• Wed, Jun 20 2012

Being A 1% Wife IS Really Hard Work

I remember once having a conversation with my grandmother in which she mentioned that Paris Hilton was detestable. I asked why, and she said that Paris simply spent all her family’s money on clothes and going to parties, and never worked at anything. I pointed out that my grandmother admired, say Babe Paley or Gloria Guinness, who could be said to do the same. She stared at me for a second. “That’s very different,” she said, “those women were married.” I asked how that was different. “When you are older you will understand how well behaved you have to be for that kind of marriage.”

She was right. I do, now. And that really is the key thing – you have to be well behaved.

Or rather, you have to be behaved in the right way, which just means how your husband wants you to behave.

Look, if the money you are living off of is not yours – if you did not earn it or inherit it – then be clear, you are working for someone. If your husband is providing you with all the money you live on, you are in a situation where your husband is your boss. Now, if you hate your current job, and you do not like commuting, this seems like it might be a preferable alternative. If your boss is your husband, you probably have a nice boss. You have a boss who loves you! Who you love! That’s great. And maybe it seems wildly, unbelievably easy to make him happy.

But – let’s say you and your boyfriend are two independent people, both of you working away at your own jobs. Let’s say he does something shitty. I don’t know what you consider shitty, but whatever that is, he does it. You’d probably call him out on it, yes? You might yell at him. That seems reasonable. Maybe you’d talk to him about how upsetting that shitty thing he did was. Sure you would. That’s how you respond when your friends and equals do things you don’t like.

Would you talk to your boss that way?

No. You would not.

 

Stepford Wife Pic via Movie Photos

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  • endn

    Wow, I’ve really never thought of it this way. There is a huge damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t tradeoff for any stay-at-home mother, and multiply that by a lot when you’re not only the wife of a wealthy man but also a politician. I can see both side of the argument here, and I think that’s because both motherhood/stay-at-home-momming and wealth are both contentious right now. Wealth being a good/bad thing is obvious but the fact that motherhood/staying at home are also contentious right now just goes to show how completely uncomfortable everyone still is with that intersection of femininity and privilege.

    • endn

      also, great article! loved it.

  • Amy

    So, she’s essentially a fancy prostitute. Awesome.

  • len132

    I didn’t agree with Wurtzel’s tone and a lot of things she said, but wasn’t her overall point that being one of these wives is not a feminist choice? Because I think you just did a better job of proving that than she did.

    • porkchop

      I was just about to say that.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Oh.

      Well, I do think feminism means having the freedom and opportunity to do whatever you want with your life. Again, I think there are some women who are awesome in this position, and I think they are amazing for being good at it.

      That said, I guss I got the sense that Wurtzel was making the point that this this lifestyle was nothing but nannies and servants and fun, fun, fun, all the time.

    • porkchop

      I think there are a lot of 1% marriages that are on equal footing. For those that are more -transactional-… I may be surprised at what the trophy wife is willing to put up with, or recognize that I couldn’t do the same, but I don’t see anything amazing about it.

      If you use your status to build a hospital or fight sex trafficking, then that’s awesome and could be worth your sacrifice, but if status is an end in itself, then you’ve given your whole life away for something that has no meaning.

  • denny

    I don’t think it’s fair to say that a stay-at-home mom who lives off of her husband’s money is working for her husband the same way an employee would work for a boss, even if she has in-home help. First of all, even with housekeepers and nannies, it is ultimately the stay-at-home parent’s responsibility to make sure that the children’s needs are met. This means coordinating with and delegating to all the adults involved with caring for the children — nannies, babysitters, teachers, pediatricians, housekeepers, sports coaches, piano teachers, etc. She manages all these people to ensure her children’s needs are met, the adults working on her behalf are satisfied, and everything runs smoothly. It’s a lot like running a small office, and anyone who’s been a manager knows how much work goes into that — setting expectations, coaching, encouraging, assessing job performance, etc. So, even if the parent does not want to be a parent or have any involvement in her children’s lives, she is working right off the bat. Not in the same way that a single mom working two paying jobs is working, but it’s still a job, and a very necessary one.

    Secondly, assuming that a woman living off her husband’s money doesn’t have money of her own — that one partner’s income isn’t shared in the marriage — is kind of a narrow view of what it means for a lot of people to be married. I think it depends on how both parties view the marriage, and ideally, I believe marriage should be an equal partnership. My parents had a marriage like that. They got married young and started out very, very poor, but knew that they both wanted a lot of children and financial stability. So, my father climbed the ladder at work, working full-time and going to school, while my mother raised me and my many siblings. Eventually, she did start hiring housekeepers and nannies. The bottom line is that it would have been VERY difficult for my parents to have as many children as they did and live the lifestyle they eventually earned without my mom at home AND my father’s substantial income. They knew they needed to work together, as partners, to have the life they both wanted. The money my father made wasn’t just “his” money any more than the children my mother gave birth to and raised were just “her” children. While my father was at work, my mother was managing the house (and playing a HUGE role in raising us, as we rarely had full-time help).

    So, I don’t know anything about the Romney family or what their home/family situation was like, but I do think that wealthy, stay-at-home moms can be more than just their husbands’ employees.

    • caroline

      Thanks for this. That was the only part of the article that struck me as “off” – wife does not = employee of husband. Otherwise the article was fantastic.

  • Nancy

    I agree that politicians wives work the way you’re saying, but for other people who aren’t in the public’s eye if your husband supports you and your family financially and you don’t have a job your husband is DEFINITELY DEFINITELY NOT your boss. Maybe for some of those people, but not most. To say that that’s always the case is crazy.

  • anya

    i definetly don’t agree with this, and I come from a 1% family as well. Maybe it just depends on the family, but marraiges are built off of love for who the person is, which is different from a job. I think it’s very sad if this is true for other 1% families

  • kt

    I really think this is the kind of position you get in if you have the personality for it. I tell my bf off when he does something bad, because that’s the kind of person I am. I wouldn’t make a very good trophy wife, because I have no desire for it and I don’t have the skill set for it. It seems like it’s only “hard work” if you don’t really have the disposition for it. And if you don’t have the disposition to be a rich guy’s sidekick, you probably aren’t one. I assume Anne Romney has been “trained” to develop the kind of skills to support/partner with Mitt.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Sure, but you get into any kind of job because you have the personality for it. It’s still a job that I think would be difficult for the vast majority of us.

    • Kt

      Perhaps. I haven’t done it, so I honestly I don’t know. I feel being a doctor might be harder and less financially rewarding.

    • msLadymonkey

      agreed!

  • Jamie Peck

    You have successfully convinced me that being a 1% wife is basically a much more lucrative version of being a sugar baby, an emotionally demanding type of sex work I’d choose pretty much every other kind of sex work over, even foot jobs (and I HATE my feet, they are disgusting). It just sounds depressing as all get out.

    Then again, I’m pretty sure Mitt Romney doesn’t believe in divorce, so maybe her job isn’t as demanding or precarious as you think. Maybe the best thing to do is marry a rich religious fundamentalist who doesn’t believe in divorce! Then you are set for life.

    Also, just for the record, I do consider domestic labor to be labor. OF COURSE it’s labor. And the distinction between the two will become even less meaningful when we abolish wage slavery!

    The type of labor you described, however, will obviously not exist anymore. I know it sounds farfetched, but it’s an outcome I root for more and more each day. And I think you’ve just made a very good case for it.

    • Jennifer Wright

      Well, lots of people LIKE their jobs. This is probably a terrific job if you have the skill set for it! I am just saying it is a job insofar as it requires a skill set to do it well. Like any kind of work. (And that I think that skill set is rare).

    • Jamie Peck

      99.9% of all occupations would probably still exist about a proper rev, they just wouldn’t be called “jobs” anymore. Unfortunately for the Ann Romneys of the world, this one would not (nor would most other kinds of sex work), but I’d have a tough time being sad about that. Don’t worry, I’m sure she’d find something else to apply herself to!

      And yes, my new hobby is imagining what various things would be like “after the rev.”

    • Jamie Peck

      But to address your point more directly, I will say that you described this job in such a way that it’s really, really, really hard to imagine anyone being truly happy in it.

    • Jennifer Wright

      I will be certainly killed during the rev, so I try not think about it too much.

      I mean, maybe not. Lots of Russian aristocrats made it to say, Hong Kong.

      Still – yes, it sounds awful when I talk about it. If I were talking about “being an accountant” that would sound far worse.

  • Kathryn C

    On a different point, where women screw themselves is not knowing themselves, they think they are an Ann but deep down they are more Zelda.

    So net net, if you are a Zelda, marry someone who likes that about you, if you aren’t a Zelda (and more Ann like) you can marry a Mitt. And take the f&$@ing time to think about it!!!!

    Lastly, I agree with you on Mitt being her boss. And this is why I like working, I don’t want to ask for allowance from the same person I have sex with.

  • Sabrina

    Great point of view, and I do agree with you on the part that being the wife of Mitt Romney is a job in itself. Of course it’s a job. He is a robot. Being married to a robot must be hard work because you have to be a robot too. Absolutely.

    I am just going to throw in my two cents (which really has nothing to do with your article) and say that I think the problem the women of America are having with Ann Romney and this did she work, did she not conundrum is that while yes, I agree that she worked, she really has no idea what life is like for the average American woman and mother. She didn’t have to work two jobs (out of the home) and then come home to crying children. She didn’t have to make trips to dshs to get food stamps to feed her crying children. She didn’t have to work (again, out of the home) because she had to to survive. For the crying children. She is really good at being a human robot. That’s not what most women of America are.

    Ok, my thoughts on Ann Romney aside, yes, being married to Mittens is her job.

  • Lindsey

    I thought this article was going to be about work that probably goes along with being a politician’s wife, like visiting sick kids in hospitals, or helping him prepare for events and such.

    I am somewhat upset that all these years I’ve been putting effort into relationships for free. Obvi I should be aiming for a rich husband, lest my talents go to waste.

    • Heather

      And don’t forget your wifely “resume” is getting worse every day!

  • Cait

    I LOVED this article. It was smart and articulate and outlined an idea that I really hadn’t thought of before. SO AWESOME.

    ** I actually found myself taking notes in my work notebook, it was so good

  • mariela

    Oh Jesus H. Christ! If you are really coming from a 1% family then you shouldn’t HAVE to marry a 1% asshole. If you do, you are making your own choice. NOTE: Everyone KNEW Brooke Astor was marrying for money–she made her own bed and now she has to lay in it. This is NOT WORK. This is decding to become a dancing pony and get paid for it. Essentially prostitution, or even worse, sort of like a woman who let’s herself get abused and keeps coming back for more, except here, some people think its ok and consider it a “job” because money is involved. Wurtzel wasn’t 100% right either, but Ann Romney most certainly can not compare herself to the regular SAHM who is actually running after, cleaning up, picking up and CARING for their kids, their home AND their husband. Who’s to say the sense of ownership and “I would never leave” isn’t just as applicable if your not a millionaire? It’s obvious that neither Ann Romney (Can you at least spell it right, btw?), now Wurtzel, nor this author really have any idea what’s going on in the real world. And I for one and DAMN happy I don;t have to bother myself with what’s going on in theirs.

    • Anne

      So prostitution isn’t work?

    • ehsan

      i m male seeking a woman jop

  • Laura

    I think there is an important distinction that gets lost in this conversation between being busy and working. Romney filled/s her life with things that are challenging, hard and often time consuming. There is a very distinct difference between that and having to go to work.

    One does not rank higher or more important then the other, but they are different and that gets lost.

  • Brandt Hardin

    Is there any doubt that a Romney administration would favor the rich and increase the income gap in our country? Mitt is a pariah in Mormon Clothing and will stop at nothing to expand an empire of greed for the rich in this country. Can his sacred Mormon underwear gain him enough donations to buy this election? See for yourself as Mitt dons his tighty-whities from the Good Lord Himself at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2012/05/mitt-romneys-magic-mormon-underwear.html

  • Geraldine

    Yay! So cool to read some new, interesting, thought provoking stuff on here again.

    Lesson: demand generous terms in your pre nup that cover lost income you would have made in your amazing career as a single lady and include infidelity clauses. To reduce chance of being stuck with a total jerk as you age.

  • Mike

    So how would Rush Limbaugh describe this job?

  • Autumn Mc Bride

    I fear Mrs.Romney behavior has more to do with Mormonism than being the wife of a very rich man. In order for a Mormon wife to get into heaven she has to be very nice to her husband.

  • Autumn McBride

    I fear Mrs. Romney’s behavior is more of a result of being a Mormon than the wife of a extremely wealthy man. In order for a Mormon wife to get into heaven she has to be very nice to her husband. Good times…

  • Autumn McBride

    Oops! Sorry for repeat

  • Audrey

    I don’t think being a 1% wife specifically is work, because whether you try to keep your husband happy doesn’t really rely on how much money he has. However, I do think being a Mormon/conservative/politician’s wife requires some sort of control over what you say and how you behave. Although, that’s pretty much true in all relationships, albeit not to that extent. The point is, marriage is work, but that doesn’t mean if you are married you are a “working person”.

  • kat

    Congratulations,
    You have managed to convince me that being a wife is really hard because you have to efface your entire personality to please your husband, who is apparently a sexist asshole who thinks marriage is forever….until you act like to much of a shrew. This article is premised on so many false assumptions, ranging from the idea that 1% husbands would all be stereotypical misogynists to the idea that your husband breaking off a marriage is a result of your personality defects.
    If this is really what you think these woman describe as work, maybe you should revisit what they do. Wives of important men do have the potential to be…..equals. Maybe those who don’t have a job help work out important social events, campaign, help manage and put on public events, try to create good pr, or start movements for important social issues. That is work, some of it involves faking happy, but pretending to like your life is not in and of itself work. It’s a sign you need to revisit what could actually make you happy.

    • Amy

      Agreed 100%

    • Jennifer Wright

      As I understand it, your work is what you do that gets you your income. If your income comes in the form of an allowance from your husband, then it is great that you can: ” help work out important social events, campaign, help manage and put on public events, try to create good pr, or start movements for important social issues” however, those things, in the context you describe, do not give you an income. Accordingly you will still have difficulties if your husband decides to stop giving you an allowance (remember you will also be starting movements for social issues as a result of your husband’s position, not your own accomplishments, so if your husband leaves you…). That does not quite seem like a position of equality with your husband.

    • Vanessa

      Kat my thoughts exactly. This article is ridiculous.

    • Marissa

      I agree with your major points, Kat. But overall, this article completely ignores Wurtzel’s real argument. Did no one actually read the original article before commenting?? Unless I completely missed the tone of this piece, and the intention was to satirically support it.

      Wurtzel is critical of 1% men for the type of personality that comes with excessive money and power, but more critical of women for allowing themselves to be bought, and then claiming it is their feminist choice. I can’t emphasize enough that being the emotional disaster of such a person as outlined in thegloss’s article may require an amount of self-absorption, but it is not work or even work toward a marriage. Please think of the actual definition of “job” as it relates to feminism.

      AND quite obviously, being a 1% wife does not discourage men from thinking that women are pretty, docile objects to be bought to support them, but it does encourage women to think that being a pretty docile object is somehow contributing to society.

      Also, Wurtzel’s quote “It is not a selective position,” is not about Ann Romney or being a 1% wife, but about being a MOTHER. Nature is not that selective with who it allows to be mothers, as we can tell about the de-evolution occurring.

    • MR

      Jennifer, I kinda read this and scratched my head. I’m a guy and view marriage as a partnership. One should not dominate the other in the relationship.

    • kat

      @Marissa, honestly I spent the entire article hoping it was some form of sarcasm, but I couldn’t assume that since this is a viewpoint I have heard supported in real life

      @ Jennifer
      Although I do hope this is sarcasm, it is still kind of insulting sarcasm. Taking your definition of work, all the things I listed do build skills that these woman can use to get real jobs if their marriage does not last, working against the idea that these wives don’t have transferable skills. Some even generate income by starting organizations. And just because I have access to a network of people because of my husband does not diminish the independence of the project, that’s how networking works.

      Finally, I am most frustrated with how this article in no way highlights a realistic argument for the woman who originally sparked this debate. I don’t like the Romney’s politically, but Mitt could have left Ann when she turned 40 or when she was diagnosed with MS or breast cancer. He’s not really supporting your argument that this “job” is easily lost. Mrs. Romney is on the board of several charity organizations and graduated from Harvard. If you are trying to argue that 1% wives work because they have to act happy, in order to mock or applaud them, your point of departure was a little off. I imagine she has had an off day or two during her life.

  • Ewa

    Good argument. Plus, what your grandmother said was really wise.

  • Terrence Wentworth

    This fucking sucked. No one cares what Elizabeh Pretzel thinks; therefore, she is not worth rebutting.

    More nude pics of that underage girl from Glee, please!

  • thatguy

    I don’t agree that this is “work”. It might be difficult, but sometimes so is Jenga. As you have laid it out it appears to be some trivial combination of masquerading, wooing, and scheming.

    If a woman volunteers for this kind of 1% lifestyle, she has agreed and OPTED for the “terms” however ridiculous they may be. She can always leave, she could always get a 99% job, she could support herself, but she doesn’t. I will not be rsvp’ing to this pity party, in the same vein that I wouldn’t pity any other non-permanent decision that was willingly made.

    And why are we pretending that this type of wife wouldn’t get anything in the divorce?

    • Dani

      Again: not work. Wurtzel’s whole point is that women who live off of their husbands are not *feminists*, because they are economically dependent on another person instead of forging their own path in life. Is it hard work being with someone who expects you to be perfect in return for letting you run up their AmEx? Yes, it is. It’s also difficult being the spouse of a politician, whether you’re a Stepford wife or Michelle Obama, because you’re also always in the spotlight. It’s difficult being married to an alcoholic, cheating shithead. Does that make it a job? No. It’s just a difficult life path. Everyone has those. It’s difficult being a mom, but does that mean that it’s a job? No. Because maintaing your pregnancy was (hopefully) your life choice. When you earn a wage in the professional world for your own work, then you have a job. Until then, you’ve just a LIFE, like everyone else.

      So just because you’re gripped with insecurities about your youth, beauty, and sexual attraction does not mean that being a 1% wife is a job. It just means that you chose to ride in fancy cars and wear expensive dresses instead of earn your own keep and/or be with someone who respects and appreciates you for who you are. Tough.

    • Dani

      By the way – I was agreeing with you :)

  • Lyo

    I’m come from a low income family and I actually think many of the 1% wives are working. Even if it’s not caring for the kids, cooking, or cleaning. There are some levels of delegation going on. Like A company with many levels. the bosses do work and delegate, then the higher you go it’s just mostly delegation. And people hate the fact that you can earn so much and do so little but that is what it is. If you can achieve success and move up then that’s your reward. Sure the elite/ bosses can chip in more but the more they can do then the less employees they would need. If owners/ceos/bosses can do everything then why hire anyone. paying someone to do things for you, That’s the privilege.
    Just hopefully they can recognize their employees hard work in building the company.

  • S_kitty

    I skimmed the comments and didn’t see anything from anyone who’d actually been there, so…

    I was a trophy wife. Not of someone super-super-rich, but to a senior executive who thought he was ‘poor’ when his bank balance dwindled to 5 figures. (I grew up on welfare, so $98,000 in the bank = poor?!? Er, no.) ‘Failure’ meant moving back into his father’s penthouse apartment with amazing views for a short time, then having to share a luxury apartment with a big garden and marble everywhere in the poshest area of the city until he could afford a big house again.

    Being a trophy wife is not a job I chose. I married for love. He’s smart, funny, great-looking, good in bed (when he wants to be, anyway) and has the
    most impeccable manners… the kind of guy everyone is impressed by, and
    nobody disagrees with you marrying quickly. I had a highly paid job when I met him; he wanted me in part because I am not someone who can be bought, so I was one of the few people who’d ever really stood up to him — a novel and initially thrilling experience to him, I suppose.

    He lost his temper for the first time on our honeymoon. He’d already talked me into giving up my job, mostly because I’d come home stressed and exhausted, wanting to talk about my day or just collapse in a corner to eat takeout and watch TV, instead of doting on him. (Obviously, he used other arguments to convince me to do it; he’s a man who’s very, very good at getting exactly what he wants.) I wrote it off as a misunderstanding the first time, and the second, and the third… but little by little, I changed, did as he wished, stopped doing the things I liked that he didn’t and started doing more and more of what he wanted me to, to try to stop the temper incidents.

    To be blunt, I worked harder while I was married than I ever have in my life — and I’ve worked for a major consulting company and internet startups; all 60+ hour/week gigs. (And I did my Masters part-time while working those jobs.) Apart from being agreeable company at all times, my other duties included always looking perfect, telling people his accomplishments so he didn’t have to, dealing with any aspect of managing his investments he didn’t want to do (including sorting out bureaucratic red tape on an place he wanted to sell, and managing major renovations over an entire apartment building for him), making sure our own home looked like it fell out of a decorating magazine, finding him the exact-right clothes so he liked, and generally just making him look great all day, every day. It is a challenging job to make someone else always look amazing.

    Don’t be fooled to thinking that rich men want the stereotypical hot bimbos; the real-deal, wealth-for-generations types want an accomplished wife; someone like me with higher degrees etc. Don’t you want the best people working for you, too?