The Trap, a 2007 book by Daniel Brook, pretty much describes my life. It's about intelligent liberal-arts grads from well-off families who, by way of America's third-world level economic inequalities, are forced between corporate jobs (and never seeing their families again) or nonprofit or public interest work and poverty. Seeing as I have no idea how any corporation would ever hire me, I'm pretty much stuck with the poverty.
But it's the effect that "the trap" has on relationships which interests me most for my purposes here. Brook talks about a return to Victorian social mores in which people are yet again feeling forced to marry for money as the cost of living climbs. Emily, a teacher in Northern California (I guess this is supposed to be me, although I'm not a teacher), is quoted as saying: "Talking with my other friends who are teachers, who aren't married, most of them are saying 'I'm a girl'--er, 'I'm a woman, I'm a teacher, I don't make that much money. I better marry someone who makes at least this much or I won't be able to buy a house" (47). True, if Emily lived in, say, Omaha, maybe she could realize her dream. But in the not-so-distant past, people didn't have to choose between leaving their friends, families and jobs and home ownership.
Brook continues, "In the egalitarian economy of the 1950s, a single female teacher willing to buck the social pressure to marry could buy a house on her own. Despite our modern mores, in many parts of the country, this is no longer the case. Today's wealth distribution resembles that of the Victorian Age more than the 1950s, and it is shaping social life accordingly" (48). This wealth distribution has, indeed, impacted my own relationships (and my longtime ambition to own my own home). I had to leave my Inner Sunset neighborhood, where I felt some small sense of community, and move to another area in which I knew no one. Then, I had to move out of San Francisco all together. I've been described as having "a bohemian soul", and sadly for our times, this is true. As much as I want to cultivate relationships with my fellow starving artists and social change agents, there are no bohemian neighborhood left, like the North Beach of yore, where I can go and find them. As young idealists are constantly forced to move due to the rising cost of living, it's much harder to form those networks.
It's all enough to make you want to try to marry for money.
Well, at least the next post will be a happy one...report of the Pride parade!