Lifestyles of the out-of-touch

It’s no surprise to anyone when The New York Times celebrates hedonism, consumerism or just plain excess in its pages, right? Don’t get me wrong — it’s still my “go-to” source for real news. But a regular reading also shows me just how far away I am (geographically and mentally) from the Hamptons and Central Park West.

As friends and family struggle to hold onto their jobs and homes and pay their mortgages, I found the front page of yesterday’s “Home” section to be flat-out offensive. “Child’s Play, Grown-up Cash” wastes a full page-and-a-half (11 color photos and a sidebar, yes) on lifestyles of the rich and stupid who build playhouses for children that come with pricetags higher than what we paid for our house.

“Pre-fab” models can go as high as $200,000, but most of these clueless folks went higher. A Houston oil company exec (wonder why our gas prices are so high? Look no further than this guy’s backyard . . . ) and his “Playboy model turned blogger” wife (go ahead, it’s just too easy not to go to town with that description) were conservative in the $50k they dropped on their 4-year-old’s house, but it includes a working sink and fridge, big-screen TV, and air conditioning.

The article even quotes “an artist and playhouse builder,” who waxes rhapsodic about childhood being “a precious and finite thing . . . and a special playhouse is not the sort of thing you can put off until the economy gets better.”

I threw up in my mouth a little bit just typing that.

The California defense systems manufacturing retiree who spent $248K on a playhouse wanted to give his grandkids a reason to visit. Wow. I don’t have any grandchildren, but I guess I’m already screwed if I do someday have a few. I’ll never see them if I’m relying on the pleasure of my company and maybe something home-baked being enough of an allure.

As I see “Foreclosure” signs lingering in the community, as they are in every community, and as the value of my house keeps dropping (bye-bye retirement nest egg), such articles make me damn angry. Angry at these out-of-touch, overcompensating parents and angry at the Times for wasting that many inches on them. How about a little more space on how Japan is recovering from the earthquake, how the thousands of homeless there are coping? Or how about some interviews with people who have concrete plans to improve the poverty in Haiti, so much worse since the January 2010 earthquake there?

Yeah, yeah, I’m all social justice and liberal tears, you’re thinking. But when you’ve spent time in countries where people live without running water, where children go blind because of numerous eye infections due to lack of sanitation, where healthcare isn’t even an option, let alone a luxury, you look at this crap differently. Especially when you’re a parent.

So if my kids need therapy because they didn’t have a playhouse, then so be it. I can live with that.

Just in case you think I’m all sour grapes because I didn’t have a playhouse as a kid, I had a damn playhouse. I had two of them back in the Bronx. Maybe even more.

And I’m betting that I enjoyed them just as much as little Tiffany, Harper, Sinclair or  Maximilian does theirs.


3 thoughts on “Lifestyles of the out-of-touch

  1. When my kids were little, they had a playhouse similar to yours, except a with a little more of the tada! factor, because we added…wait for it…a chimney made from a paper towel roll!

  2. Well, Tricia, looking at the picture, it appears we both had the same brand of playhouse, i.e., Large Appliance Box. Man, when someone would get a new fridge, that box was golden, functing first as a playhouse and then we kids would take it to Reservoir Oval Park, stuff it full with as many children would fit, and roll it down a hill. Good times.

    But, as a fool and his money are soon parted, I have no problem with wealthy people frittering away their scratch on things like this – true that it might be bad for their little Octavius or Pruscilla, but it is great for the people who build these things, being able to have the work. It’s the same feeling I get when I see a Hummer; somewhere there is a Jiffy Lube charging top dollar and that helps the small business economy.

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