Recession Drives Women To Leave Their Jobs, Examine The Dopeness And Wackness Of Life

I drank too much last night. What, I'm not supposed to tell you the truth all the time anymore? Look, that is my role in this economy, you can take it or leave it, and sure, there are truth-tellers out there who don't have any alcohol dependency issues, but if they try to tell you they have no dependency issues, my friend, that truth they are peddling is Lite, and Lite tastes like shit to me, all of which I say, ha ha ha, in "lite" of a NY Times story out today, on how the poor economy is slowing down women's "progress" in the workforce, sending them home to their families and threatening our struggle to achieve parity in the quantifiable ways we can use to calculate the slope of the trajectory of our emancipation. And it was to that, last night, that I drank. And it was to dependence, or rather, interdependence, the operating principle of this floundering economy and all human civilization, and the pragmatic foundation of all that hippie humanism shit I talk about when people call me a bad influence.

So women, for the first time in the past seven economic contractions, are exiting the workforce. Will they do anything? Will someone need them? What about their needs? Because, as I told a guy on Sunday, in a town where everyone you know is an "independent contractor" and "codependence" is a slur and "energy independence" is a goal is, like, a society totally in denial about this basic fact of human nature which is that we need to be needed.

I had, that same day, already cried upon seeing The Wackness, a movie about the codependent relationship of a psychiatrist and his pot dealer, two highly indispensable men, men whose remuneration is commensurate with the urgency of the need for the the things they provide and are, for that very reason, sad. Because those things, duh, are drugs. And dependence on drugs — or alcohol or money or the simulacrum of buddyship — is not enough. "It's not enough, not nearly enough," Luke's dad says, matter-of-factly, when he returns home to find his family in the process of being evicted and tries frantically to offer up the $26,000 he's earned hustling all summer to save the cause. And you're like, huh? But it's nineteen ninety four!

But see, that's the point; Luke's dad's face is resigned, relieved even. People get evicted. All the time, especially now, and especially then, in New York in the nineties, when all the talk was growth and prosperity and liquidity. That's the thing about "progress", it doesn't have to be a zero-sum game if there's some thought given to the interdependence of things, like eking out a sixteen cent a share earnings increase from a lucky harvest or training the staff on a more efficient piece of software or switching accounting standards or closing a factory, and when it's that latter one some folks get evicted.

So anyway, Luke's family sleeps in motel, Luke in a cot beside his parents' bed, where he lies awake at night and watches, in a grossly manipulative gratuitous tearjerkoff of a scene that is like almost too corny to tell you about but:

His dad puts an arm around his mom in his sleep. They "spoon" or whatever.

**

I was one of two people in the theater, so I really don't know if anyone else completely lost it in this scene. I am thinking no, because I have issues with crying, in that I can't generally do it unless I am watching a movie in which case Jersey Girl has been known to do the job. The last time I cried not in a movie context I was coming down (up? away?) from Vicodin. It was that night I was at that wedding, the night of the great Tampon miscalculation, at 30th Street Station, and when I say "night" I mean around 5:30 a.m., when I gave up trying to sleep because it was just too damn cold, which was my fault for pairing a strapless bridesmaid's gown with nothing a cardigan I'd burned a dinner plate-sized hole while dulling my senses on the Vicodin. Anyhow, so I got a hot water at McDonald's and sat in a booth and let the tears start in confidence the usual 5:30 a.m. crew would be too preoccupied brokering peace accords between their various personalities to notice.

"Hey, you were in here earlier!" It was not to be.

"I asked if you'd been drinking, and you said, it's 2:30 a.m. and I'm wearing a bridesmaid gown, what do you think?"

I didn't remember this, but it seems like the sort of excuse an alcohol dependent person would make up, which is to say, I had used a version of it with a cop once after a bachelorette party. God I fucking hate weddings.

So when he asked what I was crying about and I thought, it is just weddings, and the fact that I had nowhere to go at the end of the night, because this dude I'd been making out with had a girlfriend who needed to stay at his place because she lived with her fiance and couldn't very well go back there right now; yeah, it's muddled but pretty symbolic, right, though fearing he would not respect the symbolism I just said:

"I guess I'm worried I'll never have kids."

"I have six daughters. You want one of them?"

"I live in a fifth-floor walkup," I said. (No.)

"I live in a halfway house!" Laugh. "Do you know what a halfway house is?"

Uh, yeah. Ten years before, in fact, I'd known half the halfway houses in Philadelphia, not because I'd been addicted to anything but because I was an anxious young reporter assigned to a sort of nebulous urban blight beat and desperately sure I might as well be. I wanted the police commissioner, an old Giuliani pal named John Timoney hellbent on clearing the streets of junkies and crackwhores and syringes and the singularly uncivilized stench of shits shat by people unhealthy enough to excrete in places other than toilets, to fund drug treatment programs too. I wanted him to invest in recovery and rehabilitation and detox beds — with all due respect commissioner, that is actually cheaper than sending them to jail, just let me show you this RAND study! — but anyway, John Timoney had a daughter who was a junkie and a son who would five years later get busted with half a million dollars worth of weed and he was not up for this line of reasoning. "Treatment, young lady, doesn't work," John Timoney had told me in so many words.

But see, he was wrong, not because I'm pretty sure his daughter is finally clean now, because you never know when that might end. But because Jimmy, a mere eighteen months off cocaine — cocaine, which is such a seriously obnoxious drug to get into abusing — had noticed a girl crying on his way to catch the bus home from his graveyard shift and stopped to ask her why. She asked him why. "I'm a Christian man," was his meek response, and she did not think an American man had ever spoken those words so truly.

Tempered by the hangover's throbbing realism and the imperative to conclude this thing with some grand proclamation on — Jesus Christ, what was this post about? oh wait, the wage gap, seriously? — I should first state that, of course, there are a lot of truly "Christian" men and women out there, I met a lot of them visiting halfway houses and rehab centers and also, working phone sex, and while I don't really personally care to speculate as to whether the source of their kindness and compassion and humility was the same Higher Power that left the track marks or a few rogue but well-meaning neurotransmitters, I could maybe use that giant endless tangent to venture that people like to be interdependent with other people, in fact they need it, and they need to be needed, and when people suddenly cannot figure out how they are needed or who they can trust long enough to learn to need or what about their lives even really seems necessary, they sometimes do fucked-up shit like go on benders or quit their jobs and leave the workforce altogether. And when whole big swaths of the population are suddenly awarded the privilege to want things as well, as has been the general trend over the last century or so, there are going to be hiccups as everyone shuffles around and figures out for themselves that they have needs.

***

And yeah, that is obvious, but in the moment it can feel totally, like, wack, but then you step away for awhile and maybe have a beer and read what you've written and think "No my friend, your brain is what is wack, maybe look into Wellbutrin next time you contemplate leaving the workforce."

Women Are Now Equal As Victims Of Poor Economy [NY Times]