Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Miss-lead and Miss-direct

Last year I read The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin's account of her year-long attempt to be-- you guessed it-- happier. The cover art caught my eye when I walked into the library: a row of brownstones (Brooklyn maybe?) under a bright blue sky. I remember reading the jacket and deciding to check out the book to see what this "mom like me" had to say.

A lot of what Rubin came up with was pretty obvious: don't let yourself get cold, hungry, or tired and you'll be happier! One of the chapters was about ridding her apartment of clutter. I felt for Rubin. At the time, I happened to be knee-deep in weeding through all of our clothes, books, and toys and could only imagine how overwhelming the sheer volume of stuff would be in a NYC apartment. I remember how pleased Rubin was to be able to leave one shelf completely clear, how it represented control and calm and possibility. We only ever had one kid in our two-bedroom apartment when we lived in the city and the closets were packed to capacity. I was impressed.

The more I read, though, the more skeptical (and irritated) I became. How was Rubin, with her two young kids, 1) researching and writing historical works; 2) writing and blogging about her happiness project; 3) helping her friends clean out their closets; 4) attending book clubs about YA fiction; 5) meeting people for umpteen lunches and dinners out; and on and on. Where were her kids? How come she never mentioned rushing back for the sitter? How did the kids factor so little in her happiness or daily life? I read the dedication and acknowledgements looking for a shout-out to a nanny. Nothing.

So I hit google. Turns out Ms. Rubin is married to some serious money and lives in a triplex on Park Avenue. The clean shelf lost it's punch right there. I found no mention anywhere by Ms. Rubin of the huge role reliable childcare played in her (kind of ridiculous, considering the facts) pursuit of happiness. I felt seriously duped.

Cut to this year.

Shame on me, because I've been fooled again. I've been a casual fan of Ree Drummond (The Pioneer Woman) for a couple of years. I read the cooking part of her blog and was always impressed that this "mom like me" could help run a ranch in Oklahoma while simultaneously raising and homeschooling her four kids and updating her website with her recipes, photos, essays and more. I marveled at her energy.

Turns out, Drummond, too, is married to some serious money. Her quaint ranch is the equivalent of at least a triplex on Park Avenue. And evidently she has a teacher for her kids. And a staff for her website.

I certainly don't begrudge these women their money or their nannies. I do, however, resent their lack of candor. It's kind of like the airbrushing out of fat and wrinkles in magazine spreads. Omitting pertinent facts is as bad as lying about them. And twice as aggravating.

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