Portfolio ran an anonymous piece today by a self-described TARP wife lamenting how far she's fallen both socially and monetarily. The article only serves to further the notion that perhaps one of the few silver linings of this financial crisis is to burst the bubble of the TARP wives. Except her bubble hasn't really burst, just punctured with the air slowly leaking out. What's always astonishing about these Wall Street "look how much worse my life is" pieces is that they're written with the belief that people, besides their friends at the country club, will have any sympathy for them whatsoever.
For example, take this paragraph:
I haven't even looked at spring clothes; God forbid someone catches me out in something new. Keeping up with fashion seems somehow decadent in this new era, like getting Botox injections or catered dinners... If I buy a present for someone, I have the package sent to their home. I don't want to be spotted climbing into a taxi, laden with Bergdorf Goodman shopping bags.
One senses that the spring fashions she would consider are not from The Gap because, really, if your new pair of pants is going to cost less than $250, is there a point in getting new pants? And then there is the line about buying presents. The point this wife seems to be missing is that she can still afford to, and still does, buy presents for friends at Bergdorf's. The only thing that's changed is she's embarrassed to be seen with the bags. This is not a real problem.
The next paragraph is equally cringe-worthy and it's only the third paragraph:
As you can see, being a TARP wife means, in short, making decisions according to a complex algorithm: balancing the need to look like your world hasn't crumbled beneath you--let's not alarm the investors!--with the need to appear duly repentant for your subprime sins. It also means we're part of the community of more than 400 companies that have received government bailout funds, whose fall from grace has been swifter and harsher than any since Mao frog-marched intellectuals into China's countryside.
As tasteless these sentences are, they nicely sum up the disconnect between this wife and the real world. The "complex algorithm" by which she lives her life is not complicated all. Expending energy to determine how much less money you have to spend to satisfy the need "to appear duly repentant" is what we call one of those "good problems." Most of America lives their lives by the complex algorithm of balancing the need for rent, food, and the occasional night out to blow off some steam.
The author acknowledges that hers are "luxury problems" but that she's still getting "squeezed." Sorry, but no, you're not getting "squeezed" if when planning your husband's birthday party "it came down to a choice between an especially accommodating (and well-known) high-end restaurant and a less expensive, clubbier spot" and you went for the cozier but more expensive place because it's "low-profile" and "rarely mentioned in the press" (as in, still famous enough to be mentioned in the press)
Read the rest of the piece if you want to laugh at how clueless this woman is and then be sad that despite her relative fall her life is still filled with "good problems."
New York Magazine thinks they have sniffed out who the author is: Liz Peek, former New York Sun business writer and wife of CIT Group's Jeffrey Peek.
For a much more revealing piece about how clueless Wall Street husbands are, check out Gabriel Sherman's great piece "The Wail of the 1%"
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