Weekend Reading

I didn’t go anywhere on Friday and television didn’t appeal to me. Even What Not To Wear failed to get my attention (and I love to watch Clinton and Stacy cattily tear people down before they build them and their wardrobes up). There’s also a new show on TLC about a wedding dress shop, to which I utter the Valley Girl phrase “Gag me with a spoon.” There must be something missing in my gay genome, but how much of the bridezillas and their mothers can any sane person take? Instead of giving this unreality show and much more episodes of What Not To Wear any more ratings, I read a few a couple of books this weekend.1

Barbara Ehrenreich, Bait and Switch
I’ve been going over Nickel and Dimed with my students in two of my classes this sememster. Anyone familiar with the premise of Barbara Ehrenreich’s best selling work knows about her undercover, first hand look at low paying blue and pink collar labor. In Nickel and Dimed, she actually worked at the jobs she covers in the book and she also discusses her co-workers and her bosses. In Bait and Switch, Ehrenreich takes the same approach with white collar professionals looking for work. The prospects, as Ehrenreich finds through empirical research (the same kind employed in Nickel and Dimed), are grim for those who “did everything right.”

A job search in What Color Is Your Parachute is described as a “full time job,” and this is the job Ehrenreich takes on for a few months (along with a negative cashflow). She observes that the out of work are encouraged to think of their job search in this manner, and she also points out the absurdity of this mentality.

As Bait and Switch progresses, the author meets various people in her research. Ehrenreich skewers those who prey on the hapless jobseekers (career coaches/motivational speakers, resume editors, and ministries seeking to give hapless job seekers Jesus instead of better job leads). One of the more entertaining parts of the books is when she tries to turn the tables on a career guru. On the other hand, she is more sympathetic to the professionals having difficulty finding the jobs they’re qualified for, only to get caught up in self blame.2

That insightful documentary The Corporation characterizes the typical corporation as a psychopath. The way that they have routinely reduced redundancies over the years (cutting jobs to maintain profits) is one example of psychotic behavior. Bait and Switch also provides insights into the how irrational companies have become with the pop psychologies and philosophies they couple with their hiring practices.

Bait and Switch is a definite must read for our economically troubled times. Barbara Ehrenreich continues to follow up on labor issues on her blog. Since some of her recent posts have covered topics such as law temp agencies and adjunct teaching, I can only hope for such a book from her in the future.3

Mike Jones, I had To Say Something
My cue was not to say anything, unless I had to, and I never had to.
Mike Jones, pg. 88

Of course, we all know the story of how Ted Haggard, that great megachurch evangelist who was brought down by Mike Jones, a Denver based masseur and escort.4 Jones’ revelation seemed so quick and sudden when it hit the news, but the recently published I Had To Say Something shows it was anything but. The decision to reveal cost Jones in many ways, a highly emotional process chronicled in his very fresh memoir.

Mike Jones gives much insight into what is was like for him to be an escort. Without giving away much of what’s in the book, Jones gives us a compassionate look at clients such as Art, a conservative Mid-western religious type who comes to him out of desperation. We do know who Art turns out to be, but Jones effectively keeps the secret until it is time to reveal the surprise.

Jones also shows us his family life and how that shaped him growing up. He does it without resorting to blame (a religious right ex-gay writer, on the other hand, would blame being a homosexual and being anything else deviant on their families). If you want more, read about it in the book.

You’ll definitely laugh, cry, and feel righteous anger when reading I Had To Say Something. As for the question of Ted Haggard being “completely heterosexual”5, I think Mike Jones provides a very definitive answer for that.


Footnotes

  1. I did log in an hour to watch Property Ladder on Saturday, but watching house flippers make tragic mistakes never fails to entertain me.
  2. I already hate Dr. Phil and those of the “blame the victim” ilk, but Bait and Switch made me hate them even more.
  3. I should be careful of such suggestions. In making a suggestion to the editor of Harper’s that someone should investigate low wage working conditions, Barbara Ehrenreich wound taking on the article about Merry Maids.
  4. The news media called him a male prostitute. I agree with Mike Jones. It’s a dirty term and I’d rather not use it.
  5. Ted Haggard claimed to have discovered he was straight after three weeks of reparative therapy.

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