Let Us Gawk at the Weird

 

shutterstock_156039962Marriage may be one of the more contentious issues around here, but I think the particulars described in this NYT piece about the marriage habits of the fabulously wealthy of Manhattan should unite the Ricochetti in fascinated condescension:

It was easy for me to fall into the belief, as I lived and lunched and mothered with more than 100 of them for the better part of six years, that all these wealthy, competent and beautiful women, many with irony, intelligence and a sense of humor about their tribalism (“We are freaks for Flywheel,” one told me, referring to the indoor cycling gym), were powerful as well. But as my inner anthropologist quickly realized, there was the undeniable fact of their cloistering from men. There were alcohol-fueled girls’ nights out, and women-only luncheons and trunk shows and “shopping for a cause” events. There were mommy coffees, and women-only dinners in lavish homes. There were even some girlfriend-only flyaway parties on private planes, where everyone packed and wore outfits the same color.

Strange, yes, but ways one might expect. But then we get to this section:

“It’s easier and more fun,” the women insisted when I asked about the sex segregation that defined their lives.

“We prefer it,” the men told me at a dinner party where husbands and wives sat at entirely different tables in entirely different rooms.

Sex segregation, I was told, was a “choice.” But like “choosing” not to work, or a Dogon woman in Mali’s “choosing” to go into a menstrual hut, it struck me as a state of affairs possibly giving clue to some deeper, meaningful reality while masquerading, like a reveler at the Save Venice ball the women attended every spring, as a simple preference.

And then there were the wife bonuses.

Wait… what?

… I overheard someone who didn’t work say she would buy a table at an event once her bonus was set. A woman with a business degree but no job mentioned waiting for her “year-end” to shop for clothing. Further probing revealed that the annual wife bonus was not an uncommon practice in this tribe.

A wife bonus, I was told, might be hammered out in a pre-nup or post-nup, and distributed on the basis of not only how well her husband’s fund had done but her own performance — how well she managed the home budget, whether the kids got into a “good” school — the same way their husbands were rewarded at investment banks. In turn these bonuses were a ticket to a modicum of financial independence and participation in a social sphere where you don’t just go to lunch, you buy a $10,000 table at the benefit luncheon a friend is hosting.

Women who didn’t get them joked about possible sexual performance metrics. Women who received them usually retreated, demurring when pressed to discuss it further, proof to an anthropologist that a topic is taboo, culturally loaded and dense with meaning.

Now, the residents of the Upper East Side may not be the biggest left-wingers on the planet — its residents voted strongly against Bill deBlasio in 2013 — but we’re still talking about people who host and attend $10,000/plate fundraisers for President Obama (as recently as this month). Charles Murray has talked before about how the successful tend to live differently than they preach but this sort of self-imposed gender segregation, nouvo-traditional gender-roles, and embrace of financial incentives sounds more like how a campus radical might imagine the habits of Texas oil barons than someone who votes with their side.

Also… I’m still stuck on “wife bonuses.”

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  1. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    Meanwhile, the engineers of the 60s-era sexual revolution on campus have turned themselves into a bunch of Dean Wormers. Why hasn’t everyone noticed how left-wing gender politics are completely screwed up, hypocritical, and self-parodical?

    • #1
  2. Frank Soto Contributor
    Frank Soto
    @FrankSoto

    I’m unsure what I’ve just read…

    • #2
  3. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    And then there were the wife bonuses.

    From what I’ve read, this isn’t an uncommon practice among NBA players and their spouses although in many cases, it might be more astutely described as *hush money.*

    • #3
  4. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Whats weird about it except that its in MBA language?

    • #4
  5. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @bridget

    Also… I’m still stuck on “wife bonuses.”

    In the land of $10,000 per table benefit luncheons, high-end designer clothing, expensive hair stylists, and private jets, a “wife bonus” can be a budgeting tool more than anything else.  It’s substantial enough that she can keep up with her friends, but not so much that she’s spending his entire salary and a bad year at his job means that they have to pull the kids from private school.

    Ever see those stats about how lottery winners wind up in a worse financial position a few years after the jackpot than they were before?  Same principle.

    • #5
  6. Misthiocracy Member
    Misthiocracy
    @Misthiocracy

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Charles Murray has talked before about how the successful tend to live differently than they preach but this sort of self-imposed gender segregation, nouvo-traditional gender-roles, and embrace of financial incentives sounds more like how a campus radical might imagine the habits of Texas oil barons than someone who votes with their side.

    This doesn’t sound like terribly new behaviour for the ultra-rich. They are merely continuing the traditions of the aristocracy of old, where the Lord and Lady of the manor basically led separate lives. How many BBC costume dramas feature the Lord and Lady actually sharing the same bedroom? The olde tyme Queen has her ladies-in-waiting for company, and only interacted with the King for scheduled appointments. Etc.

    The only real difference is that more people can afford to live this way in the 21st Century.  That’s actually a good thing.

    • #6
  7. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    I was reading in the Atlantic, that if you expect to be the master of the universe, your entire life is work.  So yeah, I can see how scheduling interaction would become necessary in that kind of extremely disciplined and regimented life.

    • #7
  8. user_88846 Member
    user_88846
    @MikeHubbard

    F. Scott Fitzgerald: The very rich are different from you and me.

    Ernest Hemingway: Yes, they have more money.

    On this apocryphal exchange, I side with Fitzgerald.  The very rich are different from the rest of us—always have been, always will be.  It isn’t worth killing ourselves over the difference a la Gatsby, but we just need to make sure that the peculiar craziness of rich people doesn’t mess with the rest of us.

    In other words, no bonuses for the Ricochetti spouses.  Sorry.

    • #8
  9. Ricochet Member
    Ricochet
    @Manny

    Sounds like it would make for an interesting novel about repugnant people.  I hope my wife never hears about a wife bonus…lol.

    • #9
  10. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    Mike Hubbard:F. Scott Fitzgerald: The very rich are different from you and me.

    Ernest Hemingway: Yes, they have more money.

    On this apocryphal exchange, I side with Fitzgerald. The very rich are different from the rest of us—always have been, always will be. It isn’t worth killing ourselves over the difference a la Gatsby, but we just need to make sure that the peculiar craziness of rich people doesn’t mess with the rest of us.

    In other words, no bonuses for the Ricochetti spouses. Sorry.

    When I am particularly happy in my marriage I buy my wife things.

    The MBA ladies who were no slouches in schools, said: “how happy?  Can you quantify it?  and then they did their math.  Good on them.

    I want to know what they consider their critical success factors, and how they arrived at them.

    Outside of lifestyle specific problems, I think we can learn a lot from people who ruthlessly go about maximizing their lives.  So, I think we should learn from them and adopt the best practices.

    • #10
  11. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Tom,

    Like falling down the rabbit hole, just ask Alice. Manhattan is curiouser and curiouser.  I have a friend who comes up to me at the Kiddush (Sabbath buffet lunch) and looks at me and says “I’m really angry at that Obama, I’m cutting my donation this year by 10%”. This is our running joke. Harry is about as far from Manhattan as you can get. He was an Army Sargent in the Pacific during WWII. He hates Obama with every cell in his body. Did some work for Allen West. He loves to pull my chain as he knows I can’t stand BHO either. We usually have many there from NYC so this is especially funny. There is no explaining them.

    Manhattan Wonderland.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #11
  12. Fredösphere Member
    Fredösphere
    @Fredosphere

    I didn’t have time to finish reading this post, btw, I was too busy directing my lawyer and accountant to begin negotiating my “husband bonus.”

    • #12
  13. Jim Kearney Contributor
    Jim Kearney
    @JimKearney

    Thanks for citing this. Just pre-ordered the book version “The Primates of Park Avenue.”

    Visited Carnegie Hill last week. What the Times slice leaves out is that these tribes dress like ladies and gentlemen; raise an inordinate number of well-mannered children (any sticks carried have nets on the end); and speak politely along Madison, occasionally in English.

    On weekdays I observed four separately color coded, cord-connected columns of wee toddlers being herded to and from Central Park. Perhaps some of the moms in the area may be high earners themselves? A majority of those lunching in Mt. Sinai scrubs were women.

    If one earned eight figures per annum, wouldn’t one want one’s non-working spouse to expend that cycling gym energy organizing fundraisers to combat deadly diseases? If her friends were trading contributions to also keep nearby Museum Row a flourishing bastion of Western Civilization, wouldn’t that be also be a worthwhile tax deduction?

    Sure the gals want to have some fun, and they certainly don’t want to hear dinner conversations about quants, and tranches, and CDO squared. I say, enjoy, just keep that trickle-down coming!

    • #13
  14. Sabrdance Member
    Sabrdance
    @Sabrdance

    I’m with Guru.  Other than the MBA language, what is weird about this?  When I was in college and got together with my friends, invariably after an hour, we’d end up sex segregated.  The men would be in the living room or the office talking guy stuff -games, movies, music, and because we were nerds philosophy and religion -and the women would be in the other room talking… about whatever it is they were talking about.  Wasn’t present.  There were girls nights out just as there were guys nights out, and on those occasions we went to formal events we would eat together and dance together, but there was a non-trivial chance that the girls would go do one thing and leave the guys to discuss the finer points of the wine.

    OK -wife bonus is a little weird -I just call that budgeting.

    • #14
  15. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    Sabrdance:I’m with Guru. Other than the MBA language, what is weird about this? When I was in college and got together with my friends, invariably after an hour, we’d end up sex segregated. The men would be in the living room or the office talking guy stuff -games, movies, music, and because we were nerds philosophy and religion -and the women would be in the other room talking… about whatever it is they were talking about. Wasn’t present. There were girls nights out just as there were guys nights out, and on those occasions we went to formal events we would eat together and dance together, but there was a non-trivial chance that the girls would go do one thing and leave the guys to discuss the finer points of the wine.

    I don’t find sex segregation reprehensible but I do find it simply odd and something with which I am not at all familiar. I’m a “Dad’s girl,” close to my brother, nephews and four uncles and I’d rather hang out with my husband than anybody else.

    With that said, I am fortunate to have a posse of terrific girlfriends (married and single) who feel the same way. My closest girlfriend (single) would be disappointed if my husband didn’t join us for dinner more than occasionally!

    • #15
  16. Tom Meyer Contributor
    Tom Meyer
    @tommeyer

    The education level — and all that connotes — of the ladies is what I find so weird about this; the super rich have always been odd this way, but it’s particularly galling considering the baises and culture of higher-education these people have endured (and thrived in) that makes it so strange.

    • #16
  17. user_82762 Thatcher
    user_82762
    @JamesGawron

    Tom Meyer, Ed.:The education level — and all that connotes — of the ladies is what I find so weird about this; the super rich have always been odd this way, but it’s particularly galling considering the baises and culture of higher-education these people have endured (and thrived in) that makes it so strange.

    Tom,

    When my father was an undergraduate, about 1 million years ago (~1933), his English literature prof asked the class a question. She wanted to know what they thought of the F. Scott Fitzgerald quote, “The rich really are different.”

    When it got around to my father he said, “Yeah they’re different, they have money.”

    Go figure.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #17
  18. Tommy De Seno Contributor
    Tommy De Seno
    @TommyDeSeno

    Money/lack of money affects behavior.  Nothing new there.

    One might maintain that only the middle class exercises sexual monogamy.

    Looking for a fast woman?  Try a Hollywood party or Hollywood Blvd.   You’re more likely to strike out in the suburbs.

    • #18
  19. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    Misthiocracy:

    Tom Meyer, Ed.: Charles Murray has talked before about how the successful tend to live differently than they preach but this sort of self-imposed gender segregation, nouvo-traditional gender-roles, and embrace of financial incentives sounds more like how a campus radical might imagine the habits of Texas oil barons than someone who votes with their side.

    This doesn’t sound like terribly new behaviour for the ultra-rich. They are merely continuing the traditions of the aristocracy of old, where the Lord and Lady of the manor basically led separate lives. How many BBC costume dramas feature the Lord and Lady actually sharing the same bedroom? The olde tyme Queen has her ladies-in-waiting for company, and only interacted with the King for scheduled appointments. Etc.

    The Clintons come to mind.  I love Rob Long’s humor columns in National Review when they involve the contract negotiations between Bill and Hillary’s lawyers.

    • #19
  20. Guruforhire Member
    Guruforhire
    @Guruforhire

    EThompson:

    I don’t find sex segregation reprehensible but I do find it simply odd and something with which I am not at all familiar. I’m a “Dad’s girl,” close to my brother, nephews and four uncles and I’d rather hang out with my husband than anybody else.

    With that said, I am fortunate to have a posse of terrific girlfriends (married and single) who feel the same way. My closest girlfriend (single) would be disappointed if my husband didn’t join us for dinner more than occasionally!

    Most of my wife’s friends love me too.  Weird, I consider myself grouchy and generally unpleasant.  But women are weird.

    • #20
  21. EThompson Inactive
    EThompson
    @EThompson

    One more observation on the sex segregation issue:

    My mother taught me how to seat a dinner party when I was just a girl and the first rule was boy/girl/boy/girl.

    “Never seat two of a kind together- it’s boring and stifles an interesting, interactive conversation.”

    • #21
  22. Southern Pessimist Member
    Southern Pessimist
    @SouthernPessimist

    I don’t collect my husband bonus as often as I would like but often enough I suppose.

    • #22
  23. Vance Richards Member
    Vance Richards
    @VanceRichards

    I just told the little lady that she gets her “wife bonus” every time I walk through the door.

    Now she is laughing . . . why is she laughing?

    • #23
  24. Johnny Dubya Member
    Johnny Dubya
    @JohnnyDubya

    I’m with Jim Kearney, and I don’t understand why Manny or anyone would consider these people “repugnant.” I can think of many other cultural groups that I would consider repugnant, for example, those whose fathers would kill their daughters in the name of “honor.”

    I agree that these “wife bonuses” equate basically to a lump-sum, prefunded budget. Look, I have spent my life near the periphery of people like the ones described in the article, and I’m having trouble thinking of a single one that I have met that wasn’t basically decent.

    It’s in discussions like this that my libertarian side comes out. To each his own, if it doesn’t hurt anyone else. I wouldn’t point my finger and laugh at these folks any more than I would at elderly Asians doing tai chi in a San Francisco public park, or Southerners cheering a monster truck rally in a sports arena.

    • #24
  25. user_138106 Member
    user_138106
    @LidensCheng

    Oh…wow. They’re so insulated, they might as well from another planet.

    Mike Hubbard:F. Scott Fitzgerald: The very rich are different from you and me.

    Ernest Hemingway: Yes, they have more money.

    On this apocryphal exchange, I side with Fitzgerald. The very rich are different from the rest of us—always have been, always will be. It isn’t worth killing ourselves over the difference a la Gatsby, but we just need to make sure that the peculiar craziness of rich people doesn’t mess with the rest of us.

    In other words, no bonuses for the Ricochetti spouses. Sorry.

    But they do mess with us. These elites always have these pet projects they champion. Save a tree here, a squirrel there, and they all add up to high taxes to supports these programs.

    • #25
  26. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    I think the wife bonus is kind of a symptom of the way these people lead their lives and handle their money. If you wait to see how you’re doing this year before you splurge, instead of blowing it on things you want when you want them, you will end up wealthier. These people are wealthy. Because they wait to see how they’re doing before they splurge.

    Tom, you should read Paul Fussell’s book Class: A Journey Through the American Status System. He notes there, among many other things, that the rich and poor are similar (and distinguished from the middle class) in their unromantic views of women. Maybe these folks do better at keeping a marriage together because they don’t expect their spouses to be their bff’s or “soulmates.”

    • #26
  27. Jason Rudert Member
    Jason Rudert
    @JasonRudert

    Johnny Dubya
    I’m with Jim Kearney, and I don’t understand why Manny or anyone would consider these people “repugnant.” I can think of many other cultural groups that I would consider repugnant, for example, those whose fathers would kill their daughters in the name of “honor.”

    +1. These people just aren’t conforming to middle-class norms.

    • #27
  28. jzdro Member
    jzdro
    @jzdro

    Mike Hubbard:In other words, no bonuses for the Ricochetti spouses. Sorry.

    Hey Mike, I just yesterday let my husband use my tractor for his project.

    • #28
  29. Jame Hall Member
    Jame Hall
    @UniverseHall

    That’s just plain weird. It doesn’t sound like marriage to me.

    • #29
  30. jzdro Member
    jzdro
    @jzdro

    UniverseHall:That’s just plain weird. It doesn’t sound like marriage to me.

    Hi Universe!  No fear.  That’s not the whole story of the marriage.

    • #30

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