

        Of course, there were the rare-ish occasions where you’d have to come in five or six days in a row, but they were exceptional. (Technical writer, with occasional flurries of screwed-up-by-marketing product schedules.)

    3. Time and space.

      First issue of space is being able to cram the necessary and helpful equipment into one’s home, and have it be ergonomically accessible.

      Second is trying use a station for both work and personal business/recreation can lead to difficulties switching gears. Being able to use a different space helps some people with self discipline.

      Spending ten hours away from where one spends the other fourteen hours of the day can also be a boon psychologically, and again help with frame of mind issues.

      1. Good points, but not having to deal with “office politics” can help as well. I guess that some people need the office environment, while others don’t.

      2. I once worked as a phone rep for a company from home. Soon I had three computers on my desk: my work computer, on which I worked; my home desktop, on which I surfed the net while working; and my laptop, on which I watched movies while surfing the net and working. I simply put my earbuds in underneath the work headset they gave me.
        Pay me minimum wage, and you’ll get minimum effort. On the other hand, I broke the company record for people calling in to praise my customer service skills.

        1. Hahahahaha that was something my parents could never figure out – how I could EVER get so much done while having something showing, having people to chat with via Ventrilo, and poking my head into the MMO running in windowed mode in the background to buff…

          I knew several people who said they actually found they got more done because they’d hunt for ten minutes, then sit and regen for twenty to half an hour, during which time they’d work.

  15. My two cents: Women would be much happier if they didn’t buy into the myth that they’d find personal fulfillment through a career. IMO, the feminists who evangelized that message did women a huge disservice.

    🙂 Of course, while I’m putting on my asbestos underpants, I’m also of the opinion that women would be happier if they didn’t work with other women. Whoever said that men are territorial doesn’t seem to have had much exposure to the fairer sex.

    1. Some women — and I don’t see why you’re putting on asbestos anything. I hated going to an all-girl’s school and I only work well with atypical women. — but while I would slit my throat if I were in a “typical corporate career” if you took my writing away and made me “just mom” my family would slit their throats. I’d turn my entire obsessiveness and imagination on them. this would not end well.

    2. 🙂 Of course, while I’m putting on my asbestos underpants, I’m also of the opinion that women would be happier if they didn’t work with other women.

      Can I give a heck yeah?

      I’m good working with women who actually want to do the job we all signed up for doing.

      The roughly three in four that are doing social status stuff make my head hurt. I just want to do the job…..

      1. I was the only male working the admin side of an outpatient mental health clinic. *shudder*

        I still wake up in night screaming, my shirt adhered to my chest from the cold sweat, because of that job.

        I need a trigger warning from that. Trigger Warning: Estrogen!

      2. I can now think of two instances I’d run across in the last year where a woman company owner basically wrote an article along the lines of “I started an all-woman company because HooHa!!!(tm), and it went bankrupt. I spent more time managing emotions and dealing with princess entitlement, etc…”

        In one case they then started dissecting why we STILL haven’t gotten rid of these attitudes and how to “fix it”.

        The other one,can’t remember if it was huffpo, ended along the lines of “If I even start another company I’m hiring guys.”

      3. I’ve actually never had this problem, probably because the “mostly women” groups I’ve worked with were both small and more on the technical side (post-production for photography.) It could be the hiring process; the person doing the hiring tends to screen for jerks and drama queens. Big enough pool of applicants, even at the small wages that photography gets, that he can choose people he’d like to work with, and since he’s a non-drama type (though high-stress; photography isn’t for the laid-back), he tends to pick people who actually want to do the job.

        1. Most of my groups were military, gov’t work, or had some “I don’t want to hurt so and so, so we can’t kick out that jerk” stuff involved, or was a toxic person taking over when the folks who built the thing got burnt out. (And running it into the ground by removing those they found to be jerks…even when it explicitly violated the agreed on rules. Hm, I’m still angry about that.)

        2. In the “liberal arts” including translation, because achievement is fuzzier, I avoided female co workers if I could and all female groups are pure poison.

    3. I think about twice in my career, I took over management of a group of women who had previously been managed by a woman. In both cases, I was universally hailed with great joy on arrival. And in one of those two cases, I was an absolute stranger to the group. Both were successful groups going forward. Sometimes, the woman/woman work management relationship gets unhealthy as all hell.

      1. Women who (to those above them) give the signals of being a good manager tend to treat those below them like small children. (Objectively, I mean– not the “interpreting how they act” thing, but in the actual policies.)

        Guys who are incredibly bad managers give different signals to those above them, and are USUALLY weeded out.

        There are good female supervisors, but a good female supervisor who also comes across like a good male supervisor* and also is an actually good manager… that’s rare.

        * A good female manager is more like a Team Mom, on TV tropes– the GOOD ones. Male managers can also take this position, but it’s about as rare as the “good male style female managers.” Humans are humans, we fail in slightly predictable ways.

        ** I am NOT a good female manager. I’m a good Samwise or Lt– I’ve got my leader, he tells me what we need, I get it done. No, I wasn’t a Sgt, but I’d bet an insanely disproportionate number of female style GOOD leaders are, both sexes.

        1. I have a good manager who is female, However, the one female coworker on my team says that she treats her more like the small child you describe above than how she treats the men. They still get along, but it appears to be more frustrating to the coworker than it should be.

          And if the manager ever happens on this comment, I’m probably a dead man.

          1. It could very well be the other female being over-sensitive; I’ve got a cousin who accused me of treating him like a child…for actually reading the “evidence” he offered, researching it, and pointing out that yes, bugs DO tend to die when sprayed with pesticide.

            It was condescending, y’know. To read what he offered and act like he was a rational adult, rather than a three year old to be humored. -.-

            1. It’s possible, but it doesn’t fit her. She’s pretty laid back about such things, but it’s also possible that there’s a subconscious thing about taking orders from another woman. Or it could be a little of it from both sides.

        2. I wonder if I am not the same sort. I am barely OK as a leader myself, but as the second, or the exec, the admin – the one who smoothly makes it all happen? I AM AWESOME. No, really – that was what I did best at, and felt the most comfortable and confident in, both military and civilian. Well, that and being the free-ranging tech – tell me what you want, don’t make me baby-sit the stupid or unwilling, just let me go do my thing and make it all happen. Don’t make me handhold the hapless. I don’t have the patience. Work with a team of equally-free-ranging techs? That I can manage.

        3. Both of the examples in my personal experiences mentioned were people who flaunted power in petty ways, were disorganized with continuous last minute crises that inevitably entailed a subordinate having to work overtime to complete something, and were viewed by their subordinates as not even-handed in criticism/praise.

          I’ve seen many good managers who were women and even worked for several myself. I would never claim that men or women are inevitably better/worse than another as managers. Just that a group of women being managed by women seems to my perception to have a higher chance of having toxic behaviors.

    4. I don’t know whether it’s cultural, sociological, or a function of behavioral biology, but it’s long been my observation that a lot of women do not do well in male-style hierarchy leadership positions, nor do they function well within them as followers. I don’t really know what a “female-style” team system would look like, either, to be quite honest. But, I will point out that when you try to organize women the way you do men, it often just does not work out that well.

      I would speculate that the problem is that the male-style system we’ve got going in most of our workspaces is based upon a set of male behavioral patterns that go back to the days when we had to hunt dangerous large game in teams. Take a look at what happens with children playing–In a lot of cases, the boys are quite happy slotting themselves into a hierarchy of a team, where they fit. The girls are more often doing independent play, off by themselves, where they’re directing their imaginary playmates at what they do. Who, I would point out, do exactly as they’re told. There ain’t no give-and-take going on, with dolls. And, when the girls play in groups, it’s often one of them taking control and forcing the direction of play the way they want it to go. Which the non-dominant girls often acquiesce to–With a group of boys, there seems to be a lot more give-and-take, as the non-alpha boys push and pull the play in a direction they want it to go. The alphas don’t seem to mind the collaboration. The girl alphas? They’ll crush the nuts of anyone trying to interfere with their “vision”. Or, so it seems as I watch and listen to them.

      Put my niece into a situation where she’s playing with multiple kids or her brothers, and she wants to take charge. If she doesn’t get her way, tantrums follow. If I hear them playing together, and I note that things are not going the way she wants them to, I can generally predict a “3… 2… 1… BANG!” situation will be ensuing, usually started when she starts hitting her brothers because they’re not doing what she wants them to.

      The nephews? They slot right in together. Collaborative group play is something they’re apparently wired for. I would speculate that the girls don’t come by this naturally, and the ones who do manage to do it have to become conditioned into it. The majority of the really difficult female bosses I’ve worked for all came from either single-child families, or they had no brothers to play with. The better ones were all tomboys, or had a bunch of brothers–They’d learned the rules.

      Instinct? Biology? Dunno… Wouldn’t surprise me if there isn’t something there, in terms of evolutionary psychology. I note that most women I’ve dealt with on the job are not at all territorial when it comes to terrain or job duties–But, God help you if you intrude into their “people territory”. There’s something there, in terms of differences between the sexes. You don’t often see the catty, back-stabbing behavior between men of different statuses in a hierarchy that you generally find with a bunch of women working in an environment designed for men. The male organizational pattern seems to bring the worst out in a lot of women.

      When you look at it, most of our work-related social structures are generally built around what the male half of a hunter-gatherer society probably looked like when it was out hunting. Infantry squad, football team, whatever–They’re all around 11 men. I have to wonder what the equivalent female structure would look like–What would it look like?

      From observation, I don’t think the female-ideal organizational structure would look anything like what works best for men.

      Or, would it even exist, being as most women don’t seem to like working with others, past a certain point? I note that most polygamous cultures seem to have a considerable amount of status-mongering infighting going on with the wives, with constant one-womanship going on. The few guys I’ve known who were caught up in that sort of thing just described what I’d describe as an ‘effing nightmare, with the wives constantly going at each other over petty issues.

      1. Strange. I never had that experience in my workplace. Competent, honest men and women just cooperated to get the work done.

        1. You’ve been lucky. Very lucky–If you’ve never experienced the things I’m describing, your good fortune is to be treasured. Toxic bosses come in both genders, just as toxic workplaces do.

          Every time I run into someone who says they’ve never seen this sort of thing, I tell them to make damn sure they keep their current job, because they’re due for a cosmic turn of the wheel in their next one.

          1. I’m certainly not claiming I’ve never seen incompetence in the workplace, or dysfunctional teams–only that the problem wasn’t limited to women who didn’t understand how to work in teams. That problem is equal opportunity, in my experience.

            1. Ah… Point that I was making was that the problems are indeed equal-opportunity, but that there’s a different source and rate with many women.

              I’ve known some women who were great team players, better than the guys. They’re actually part of the reason I think this issue is gendered, because the two that stand out in my memory were both lesbians who definitely did not work well with the girly-girls. Even though they dated the hell out of them…

              1. Your comment was that “most women don’t seem to like working with others, past a certain point”–this wasn’t my experience. In any case, the teams I worked on invariably were a mix of men and women, which is why I’m skeptical that men and women don’t share a team approach that works well. All we had to do was keep the a-holes off the team, which admittedly was fulltime work. They’re always around. But the things that I saw wreck teams were scapegoating, failure to take responsibility, lying, frank incompetence, and so on–things both men and women do.

                1. Do you suppose that it’s possible that there is some selection bias going on with your experiences? Especially if the environment you’re working in has a tendency to attract women who are team players, in the first place?

                  Most of mine took place in an environment that pretty much required us to take whatever came, and we didn’t have the luxury of really getting rid of the a-holes. We had to work around those, both as peers and subordinates. And, when you stop and analyze them, the a-holes seemed to draw from different sources for their a-holeishness–Or, so it seemed to me.

                  Which is not to say that women are universally bad at leadership or being on teams–Some of the women I worked for could call me up to this day, tell me they thought something needed doing, and I’d drop what I was in the middle of to go do it. No questions asked, no limits, either…

                  1. It was a competitive environment, intensely meritocratic. As long as people weren’t sociopaths and had the horsepower, I never had a problem with them, male, female, black, white, whatever. But the people I enjoyed working with weren’t so much natural team players as “odds,” in our hostess’s formulation–people who were too focused on the task, and on excellence, to let either team dynamics or identity politics trip them up much.

                    Now that’s all about team behavior. There was a greater variety of skill in the managers who had to direct teams. Even there, though, I can’t say there was a male/female split. Some people just have what it takes to make clear demands and keep their eye on the ball, while others drift in circles hoping to take the credit for direction supplied by someone else.

                    1. As long as people weren’t sociopaths

                      That is a REALLY high bar.

                      I wish I was joking, but…. That’s a REALLY high bar.

                      Manipulating people to get what they want is pretty par for the course for the poison folks I’ve seen; emotional destruction, actual CAREER destruction with malice aforethought, ditto.

                  2. Alternate question – how many teams had female managers AND at least one female team member? Because it’s been my experience that women can manage men, and men can manage women AND men, but most of the time, women managing women come to loggerheads sooner or later.

                    1. Er, some women. My husband is batting .500 and is kinda above average, there.

                      Might be a selection problem. Military.

                      Loooooots of power issues.

                      Actually has as many bad male supervisors as female…but has three to four times as many male authorities…..

                      I have had a good female supervisor, but she was Odd. It honestly didn’t occur to the two of us that we WERE female, a lot of the time, that I could see.

                    2. Er, some women.

                      Well, ok. I usually try to put in qualifiers, but sometimes I forget. Interesting about the ratios your husband has seen, though. And yeah, military could have something to do with it. Also, my own personal experience has been shy on female managers. I’m basing a lot of that on anecdotal evidence, which, I know, is pretty thin evidence.

                    3. Perhaps half of the time my team was headed by a woman and included women. I just didn’t see the issue you’re describing. Whatever it is you’ve seen women do in teams that causes a problem, I guess we just didn’t tolerate it.

                2. All we had to do was keep the a-holes off the team, which admittedly was fulltime work.

                  Means you removed the issues folks.

                  Means the bad female ones didn’t get a pass for being female.

                  See a few minutes ago comment– before this post– about good management.

                  1. That’s probably it right there–emphatically no one got a pass, for any reason. It kind of makes me laugh to think of anyone having asked for one. So alien to the atmosphere, which was somewhat viciously “up or out.” Not always pleasant, but anyone who tried to pull a fragile-flower act had better have had a preternatural talent that the firm was terrified to lose.

        2. I’d guess you’ve been in places with enough accountability and direct knowledge that toxic folks are weeded out, male or female. (Not always small-ish companies, but more common there; a really good manager with people sense can do the same.)

          Is a very good thing.

      2. I’ve been thinking about this overnight, and it occurs to me that we may be talking about different kinds of “teams.” My office didn’t have assigned or permanent teams, only alliances. One reason it was fairly easy to keep the a-holes off teams was that they had no way of staying; it was almost like choosing up teams on the playground all day, every day. If your team didn’t want you, you’d find yourself encysted and eventually you weren’t part of it any more. Likewise, if your team was unsatisfactory, you’d gradually join another. The teams were mostly task-specific, and quite fluid, though of course reputation was huge, so you couldn’t just walk onto any team willy-nilly.

        It makes me wonder whether women specially thrive in that kind of meritocratic anarchy–or not exactly thrive, but do as well as the men, so that there’s much less gender drama. Whether male or female, if your team behavior was annoying, you got shut out of teams. Then you either figured out a way to be productive acting alone, or you left. Of course, teams were highly motivated to get this decision right; there was no such thing as a successful team that got along great but couldn’t produce. All teams were competing for the best and most rewarding work, so it behooved them to have the best members they could retain. There was always lots more work than could possibly get done, so there was huge opportunity for shifting it around. In fact, the workload was so crushing that anybody would have had to be crazy to reject a good and trustworthy worker on grounds of sex, race, or anything else extraneous to the work.

    5. Whoever said that men are territorial doesn’t seem to have had much exposure to the fairer sex.

      THIS. SO VERY MUCH. I HATED working with the women I usually meet in offices. NO, you stupid sex-obsessed bints, I’m not looking to screw these guys you’re making googly eyes at, you can HAVE THEM. Oh wait they’re not paying attention to you? Why is this MY problem? I just want to be left alone to work. Oh the guys feel SAFE with me? Probably because I’m not looking at them like a hank of prize fillet, hanging on a meat hook. My gender is comprised of a lot of idiots, so much so that when someone tells me I act / think like I man, it’s not an insult, but a compliment!

      NEVER working in an office environment ever again!

      1. Wait. WOMEN looking at MEN as sex objects? How is this possible??!? I thought only men were capable of objectifying the opposite sex*!

        * Not really – I knew a guy who had a job in a place where nearly everyone else was female. He was a very “pretty” young man, and apparently he occasionally wound up with bruises from the women pinching his butt.

        1. I remember how CATTY things got when the female (and several gay) cow-orkers saw me chatting with the attractive, devotedly married, secretly otaku Aussie trainer, and my then boyfriend now hubby, also from Australia. During lunch break. The guys were talking about how I had shown the trainer the best places to find manga in town, and yummy food.

          I got told I should ‘leave some for the others, since you have one already.’ Oi vey.

          I feel bad for the guy in your story. Bet he couldn’t file for sexual harassment. But if a guy tries THAT… yeesh.

    6. Luke– you are SO spot on. I was miserable in elementary school (which mentally lasts aleph null hours a day) because “I could only befriend girls because boys had cooties”. It didn’t stop me, I made them anyway and took the consequences. But working for Borders HQ…gaah. I had TWO women friends, and my direct boss (for a while) who were people I could really be happy with. And some atypical folks in the data entry pool. Like… the woman with a MD (from India) and a family to feed on minimum wage. But HR, and all the fluffy jobs with women in sherbet colored suits…. and the drunken hazing fests that counted as office parties, well, let’s just say there’s a correlation between my ineptitude with dealing with my fembot peers in elementary school and my epic fail in office politics. Frankly, I can’t tell the difference. I’d rather get beaten up on the playground. No, what made working there worth it was BORDERS!! CHEAP BOOKS!! and chatting over lunch with the nerds who worked for ANS.

  16. If your business is at your house, or if everybody in the family pretty much are in the family business, there’s a lot of advantages in that.

    Of course, it also raises health and safety issues, and it makes it hard to escape panicked customers at three in the morning, and it’d be a lot harder to go home and leave business behind, and you’d have to have a mansion to have a big office or a factory at home. So there are reasons why people don’t have their work at home, too.

    But there do seem to be a lot of women who are killing themselves to go back to work right after a baby, etc., even when they don’t love the job and the money they’re bringing in as a second income is effectively eaten up by daycare and transportation costs. (If it’s an only income, you’re kinda without a choice.) If you’re spending most of the day feeling miserable and sad, and the money isn’t paying you back nearly enough for that, it’s probably cheaper, healthier, and saner to stay home.

    1. Of course, part of the problem is that most US adults these days tie a lot of self-worth to their paycheck. I know I do. I really stink at being unemployed when I don’t have a job to go to, and only part of it is money worries. Getting up in the morning and going to work is also a great depression fighter. So women who contemplate staying home probably don’t have much mental roadmap for not feeling unemployed.

      1. Of course, part of the problem is that most US adults these days tie a lot of self-worth to their paycheck.

        It’s the Protestant Work Ethic. Working, for an American, is not purely about need; you have to be Doing Something to be seen as a responsible member of society.

          1. Yeah, my sister has five kids from 11 to 2 and she works much, much, much harder than I do at my 9 to 5.

          2. Now it seems wives — especially housewives — who are good tho their husbands are explicitly insulted as “setting women back X years” and things like that.

            1. Housewives and other at-home workers have to be self-starters, and take the initiative all the time. Not everybody is up for that, but it’s certainly worth respect.

              1. That it is. And keep in mind that in marriage, your husband is your lover, not your opponent. Too often, husbands are presented as an enemy to be overcome.

              2. I sure don’t think of myself as a self-starter and having initiative, but…. I sure spot “Things Which Must Be Done” a lot faster than my husband, in household issues!

                It’s not that he’s helpless, it’s that something in his mindset doesn’t look for the chair that is going to fall over with another tug, or have a running mental tally of “things that could be issues” that he can’t list off but is AWARE of.

                One of the nasty things feminism as currently practiced does is fan the very feminine flaw of feeling like you’re doing everything, other folks are helpless, etc. Good when you’re dealing with kids, causes sympathy; bad when you’re dealing with your help-meet, it breeds wrath.

                1. Women have different triggers for housekeeping issues. Also, different ideas about what’s acceptable, where.

                  One thing I’ve noted that strikes me as really different between women and men: The difference between public and private restroom facilities.

                  Male facilities in public venues that I’ve had to clean? Exponentially easier to deal with. Female facilities? Oh. My. Gawd. Utterly filthy, and usually far nastier than the male ones.

                  Yet… Go to the private bathrooms of single guys vs. single women: Male bathrooms? A flippin’ horror. The ladies? You could eat off the floors.

                  Whether it’s been a public facility at my parent’s gas station, a gang latrine that was single-sex, or whatever else I encountered in my military career, when women have shared facilities, they’re a horror. Especially compared to how they keep their personal restroom. The males are the diametric opposite, and I don’t know why.

                  I ran the support platoon for my battalion, and we moved from old buildings with the gang-style latrines to the new format where there were individual bathrooms in each two-person room. In the old buildings, the latrine set aside for female use was a constant nightmare. In the new buildings, the girls universally kept their private bathrooms much, much cleaner than the males did.

                  Guys will, by default, leave things the hell alone until they become an issue–Run out of dishes? Run out of clothes? Time to do laundry/dishes. Women? Is there a dirty dish in the sink? Is the laundry bag full? Time to do something about it…

                  And, again, there’s that whole public/private space issue, at least in our culture. Public areas don’t seem to bother the girls–But, they sure as hell get the men going. It used to really amuse me watching what triggered the “clean this shit up” impulse with other senior NCOs, male and female: The female ones seemed to be bothered more by people with messy desks and personal work areas, while the males would key in on common areas more than anything else.

                  1. ::Looks around at his apartment.:: No comment. [Wink]

                  2. In my experience, the male facilities were pretty dang nasty– but the problem with female ones is that half the women are *standing on the toilet seat.*

                    They don’t want to “touch” anything, but they’re too lazy to lift the seat before doing so.

                    Thus, you get at least half as much liquid on the floor as with males, PLUS you get a bunch on the seat.

                    And they’ll throw paper on the ground to soak it up…and leave it.

                    I always took a good five minutes in the loo, because I’d take towels (if there were any) and pick up all the towels on the floor, put them in the garbage, shove the garbage down (carefully, in case someone put razors in there– yes, it happens), put a soapy towel on the floor, soap down the seat and bowl, do…well, basic cleaning stuff.

                    Don’t get me started on teh @#$#@ some filthy females pull on their cycle. It’s grosser than having to remove the poop fingerprints in the guy’s head.

                    1. In my experience, the male facilities were pretty dang nasty– but the problem with female ones is that half the women are *standing on the toilet seat.*

                      Well, that answers one mystery for me… I always wondered what the hell that was from.

                      What always gets me is that the guys who bother to put paper on the floor usually seem to at least pick it up afterwards…

                      I had the fortune/misfortune to work at a unit for a long, long time–Like, over a period of five years. In that time, I pulled staff duty an awful lot. There were two communal latrines in that building, one male, one female. Here’s the weird thing: In the male latrine, when someone really, really trashed the place, like with explosive diarrhea, you could expect the responsible party to at least say something, or ask where they kept the cleaning supplies to try and clean it up themselves. If they had to take off, they’d at least tell you before fleeing the building in shame–Although, it was often with a note of pride–“Man, I just destroyed the latrine… Sorry, man! Gotta go…”.

                      The female latrine? Never. Once. Did. Anyone. Ever. Take. Responsibility. Ever. Had duty with a female driver, once–She was hugely pissed off during the course of it, because she’d been in there cleaning it for an hour, and took off for breakfast. One of the female officers came in during PT, and… Well, it was indescribable. The CSM went through on his inspection later in the morning, and what we’d assumed was a spotlessly clean latrine was… Oh, I don’t know how to describe it without making someone want to vomit–Which, I think she did, all over the place. In combination with the menstrual thing, too. And, I know for a fact that it had been her, because she was the only person to go in there between the cleaning and the inspection. Chalk up another one for bad officer/enlisted relations, to say the least. My driver that night had it in for that officer for the next two years, and it was amazing to watch the dedication with which she stalked her prey, and delivered her revenge.

                    2. Oh yes. That’s one for my sex. Not sure if up or down but DO NOT PISS US OFF. We will take revenge in ways you might not even know come from us. over and over and over again. Men in general don’t get this.

                    3. Usually, not one for vengeance, but…. I think that qualifies as “delayed reality check.”

                      Sadly, VASTLY delayed.

                    4. “We will take revenge in ways you might not even know come from us. over and over and over again. Men in general don’t get this.”–Sarah

                      Which can be a problem, when you’re trying to teach the universe a lesson–If they don’t know who did it, or why, how can one expect learning to take place?

                      Unless, you’re just out for revenge. 🙂

                      My driver did her thing via the job she got clerking for the Property Book Officer. It took her forever, but that particular young Lieutenant was eventually a company commander, who had the misfortune to change her command while my driver was working for the PBO.

                      It was kind of odd, how everything she tried to survey off as lost property or what have you… Wasn’t. She paid the Army something like $30,000.00 for the privilege of commanding her company. And, the young lady who was my driver? Smiled sweetly the whole time, and that young captain was just completely convinced that the helpful clerk up at the PBO was completely on her side…

                      When I noticed this state of affairs, I had to ask… All I got was a sweet, sweet smile.

                    5. Well, it would have taken me more than an incident for THAT sort of revenge. I have a VERY long fuse for activating the “I will go after you” mode. You have to TRY to get on my nerves. This is because I’m very lazy. Usually takes incidents over YEARS before I even start NOT helping. You don’t want to get me to that point.

                    6. Which can be a problem, when you’re trying to teach the universe a lesson–If they don’t know who did it, or why, how can one expect learning to take place?

                      If they were in a purely female situation, it’d soak in; that’s what makes female style managers in a male situation so poisonous, they use female tactics in a male situation.

                      It’s like speaking Greek to a German and expecting headway.

                      You know how guys sometimes joke about women “reading too much” into stuff? That’s how indirect things work– guys are more physical, more direct, and so their “teach a lesson” is more obvious.
                      Women aren’t, and will be more indirect, in general– my grandmother’s “oh, I don’t know about that,” or the examples others here have mentioned about how their grandmother was able to have great effect without a harsh word or sharp argument.

                      It seems poisonous because it’s in the wrong context, and has all the normal hedges removed. (Female groups need a strong emotional bond, for example, generally.)

                      This is all patterns I’ve noticed and pieced together, incidentally; some things, like the toilet thing, I only found out by sheer accident.

                    7. If you have a clueless woman in the middle of a group of women it will be hell for the clue deprived one.

                    8. It’s that female subtlety thing. Which has some good points and some bad points, overall. Good thing – you will never know who threw the brick that brained you. Bad thing – you will know who threw the brick that brained you …

                    9. *raises hand*

                      Been there.

                      Made the mistake of thinking that a military female would be military first, and my family is pretty Odd– we try to live the principles. TRY.

                    10. @ Sarah–In my driver’s defense, there was rather more involved. I don’t know the details, however. All I know is that “something happened” while the two of them were working in the same section, which may also have been related to the period when they were sharing living space during an exercise deployment. My driver was pissed off enough that I’d have worried about hand grenades, were we on deployment during the period in question.

                      That young officer also had a veritable talent for pissing other women off. Men, not so much–They forgave a lot, because she was very, very kawaii. What kinda cracked me up, watching the whole thing, was how oblivious she was to how she came across to other women. Not always a big deal in a mostly male-dominated organization, but when there are key slots filled by other women, and they don’t like you, one damn bit…? Yeah. You’re going to “experience delays”, and “have issues” with things like paperwork.

                    11. You know how guys sometimes joke about women “reading too much” into stuff? That’s how indirect things work– guys are more physical, more direct, and so their “teach a lesson” is more obvious.
                      Women aren’t, and will be more indirect, in general– my grandmother’s “oh, I don’t know about that,” or the examples others here have mentioned about how their grandmother was able to have great effect without a harsh word or sharp argument.

                      Kind of reminds me of this thing I saw on Facebook. It had the journal entries for a couple on a given night.

                      The woman’s talked about her man came inside and was quiet and withdrawn. She asked if anything was wrong. He said no, but she’s sure there is. Is he cheating? Is she losing him? Like, a whole page of this.

                      The guy’s entry was: Motorcycle won’t start. Can’t figure out why.

                      It’s funny, because that’s really how some of this stuff happens. Men and women are very, very different psychologically, but each judges the other by the way their own genders act. (don’t get me started on these “other” genders…I’ve got no freaking clue what their standards are)

                      This leads to misunderstandings over what things mean because, well, guys really aren’t all that deep in most things. More importantly, we’re really OK with that. 🙂

                    12. Part of the reason for one of our kids’ name is that Elf’s grandparents taught him to work around that– don’t just say “oh, nothing.” Say “Oh, nothing– just trying to figure out why the motorcycle doesn’t work. Don’t wanna talk about it.”

                      It results in the same consideration going the other way.

                      When we remember, of course.

                    13. That’s usually what I do, mostly because I’ve seen what happens if the right questions aren’t asked. As such, I volunteer information a lot of guys just don’t think about.

                    14. @ Emily–A Japanese term for “toxic cuteness”. Think Hello Kitty in the flesh… With overtones of Cthulu in terms of personality.

          3. You very seldom saw an argument against women’s suffrage that women didn’t fight in wars. This was rare because there was a stock answer: men didn’t die in childbirth.


            Am following a discussion of A Mote In God’s Eye that regards it as horribly sexist because in a universe coming out of an interregnum, nice girls don’t use contraception, and the military is all male. Logical deduction: high birth rate was needed to survive.

            That all the societies they would approve of got swallowed up in the interregnum is not something they are prepared to allowed.

            1. Old books, when once praised as groundbreaking, are always condemned as bigoted by the arrogant and the narrow-minded.

              Even today, in 2014, schools try to ban Huckleberry Finn as “racist.” Whoever calls that book “racist” clearly hasn’t read it!

            2. But The Mote in God’s Eye is one of the best SF novels I have ever read. What is wrong with these people?

              1. It’s one of my favorites. I believe I’ve re-read it at least half a dozen times, the most recent only a few weeks ago.

  17. The best career life advice I ever got was from a book called The Age of Unreason. It had, among other insights, the idea of work/career as a portfolio. Just like an investment portfolio, your lifetime work portfolio would have some high reward/high risk, some low reward/high satisfaction, some high reward/high satisfaction, etc. These different types of work could be coincident in time, or serially, or spread out over your life.

    An example would be doing volunteer work, low pay, but high emotional satisfaction, vs taking an overseas posting for high pay, but being separated from family and friends. Or you could work 9-5 on a union job you disliked, but that provided all your material needs, while acting as deacon at your church for emotional needs (or building hot rods all night long in your garage….)

    Just like an investment portfolio, different types of work will be more appropriate for different life stages, and the balance of the types will likely change over time and place. The key for me was acknowledging that the mix and the type of work would change, and IT’S OK.

    At the moment, I’m at home, making significantly less than when I traveled, but I get to have breakfast and dinner with my little girls EVERY DAY! I see my wife every day. This is a huge change from traveling 250 days a year, or even when I got the travel down to just 100 days, and was home every weekend. The satisfaction I get from that far outweighs the missing income. As a bonus, the extra time allows me to trade off some of the good-fast-cheap- pick any two truism to live better on less.

    As for what women want, what does ANYONE want? The answers are going to be different for every one, but I’d guess they cluster…

    Some want to be treated like children, taken care of, pampered, protected.

    Some will want to work hard for whatever they find worthy.

    Some will want to be part of something larger than themselves (whether it’s family or a moon shot.)

    Some will want to be left alone to consume, some will be driven to produce.

    Some will spend their whole existence trying to fill a hole in their soul that they might not even be aware of, some will be made whole early and live a life of contentment and grace.

    Me, I just want to be the best father and husband I can be, and I learn a little bit about how to do that every day.


  18. I stayed home with my kids and I don’t think I could have had a “work at home” or telecommuting type job because I find that I really can’t concentrate on a problem and listen for trouble at the same time. There are probably some things that are more like “labor” and you can just do them as you go, or even have the kids help… but heads down in my computer? For me, at least, problem solving is the first thing to go.

    Unfortunately, the years of conditioning and probably the inclinations I had to begin with, have combined to make it very difficult for me to “work” at anything when I’m at home. Yes, I do a lot of work (a few hours of gardening and yard work this morning) but nothing that could count as a “job”, not even writing.

    Even when I was a teenager I thought that I really needed a job where I had to get up and go someplace or I’d never get out of bed, so maybe I’ve just always been that way.

  19. Staying home with the kids, though, particularly when they were babies and toddlers, was torturous. The level of isolation from other adults is something that I think that our grandmothers didn’t face in quite the same way. And if the idea of working in a day-care or as a kindergarten teacher makes you think longingly of root canals, staying home with babies is not likely to make you “happier” even when they’re your babies, you love them, and refuse to outsource your kids to others.

    I’d make the same choices again… I’m just disputing the “happier” thing.

    1. Um… I was happier with the boys than worrying about them. Also I never found that isolation an issue? Might be a matter of temperament. Also, of having a writing buddy (Rebecca Lickiss) I used to chat to her every morning, while doing the morning stuff, like bathe and dress the kids — which kept us connected.

      1. Different sources of unhappiness, maybe. I’m sure it would have made me nuts to leave my kids with others for any length of time.

        But it seems to me that people (in general) tend to think that we make choices between the “good choice” and the “bad choice” and it’s really usually choices made between two choices that both have good and bad parts to them, which you’ve got to sort out and decide which “bad” is worse than the other or which “good” is more important. I never thought that “happiness” or whatever I’d do if left entirely to my own devices had I no responsibilities whatsoever… was any where near the top of the “good” list, on account of I *do* have responsibilities and would hate myself for shirking them… even if I didn’t *like* staying home.

      2. I think if I didn’t have the Internet, I’d have more of an issue with the isolation; but studying, then working while my littles were crawlers then toddlers made me miss them so much I’d rush home each day. I cherished the weekends where I could snuggle them for longer and enjoy that soft baby scent, and then spend a quiet while breastfeeding.

        I enjoyed my time while at college, mental challenges and all, but I felt happiest with the kiddlywinks.

    2. The level of isolation from other adults is something that I think that our grandmothers didn’t face in quite the same way.

      The “moving away from everyone” thing did a lot of that.

      This place and those like it Do Something about that; even if you need someone with skin on, you can FIND groups through MeetUp or similar.

    3. I recently read the memoirs of a lady who was born in the 1870’s and married in her early teens. She talked about how lonely she was when she had just her babies with her. Her husband had a lot of different jobs (share-cropping, working in a bar, something factory-related). She seemed to have been happiest when she could spend time with her husband (when he was farming, she and/or she and the children would go out in the fields with him when they could), when she had relatives nearby that she could visit, and when she could have a garden, chickens, etc. (they tried “city” life, I’m not sure how big the city was at the time but today it has almost 30K citizens).

  20. I want to get married and have babies*. But as they sing “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” so I’ve focused on other things.

    Supporting myself, contributing more than I consume, and never becoming a burden to my family are what I want most after that. I am so grateful for my nieces and nephews. Being an aunt is one of the joys of my life.

    *At this point, I’m convinced arranged marriages were created for people like me. There’s marketing niche for some enterprising matchmaker out there.

    1. “At this point, I’m convinced arranged marriages were created for people like me. There’s marketing niche for some enterprising matchmaker out there.”

      How true.

    2. After reading the post I had “Do You Love Me?” from Fiddler on the Roof stuck in my head. Now it’s “Matchmaker.”

    3. I hope you have not abandoned the field. Some days I wonder why, but I retain hope.

        1. When I was a kid my parents had that and West Side Story back to back on a reel to reel. Played the hell out of it.

          Years later I saw the play, and wow – a lot of pro-communist propaganda in the actual play. Still a lot of fun, especially the dinner-theater version I saw.

    4. “There’s marketing niche for some enterprising matchmaker out there.”

      I’d use something like that, myself. Trouble is, I think the insurance the poor bastard would have to carry might bankrupt them–Mostly, ‘cos I’m pretty sure that whoever got set up with me would likely be suing the ever-loving snot out of them.

      1. I have vague memories of a matchmaking site out there that’s specifically only for people looking to get married and have families; tending toward the older age brackets (30+ on) who have problems finding a partner because of incompatible values with the folk of other gender that they regularly interact with.

        Rather, I read about it and darned if I know what it is now.

    5. I thought I was going to have to import a bride at some point in my life.

      Miracles of miracles, I met someone who could actually put up with me some of the time. 😀

      1. Thought about that at one point, but I need someone who will get my jokes. And frankly, I’ve seen some really unhappy-looking examples. And yet, for some people it works.

        Me, I’m probably too old to start that kind of thing. Any woman who looks at me with interest should probably be regarded with suspicion.

  21. An observation about happiness:

    “The wise old fairy tales never were so silly as to say that the prince and the princess lived peacefully ever afterwards. The fairy tales said that the prince and princess lived happily ever afterwards; and so they did. They lived happily, although it is very likely that from time to time they threw the furniture at each other.” — G.K. Chesterton

  22. The myth of the stay at home mom who eats bonbons and watches soaps exists only in the heads of people

    I’ve MADE bonbons, and I ate some, but more common is cookies… which I send to my husband’s work because it’s not like I need the weight, and the kids keep finding new and creative ways to climb.

        1. Bah. Just put two of opposite sex in a cage, feed and wait.

          Does take longer though.

    1. Well, mother made cookies, cleaned the house (almost obsessively) and watched soaps.

      She took a 17-year break from ‘As The World Turns’ for various reasons – and then caught an episode of it one time while travelling.

      Said nothing had changed at all – the plot points that were cliffhangers then were still hanging off the cliff 17 years later…

  23. I’d be happy if folks would stop telling me that my grandmothers didn’t exist.

    They had jobs outside the home– one was a newspaper reporter from about WWII until a few months before her death, the other was a court stenographer. I don’t know about one’s mother, but the other was a (the only) teacher at an Indian School, where she also had her children educated, and they all went to college before 18; I believe that other sheepherders sent their kids there, as well. (From the pictures.)

    The grandfather’s mother that I know about was divorced and ran coach stops/boarding houses/extended stay hotels. (Not remarried because she was Catholic.)

    Every single female ancestor I know anything about had outside-of-the-house work, and half of them had recognizable careers. And I get told that I should put up with being sneered at by feminists because their forebears “made it possible” for women to work outside the home? I am GUESSING my great-great-grandmothers didn’t work outside the home, but that’s based on them not having any time to do so after they were Nanny Ogging everything. (No details, just reputations, and little details like “mother said we were moving to America, so we did.”)

    Sounds like their ancestors either lived in the wrong area, or they’re misinterpreting the pressures.

    Included in “misinterpreting the pressures” is “want to make it easy to do what they want and only what they want so they don’t feel guilty.”

    1. I’d guess about 2/3 of the women I know of in my family had outside-the-home jobs. Most of those would be at least as old, if not older, than your grandmothers likely were, including my mother.

      My mother worked in an office in a G.E. warehouse for just over 20 years, from just before she got pregnant with me (“I’m WHAT, Doctor?”) in 1964 to my Junior year in college, when she took early retirement, and other jobs before that.

      1. My grandmother essentially acted as a deputy mom for her younger sisters (My g-grandmother was in robust “ill health” until she died at 93) as well as helping both with their own farm and working the local harvests.

        Then got married to my grandfather, who was often away from home for weeks at a time (building and/or running sawmills – and old-style mill camps are *not* places to raise kids). So instead she did the majority of the work raising their three children *and* running their small dairy farm.

        Then – when all the kids had grown, and they’d switched over to a beef operation that didn’t require the constant hours – she enrolled in the local college’s nursing program. And worked a few years in the hospital after graduation.

        Except for brief stints working the harvest or the local canneries during the summer fruit rush she’d never worked a steady job outside the home until she was in her mid-50s.

        I would have loved to see her reaction to someone telling her she’d never worked. She was quite capable of flaying someone verbally without ever raising her voice or using anything but frigidly proper language – and very often, no more than a sniff, or an incredulous and contemptuous look was needed. I’d bet long odds that the offender would take great pains to never, ever, to say anything *that* stupid in her presence ever again.

      1. Heck, I’d be glad to work out of the home– just can’t afford all the stuff that it’d take to make hot lunches for my husband’s office, or similar services. Heck, I can’t even watch the neighbor’s kids…..

    2. Yes indeed. My grandmother was one of the pioneering women doctors. I don’t remember her well as she died just before my eighth birthday and lived a fair distance away but she had a flourishing practice at the same time as bringing up two children while doing the military wife thing and following her husband from posting to posting (and then as a widow after his death in 1940). And she was heavily involved in the church and …

      She (and my great aunt of similar vintage who was professor at Cambridge) really did break down barriers but they weren’t feminists, at least not as popularly understood, and they certainly didn’t identify with the feminist movement.

      1. My maternal grandmother was a country doctor, and her husband abandoned her, with four children and awaiting the fifth. She continued as she always did; my mother and her youngest brother never felt the lack of a sire. On top of being a country doctor she was a landed lady with a farm and crops to manage, and the old house she lived in was full of history and felt much like her: steady, quiet, and calm, and there always was food. All her children studied college in Manila and did well for themselves. A female doctor was not unusual at that time too.

    3. The thing is that you (our?) grandmothers were all lower or middle-ish class. Certainly mine weren’t wealthy. They ALL worked. If they didn’t live on a farm and do farm labor (and lots of it) they had other sorts of jobs. My one grandma had an industrial job during the (first?!) World War and had domestic work (didn’t use the front door) other than that, at least until she got married and had nine kids. The other of my grandmas worked in the family business with grandpa… first a restaurant and then a general store and then a grocery.

      My theory is that people try to ape the rich whenever possible. So you ease up there a little bit to middle and then upper-middle class and goll darn it, you sure don’t want the neighbors thinking that the man of the house can’t support his family. It also explains why grandma didn’t go in the front door when she worked as a domestic (her sister made a career of it, I *think* for the 3M family… but she was a Housekeeper, with a capital “H”.) Affording to *hire* a maid was a status thing.

      1. Well, one was the daughter of the richest man in the county and a couple of neighboring ones, but they were immigrants and she was DEFINITELY an Odd.

    4. I am 100% with you! My maternal grandmother was a school teacher and a women’s basketball coach for most of the 1920’s. After she married, she became a beautician (in small town Indiana). Of course since her beauty salon was attached to the house, she technically didn’t work outside the home. She kept her beauty salon open for almost forty years.

    5. There is a 19th-century book called Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms and Correct Writing. It was created by collecting a number of Victorian-era writing samples for various types of interactions from around the United States, and includes a bunch of world-almanac-style information such as the state populations and the like. It was a huge bestseller, and you can get decent vintage copies for as little as $60 or $70 (or a 1970s reprint for very little, though I’d go for the real thing.)

      The section on how to write a refusal of a proposal of marriage is fascinating, and usually people’s favorite section. The introduction starts out by saying—and remember that this is the 1870s—that women in this modern age are able to support themselves through paid labor, and thus do not have to accept a proposal of marriage merely for financial security. (And then it has the gem of a letter turning down a man who is a smoker, because smoking is bad for one’s health and is a financial drain.)

      What was it you were saying the other day about going to primary sources?

  24. “What do ‘x’ want?” is one of those questions I hate for its sheer meaninglessness.
    At lunch today my coworker asked my advice on what to get her husband for their first anniversary. And, even though I’m very good with gift ideas (being my secret santa is highly coveted) it took me several “hell if I know” minutes before I switched out thinking about ‘coworker’s husband’ to ‘name redacted individual’. And then the answer became obvious: a gift of range time and a pack of paper targets (for the paper anniversary). But before I could think of this, I had to think of the person, and not the category.
    I hate thinking about people in categories. It’s divisive, when instead we could be thinking about commonalities.
    For instance, I think there is one thing that across the board makes mankind happy. Content. Satisfied. And that’s being productive. Lots of people today confuse this with having a career, as if the opposite of going to work is lying around doing nothing. Other people equate childcare with productivity, as if children are things we make and mold. But they’re not, and so just taking care of kids doesn’t satisfy that itch. But no one I know is satisfied with their day unless they feel like they’ve done work to a purpose.

    1. “But no one I know is satisfied with their day unless they feel like they’ve done work to a purpose.”

      Which a LOT of my daily ‘work’ time is not filled with. There’ve been weeks where I’ve had almost nothing to do. This week was a good one – I actually had to GO from my little cubicle to another building and reboot a machine that had blue-screened, then log onto it and take care of some issues.

      And on the way back I thought “It’s pretty bad when your major accomplishment for the week is rebooting an XP system.”

      But the pay’s good for the amount of work I don’t have to do, so there’s that…

      1. Oh, believe me, I understand! It drives me crazy cooling my heels at work without an actual experiment to do. This week was a good week – I had a primary cell isolation that took all day Thursday, and hiding in my cell culture room I don’t get nagged by my boss for commenting on blogs and quilt plotting during my enzyme incubations.

      2. Now that I think about it, I wonder if the US’s intensity over our hobbies is a reaction to the utter unproductivity of our official work.

  25. I think what, beyond the basics, women want is respect and status.

    In a culture like Sarah grew up in, getting married and having your own house confers, oh, call it starter status. Then you prove you can keep the house, cook a good meal, turn out your husband groomed and dressed . . . you have kids and they’re clean dressed well, polite . . . bills are paid on time . . . you are successful. A woman with the respect of her husband and neighbors is going to be pretty happy.

    Our culture now devalues all of that. Money is what counts. A housewife is low status, gets no respect. You have to have a job and earn money to get respect, to have standing, status with your peers, and with potential husbands. Even so, quitting to have children and raise them, even for a few years, is generally the death of a career.

    It isn’t a matter of “keeping women home” to alleviate a baby bust. Taking opportunities away isn’t going to work. I don’t know how to bend a society into seeing status in parenting, with or without income producing activities. Perhaps telecommuting with cure the problem.

    1. It isn’t a matter of “keeping women home” to alleviate a baby bust.

      Agreed– I want to not be insulted as a matter of course for raising my own children, and for girls who say “I want to be a mom” not to be scolded– loudly and publicly– in public schools, and for the various ways that I could contribute to the family’s finances to be decriminalized…. (I’m a pretty dang good basic carpenter– I COULD put in basic shelves, help people move, deliver things…. Everything I’ve looked into requires a registration investment that would take maybe a year’s profit in my wildest dreams of success.)

      1. I think we’re fast reaching the point of passive-aggressive rebellion on licensing and regulations. Fees and taxes. We’ll all just start ignoring those “requirements” and doing it anyway, for cash or trade.

        1. I’d consider doing it, but my husband would lose his job and any chance of being hired in his field if I did and got caught.

          And I always get caught.


          For the regulations on ag folks, they do things like accuse the producers and impound the produce until they either admit guilt or prove themselves innocent.
          Guess how often someone with a truck full of fresh fruit wants to wait a year and a half before being able to take custody of it again, let alone sell it…..

  26. Oh, if I could change one thing that I’d done, without it changing anything else?

    Would’ve gone into the Reserves when I got out, probably wouldn’t have gained as much as when I was doing what I was “supposed to” and looking for a normal job.

    1. I would have gone into programming rather than basic science. I knew I had talent either way, but was determined to be a scientist. I entirely undervalued how much I would want to stay at home with my kids, and it turns out you can’t be a molecular biologist from home.

          1. Envisioning a Star Trek style lab, so it’s waaaaaaaay wish fulfillment, on par with “laundry takes maybe an hour a day, one person, for the whole family, and you can do it with a broken foot” to my grandmother.

            1. I can’t explain it, but I’ve actually really been enjoying laundry since we got a new washer.
              Maybe it was the brutality of bucket filling our old washer twice a load for 8 months. While cloth diapering. Makes you grateful for modern conveniences.

  27. I sometimes get to read the column at work, but can’t comment until I get home at the end of the day.I want to thank you for two things:
    First: being broken and having to write while doing everything else that needs doing because I stopped trying real hard and am happy to do the minimum to live comfortably and read your work.
    Second: using the blog to allow us to understand how your background, upbringing and temperment shapes your personality, which I can only appreciate through the blog.

  28. What do women want. I was watching an online political discussion unfolding, comments flying fast and furious, when one person asked this question. Everything else was dropped while people tried answering. Guys were mostly quiet, sometimes offering textbook-like descriptions or things like “women want security….at least that’s what they yell when I approach them at a bar.” The gals were contradicting each other and, over time, contradicting themselves. After comments started dying off, the person with the question stepped in again and said that he had noticed, over the years, that it did not matter what the subject was – this question would highjack anything. He also said that the best conclusion he was able to draw was that women didn’t know what they wanted, but did know that they wanted it now.

    1. It’s kind of like asking “what do men want.” I’d guess each man wants something different, though quite a lot of them would agree that it’s offensive for someone else to try to define it and decide what’s best for them–particularly people who will, by definition, never find themselves in quite the same position.

      1. Each person has their own set of wants and desires. And they change over time. The baby rattle I took great joy in as a wee bairn no longer has any appeal to me.

        1. So it probably would be annoying for someone to tell you with assurance that he knows what would make you happy–a baby rattle–and then pass laws for your own good ensuring that you never aim for anything else. “But boys naturally like baby rattles! I have charts and graphs!”

          1. The Big Picture, along with their charts and graphs, is why collectivists can neither see nor understand individuals.

              1. parsing reply – individuals are not people???? Sorry – just being a bit silly here. If it was not for walls, I would have no humor.

                1. yes, that too. But I meant they don’t get people, groups or individuals. I am absolutely convinced that the OWS was a top inspired movement that they thought would cause the masses to Rise Up. Er… it… no.

                  1. We do need big picture thinkers, but they need a health dose of humility. Not much of that going around in those circles.

                  1. I will pretend that pun did not happen…humor needs walls for jumping off of.

                  2. Speaking of ignoring things: in a thread about what women want, if I ignore a comment from our illustrious hostess about masses rising up – will it go away? (backs slowly out of the room…)

      2. “What do men want” is pretty easy. We want sex, accomplishment, and comfort. How those desires manifest varies on an individual basis, and isn’t as predictable of course, but AFAIK, we all want those three things, even when they conflict. We’re usually willing to give up some comfort (or a lot) to get the other two.

  29. “I think if you’d asked most of these women if they were contented with their lot, they’d have said yes, even though a significant number of them were really tight on money and a lot of them got beat at least once a week”

    Being beat at least once a week is necessary for a woman to be contented; John Norman says so.

    1. Theodore Dalrymple was consulted on average once a day by a battered woman throughout his career. Most had gone through four or five abusive boyfriends.

      Every now and again, one had happened on a non-abusive boyfriend — and ditched him even faster than the batterers, because he’s intolerably cold and distant.

      1. The women (or men) being content only if they are beaten boggles my mind; but there is a plethora of stuff being written on there by women, for women, that makes the Gor books look positively mundane.

        I grew up where you might joke about, “what do you tell a woman with two black eyes?”* But in reality if a man was known to beat his wife/girlfriend he was more likely to be taken aside and ‘taught a lesson’ than for it to be calmly accepted. It is therefore somewhat of a shock to see so many blurbs (because they don’t interest me, the blurbs are generally all I read) for books that focus on female fantasies about being beaten.

        *For the reader out there who has been under a rock for the last few millennia, the punchline is, “nothing, she’s already been told twice.”

        1. Remember that
          1) they don’t know it hurts– HURTS, not “makes you a little sore the next day”
          2) they’re grasping towards that whole “guy who can actually defend me” thing, but defending her isn’t acceptable, so the only her-associated violence that is acceptable would be….

          There’s probably some Beauty and the Beast, with actual beastly behavior rather than appearance.

          1. I’m not naive enough to believe I can’t be overpowered physically by the average man, but any man I lived with who tried to beat me into submission wouldn’t wake up from his next sleep. No one can be physically dominant 24 hours a day.

            Fortunately, in 31 years of marriage, the issue has never come up, because my husband is a man, not a thug, and he wants to be married to a woman, not an object of abjection.

            1. If he was dumb enough to start with hitting you, yeah.

              My little sister is smart, but that didn’t keep her from being brain washed into thinking she deserved to be hit. My aunt isn’t test smart, but is great with people– didn’t keep her from nearly being beaten to death.

              The bastards notice what you blame yourself for when it goes wrong, that little irrational but very useful impulse that helps us identify ways we can fix a problem, and agree with you— or tell you you’re not going far enough.

        2. I THINK the wanting to be beaten thing is part of the “unspanked generation” — not mine. There are certain cravings to “know your place in the hierarchy.” They never got it as kids, so they crave it.
          Did the village women crave it? Probably some of them sideways. You see, all husbands beat you (not in MY family) therefore beating you was “manly” and who doesn’t want their husbands to be manly? And if he didn’t do it, would they get worried he wasn’t manly enough? Probably.
          But craving the actual beating? I think redacted is attributing the cravings of sophisticates with way too much time on their hands to people who worked sun to sun.
          As for me, pain comes in, interest goes out. EVEN if the pain is accidental. I’m not good on the other side of it either — I broke up a relationship because the other side had cravings I couldn’t satisfy without skivying.
          TMI — but it’s essential sometimes to prove that this “all women” or “all men” bs is wrong.
          Interestingly, I can — and do — write “top-bottom” sex more easily than normal (if I have to write sex, which I hate to do) because there’s a clear “plot and power” line, and so it’s an easier task if you don’t really want to do it.

          1. Yeah, well, there are sick ideas of “manly” just as there are sick ideas of “womanly.” I’m conservative about a lot of things, but I don’t care how impressive a pedigree one of those sick ideas has got, it’s not for me. And arguments about how they’re natural, or physiologically inevitable, and so on don’t work on me, either.

  30. John Ringo has noted how hard it is to beat off would-be subbies with a club. They like it too much.

    Blah, blah, safe, sane, consensual. It’s a major taboo to even wonder aloud how much DV is BDSM gone wrong. Unless it’s anything but M/f, of course. NTTAWWT.

    A prudent top sets a very high character and self-awareness bar for a would-be bottom. It’s a lot safer for everyone concerned if she’s clear about what she wants and why she wants it.

    So as for the dare — I don’t know you anywhere near well enough. You seem to have excellent character, but who really knows? I could wind up in jail.

    Besides, I’m married, and my wife would steal the key to her collar while I was sleeping and strangle me with it..

  31. As a CTRL-F reveals nobody has used “penis envy” except the Authoress (Praise Be Unto Her) in the original post, I feel free to address it before other comments. Much as it will pain some for me to say it, I think that the evidence exists that some women, many women, almost all feminist women do, indeed, suffer “penis envy.”

    It is not that they are envious of actual penises. It is that they imagine that, had they been so endowed, they would have different (presumably better, lives. They are envious of what they imagine a penis would grant.

    These are people focused on the negative, stoking their resentments. They employ such “deficiencies” to excuse their failings. They say “if I had a penis they’d pay me more” rather than recognize that the problem is they are less forceful in negotiating pay and benefits (okay, that is probably in part due to lack of testosterone.) Rather than recognize that sitting quietly and waiting to be called upon entails costs, they grump that males, usually far more willing to put themselves forward, get paid all the attention.

    Such people also tend to ignore (or, at least, disparage) the costs attendant to the benefits they envy. This was explored ably in that book by the journalist who “went undercover” as a man (the name of which I forget.) Frequently such complainants will simultaneously criticize a man for catering to them and for not satisfying their every whim — it has long been a staple of fiction, perhaps best exhibited in The Philadelphia Story.

    Such women (and too many a man) focuses on the power represented by the penis and ignore the actual powers available to them. They are happier complaining that the world is not fair than they are in recognizing the trade-offs available and employing them to their best advantage. Any reasonably attractive woman (a surprisingly low hurdle to clear — evidence abounds that make-up, good lighting, a pleasant disposition and, when necessary, beer-goggles, renders almost any tolerably healthy woman attractive to at least some guy) can get as many penises as she cares to, and they make convenient handles for leveraging a guy to do what she wants, to the extent he is capable.

    1. I don’t know about most women, or even most feminists. I’ve never wanted to be a man. I have sometimes indulged in the fond wish that I were surrounded by more men who could think straight on the subject of gender. It’s a powerful, emotional topic that spurs significant irrationality. The world be better, from my own perspective, if men could succeed in the basic task of viewing women as individuals and Real People, in exactly the same sense that men are.

      I can’t remember whether it was here or some other site recently where a guy was confidently explaining that women are sex objects because they’re beautiful, while men are not. It’s as if it hadn’t ever occurred to him that he sees it that way because he’s attracted to women. For me, obviously, men are more beautiful than women. It doesn’t explain anything, once you realize that both halves of the human race are people. But that seems a hard lesson to take in.

        1. Reason umpty-squat that I’m not a real woman?

          Or evidence that he spent too much time in clubs where girls were trying to attract him by acting like they are interested in girl on girl?

          Or mistaking pr0n for reality?

          1. I think the last two. We’d got in an argument over the prevalence of all women worlds in his mag, which I thought was an excuse for cheesy girl on girl. (It was.)
            I told him it did about as much for me as watching someone peel potatoes but was less interesting. He told me I was weird. No, I’m not. he’s a chauvinist.

            1. Not a chauvinist but a perv. Also projecting his desires onto other people.

            2. What was his response to your suggestion that what gals really want to see is some hot guy-on-guy action? Say, one washing, one drying?

              1. Okay, I did say that, (you know my methods, Holmes) and he told me no, it was gross and everyone found it gross.
                (He was probably right on SEE, but judging by the prevalence of slash not “read about” which is a woman thing, more than a man thing, because different brain wiring.)

            3. Back when dinosaurs roamed the Earth I was at a store with some military buddies, wasting time. They looked at me and said, “How come you never buy car magazines with girls on them.” Deciding to avoid debates involving religion, I kept a straight face and replied, “The girls get in the way of seeing the cars.”

              The looks on their faces was hilarious.

              1. Delicious truth! I’ve found myself flipping pages trying to find an angle on a particular section of a car that didn’t have the girl in the way…

                I’ve seen girls, but that detail!?

        2. lesbianism turned even straight women on

          While I can admire the beauty of both sexes, gay sex – either m/m or f/f, has never ever done anything to turn me on. It does not bother me if other people find it arousing, but I do rather wish they wouldn’t act so offended to discover it does nothing for me. But that’s a bit much to ask.

              1. I was talking to my family about this: I need an emotional reason to care about these people. Mind you, my mind is better than extensive description, so I prefer romance IF IT MUST with a little bit of sex (if the sex has anything to do with character definition or development.) But yeah “And then with my third tentacle” does nothing for me either.

            1. “Some people pay good money for that kind of treatment.” has been a running gag of mine for quite some time.

              (And a running gag is bondage equipment for Joggers.)

                1. I think they want to apply the milking machinery in a way that is most certainly not approved of by the FDA, or the ADA, or the manufacturer.

              1. Some people are in to humiliation. Google “golden shower” if you’re actually curious.

                For the record, I know of this because I’ve read the _Preacher_ graphic novel.

    2. Emphasis on pleasant disposition. Emphasis, EMPHASIS.

      There’s nothing like a woman turning into a grouchy old biddy or a jaded anti-male to damper the interest of the opposite sex.

      It’s probably about as attractive as being a grouchy old fart who grumbles incessantly about women is to women.

  32. I am surprised that CTRL-F reveals nobody making the observation that “happy” is what is commonly known as “a First World problem.” It is also mainly a matter of attitude, a choice to accept what you have and enjoy it, thankful you aren’t worse off. Lack of happiness typically follows from being ungrateful for your circumstances and resentful that those circumstances are not better. As has been said, It is not enough that I have more, my neighbor must also have less.

    Some people are incapable of happiness because they live lives of anger, resentment and envy. Nothing that they can be given will make them more than momentarily happy.

    1. I am surprised that CTRL-F reveals nobody making the observation that “happy” is what is commonly known as “a First World problem.”

      I kind of thought that was implicit in the original post.

  33. Lest anyone think this debate is a recent innovation or that it can ever be resolved, I recently re-read this classic SF story which amply addresses the philosophical issue:
    Venus Is A Man’s World

    Twenty-two minutes of audio exploration.

Comments are closed.