Saturday, December 13, 2008

'When I was her age...' UPDATED

The following article is set up to get a class war on, and it has. Commenters are going nuts mocking a girl who (unlike a certain Kuczynski) sounds perfectly reasonable, and who reacted to a downturn in her family's wealth by working herself, and even lends her mother money, but who is guilty of the crime of growing up upper-middle class, and that of allowing the Times to write about her, although the latter, too, is probably her parents' fault. (Those who describe the girl's lifestyle pre-downturn as filthy-rich are off, unless there's something left out of the article that they know and I don't--$100 a week for a teen is a lot, but hardly puts her in 'Gossip Girl' territory, as Jezebel implies. I remember girls--no, would-be class warriors, not me--at my very 'Gossip Girl'-esque middle school getting more than that just for a Saturday's-worth of shopping. It could be better. Or worse.) The girl profiled does not seem to feel sorry for herself, not even a little bit, and yet the way the article's set up, readers seem convinced she does, making a point to say they don't pity these kids. They are not asking to be pitied. Good grief.

The piece provoked scores of comments--solicited by a request from the Times to answer "What did you get out of working in high school?"--about crappy jobs held, nearly all of which are of a tone that implies, 'Unlike those rich assholes, I had to work.' Aside from the standard 'With all the suffering in the world, how dare a newspaper run an article not about abject poverty/genocide/terrorism'-themed ones, most comments boils down to some variant of the following: 'Rich kids are intrinsically bad people. I paid my way from age 14, no!, 13, but I'm glad, because that way I didn't turn into an ass, like everyone who did not. I'm raising my children frugally, and they won't have anything handed to them, no siree. It's good these rich kids are now having to do an honest day's work. That'll teach them.'

OK, one does say,

I believe the children of the "well-to-do families" should stay out of the work force and leave the jobs for other folks who may have lost their jobs & need to pay their mortgages. Doesn't that seem fair? I mean, it's their parents who ran the economy into the ground in the first place.

Sweet vengeance!

More typical, though, is one explaining, "Even if they don't economically need to work, work never hurt any one."

We've been down this road before. The question remains: are rich kids assholes for a) choosing not to work and to do fancy-schmancy internships and volunteer positions, thus maintaining the caste system; b) working and thus taking jobs away from those who need them, or c) having been born, regardless of their behavior?


Slate's joined the bandwagon. Argh. The real question is why anyone allows the Times to interview them.


Anonymous said...

What is the use of a $5 a week allowance for a h.s. student in NY?

Phoebe said...

School lunch is $1, or was when I was in high school. $5 would not get you much further.

Even $100 sounds like not that much, but then I remember that I go through that amount quickly because of things like groceries, Metrocards, laundry detergent, 99 cent bags of Whole Foods store-brand non-organic pasta... things the weekend's most demonized teenager probably doesn't have to buy. Still, a few Frappuccinos and trips to the Gap could get through it. Nothing outlandish would be needed.

And, back to the grade sheets...

Petey said...

"The real question is why anyone allows the Times to interview them."

I'm outraged that these over-privileged high school kids are taking Times interviews away from folks like Greg Packer who really need Times interviews.

"Even $100 sounds like not that much ... a few Frappuccinos and trips to the Gap could get through it. Nothing outlandish would be needed."

Indeed. One can go through $50 a week at coffee houses alone without breaking a sweat.

Daniel said...

What I find obnxious about the article is not the teens (or the parents), but the Times actually reporting this. The intention, I think, is to show how the economic times are creating hardships. Surely there are more significant sacrifices being made by people in New York! Like actual layoffs or something... by reporting this as examples of what the current troubles are creating it belittles the actual problems that people are having.

Phoebe said...

But the paper also reports about layoffs. It's not either-or.

The piece was not ostensibly about anyone suffering, but about how even those not in dire situations are experiencing changes, thus revealing both the depth (working-class unemployment; layoffs) and breadth (rich girl must give up Pilates) of the problem.

It's just by beginning with the story most likely to aggravate; by offering a few details about the girl's life meant to get people riled up (her house has HOW MANY square feet?); and by asking commenters about their own work experience, thereby soliciting comments only from those who did work during high school, the paper sought to invite class warfare. The anger seems to be overall much more at the girl and (to a lesser extent) her family than at the paper.

Daniel said...

Fair enough.

I think the problem that the Times has is that bits of it are read online (and linked to, etc.) by so many people that aren't the target demographic - which I imagine is somewhat well-off urbanites. These poachers, as it were, look for a certain type of liberal thought and then take it to be indicative of something much bigger.