We’re Getting Further Away

Everyone wants to save a buck. And to get a cheaper deal, many people will sacrifice a much more valuable resource than money: time. Cities expand outwards and people choose to live in the suburbs, where rent or mortgages are cheaper. But they give back these savings in two ways. First, their commute lengthens. Now, they’re spending less time with their families, less time on leisure, less time on cooking meals, and more time in the car. Second, the car ride isn’t free either. Increased commute times raise the price of insurance, gas and maintenance — and make it necessary to buy cars more frequently. So, congratulations, you’ve saved on rent so you can pay more to Chevron.

Oddly enough, I realized this phenomenon not as a 9-5 worker bee but as a stay-at-home freelancer. I have found myself on the phone for hours trying to rectify $20 billing errors that would have been cheaper to ignore. I can never get back the time I spent on hold; unlike money, my remaining time is finite and always shrinking. Plus, I would have more than made up for the losses by working during those hours.

Retailers with liberal return policies recognize the value of time. Costco and Amazon let customers send things back because, on the whole, it’s cheaper to accept returns than spend time arguing over them. Why don’t individuals run a similar cost analysis of every action? In our desire to not be cheated or overspend, we end up cheating ourselves and overspending.


The Masculine Default

There’s a tragedy lurking inside children’s books, one that most people don’t realize: Taken as a whole, the genre is kind of sexist. A study of kids’ books published between 1900 and 2000 found that male protagonists were nearly twice as common as female ones. And in anthropomorphic fiction such as Winnie the Pooh, male heroes are even more dominant. Pick five to 10 books from your child’s library and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Exposure to a glut of male characters reinforces a primal default — when in doubt, assume it’s male. Just think about the pronouns you use when referring to your child’s stuffed animals or the dogs in the park. Is it he or is it she? What about the Easter Bunny and the elf on the shelf?

Complicating things are the conflicting sentiments progressives have about gender. On the one hand, gender is a social construct and therefore arbitrary and overrated. On the other hand, gender disparity is real and it must be rectified. None of which my two-year-old understands. I just want her to know that girls are as worthy of being the subjects of books as boys are.


Don’t Want to

I take my daughter to soccer class once a week. She’s two. The class consists of some running, a small amount of kicking, and a ton of chasing bubbles.

Occasionally, she decides she’s had enough; there’s an activity she doesn’t want to participate in. As a parent, I feel a tiny compulsion to step in and convince her that she does want to participate and, failing that, that she has to because she’s being asked to do.

But I don’t. Because my daughter is right. We’re not going to soccer class so that she can learn to follow instructions or develop patience or even “become socialized” to other children, though those are all fine side benefits. We’re going to soccer to have fun.

And what’s the point of doing things for fun if we don’t enjoy them? The hard-hitting documentary that critics say you must watch? You don’t have to watch it, and definitely not on your cherished Friday night off. The IPA with extra hops that your buddies say you have to try? Just order PBR, if that’s where your tastebuds are at. And if you’re at soccer class and are tired of kicking the ball, take a break. It doesn’t always mean you’re not open to trying new things — rather, it means you know what you don’t like to do for fun.