Thursday, October 29, 2009

We All Need Help Sometime

'{Georgetown University Sophomore Charley Cooper} logged on to the university's student employment Web site last week and posted an ad for someone to tackle "some of my everyday tasks," such as organizing his closet, dropping him off and picking him up from work, scheduling haircuts, putting gas in the car and taking it in for service, managing his electronic accounts and doing laundry (although the assistant will be paid only for the time spent loading, unloading and folding clothes, not the entire laundry cycle). The successful applicant can expect to work three to seven hours a week and make $10 to $12 an hour, although "on occasion it will be possible to work additional hours and/or receive bonuses at my discretion."'
--You can read the entire article here. We can't quite decide whether this fellow is a budding dynamo or simply a kid in need of some attitude adjustment. What do you think?


At 9:37 AM, Blogger Britta said...

Brilliant reporting to ask an expert of on the career of personal assisting! But I think he needs an attitude adjustment.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Hey, I think he misses his mom!

(and at the rate of pay he is offering, at only 7 hours a week, so far someone like me would have earned... I would have approximately $428,400 banked, and my child is only 14)

Do you think he's gonna send his mom the backpay?

At 10:24 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Kim, the only reason I gave him the benefit of the doubt was because I thought he also missed his mom. But college is supposed to be all about preparing for life as a more independent person, so I certainly side much more in Britta's direction. But the other question is: where's he getting the funds to pay for this assistant? Does that come out of mom and dad's pocket too?

At 11:11 AM, Blogger Kim said...

Oh I wasn't being kind on that ungrateful self important twit, I apologize if that came through.

I really think that as he's learning just how hard it is to manage a life, he should throw himself down in gratitude at his mama's feet.

Spoken like a mom who schedules appointments, takes to and from places, does the laundry, manages all accounts, and organizes closets for free !!!

It took this long to realize how valuable those services are? When he's rich and famous he needs to send his mom a big huge check!

At 11:17 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

The other issue for parents here is unavoidable: are we raising our kids to become self-sustaining at a certain age, or crippling that ability by doing everything for them earlier in life?

At 1:08 PM, Anonymous Kristine said...

Amen Kim from another mom! John, I do see a lot of "'copter parents" doing alot of stuff for their children that they can be doing themselves and that does cripple them. I'm also wondering if said boy is rich and perhaps HAD some kind of paid help/nanny/maid/chauffeur in childhood, before he went away to a very expensive Georgetown and so he thinks this is how life is. Or what about these "ads" for "writers" I see on Craig's List, which turn out to be from college students needing a paper written?! How are these kids going to make it in the real world? You know, because when I was in journalism school in the dark ages (1980's), I trekked 2 miles in the snow :) to the LIBRARY to do research, versus having the internet at my fingertips and paying someone to write my stories! And do my laundry! Come to think of it, I probably would have had a better time in college had I contracted out! :)

At 1:10 PM, Blogger Kim said...

I've discovered a little self reliance goes a long way. My daughter learned to sew a few years ago, and she made both her's AND her little sister's Halloween costumes, something I never even did for them. (I always said if I can't buy it, they couldn't be it!) Okay, that was just a chance to brag about my daughter.

Your point however is a valid one. We are so busy trying to do things for our kids that they never learn to do it themselves. Then we parents complain that we're tired. (not to mention grossly underpaid if that young man from Georgetown's rate is a benchmark!)

At 1:46 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

I think he's used to his Mommy taking care of him, doing all his chores, cooking and cleaning, etc. It's a classic young adult male syndrome: helpless without Mom, immature about taking care of himself, and clueless how to self-motivate about becoming more self-reliant. If Freud was right about anything, which is debatable, it's about a boy's attachment to his Mommy. Nothing Oedipal about it, though, it's all about basic survival skills.

My Mom taught me to cook and clean, and take care of myself. So I never had a problem in high school or college taking care of my chores and needs. Among my grown-up male friends, those of us whose Moms taught us to take care of ourselves do much better at it even now than those guys who never learned. I also learned other skills from my grandparents; my grandma let me help with her baking, and my grandpa taught me carpentry, candle-making, etc. (I taught myself to tpye, though.)

Parents who do EVERYTHING for their kids create these kinds of dependencies. (Now I'm going to break away from Freud as jung did himself.) Whether we call it individuation (Jung), self-actualization (Maslow), or just growing up (Knute Rockne), guys need to learn to take care of their basic physical needs, too. That guys often get to college with NONE of these skills in place tells me as much about gaps in parenting as about the culture in general.

Seriously, would any parent let their daughters get this old without those basic self-care skills in place? Is this perhaps a lingering, unspoken way in which we still treat our sons and daughters differently, with different expectations, perhaps even a bit of unconscious sexism?

And to be blunt, high school and college athletes are even worse. Talk about pampered and coddled in the worst ways! Booster clubs and coaching staffs become substitute Mommys. No wonder professional athletes often act like teenagers in civilian life: it's because they ARE.

At 2:03 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Or perhaps what he misses is his non-Mommy, his nanny, housecleaner, servants, etc. Lifestyles of the rich and famous, etc. Children of privilege who are used to having everything done FOR them.

In which, I think having to learn a little self-reliance is doubly necessary.

I say that as someone who, when I was a young boy living in a foreign country, did have a nanny/maid, did have a driver, servants, etc. We had those support systems in India. But when we moved back to the States, we were in poverty—below middle-class certainly—and my parents were all about teaching us to learn to do things for ourselves. The lesson was, "You may not always have a maid, so learn how to do it yourself." And Mom would say, "I'm not your maid, either."

These days I have a once-a-week housecleaner, who helps me with cleaning chores that would otherwise seriously bog me down, as I have a chronic illness that severely limits my physical energy levels. (It could take me four hours a week to do what my housecleaner can get done in one, just because of my fatigue.) But I do my own laundry, cooking, and dishwashing, and everything else necessary.

So I can honestly say that I'm familiar with the dynamics of having people work for you. None of that bothers me. But I'd still rather do most things myself. Maybe my parents taught me TOO well to be self-reliant, because asking for help can be hard, when I do need it.

Being bullied in school taught me another variety of self-reliance as well.

At 2:50 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Kim, brag all you want about your kids. If we don't, who will? But broadly speaking, our generation has not been as good as our parents' generation in encouraging and demanding independence in our kids. Helicopter parents and the whole schlepping kids all over town (which admittedly is also partly about our perception of a less safe environment than when we grew up--though statistically there's little or no difference--and about the increased distances in newer suburbs) thing is a qualitatively different experience than Baby Boomers had growing up. Our generation of parents is partly to blame for that.

We should also avoid jumping to conclusions about this kid, which is the biggest reason I did and still do hesitate to come to some fixed conclusion about this story. While there are a few facts that suggest he comes from a privileged family, they're hardly conclusive. And the mere fact that he's at such an expensive school certainly doesn't seal it either. My son is now at a Jesuit college whose sticker price is not too far away from its fellow Jesuit school of Georgetown, but A). like many college students, he's not paying the full price, and is taking advantage of various scholarships, loans, etc. to make it happen, and B). our family, decidedly middle class, has scrimped and saved to put him there. So let's not assume we know everything about this kid or his family, because we don't.

Finally, I did get a major kick out of the surprise of seeing Knute Rockne mentioned along with Jung and Maslow. That was inspired.

At 3:04 PM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

Well, that's fair enough, I'm willing reserve judgment.

At the same time, there are lots of details in the article that give us hints and clues. For example, the young man did present his image of himself on Facebook as well-dressed and holding a wine flute. Even if that's who he wants to be rather than who he is, it gives me a clue that he *wants* to be pampered, even if he wasn't, actually. So one can deduce that he definitely feels himself to be superior, regardless of his actual origins. Perhaps it's all a performance, after all.

So, based on the self-image that he himself is projecting, I think these are all, at least, fair questions to ask of him.

At 3:12 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

He doesn't appear to want to answer those, or any other questions. I imagine he's quite horrified to suddenly be shoved in the national media spotlight. But this story has rightly hit an emotional chord in a time of a larger revulsion over pampered Wall Street elites who created a global economic crash and yet got cushioned from their own greed and stupidity by all of us. Given the interest, I would expect we'll be learning more about this fellow eventually, as media outlets vie for the details. I'll post updates if and when I find them, and of course I invite readers to do so also.

At 4:27 PM, Blogger Kim said...

John, one regret I have about moving to the part of town I did was that I didn't look more to the center of town where indeed my kids COULD and WOULD walk everywhere. If we were to be transferred again, that would be my numero uno requirement for a home, WALKING DISTANCE from the SCHOOL. My bad.

At 4:30 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Safety first, Kim. Which you already knew, of course.

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous rosebud said...

I think he's an executive-in-the-making. Learning to delegate is part of the territory. Whether we like it is inconsequential, really. It may be a realistic way to keep on track with his studies, personal schmoozing, and whatever. As foreign as it sounds to us (from the knee-jerk reaction), I thought it sounded like it might be a rather easy job and the pay is not horrible. I worked my way through college working for VERY wealthy people, cleaning their homes, catering their parties, and caring for their children. This doesn't seem like anything much different than that. His youth and the possibility that he misses Mom (maybe she's the one that's ill) might make him a compassionate and appreciative employer.

In the long run, he'll probably be out of touch with himself, but sometimes people who are aware of their own vulnerabilites and weaknesses bring that humanity with them. It makes them better bosses, better friends, and possibly better at family life because they will focus on what is important to them and not get hung up on proving they can do it all.

Personally, I can do every humble job in the book, but my college training did not prepare me for a well-paying job. If his parents are paying the way now, they may (in the end) have someone who is financially secure. If the family illness would make it so he must graduate from school and be financialy independent, it could keep him on track.

Of course he might be a spoiled, egotistical nightmare of a human being but he's young, and reality has a way of splattering people who are too full of themselves all over life's windshield. Worst-case scenario, it may give some earnest hard-working person a few bucks towards a real life. Who knows?

I have worked for some real head-cases, but in the long run find their weaknesses endearing and sometimes just pitiful when they are building self-centered fanciful worlds and can see nothing else. There are many ways to measure success or wealth. We all have different paths to follow, and hopefully being in touch with his weaknesses and needs will help him empathize with others and learn a kind of humility that in wealthier people is often irritatingly absent. How likely is that? Probably not very, but I am not a reverse snob. Some of the poorest people I know have a lot of money.

At 10:44 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

A lot of insight and food for thought here, for which I thank you. We hope you'll keep coming back, Rosebud. Are you perhaps a fan of Citizen Kane?

At 9:58 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I knew you'd catch that.

At 11:53 AM, Blogger Art Durkee said...

I've worked for some real headcases, too. Endearing? Not even slightly. Pitiable, perhaps, but never endearing in the sense that one wants to spend any more time with them than absolutely necessary. I've worked for one or two genuine sociopaths, too; sociopaths in the classic psychological definition. I can't be angry at them for the insane things they do, because who can be mad at a crazy person? But it doesn't endear me to them, and it doesn't every entice me towards wanting to spend any of my time with them.

Somehow, it's hard to believe that someone with genuine sympathy for others, genuine compassion, would present himself in this way. (Asking for a personal assistant, presenting a portrait that portrays a denizen of the leisure class.) Unless it's completely an act, and the the whole thing is a put-on. People who are genuinely self-aware, in my long experience, don't portray themselves in this way, and don't act in these ways. People who are genuinely other-directed also do not often make the best managers, because they can be TOO soft-hearted; as opposed to those who are too hard-hearted in management.

if this guy is rehearsing his life, he could indeed become a good manager. But I wouldn't expect much compassion to develop for those not as fortunate as himself, or outside his inner circle. That would be genuinely surprising.

At 4:01 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

The sad part is he's just a college kid, which is a stage of life when you should be able to make mistakes and learn from them, in private. College ought to be all about educabable moments, and those are best accomplished outside the glare of publicity.


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