For the Narcissist Lover in You…

Archive for April, 2012

5 Things You Learn About People Only on FB (against your better judgment)

I don’t really like Facebook.  That’s why I am on it so very often.  If that doesn’t make sense to you, congratulations.

Some people argue that interacting via social media is terribly impersonal– that it strips away all the myriad cues of communication that we social animals tend to rely on: facial expression, tone of voice, body language, eye-contact, exotic black market animal pheromones, etc.  Those people are, of course, totally right and no fun at all.

The fact is, social media has ironically opened up an entirely new sphere of understanding each other that is not always flattering or even comfortable.  Unwittingly, we all reveal far more about ourselves via our Facebook and Twitter feeds than we intend to, and I don’t just mean those embarrassing Christmas party iPhone photos.  The following are the top five amusingly and uncomfortably revealing Facebook types:

5) The “Accidental” Self-Flatterer:

What it boils down to:  “Boy, it sure is fun/difficult/amusing to be this awesome!”

This is probably the easiest one to fall into.  I do it myself without even consciously trying.  Here’s a made-up example from my own life: “Boy, the drive home is going to be fun; the final-game crowd is already lined up below the window of the agency I’m working at today”.

This is cloaked in the guise of a complaint about traffic, but the underlying meta-message is a lot more self-aggrandizing: ain’t I cool to work in a city that has a world-series baseball team, and I’m working so near the stadium that the traffic is clogged, and I’m freelancing at a cool downtown agency?  Because I’m a totally cool artsy type who doesn’t even care about sports, right?  Aren’t you jealous and sort of hating me for being this awesome and aloof?

Look at my cool lack of a smile.  I’m so totally ironic and not at all doofusy.

I’m not proud of explaining that, but what am I?  Gandhi?  I’m as insecure as the next guy, especially if the next guy is the guy who posts something like this: “Sitting here at the bar laughing it up with my crew while everyone else is just staring at us like WTF?  LOL!!!!”

See the trend?  This is presented under the guise of a personal anecdote– making an amusing jackass of yourself because you’re having such a great time in a public place.  But what is it really saying?  I am like totally the life of the party, and everybody else is all a bunch of stuffed shirts who wish they could kick it as hard as I do.  Those poindexters are all just jealous.  Please, please, be jealous of how cool I am pretending to be.

Sometimes it is not so obvious as this.  Sometimes it is just a sort of baffling, meaningless comment that couldn’t possibly matter to anyone else:  “Talking to my best pal!  So good to hang out with her today!” or “Making muffins for the kids for breakfast!” or “Helping the hubby clean the gutters!”

Note the use of exclamation points– these are dead giveaway.  All of these sorts of comments are meant to say the same thing:  My life is a movie-montage of fun, meaningful moments!  See how fabulous each and every day is in my world?  I’m a real grown-up person, with friends and family and keys and credit cards!  Wheee!!  See how together I am!?  Are you seeing it??

“This is everyday for us!  We never stop matching or having adorable family moments!
YOU’RE SO JEALOUS YOU HATE US!”

The “accidental” self-flatterer is in all of us, methinks.  It’s just a matter of how subtle we are about it.

What it really says about us:  “I’m secretly insecure and need everyone to think my life is as meaningful as the people on TV.”

How to avoid it:  Point it out online when you find yourself doing it.  In the comments section, add “Objects on my Facebook page are not as totally awesome as they appear.”

4. The Issues Promoter:

What it boils down to: [LINK TO OPINION PIECE AT ISSUE-ORIENTED WEBSITE]

They come in all styles, stripes and flavors: religious, political, social, whatever.  The Issues Promoter sees him or herself as a valuable resource for their FB circle of friends, posting daily (or even hourly) links to online articles about their issue of choice– and it is always the same issue.  They do not offer comments or critique of the article, or sum it up for those too lazy to read it.  The articles are then ignored by all of their FB friends, who may or may not reply with 1) hearty kudos if they happen to agree with the headline, or 2) snarky arguments if they happen to disagree with said headline.

A sub-set of the Issues Promoter is the arbiter who will allow these discussions to spin on for some time, and then unleash a ten-paragraph reply in tiny FB print clumsily rephrasing the article as if it was their own.

“I posted the link!  OBVIOUSLY I’m the genius here!”

This is not to be confused with the person who occasionally posts links about various subjects, usually with some explanation.  I am talking about the one-note zealot banging away endlessly at the same issue, never initiating with their own thoughts and arguments, but constantly holding someone else’s in front of them like a battering ram.

This is probably a hard one not to fall into if you happen to be the sort of person who believes strongly enough in something to regularly read about it.  Perhaps we all think that we can change the world with that one well-timed link to a watertight argument.  More likely, perhaps we are too uncomfortable with our own depth of knowledge on the subject to attempt our own defense of it.

The Issue Promoter is prone to see important debates as social sporting matches, rooting for their team simply because they want to be on the winning side, and not because there is inherent value in the related opinion/cause/issue.

The thing is, it doesn’t work.  Linked articles are rarely read, and they never, ever change anyone’s mind.

What it really says about us: “My personal identity is too flimsy to matter to myself or anyone else, so I am identifying myself with this cause.  Think of me when you think of these important issues, especially when they are proven valid and right.  Go team!”

How to avoid it: Post links to articles you completely disagree with, and defend them.

3: The Self-Help Resource Center:

What it boils down to: “For anyone obsessed with problem X (LIKE ME), here’s a hint (THAT I’M DESPERATELY GOING TO TRY) from the following expert (WHO I WILL MURDER WITH A BASEBALL BAT IF IT DOESN’T WORK).”

This is one of the really uncomfortable ones, because it reveals so much about the person posting it.  They present their findings with a good-natured wink and a helpful nudge, as if they are merely helping out those less fortunate than themselves, with the hopes that they might find their way through this oft-disappointing road of life.  Beneath the lighthearted tone, however, is the heartbreaking knowledge that this poor person is desperately struggling with this very issue, and spending most of their waking hours locked in a manic pursuit of answers.

I’ll try for a goofy example:

“Men: prostate problems are a normal and manageable sign of aging– they don’t have to be debilitating to your sleep or your sex life. Remember the three Ps: Pee before bed, Praise your prostate for every good performance, and Palmetto (Saw, the pill, available at your local health food store).  [LINK TO ARTICLE ABOUT THE THREE Ps]”

The one thing we can be pretty sure of about the guy who posts that is that prostate problems have virtually taken over his life.  Most specifically, he’s missing sleep because he’s hopping up to pee every few hours, and he’s blaming his lack of a healthy sex life on his flimsy prostate rather than on his beer belly and complete misunderstanding of middle-aged wifely romance.  This is just one big heaping barrel of TMI.

Sometimes it gets sadder.  Sometimes its the lonely forty-something guy desperately seeking a girlfriend, using his high school graduation photo as his profile pic: “fellas: it’s all right to be single and awesome.  No woman is as important as feeling good about yourself.  [LINK TO ARTICLE ABOUT MALE SELF ESTEEM AND HOW TO GET SIX-PACK ABS IN A WEEK BY EATING BACON]”

For someone struggling with any serious unhappiness in their life, this is the easiest FB habit to understand.  After all, no one wants to believe that they are the only one out there with that particular problem.  Posting a helpful snippet of advice about how to overcome said problem is strangely comforting: this is very common; everyone deals with it and is looking for help, just like me; I’m not alone; we’re all in this together.

I’m not even suggesting we stop doing it.  But it probably would be useful to realize just how much we are, in fact, sharing about ourselves by posting that “helpful list” of the ten best ways to manage the heartbreak of toenail fungus.

What it really says about us: “I am terrified of this and need a support group of friends to help me get by.  Even if they are imaginary.”

How to avoid it: start a blog and be completely honest about your struggle.  Real people with the same real problem will probably drop in to say hi.

2: The Hermit Crab:

What it boils down to: “Look at my fancy new shell!  I’m cool/profound/amusing because of my shell!”

In nature, the hermit crab is that crab that doesn’t have its own shell, but puts on whatever shell-like object it finds lying around the floor of its aquarium, because that’s the only place I know of that they live.  I think.  I’m not totally sure about this.  Let’s just pretend I know what I’m talking about, and there’s this thing called a hermit crab that you can trick into wearing a Coke can as a shell if you stick it in your aquarium.

If such a thing exists, a lot of social media personalities are just like them: they have very little identity of their own, so they adopt other identities and wear them around like a shell.

A hermit crab for all I know.

These are the people who post trite graphics (that they themselves didn’t make) of supposedly profound bumper-sticker slogans, or videos of popular songs, or quotes from famous people.  There is no attempt whatsoever to personalize these things.  The hermit crab just wears them around in the belief that no one else will notice its just a shell they put on.

Again, this does not apply to the individual who occasionally posts such things in relation to something unique about them or someone else.  If you are a writer and you occasionally post a witty inspirational quote about what it means to be a writer, that makes sense.  The true social media hermit crab, however, doesn’t feel the need to connect their shells to anything unique about themselves.  In fact, the less it has to do with them specifically, the better.

Another even sadder version of this is the person who regularly updates everyone on what TV show they are watching (or even worse, looking forward to watching).  There is simply no rational reason why this should be interesting to anyone, anywhere, except perhaps that one other hermit crab who is wearing that same pop culture devotion as their own shell.

What it really says about us: “I am a crustacean and there is nothing interesting about me– I don’t even taste good with butter.  I apologize.  Here is a colorful shell to look at instead.”  (again, assume I know what I am talking about regarding hermit crabs and what they taste like with butter).

How to avoid it: this is impossible to avoid until you realize that the one thing people care about even less than the minutiae of your daily life is the minutiae of what entertains you.  Perhaps ask your friends to tell you how little they care when you post such things.  It will be brutal but powerfully effective.

1. The Gamer:

What it boils down to: “So-and-so needs a new baby elephant seal to bedazzle people at their zoo so they can continue to pay for the upgrades to their farm and answer a question about you in a fun new word game about ninjas and mafia assassins!  Will you help?”

I don’t need to say any more about this, do I? Granted, I’ve never played any of the games associated with Facebook, so it may be that I am totally missing out on all the mind-numbing fun.  Maybe I am just a snooty curmudgeon [hint: there’s no maybe about it] but when I want to play video games, I play the real thing, not some half-baked browser atrocity that looks like it was made by six-year-old girls with a book of internet clip-art.

“But,” (you say to me in that nasally shrill voice that I would be using if I was imitating you right now, which I totally am) “I get bored at work and don’t have access to my X-Box or whatever!  Playing games on Facebook is the best way to secretly waste my employer’s time and money!”

Fine.  Maybe.  But I know when most of you are at work, and when most of your Farmville notifications start popping up on my wall.  Let’s just say the old work excuse isn’t gonna fly when it’s midnight and the office has been closed for seven hours, Mr. and Mrs. American Gothic.  Happy Farming!

“ALL THE BOREDOM OF REAL FARMING WITH NONE OF THE PAYOFF!”

What it says about us: “I am so easily entertained that the video equivalent of a cup-and-ball game will amuse me for days, and I am OK with EVERYONE KNOWING ABOUT IT.”

How to avoid it: it isn’t really your fault, so forget it.  Besides, it’s sort of fun knowing that the president of the company fantasizes about giving it all up and starting a baby animal petting zoo.

So that’s it.  If you, like me, occasionally do any of these things, don’t sweat it.  Inadvertently revealing our inner selves to a somewhat haphazard group of internet denizens, many of whom we may never have actually met, is probably helpfully humbling.  If you do one or two of these things all the time, however, you might want to take a sober look at your social networking social skills.

And if, like me, you are considering writing an app that filters out all of these personality types from your social networking experience, realize the following unavoidable truth: it will be an app that simply turns your computer off.


Itty-bitties

My friend Susan Wener made these miniature chairs, inspired by characters from the Harry Potter/James Potter universe. Yes, these are my kids shrunk to three inches. Yes, this is exceeding cute limits. Sorry.

 


The Fake God

One of my best friends just posted a link to something I can’t read.  I just can’t.  It’s a short piece written by one of his friends– a man whose seven-year-old son came home from school this week complaining of stomach pain, and died a short time later.

Twelve hours after his son’s death, this man wrote about it for his friends, family, and anyone else who might be affected, either by this tragedy or something similar.

I can’t read it.  I have a six-year-old and a nine-year-old.  My number one greatest fear ever is that something might happen to them.  Being a parent means forever living with your heart outside of your body.  Tragedies happen all the time.  When Jael was in Haiti, she saw a grief-overwhelmed mother putting her dead son in their car for burial.  Death and tragedy are a constant and no one is immune.  I know this too well to be able to read about the tragic death of another’s son without the gut-punch of knowing it could have been my son or daughter.

I did read a few of the comments, though, and was able to glean this much:  the father is a Christian.  According to his beliefs, his son is not gone forever, but has just crossed a boundary that he himself will one day cross over.  There, they will be joined again, along with everyone else they’ve ever loved.  There, according to his Christian beliefs, they will live together forever, with no more disease, sickness, tragedy, or death.  From that wonderful dream, they will never waken.  By comparison, this whole life here on earth will be the dream– a rather insipid, empty dream that will eventually be completely forgotten.

I know a lot of people these days find the Christian faith silly.  The people I work with jokingly give thanks to the Great Spaghetti Monster, which (as you may know) is a mockery of any belief in God.  Many of my friends– many of the people who will be reading this, in fact– consider it unenlightened to believe in the afterlife, in the concept of heaven, in an eternity of happiness with lost loved ones.  They think it’s simple-minded and Pollyanna.

A lot of very high profile thinkers agree with them.  Some of the smartest minds of our time have written very vocal books on the topic.  Richard Dawkins wrote “The God Delusion”.  Christopher Hitchens proclaimed “God is Not Great”.  Douglas Adams, one of my favorite authors, felt that religious belief was so beneath him that he didn’t deign to know anyone who had any.  Modern atheism is, in short, extremely vocal, almost preachy, if you’ll pardon the pun.

I am not going to say that any of them are wrong.  In this context, I think that completely misses the point.  In fact, just for the sake of argument, let’s assume they are spot on.  Let’s assume that the disbelievers are perfectly correct– that there is no God, no heaven, and that the belief in them is simply a quaint illusion of hope in the minds of those who prefer not to face the pointless bleakness of existence.

How is it a good thing to take that illusion away from them?

For those like Dawkins and Hitchens, who openly scoff at the faith of believers, who delight in the idea of smashing that faith to bits, how is that not simply an abominable thing to do?  If it is true that this life is a one-way ride to oblivion, wouldn’t it be nice to treasure a happy lie that the final destination is actually an amusement park?  How much of a totally heinous ass do you need to be to run around smashing that happy lie to pieces, delighting in people’s resulting despair?

Douglas Adams had a better idea.  He thought that there was value in a “fake God”.  After all, he reasoned, belief in God, under the best conditions, inspires mankind to rise above their base natures.  It fosters hope.  If, in the end, that hope turns out to be false, who cares?  Everyone will be too dead to notice.  Adams may have been rather arrogantly atheist, but at least he didn’t want to go around figuratively smashing the toys of people who embrace faith.

But my question here really isn’t about who would be beastly enough to tell this father, the one who twelve hours ago saw his young son die, that his belief that they will one day be reunited is stupid.  I suspect none of us would do that (Dawkins might.)  And even more important, I suspect his faith is of such caliber that it wouldn’t matter.

My real question– the one that I thought of almost immediately when I saw that post– is this:  for the people who don’t believe in God and heaven, who think it’s all just a quaintly ridiculous superstition… what do you do in the face of such a tragedy?

Really.  If any of you are reading this (and I know some of you are), when you think of the inevitable death of someone you love more than your own life… how do you deal with it? 

None of you will be surprised to know that I do believe in God and the afterlife.  My faith is a very difficult thing sometimes– as I suppose it should be.  It’s factored into several of my best stories– the hope that this world is not all there is; that death truly doesn’t have the final say, and what amazing, beguiling hope that offers us!  I am still terrified by the idea of something awful happening to the people that I love, but that greatest-of-all-fears is tempered by the belief that the worst this world can do is separate us for a time.  And that, while bad, is… manageable.

As a disbeliever, how do you do it?  What does it feel like to live without that hope?  How do you face the uncertain fortune’s wheel of daily life?  How, in short, do you stay sane?  How do you dare to truly love?

How, more than anything, would you face a world where one of your children was suddenly, senselessly, no more?

This father has a way to face it.  He has a hope.  Maybe you think that hope is stupid and baseless.  Maybe you are even right.

Does being right really matter?

Isn’t hope better than despair?

As a character in one of my own stories said:  trust may be hard, but it is always better than the alternative.

I really am curious.  All answers welcome.  No arguments or debates allowed.


The Death of Curiosity

It occurs to me that curiosity has been murdered.

This is a pretty serious problem, since curiosity is the thing that presses us to learn about other people and cultures, eventually encouraging tolerance toward them.  Curiosity causes us to learn about and respect different beliefs, thus challenging and sharpening our own.  Curiosity makes us ask questions, and that (as any first grade teacher worth his/her crate of broken Crayolas and assorted glue-sticks will tell you) is the key to intelligence.

And the really ironic thing is that it is bastardized versions of these very concepts– tolerance, respect, and intelligence– that pulled the trigger on curiosity.  They killed it, stupidly and blindly, like a cartoon cat sawing off the tree-limb he himself is standing on.

Consider a convenient example:

A few months back, I sought to satisfy my curiosity about people who hold very different political views.  I am a conservative, so I approached an online acquaintance who I knew was a vocal liberal and a writer (for privacy’s sake, and because you’ve surely never heard of him, I’ll call him “the Buffoon”  You’ll see why soon enough).  I felt confident that we could partner on a forum to publicly discuss our ideological differences.

This lasted for about three days, whereupon I was told by the Buffoon that I must never speak of race or race issues, not only on our mutual forum, but on my own blog (the one you are currently reading, and thank you very much).  It turns out that he had read– and wildly misunderstood– one of my entries.  Having missed the point so monumentally that I was quite sure he had to have been joking (this was before I realized he was a buffoon, of course), I told him that 1) the entry was actually distinctly anti-racist, and 2) that under no circumstances would I change my writings to suit his preferences.

This led very quickly to a complete breakdown of the dialogue, thus providing the perfect illustration of my main premise: I had approached the Buffoon because I was interested in the things he had to say.  He, as it turns out, was mostly interested in the things I shouldn’t be allowed to say.  The Buffoon was not curious.  He was, in fact, militantly anti-curious.

“THIS IS MY ‘RATIONALLY-DISAGREEING-WITH-YOUR-FREE-SPEECH’ FACE!”

And he unfortunately illustrates a cultural trend.

I had a cello teacher once, a very pleasant young woman whose boyfriend lived in Chicago.  She told me of his experience moving to the Big City from small town Illinois.  At first, he was amazed at how many different races and cultures he saw every day on the street.  “But now,” she explained, “he doesn’t even notice them anymore.”

She said this with worldly-wise approval in her voice.  He was illustrating Tolerance, after all, that most venerated and sought after of all modern virtues.  And yet I found myself thinking: what a missed opportunity.  Wasn’t her boyfriend even remotely curious about all those people with such wildly different cultures and life experiences?  Is it really a good thing to become completely blind to our many differences?  “Hey, we’re all human,” (I can the politically correct among us saying) “Stop defining people by their superficial differences!”

Fine.  But does that mean we have to utterly ignore those differences?

Since none of us can see what’s in another’s heart, it tends to be the superficial differences that we notice.  Curiosity about those differences is not a sign of prejudice; it’s a sign of interest.  Interest is the first step toward affection.  And no matter how hard you try, it’s pretty much impossible to hate those you feel affection for.  Ignoring our differences kills this process, substituting instead a bland, manufactured apathy usually mislabeled as Tolerance.

In effect, the modern concept of Tolerance seeks to foster appreciation for cultural diversity by stubbornly pretending the diversity does not exist.

It doesn’t matter if the differences are cultural, socioeconomic, racial, political, or even simply geographical.  When I meet someone different from myself, I am curious about them.  I want to ask them questions about their experiences and worldview.  And yet, more often than not, I don’t.  I find myself fighting the curiosity, stuffing it down, and discussing something banal and meaningless.

What I hunger for is conversation, but what I usually settle for is small talk.

“So I’m a shirtless dude, you’re a talking soccer ball.  All that matters is the love, baby.”

Because curiosity means acknowledging a difference.  In a society obsessed with being blind to differences, curiosity is extremely politically incorrect.

Even more endangered than social curiosity, however, is political curiosity.

There’s the well known story about a Washington journalist who was amazed that Richard Nixon had gotten elected president.  In exasperation, she proclaimed, “I don’t know anybody who voted for him.”  Now more than ever, we live in a time when it is a point of personal pride not to know anyone of the opposing political/ideological party.  It is a sign of status.  Curiosity about opposing political viewpoints has been completely and utterly murdered.

Skeptical?  Try being seen in a coffee shop in any large city reading a book by Sarah Palin.  No one– absolutely, positively no one– will think you are merely an intellectually curious liberal examining the arguments of the other side.  You will get dirty looks from passersby.  Some people may even try to start an argument with you.

If you stop them and tell them that you agree with them, and are just reading the book to sharpen your own liberal arguments against the conservative worldview, they will let you off, but grudgingly.  After all, everybody knows* you don’t need to study to know that conservatives are wrong (as well as racist, anti-science, warmongering kitten-haters).  Taking the time to examine their position invites suspicion and social awkwardness.

And yes, this is also true if you try to read anything by Al Gore in an evangelical church lobby.  Although that would be a little strange under any circumstance (casually reading in a church lobby, that is, not necessarily reading anything by Al Gore.  Although...)

Once again, if only Futurama represented real life…

But that brings me to the final death of curiosity: Intellectual.  In short, intellectual curiosity has not merely been murdered.  It was executed gangland style.  It was killed, thrown in the trunk of a Prius (they have trunks, right?) and hauled off to a shallow grave in the woods.

Let’s take something we can all pretty much agree on: Scientology is a goofy, wacky religion.  Right?  OK.  Now, can you tell me why?  Think about it.  Why, specifically, do you believe that Scientology is only for weirdos and out-of-touch celebrity moonbats?  I’ll give you a minute.

Did you think of reincarnated thetan gods and audit-therapy E-meters?  Or did you just think of Tom Cruise jumping on a couch and how awful “Battlefield Earth” was?

Being right doesn’t count if you’re just agreeing with the dominant philosophy.  What if your wife or son came home after their weekly brunch with John Travolta and had converted to Scientology?  How would you convince them it was mistake?  Would you be forced to admit that your whole argument against their new belief system stems from the fact that John Stewart made fun of it on the Daily Show?

Seriously. Who could say no to this face?

It’s stupid not to know why you believe something, even if what you believe is right.  Curiosity is the one thing that saves us from that.

But intellectual curiosity is banned by popular culture.  For perhaps the first time in history, it is considered enlightened and responsible to not know a damn thing about the opposing argument.

Consider creationism versus evolution.  Sure, you think you know that evolution is all proven and sciency, but do you really know why?  Can you discuss it intellectually?  Have you entertained the arguments of those who disagree?  Because amazingly enough, a lot of very smart people do,  regardless of which side you come down on.

What about climate change?  As a culture, we all “know” that man-made global warming is a proven, uncontestable fact.  But how many of us know the specifics?  How many have dared to examine the arguments of those who disagree?  They aren’t hard to find.  I could link to a dozen highly intelligent articles on the topic, written by experts in the field, all of whom say that the current concept of climate change is unadulterated crapola (their words, not mine).

“The atomic weight of crapola is nine to the sixteenth power of kiss my ass.”

I won’t provide those links, of course, mostly because I am lazy, but also because they are easy to find, and if you haven’t seen them, it’s because you aren’t looking.  You don’t want to read them.  You are, in short, not curious.

Because intellectual curiosity is more than dead: it’s forbidden.

Getting caught reading an argument against man-made global warming– or creationism, or Scientology, or the musical prowess of Nickelback, or any other socially unacceptable philosophy– is worse than getting caught looking at pornography.

And that’s not a joke.  Porno is cool now.  It’s ubiquitous.  Intellectual curiosity, however, is utterly shameful.  Try it.  I dare you.

Until then, I’d say the cat is safe.  Curiosity ain’t going to be a problem for it anymore.

* BTW, a sure sign that your sense of curiosity is dead is regularly using the phrase “everybody knows…” in your arguments.


The Lap of Luxury

“Once Michelle and I had our girls, she gave it her all to balance raising a family and pursuing a career–and something that could be very difficult on her, because I was gone a lot, and we didn’t have the luxury for her not to work.”

Despite how I might occasionally sound to some of my more liberal-minded friends, I really do strive for balance, politically.  I have defended the President when a lot of the conservative hacks were mincing up his words and making unfair issues out of minor errors and mistakes.  This, however, is no minor mistake or miss-speak.

The President actually said this: “we couldn’t afford the luxury for her not to work.”

Where to even start with this…

Really, Mr. President?  On the salary of a Harvard professor and lawyer, you weren’t able to “afford” the “luxury” of your wife staying home with her children?

You couldn’t– (ahem!) AFFORD it?  The LUXURY?

(Get ahold of yourself Geo… deep breath).

I am not a wealthy man.  In fact, there have been more than a few occasions over the past several years when we have lived month-to-month, when we didn’t know for sure where next month’s mortgage payment would be coming from.  We’ve always managed to make it work, somehow.  You see, when we had our kids, we made a choice.  My wife quit her corporate job in order to devote herself full time to them.  It was a hard choice– one that had quite an impact on our finances.  But we both agreed to it, and have never looked back.  My kids have never had to go to day care.  I am proud of the sacrifices we have made to be there for them, to be with them during their most formative years.  But it was HARD.

I won’t put this in amusing or elegant words.  The truth about this is pretty bald: for the President to claim he and his wife “could not afford the luxury” of her not to work is so insulting, so arrogant, so breathtakingly condescending that it truly inspires me to rage.

Does he really– literally– mean to say that they couldn’t “afford” for her not to work?  Seriously??  If so, the inescapable conclusion is that Barack Obama is the most hopelessly inept money manager on earth.  And if this is the case, then it is criminally insane for him to be put in charge of the finances of this country.

Of course, he may just be lying.

Let’s be perfectly frank here: of COURSE they could have afforded for Michelle to stay home with their daughters.  They made a very conscious, very deliberate choice for her to NOT stay home.  For reasons that are perfectly reasonable, they chose to continue maintaining dual incomes.  It was important to both Mr. and Mrs. Obama to continue their separate careers.  This is the same choice that many, if not most, Americans make.

Fine.

But Mr. President, really– seriously– don’t insult us by pretending that you simply could not afford it.

And amazingly, that’s not even the worst of it.  Now, we are being told by the venerable DNC operative Hilary Rosen that women who stay home to raise their own children (or “have never worked a day” in her words) have no right to an opinion about the economy.  She would have us believe that she would applaud Mitt Romney if, when advised by his wife about the concerns of American women, he had said to her, “Who the hell are you?  What do you know?  You haven’t worked a day in your life!  I’ma go talk to some real women.”

And still… incredibly… the gall doesn’t stop there.

After all this– after the President’s condescending and blithe comments about how nice it would have been if he and Michelle could have afforded the luxury of something that me and my wife– on a teensy percentage of his income-– were able to achieve; after Hilary Rosen’s continued belittling attitude about women who sacrifice to stay home with their children… after all of this, it is supposedly conservatives like me that are conducting a “war on women”.  The internet is peppered today with snarky, self-righteous ads about how Mitt Romney– not Barack Obama or Hillary Rosen, who tacitly disdain and dismiss a huge percentage of American women– should call off his “war on women”.

I am a cynic.  And even I am nearly speechless.

But you know, maybe there’s some truth to it.  When I go to put my kids to bed and see them snuggled up with their Mama– the woman who sacrificed so much, both in time and money, who gave so very much of herself over the past nine years– when I see my kids crammed lovingly onto her lap for goodnights, I think: Barack Obama is right.

He just misunderstands luxury.

He and Michelle truly couldn’t afford this kind of luxury.  Getting ahead was too important to them.  Making a few more hundred thousand dollars was more important.  And I suppose I should feel sorry for him.

I don’t.  I am too damn pissed off about his condescending attitude and blithe twisting of the truth.  He and Michelle chose not to have this.  They could’ve– the truth is, a lot, LOT more people could have it if they were willing to live with a bit less.  But for the Obamas, career meant more.  Fine.  But he really is missing out.

Because when I see my kids crammed onto their Mama’s lap, I realize he is right.

That is very much the lap of luxury.