Trending these days – at least in the U.S. – is Primates of Park Avenue: A Memoir. It’s a book documenting the trials and tribulations one woman endures, as she attempts to become a part of the most elite of elite “tribes”: Upper East Side stay-at-home moms married to hedge fund managers or other investment banking types. These women are highly educated and accomplished – as well as very competitive – and have opted out of the workforce to stay at home and raise their children. They rely on end-of-year “wife bonuses” for discretionary income and showy gifts. As they aren’t earning any income – even from home-based entrepreneurial efforts – they are completely reliant on their husbands for money. “Bonuses” are given for getting children into elite private schools, keeping the house clean – and of course for sexual performance.
Really? Okay. Well, this sort of economic “behavior” isn’t that uncommon in other “tribes” or social milieux. To a certain extent, there is some truth behind the saying “Whoever pays the piper, calls the tune.” A lot of relationships aren’t “balanced,” and not everyone wants a balanced relationship where each partner has equal say in all decisions or each partner is more or less equally contributing financially to the household. While most marriages aren’t as extreme in their fundamental inequality as those depicted in Primates of Park Avenue most couples wouldn’t admit that their relationship isn’t one of total equality (or equity) for each partner.
Wow. So, should I ask for a “wife bonus”? Maybe the question is would I ask because I’m not married. I’m kinda competitive so I would be really offended if I didn’t get a top bonus. Like – what do you mean my blow job needs some work? I don’t think so. And, if Buster can’t get into a good school, it’s not my fault. Let’s talk to Buster.
Okay. So, this wouldn’t go over well for me. But, what about “husband bonuses”? Or ones for Boyfriends and Partners? As women of color, a lot of us are the main breadwinner or have the main professional gig. White women are feeling this, too. Showing some love when our man takes care of much needed repairs around the house or is the barbecue grill master all through the summer may feel more natural or be a part of the relationship dynamics.
Okay. But, I don’t have a boyfriend either. But, I do have a friend. Friends. Okay, one special friend. And, I am the type who likes to “spoil” people, too. I do try to hold back from giving a lot of gifts, which ultimately does shift the power dynamic. But, I do like to treat my man friend when it comes to going to out to nice restaurants. Is this a “bonus” after some good romantic attention? I don’t think so. But, let’s not go there. Since we’re not living together, don’t see each other on a daily basis, or have children, it might be hard to compare our situation with spouses and partners.
But, I also like to treat women friends who don’t have the same pay check as I do. Are these relationships skewed because I have the economic power? Some of these friends will still cuss me out and tell me about myself right after I’ve left the tip on the restaurant table.
In essence, the book – or the commentaries and reviews, which is all I’ve read – is a good read and good fun. It also gives a you a chance to pause and reflect on the power dynamics of your own relationships.