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July 17, 2005

“I also feared she would judge my life and find it wanting”
Posted by Patrick at 08:37 PM *

There’s an entire novel of manners lurking under the surface of this, particularly when paired up with this response.

For some bloggers, of course, the only point of the story is that it’s foolish to be too forthcoming with an employer about your personal stuff. (A point readily acknowledged by the blogger herself, in the comment thread here.) Other bloggers seem to grasp that there’s a bit more going on. Atrios highlights Pandagon commentor Jeff’s wry observation that evidently “an employee writing about her employer in a blog is enough to get her fired, but an employer writing about her employee in the New York Times is just journalism.” Jeff suggests we may be in the presence of something called “class issues”, which is of course impossible since America doesn’t have cla—, I mean cl—, I mean, you know, that word I can’t even type.

Interestingly, while you might get the impression from Helaine Olen’s Times piece that her former nanny was placarding the intarweb with overt discussions of Olen and her family, in fact the nanny never named any of them; indeed the blog didn’t even contain the blogger’s own full name. (In retrospect, the nanny/blogger appears to have been writing about the Olen clan rather less than Olen and her husband thought she was, but that’s a comic subplot.) By contrast, Olen was nowhere so circumspect:

I told my friends about the blog, and even my childless acquaintances were riveted. They called, begging for more details. “Did she wear the rose negligee, the pink see-through slip or the purple Empire-waisted gown?” demanded one after perusing a post on the proper outfit for first-time sex.

For a smart and nuanced discussion of all this, which digs past the obvious What-Did-You-Expect harrumphing into the much more interesting complicities, check out Bitch Ph.D. Do read the comments; they’re worth the extra time. Unsurprisingly, the nanny/blogger is a participant in that discussion, reacting reasonably to criticism and adding some interesting details to her own side of the story. It would be particularly interesting if Helaine Olen were to show up the conversation as well, but of course that’s never going to happen, and that fact is at the heart of all that’s transpired.

UPDATE: How did I miss these two killer posts from Majikthise?

Of course, Olen wasn’t really interested in friendship. She didn’t want to be the stodgy boss, but she didn’t want to be a real confidante either. What she really wanted was a pseudo-relationship that was all about her. When her manipulative pose got her into uncomfortable emotional territory, she eliminated the source of her discomfort without a second thought. Then she wrote a “reflective” essay about the situation in which she congratulates herself for recognizing her own motives, while taking for granted that her self-centered manipulative behavior was acceptable.
Comments on "I also feared she would judge my life and find it wanting":
#1 ::: sdn ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 11:25 PM:

i was fascinated by this stuff. fyi, last week's modern love column was also rebutted by its subject, who is a better writer than the columnist.

that column sums up everything i loathe about a certain part of nyc/kind of journalism/and, while we're at it, new york magazine (even though it wasn't printed there, it could've been).

#2 ::: bitchphd ::: (view all by) ::: July 17, 2005, 11:54 PM:

Thanks for acknowledging the comment threads; I rather pride myself on having some of the best commenters in blogland, and I think that if people don't read the comments, they're getting only half the value of my blog. Lucky me.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:09 AM:

I have to wonder whether Olen's real problem was that the nanny wrote so little about Olen and her household. Or perhaps Olen realized that if she herself did a weblog, it wouldn't be nearly as interesting as the nanny's.

How dare a twentysomething employee make Helaine Olen feel insecure?

Time to trot out my favorite quote from La Rochefoucauld: "We frequently forgive those who bore us, but we cannot forgive those whom we bore."

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:11 AM:

Dr. B., that's exactly how I feel about my own comment threads.

#5 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:35 AM:

I just had an interesting discussion with my mother which was only sort of about this--she'd only read the Times piece, by the way. She is a person who is very much concerned with the people and the issues as they affect her (and me), and her point was the same as The News Blog: If she hadn't given the mother the link, the nanny could have saved a lot of trouble for everyone. She wanted to make sure I knew that and would be applying it in my own Internet life, and she wasn't concerned with the larger issues. She seemed to think I was (we were?) blowing this out of proportion.

#6 ::: Sarah M ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:48 AM:

At the same time, while I agree wholeheartedly with Majikthise's comments on the NYT article, I'm still having trouble with the nanny's decision to share her blog with her boss. I mean, it's one thing to talk about your work on a blog, and another thing to rant about your place of work on a blog your boss reads. I want to be clear: I don't think anyone should be fired for things they write on a blog, and I think the columnist's reasons for firing the nanny are atrocious. However, I don't see the difference here between the nanny criticizing her work on a blog her boss reads, and the nanny perhaps saying to her boss' face how much she dislikes working there. And I think that few people would rant in such a way to their employer. [Mind you, I have very limited experience in the workforce, and that experience I do have was in an office which I gather was somewhat unusually awesome, but still, I'd feel really uncomfortable discussing with an employer some of the things that nanny had blogged about.]

#7 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:54 AM:

Sarah M, could you please notice that this isn't about the supposed injustice of the nanny getting canned?

How many times does she have to acknowledge that it was dumb to share her blog with her employer? Before we can talk about anything else?

#8 ::: Sarah ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:21 AM:

Patrick: I don't think there's anything particularly surprising about a mother getting envious of a 20-something unmarried woman and then trying to retaliate against the younger woman however possible (in this case, then, firing serves the dual purpose of punishing the young woman and removing her from the older woman's presence, thus allowing the older woman to more easily repress her jealous feelings).

Yes, it's a quintessential comedy of manners and while its particulars are interesting (e.g., the whole idea of whether nannies need to be morally upright, and the idea that a young mother would be so torn between the desire to raise her kids and be a stupid 20-something again), it's not surprising that that's how the situation played itself out. What surprised me more was that the nanny didn't think of that when she choose to share her blog. (Also, and this isn't an original thought, I know, but the blogging/non-blogging gap, which the nanny I think didn't consider, is also intriguing, specifically in how comfortable the nanny apparently was in telling her boss about her personal life, but in how ultimately uncomfortable the boss felt about reading such details.)

#9 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:34 AM:

You're right - this truly is a 21st century comedy of manners. There's a great deal of irony in the story, as well as exploitation of social position to exercise power over others.

Put this together with the excerable (sp?) Daniel Okrent's outing of the author of an impassioned if perhaps inappropriate cricital letter, and the NY Times seems to be a hub for these sorts of stories.

One way to keep from getting tangled up in this sort of thing is to hire au pairs from overseas, as my closest friends have done. If either of their nannies had blogs, they would have been in Swedish, and therefore safely inaccessible.

It does indeed feel as if we've entered a neo-Victorian era, only minus the airships. I mean, if we're going to have Victorian morals and social mores, can't we at least have a few passenger blimps?

#10 ::: Will "scifantasy" Frank ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:48 AM:

Larry: That's not new, though. I vividly recall my sophomore year in high school reading a front-page Style Section essay by a senior who simultaneously decried the college-obsessed students of our school, then implied that she was the same, but better because she was self-aware. The article, of course, was entitled "Hey Yale, can this be my college essay?"

Everybody at school, however, understood that this was actually the capper in her application to Brown. I wonder if the title was deliberate or not.

I believe, though my memory is faulty, that she got in.

#11 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:50 AM:

This is another reason why I stopped buying the NY Times.

WTF were the editors thinking when they gave Olen space to publish this crap?

Five or ten million people in this country have blogs: yes, theoretically, it's a public forum; in practice, not really. Only a handful of blogs are read outside the author's circle of friends - if at all. For all practical purposes, the nanny's blog was just about as private as her diary would have been in a previous century. And like a diary, it's of no concern to an employer.

Except, of course, that once she knew of it, not only could Olen not stop reading it, she recommended it to her friends.

And then, having been made uncomfortable about her employee's diary/blog, Olen then publicized it in the NY Times! If Olen was embarassed by finding details of her personal life in her nanny's blog, how could she have been so stupid as to give it a write it up in the Times?

How does someone this stupid get a gig at the Times?

#12 ::: Jeffrey D. Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:13 AM:

It's pretty fascinating to see the blog-world and the non-blog-world collide in the pages of the New York Times. We'll probably see more and more of this, as to the outside world what happens in here just makes no sense. And inside here, we assume that those outside are paying no attention at all. But they are, a little. And 1% isn't 0%.

I have thought, as I watch every little thing that a public figure ever said dredged up, that there are things I have written in old fanzines that I hope to never see in the New York Times. (Well, I think I'm safe on that score, anyway.)

Back in the 70s, when I was publishing fanzines, I gave a copy of one to a non-sf friend. She read it and said she didn't like it, that it made her very uncomfortable, like she was snooping into other peoples' correspondence. That's when I first realized that something could be public and private at the same time.

#13 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:32 AM:

My first thought: About to turn forty? She's just a kid.

My second thought: Must be effin' nice to have enough money to live in Brooklyn and hire a nanny.

My third thought: A journalist? Must be her hubby's money.

My fourth thought: Is her hubby older than she? Is she worried that he's going to have a mid-life crisis, take his money, dump her and the kids in favor of a sports-model wife, and leave her to try to make a living as a journalist?

My fifth thought: What were she and her husband arguing about, I wonder?

I imagine the argument going something like this:

"You're banging the babysitter!"

"Am not!"

"Are too! She's a little slut!"

#14 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:43 AM:

I see this really differently than everyone else I've seen commenting, I think - Olen outed the nanny to all her friends, and judging from what she wrote, didn't tell her nanny.

I think Tessa was fired because she was giving Olen's friends an unflattering picture of life in the Olen house.

#15 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:16 AM:

Just to reply to Sarah M's comment, when I was jobhunting, I always raised the subject of my blog during the second interview, to make sure there would be no problem and/or to set guidelines if the manager wanted. I thought it was far better to go into the business relationship openly than for my blog to become an unpleasant surprise.

#16 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 08:58 AM:

"What were she and her husband arguing about, I wonder . . ."

If I understand the story correctly, it was actually Sylvia Plath arguing with her husband, but Ms. Olen, vain as Carly Simon's boyfriend, misunderstood . . .

#17 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 09:45 AM:

I haven't had time to chase down all of the commentary (and I couldn't even finish Olen's piece), but a point that I think hasn't been stressed enough is the degree to which the Olens' reaction is tied up with a pathological aversion to the idea of the nanny as a sexual being.

What it reminds me of, obliquely, is Dan Savage's discussion in his book The Kid of the decision whether to circumcise his adopted son. Savage, of course, talks openly about the fact that someday his son (who is days old) is going to want to have his cock sucked and how circumcision will affect that. And of course he's right, and of course it's something should be thinking about while making the decision, but it's still shocking to see someone writing about the potential sex life of an infant.

Taking arguendo that Ms. Olen is a more accurate reporter of her own reactions and of her conversations with her husband than she is about the content of the blog, it's clear that the Olens had a similar shock reaction on being given a window into the fact that their nanny had a healthy sex life. Olen herself mentions this prominently without seeming to understand that her reactions are pathological, that in fact she hopes we will congratulate her for having them.

And that is the truly pathetic part of this entire business.

#18 ::: Josh Jasper ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 09:59 AM:

I thought that Olen's disgust and hyperbole over the nanny's sex life was particularly telling. I'm going to guess that her sex life is pretty wilted and unexciting.

#19 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:14 AM:

I'm surprised Mr. Olen isn't coming in for more heat here. He didn't write the article, but he doesn't exactly come off as an innocent bystander here; long before Ms. Olen reaches the post about the fight, her husband is ready to fire the woman:

My husband thought her writing precociously talented but wanted to fire her nonetheless. "This is inappropriate," he said. "We don't need to know that Jennifer Ehle makes her hot."

And it's hubby who does the actual firing. But of course, here and on other blogs, there are comments making the snide inferences that it was all the missus making this decision and probably it had something to do with her fear of a younger woman in the house. (Because, y'know, it's all about the girls and their pathetic catfights.)

I don't see anything that was 'really' going on here or any secret motivations. Olen's pretty plain about her motivations: she felt a little envious, she was shocked by some of the nanny's revelations, and she didn't want to be mentioned in somebody else's blog, even anonymously; she vicariously enjoyed her nanny's twentysomething adventures, to the point that she tells her friends about the blog and still reads it long after Mr. Olen exercised his prerogative to kick the slut out of his house--but only as long as she was a voyeur. When she and her husband became characters in the story, it stopped being a kind of porn for her.

It's pretty funny to hear a journalist bitch about somebody else betraying their confidences and using them as a character in a narrative, mind you.

#20 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:19 AM:

The line that really killed me was

"When our nanny referred to our house on her blog as work in a seemingly sarcastic fashion, she broke the covenant." A covenant that the nanny never made, by the way.

This story reminded me of all the bosses and landlords I've had who made me call them by their first names. They were usually former hippies who felt guilty about the fact that they were making money off of me, so I had to pretend to be their friends to assuage their guilt.

I'd much rather have old-fashioned bosses, who have dealt with the fact that they are making money off of me and that they have to make certain concessions to make it work out in their favor. Like fixing the plumbing. These guilt-ridden hypocrites like to be as cheap and bossy as possible, and then make their employees cheer them up about it. Part of being a boss is feeling some resentment from the underlings from time to time. Suck it up, Olen.

It's like breaking up with someone, and then acting so guilty about it that they wind up comforting you for dumping them.


#21 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:23 AM:

Rather than her (unfounded) fear that one person might judge her life and find it wanting, Helaine Olen is (or would, if she used Google) finding now that dozens, hundreds, or thousands of people really are judging her life and finding it wanting.

I believe that there are now more links to this story than to all the rest of Ms. Olen's published and web-available journalism combined.

Let's look at another aspect of the Times story:

Olen apparently has run through a string of nannies, and every one of them has, in her eyes, had problems related to sex. ("I hadn't exactly been a stranger to the sexual shenanigans of our previous baby sitters.") Coincidence? Bad luck?

Confucius met a man on the road, travelling from his home town to move to a new town. He asked Confucius, "Master, how do you find the people there?"

Confucius asked him, "How did you find the people where you came from?"

The man replied, "They are all no good; they lie, cheat, steal, and are lazy."

Confucius replied, "I think you will find that the people in the new town are much the same".

A little later another man travelling in the same direction as the first for the same reasons stopped Confucius and asked the same question.

Again Confucius asked him how he found the people to be where he came from.

the man replied, "They are great, hard working, honest, loving people."

Confucius answered, "I think you will find them to be the same".

I think someone would have to be genuinely nuts to take a job as nanny for Helaine Olen now.

And to Helaine Olen, when she finds this (and she will -- Google and her pathology will ensure that) please get the help you need. If your shrink keeps a blog, don't read it.

#22 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:28 AM:

Kevin J. Maroney: but a point that I think hasn't been stressed enough is the degree to which the Olens' reaction is tied up with a pathological aversion to the idea of the nanny as a sexual being

You definitely need to read the commentaries in the links if that interests you. This point has not been missed at all; it's prominant in many of the threads.

mythago: I'm surprised Mr. Olen isn't coming in for more heat here.

That surprised me, too. I've been to some very smart blogs that catch the class issues, the sexuality issues, the privacy issues, and so on, but frame this whole dynamic as something happening between women only. (Some point out that Ms. Olen may have been worried her husband was attracted to the nanny and fired her out of jealousy--despite the fact that Mr. Olen did the firing, for example.)

#23 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:28 AM:

I was reading the comments to Dr. B's post when the nanny showed up this morning. That felt a little awkward.

The mother/nanny relationship is inherently weird. This woman spends 15 hours a week in my home. She reads my books and eats food from my fridge. Yes, I'm quite sure she's much more focused on my daughter than she is on me (or my husband), but the fact remains that she's naturally got much more access to personal and intimate information about me than I do about her.

Fortunately, I have experience with that kind of relationship from the other side. The therapist/client relationship is also both intimate and one-sided - I learn all about my client's deepest secrets and vulnerabilities, while revealing as little as possible about my own. What I've learned in that setting is that it DOES NOT WORK to try to even up the intimacy imbalance by upping the degree of personal exposure on the professional's side. There are some things my clients can only tell me because they know nothing personal about me, because I am in some sense anonymous.

I got explicit training in graduate school about the danger of "multiple relationships" - which is not in this case polyamory, but two people relating to each other in multiple roles, such as therapist-client and friend-friend. When one set of roles involve a power imbalance, multiple relationships generally lead to trouble. Unfortunately, no one gives that kind of training to nannies or people hiring nannies. Tessy didn't know that accepting Olen's overtures of friendship - and it seems very clear that Olen wanted to treat the nanny like a family friend - would be so disastrous, and I can't really blame her. She's learned an expensive lesson. I can blame Olen. As the person in the relationship with the greater amount of power, it was her responsibility to know better.

I like my nanny. I looked hard for a nanny I could feel comfortable with, and someone who would fit in well with the way we want our household to work. But I don't make the mistake of thinking that she's my friend. I pay her salary. I can fire her. No matter how buddy-buddy I want to be, she's never going to be able to forget those two things - so neither should I.

#24 ::: Russell Arben Fox ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:32 AM:

James D. MacDonald--you say exactly what was on my mind, yet so much better. A journalist who lives in Brooklyn and employs a nanny to take care of her kids while she, uh....writes an article for the NYT about her nanny? The nanny was, admittedly, unwise and irresponsible, in the way we all were when we were twentysomethings. But the author of this piece....I'm sorry, even granting her every possible excuse, I still see class anxieties--money, security, lifestyle choices--in her writing up the wazoo.

#25 ::: Kevin J. Maroney ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:35 AM:

mythago:

I'm surprised Mr. Olen isn't coming in for more heat here.

I almost quoted Mr. Olen's line in my discussion of their sexual panic, but decided that res ipsa loquitur.

(My Latin is rusty enough that I can't even begin to remember what the perfect tense of "loquitur" would be....)

#26 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:36 AM:

This delusion that employees are actually pals is interesting to me.

It reminds me of the phenomenon of guys I'd heard about in Japan who'd gone to Thailand and fallen in love with hookers. The romance was always shattered thousands of dollars later when they'd hired private investigators to follow the hookers and learned that the hookers still kept their old clients, despite the professions of true love. The human capacity for self-delusion is astounding.

#27 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:52 AM:

As to why it was Mr. Olen who fired the nanny: How else could he prove to his wife that he wasn't boffing the hired help?

As to why Mrs. Olen kept reading the blog: She was both hoping and afraid to find "Last night while the missus was out I did the dirty with her hubby," or words to that effect.

All IMHO, of course.

(Or was it, when Ms. Olen found out that the nanny could find women hot, she had a glimmer of hope in her heart -- but when the nanny entered into a monogamous relationship with a male that her hopes were crushed? Was she jealous of the boyfriend?)

A lot of folks seem to assume that Mr. Olen was manipulated because Ms. Olen seems, by her own account, to be manipulative.

#28 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:16 AM:

All IMHO, of course.

Of course. Two women, one young and sexually adventurous, one middle-aged; it clearly must be a personal struggle over the man in the household, the man himself being at best a mere pawn in the situation.

It's pretty clear from the article that Mr. Olen wanted to get rid of the nanny as soon as he read the blog, because he didn't like what he saw (even though it had nothing to do with him). There's not a hint that Mr. Olen was reluctant to fire the nanny or that Mrs. Olen "manipulated" him into doing so.

But hey, it's all good sexist-meme fun. Don't mind me.

#29 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:17 AM:

Sean wrote: "This delusion that employees are actually pals is interesting to me."

I see that a lot used to justify sub-standard working conditions, below-minimum wages, etc. "Oh, we're family here, you don't need a union!"

Not to defend Ms. Olen, but I see a couple of extra factors at work in her behavior: 1. The fact that this is someone who's taking care of her children probably makes her extra touchy regarding sex issues: she might be a bit more reasonable about the sexuality of, say, a housekeeper. (Or not.) 2. Likely she feels guilty about not having the time to take care of her kids herself, and likely the guilt is unacknowledged, so she takes it out on the nannies. 3. She may just be really uncomfortable with having some complete stranger suddenly become an intimate part of the household-- I know that would bother me-- so she tried to defuse that feeling by creating a "friendship" relationship. Not a good idea in the long run, and again, probably largely unconscious.

#30 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:26 AM:

I imagine Olen will find it somewhat more difficult to get her next nanny.

#31 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:34 AM:

Tiel: The fact that this is someone who's taking care of her children probably makes her extra touchy regarding sex issues

Mothers and fathers 1) have sex and 2) take care of their children, and the majority keep the two from overlapping (well, any more than they must, considering how you get kids to take care of in the first place). The fact is, just about anybody who takes care of kids also has a sex life. We just pretend they don't.

#32 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:38 AM:

It's pretty clear from the article that Mr. Olen wanted to get rid of the nanny as soon as he read the blog, because he didn't like what he saw (even though it had nothing to do with him).

This assumes that Ms. Olen is telling the truth about Mr. Olen. I don't find that she necessarily is. Arguing against the assumption that Mr. Olen fired the babysitter on his own are the problems that Ms. Olen had with all her previous babysitters, none of whom (so far as we know) kept blogs. All of them were reportedly sexually troubled, and all of them were let go.

Recall that Mr. Olen didn't write the article. If he had a lick of sense and any control he'd have kept it from being written, or, if written, published.

Mr. Olen is curiously absent from the story. All we really know is that a) he and Ms. Olen argued (we know this because we have third-party confirmation), and b) he was the one who actually did the firing (and again, we know this because we have third-party confirmation).

So far the only points Ms. Olen has been getting from anyone has been for her honesty. I don't think she deserves them.

Recall that it wasn't enough for her to fire the nanny. She had to go out of her way to destroy her as well. That suggests it wasn't the blog that did it.


#33 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:44 AM:

I agree with Mythago that Ms. Olen's husband clearly had an active role in this affair, and that parsing it all merely as a fight between two women is probably a mistake.

I agree with Jim Macdonald that it's reasonable to regard Ms. Olen as manipulative, given that she tells us just about everything we need to know in order to come to that conclusion.

#34 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:47 AM:

Jim's prior post slipped in while I was typing mine. Interesting points about what we do and don't know; I'll have to think about that.

#35 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:53 AM:

"just about anybody who takes care of kids also has a sex life. We just pretend they don't."

Now, that accounts for the slash about Mary Poppins and Bert...

#36 ::: Dave MB ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:56 AM:

[Kevin Maroney wonders about perfect tense
of "res ipsa loquitur"]

res ipsa locuta est, if I'm not mistaken.

"Loquor" is a deponent verb, passive in form but
active in meaning, so its perfect tense is like other
perfect passives, the past participle plus "to be".

Dave MB

#37 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:59 AM:

I had been avoiding the Olin piece because I knew it would be stupid. At your instigation, Patrick, I read it. It was much stupider than I could have imagined. I didn't so much want to say to the nanny that she shouldn't have told her employer about her blog, as offer her a job. (She's already got one. Too bad.)

One thing to bear in mind is that nannies get fired for all kinds of stupid reasons and that Olin is not unusual in this. But for Olin to publically proclaim herself as the woman who fired a highly intelligent, literate, talented, friendly nanny because she had a blog is much stupider for one's longterm prospects of getting high quality help than anything one mighht dig up from the nanny's blog. (Note to moms needing childcare: if you do fire a nanny for her blog, keep it to yourself!)

Note to those looking for childcare situations: I Google your name and email address and check whether you have a blog and then I read it before I interview. (It bears mentioning that some people don't seem to realize what is comminicated by their email address. Would you offer a childcare job to a cruella, vampirella, or carmilla@hotmail.com?) This is the 21st century, after all. But having a blog as such does not bias me one way or the other.

#38 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:23 PM:

The reason I left the husband out of my thinking was that, as he wanted to fire the nanny earlier on for basically the same reason she decided to fire her later, so the two of them seem to have the same basic feeling in essentials, but then there's this

days when my husband and I would spend hours tearing into each other over who should clean the tub after a child mistook it for the potty

Sounds to me like she and hubby fight a whole lot about things that aren't the things they're fighting about, and I just assumed this was one of them. If he'd talked about her first amendment rights, I figure Tessy would have been out the door before lunch.

JMO

#39 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:24 PM:

"just about anybody who takes care of kids also has a sex life. We just pretend they don't."

True. I'm not claiming Ms. Olen's reaction was at all logical or reasonable-- just pointing out some of the additional emotional fuel on her fire.

Kathryn brought up another point I had been thinking about-- everyone's been agreeing it was foolish for the nanny to tell her employer about her blog. But it's entirely possible Ms. Olen might have eventually discovered the blog on her own (though she is probably not as net-savvy as you, K.) Doesn't that cast a different light on the alleged foolishness?

#40 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:36 PM:

A good question, Tiel, but in this case I believe there's an answer: The nanny's blog contained nothing specific enough to search out with Google. Neither the nanny's name nor those of Ms. Olen and her family appeared in it, at least until Ms. Olen published her piece in the Times.

By contrast, Ms. Olen's Times piece contained direct quotes from the nanny's blog which enabled thousands of people to find it immediately. Which is what I was thinking of when I observed (actually, this was first noticed by Teresa) that the nanny was actually much more careful about everyone's privacy than Ms. Olen was.

#41 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:38 PM:

(For all that, Tiel makes a good point: if you're going to keep a blog anyway, there's an argument to be made that telling your employer is the more prudent thing to do. I'm not saying this is always the case, but I can imagine many circumstances where it would be the case.)

#42 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:38 PM:

How would Ms. Olen have found the blog without being told of it? What search terms would she have used?

It doesn't seem the blog used any real names, while a quick Google on Brooklyn + nanny yields over 100,000 hits.

"You despise me, don't you, Rick?"

"I would if I gave you a second thought."

Was Ms. Olen's problem that the nanny wasn't giving her a second thought?

#43 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:42 PM:

I note that I've trodden upon Olen's treasured vanity by misspelling her name.

Regarding potential nanny blogs: I've read much worse stuff on the blogs of potential nannies than anything Tessa posted. And I don't mean details about sex lives. But rather stuff that makes is perfectly clear why the potential nanny wants a low-paid job that comes with a free place to live. That is one of the questions you need to answer when you consider someone applying for a nanny-type job. Having a blog can be a plus, because it provides a portrait not otherwise available to the potential employer. (I hope you knew that already.) When talking to potential childcare people, I am always careful to mention that I have a blog and give the URL. (For blogging moms, the shoe really is on the other foot!) There may be some who decided not to interview because of stuff in my blog. (I know of no such instances.) But I figure, if they're not comfortable with my online presence, they're not going to feel comfortable with the real me, either.

#44 ::: Douglas ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:43 PM:

John said: "I imagine Olen will find it somewhat more difficult to get her next nanny."

I doubt it - there are enough people who need the work. It does seem likely that Olen will get the nanny she deserves: that is, one able to convincingly lie, deceive and pretend. This is probably not quite what Ms Olen had in mind..
"They fuck you up, your mum and dad"
but in wealthy NY, you can hire a nanny to do it instead.

#45 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:46 PM:

In answer to Jim's question, here's the method: start with an email address (and an IP # if you have it). Google them. Someone who has a blog probably makes comments on other people's blogs or other places online. What you are looking for is a place which connects the email address, to an online handle of any kind, or a URL. If you only get the online handle, Google it and it can lead you to the blog. Most of the time, it works.

#46 ::: Debra Doyle ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:47 PM:

Which is what I was thinking of when I observed (actually, this was first noticed by Teresa) that the nanny was actually much more careful about everyone's privacy than Ms. Olen was.

And the nanny didn't get paid for writing about the whole mess in her blog, either -- but I don't think "a journalist living in Brooklyn" gave away her tale of woe to the New York Times for free.

#47 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:49 PM:

Douglas: It depands on how much Olen can pay. If she pays $40,000/yr, she can get another nanny, no problem. If she can't afford that, well then she may never get anyone like Tessa again.

#48 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:52 PM:

OK, I said it was "possible" Olen might have found the blog, not "probable"... I hadn't realized that there was so little identifying detail on it.

But it's also possible Tessy might have felt she should tell her employer(s-- I agree Mr. Olen is strangely absent from this whole scenario) that she was writing about them. Ie. as she became closer to the family, she may have felt bad about talking about them behind their backs, and decided honesty was the best policy.

#49 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 12:54 PM:

Katherine, if you want, try to find my LiveJournal. (The one that isn't Mist and Snow.)

#50 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:05 PM:

When I was a kid I found a short story in a collection, about an Englishwoman working as a governess for a Russian family, circa 1880. Every person in the family--large extended Russian upper class family--kept a diary, and would leave it out in the expectation that it would be read by everyone else. When a disagreement or misunderstanding took place, the first question was usually, "But didn't you read my diary? Because I explicitly said--" The young Englishwoman, of course, is boggled not only by the use of diaries as a method of sideways communication, but by the fact that she is supposed to participate, reading other people's diaries and writing one and leaving it out herself. I don't remember the title or the author, but the story was the first thing I thought of, reading this article.

I will say: it was hard for me to employ a sitter for my kids when I was working in New York, not because there weren't people out there who wanted to work (and with a few exceptions we had great sitters...all, curiously, women named Lisa) but because I found the employee/employer line a tough one to manage. I am not comfortable treating someone like a chambermaid of yore; if I have someone working in my house, spending time with my kids when I can't be there, I want it to be someone with whom I am at least comfortable sharing a cup of coffee. And yet, I'm the employer and I need to be able to hold that line. I suspect some of Olen's stupidity may be rooted in her inability to manage that balance between friend and friendly that makes the relationship work.

I also have to note (and yes, I know at this point it's not about whether Tessa should have told her employer about the blog) that if what Olen says on this one point is correct, Tessa not only mentioned the blog, but mentioned it several times, which sounds at very least like living dangerously. And while Olen might have found the blog on her own, I'm not sure she would have realized it was her nanny writing about her household. In fact, given her apparent self-regard, I wonder if, had she found the blog on her own, Olen would have recognized herself, or simply felt sorry for some other woman (or maybe even enjoyed the blog on her own and felt no connection to it at all).

#51 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:08 PM:

LJ requires whole different tactics. For that I'd trace you through who you're friends are. With all due respect, you know a f#*@ of a lot more about security issues than your average nanny.

Here's an entertaining case in point. Not a nanny, but someone actually trying to conceal her identity when creating an attack page:

http://66.221.49.64/dawson/

She posts an email address. Also, if you shave the directory name off that IP, you get a site created by the same person for the Canadian Freepers. The domain space seems to have been donated by a Republican-aligned ISP out of Texas (note the absence of domain name; only IP# is used for the site; I take that tto mean the space is donated, not sold).

I don't want to walk you through all the entertaining details, but here is the author of the attack page in a naked embrace with her (ex-?)husband.

#52 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:15 PM:

I'm very interested in the context in which the nanny offered information about the blog. Olen's noting that they were tending a toddler and the nanny "Murmured... 'I've started a blog. I'll give you the link,'" rings false to me (and not least because it'd be terrible dialogue. No one talks like that. It would be phrased completely differently). Did the nanny bring it up out of the blue, or was Olen prying, as the nanny had, I'm paraphrasing, revealed little about her personal life up to that point.

#53 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:16 PM:

OK, I'm neither a parent nor a childcare worker, and perhaps for that reason, I'm having trouble figuring out why it's bad for a nanny to be a sexual being.

Help me out here. Is it for any of these reasons?

  1. They know about sex and if the kids ask any questions, they might provide answers.
  2. They might molest the kids.
  3. If they are gay or bisexual, they might "indoctrinate" the kids (which is similar to the two above, but for some people much worse).
  4. They might sneak their lover into the house, and the kids might walk in on them having sex.
  5. They might otherwise neglect the kids for the love object. (To put it another way, the kids are not going to be the most important thing in their lives.)
  6. Sex is bad.

So is the ideal childcare worker celibate, or someone who would never ever talk about sex with anyone?

Also it occurs to me, speaking of class issues, that the lower classes are always considered to be more sexualized. If you find out your nanny is a sex fiend, it might only confirm your prejudices.

#54 ::: Keith ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Mary Poppins slash? Truly, nothing is sacred...

#55 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:25 PM:

Laura: I'm not claiming it makes sense or there's any logical reason behind it. I'm saying it's an emotional reaction that many people have and that doesn't necessarily yield to rational argument. Especially when yoked in tandem with all the other issues that seem to be going on in this situation.

Your point about class and sex is well taken.

#56 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:39 PM:

Someone with a degree in English, who's going to grad school for an advanced degree -- is a member of Olen's social class already.

Also possibly worth mentioning:

At the moment she was hired Tessy didn't have a blog.

--------------

Just guessing now, but Tessy may have named herself for Tess of the d'Urbervilles.

Going farther than that (going that far already) is very close to subtext-hunting.

--------------

I have a couple of aphorisms: People who know me will have heard them before:

1. There are no secrets.

2. Don't say anything to anyone anywhere that you don't want to hear Dan Rather read on the Six O'Clock News.


#57 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:40 PM:

Laura:

It's actually even simpler than that: your subordinates and servants are not supposed to have more fun than you do. And if they do, they certainly shouldn't let their betters know about it.

Like John Scalzi, I also found myself wondering how far the earnings from this article will go to cover the higher wages her next nanny will undoubtedly demand.

The whole thing is a sorry wad of classism, sexism, and confused power dynamics.

#58 ::: alex ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:46 PM:

JDM:

I was posting and did not see your comment. While Tessy may have been a member of Olen's intellectual class, the existence of the employee/employer relationship precludes their being members of the same economic class.

And in this country at this point in time, if you are in a lower economic class you are in a lower social class.

#59 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:47 PM:

I've never tried it, but I suspect it's even easier to discover the blog of someone living in your house. The back button or the History screen on your computer browser might do it. (But indeed, my understanding is that Tess did not start out with a blog.)

#60 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:48 PM:

"Someone with a degree in English, who's going to grad school for an advanced degree -- is a member of Olen's social class already."

Depends on your perception of class. Actually it depends on Olen's perception of class.

Olen might have felt Tessy was of a lower class because (a) she wasn't wealthy (b) she didn't own a NY home (c) she was looking for a nanny job (d) other imponderables having to do with family background, not having gone to the Right College, etc. The point is that it's fairly clear Olen felt superior.

#61 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:51 PM:

The employer/employee relationship is the primary one, in this case. But Tess gives off better class signals than her employer, seems to me.

#62 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 01:53 PM:

Laura: presumably, if you hire a sitter you hire someone who has good sense and is trustworthy, and that takes care of the first five points. As for the sixth point, feh.

I didn't particularly care about what my sitters did in their time outside of my household, and I certainly didn't think that what they were doing elsewhere was going to hurt my kids. On the other hand, I didn't really want details on what they were doing, either. Of course, I really don't want the details on the sex life of most of the people I know.

#63 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:06 PM:

In fact, "don't say anything to anyone anywhere that you don't want to hear Dan Rather read on the Six O'Clock News" is terrible advice, as Jim Macdonald ought to realize after just a little thought.

What it says is that humans must never take one another into their trust. I think I can guess what Thomas Aquinas would have said to that.

#64 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:21 PM:

But unless someday somebody trust somebody
There'll be nothing left of Earth, excepting fishes.

--Richard Rogers

#65 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:24 PM:

What "Don't say anything to anyone that you don't want to hear Dan Rather read" boils down to a) Tell the truth, b) Don't do anything shameful, and c) No one is required to tell everything they know.


Or: Only tell your own secrets. If a friend told me something in confidence, that's his secret. He can tell others. I can't.

If I were giving orders for a raid, I wouldn't want to hear Dan Rather read them that night. But I hope I would give orders that, when they came out later (as they will), wouldn't reveal me to be a fool, a poltroon, or an incompetent.

I will admit that I've fallen short of these ideals.

#66 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:27 PM:

Patrick: Even though Jim's wrong, if more indiscrete people acted as though he were right, the Internet might be a better (or at least nicer!) place.

(One does occasionally meet people who talk as though they expect to be widely quoted in everything they say; their conversational protocols are pretty weird.)

#67 ::: John Scalzi ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:30 PM:

PNH:

"In fact, 'don't say anything to anyone anywhere that you don't want to hear Dan Rather read on the Six O'Clock News' is terrible advice, as Jim Macdonald ought to realize after just a little thought."

However, amend to "don't write anything online that you don't want to hear Dan Rather read on the Six O'Clock News," and it works quite nicely (excepting that Dan Rather is no longer doing the six o'clock news, and where I live, I think the national news is on at 6:30).

This is part and parcel with the Law of Internet Communication, which states: "Anything bad you ever write about someone online will get back to them sooner or later."

#68 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:32 PM:

I'm very interested in the context in which the nanny offered information about the blog. Olen's noting that they were tending a toddler and the nanny "Murmured... 'I've started a blog. I'll give you the link,'" rings false to me (and not least because it'd be terrible dialogue. No one talks like that. It would be phrased completely differently).

When I bring up the subject of my blog, it's usually in the context of a conversation where somebody expressed an interest in something I've previously written up, I'll point people to the blog.

Sometimes it's a way of shortcircuiting conversation when I don't feel like repeating myself. Sometimes it's a way of pointing people to details I can't recall off the top of my head. Sometimes I hope to give the other party a bit more background so we can continue the conversation (see again the not repeating myself).

Purely speculative, but I wonder if that might not be what happened here. 'How did you enjoy the poetry reading?' 'I've got a blog, you can read it there.' Particularly if the nanny was busy tending to a toddler at the time and not wanting the conversational distraction.

#69 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:44 PM:

...And I wouldn't rely too heavily on a word-for-word recollection of a conversation that took place some considerable time in the past, and whose consequences were emotionally charged. Even the most unimpeachable witness (which people don't seem to consider Ms Olen) might be considered unreliable under such circumstances.

#70 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:48 PM:

"Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?" is something that King Henry shouldn't have said.


#71 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 02:53 PM:

James: why not? It worked, didn't it? :) And he took some political heat for the murder, but not near enough to bring him down.

#72 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:01 PM:

"Will no one rid me of this meddlesome Saddam who tried to snuff my Dad?"

The issue of privacy being dead, for better or worse, was taken one way by my Historically-sophisticated unreconstructed Mondale Democrat friend Dave Brin in The Transparent Society.

There's also the issue of defamation laws and copyright laws, which affect what one can say in public, differing from country to country. I cannot fault James D. Macdonald for keeping the online SFWA chats secure when I was being badly damaged in them by supporters of the plagiarists that cost me my aerospace career, and a quarter of a megabuck or so in legal fees. James D. Macdonald did the professionally correct thing, and the fault is at the feet of my (former) attorney, who was clueless about computers in general, the internet in particular, and the tactics of subpoena power.

I also agree with Patrick here on the essential nature of Trust in fellow human beings. The two extreme strategies are (1) paranoia: trust NOBODY, keep your systems secure, but at the cost of having few friends; (2) trust EVERYBODY until they violate that trust, which will give you less security, but many more friends, some of whom are statistically likely to stab you in the back.

Where one lives between those two extremes has been somewhat shifted by blogging but, I think, not very much.

#73 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:15 PM:

What's It All About, Alfie, Dept.:

Spotted on GoogleNews (several stories) just after my previous post:

"Actress Sienna Miller has arrived at a West End theatre looking 'grim faced' following revelations about her fiancee Jude Law, in the Sunday papers. Jude publicly apologised to her for cheating on her with his children's nanny...."

No blogging involved? Quaint.

"... The twice Oscar-nominated actor said he was 'deeply ashamed and upset' at his behavior after Monday's newspaper revelations, according to The Press Association. Law met and fell for 24-year-old Miller while filming last year's remake of 1960s classic 'Alfie.'"

"The affair began when Law was still married to Frost, the mother of his three children. The couple finally split in 2003 after being granted a "quickie" divorce in October on the grounds of the movie star's 'unreasonable behavior' after six years of marriage...."

#74 ::: Robert L ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:17 PM:

There’s an entire novel of manners lurking under the surface of this.

The Key by Junichiro Tanizaki comes close.

#75 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:25 PM:

Well, that sure opened up a big can'o'worms in American WASP culture:

Since the cultural ideal is "the classless society", the fact of nannies and maids makes WASPs uncomfortable -- how can it be a classless society if one has household servants -- illegal aliens, even -- working for wealthy Republicans and wealthy Democrats alike?

And to make things worse, the servants DARE to create a voice of their own, in one of those Bolshevik "blogs." What insolence! What treason against their betters!

All Americans are equal, but some Americans are more equal than others... (*SARCASM*)

#76 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 03:59 PM:

I follow a modified version of Jim's advice, which is that I don't put anything in writing that I wouldn't want publicized. I tell people private things, and I keep a personal journal, but I make sure that written correspondence doesn't contain anything that I ought not be saying.

#77 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:04 PM:

Try acting as though wealth is irrelevant to social standing and see where that gets you sometime.

Social standing is important, down at a primal primate hardwired level -- we're a plains ape immensely specialized to gang up on problems, and if your band status is low, your problems aren't the ones being ganged up on.

It's tricky to get around the insistence on mediating social standing in a way that benefits the individual choosing the mediation mechanism, too.

#78 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:20 PM:

Entirely predictably, we're drifting en masse into the "shame on her for being so stupid as to tell the employer" and the "that's what she gets for having a blog" storylines. It's like it's a brain virus or something. I like Atrios's remarks, posted this afternoon:

When someone experiences a negative consequence of something they posted on the internets I don't really understand why many people feel the need to preface every comment on that situation with "people should KNOW they can get in trouble for what they post on the inernet." Well, duhh. We mostly know this though sometimes people are more unaware of than others. It's useful to occasionally remind people that they should think twice before doing something on the internet that can be easily linked to their real life. But, still, sometimes some of us don't follow that advice or make the "mistake" of actually telling someone we know about our blog or our politics or our religion or anything else. And, when that happens, people are sure to point out that it's stupid to tell your bosses anything about your personal life because OF COURSE that will only get you in trouble, etc.
Look, the fact that something opens you up to asshole treatment by assholes doesn't excuse the asshole behavior anymore than having a few drinks at a meat market bar late at night excuses the behavior of a rapist. A victim is a victim, no matter how "stupid" we might imagine their "risky" behavior was. I'm glad none of us except actual victims ever do anything stupid.
All of this is a roundabout way of saying that in l'affaire Olen, the actions of the nanny in question are essentially irrelevant, except to the extent that it allows you to pat yourself on the back for not have ever been so stupid yourself. Whatever.
[...] The issue here is that the former employer decided to turn this incident into a piece for the New York Times, and that the Times thought it worthy of being published. It's that the Times allowed a woman who was upset that her nanny would dare to have a life and dare to very rarely reference her employment to call the nanny a drunken slut for a national audience. [...] It's that it's somehow acceptable for an employer to talk shit about an employee in a national newspaper but not okay for an employee to briefly mention her personal employment on her weblog. The Times' decision to publish this story legitimized the view that not only was she within her rights to fire her (surely true) but that she had the additional privilege of talking trash about her in a respectable national newspaper.
That's what's interesting about this story: the values implicit in Olen's decision to write this essay and the Times' decision to publish it. It's increasingly clear that the people who control our national media are as unreflective an elite as the Bourbon royal court. Helaine Olen doesn't just enjoy massive privileges; she enjoys the privilege of never, ever having to think about her privileges.

#79 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:24 PM:

How many of you have blogs and jobs? Having a nanny job isn't that different than having any other kind of job, except that a nanny's employers may feel they have en loco parentis responsibilities. Assuming your employer will never know what you write on the Internet borders on delusional. So, what is to be done?

#80 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:25 PM:

Please don't think that I think Tessy did anything wrong.

I expect the consequences of stupidity will fall on Ms. Olen.

#81 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:27 PM:

(To be clear: since Tess told her employers about the blog, she did not assume that her employers would never read it. Many others do.)

#82 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:31 PM:

Patrick gave a very clear analysis, supra. That the "people who control our national media are as unreflective an elite as the Bourbon royal court" involves several levels of irony, in that, to pick just a few, they do pretend that there is no Class System, they delude themselves into thinking that they are reflective, they try to fool us into thinking that they can fairly report on the equally unreflective political leadership.

"Let the nannies eat cake" is perilously close to an immediately prevolutionary sentiment.

#83 ::: Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:41 PM:

I think the class issue here is precisely that the nanny is a (nascent) member of her employer's class. If she were clearly and obviously a member of the lower class, their relationship would be well-defined; but since she's a potential peer of her employer, the employer is torn between treating her as a domestic servant and as a friend, and ends up botching the job entirely.

(Random unrelated question: Just how much money do you have to make before a nanny starts being in the realm of possibilities? I'm not exactly poor, but I don't know anyone who has a nanny, and can't imagine affording one myself. They always sound like a luxury of the European nobility, not people with jobs.)

#84 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:45 PM:

Patrick: I don't want to let myself drift along with that masse, because that was never my intention. While I do wonder about the context in which Tessy first mentioned her blog, I only do so because I believe that the origin of the story is as manipulated by Olen as all the rest. Follow me--- Olen was not happy not knowing more about her nanny's personal life, and so sought further information from the nanny herself, under the pretext of a 'more friendly' professional relationship. Olen seemed to want to be buddies with her nanny, rather than her employer.

The whole thing, start to finish, demonstrates Olen's manipulations and, exponentially thereby, the manipulations of the media in general. The New York Times has built a solid reputation as an outstanding news source on a basis that includes plagiarism and out-and-out fabrication. That the current administration is still in power after more than 5 years is evidence enough that the mainstream media does not accomplish what it sets out to do: i.e., inform the public. While Bush is qualifying his previous admonitions so that Karl Rove might keep his job, everyone is reading about the sex life of a Brooklyn journalist's nanny.

Of course, no, you can't inform a public that doesn't want to be.

#85 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 04:48 PM:

This travel piece gives you a sense of Olen's usual voice. Part of Olen's problem is that she wrote about firing her nanny in much the same tone she uses for writing about how the very rich would evaluate a hotel experience:

Nonetheless, this battle of the hip hostelries will insure the discriminating celebrity or wannabe a wider variety of accommodations. The Mondrian, quite simply, promises to be a sybarite's delight; or, as Mr. Schrager observed, the hotel equivalent of what Alice saw when she passed through the looking glass.
#86 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:01 PM:

How many of you have blogs and jobs? .. Assuming your employer will never know what you write on the Internet borders on delusional. So, what is to be done?

Kathryn, I blog openly under my real name and have held two jobs (and conducted two jobhunts) while blogging.
I've also told my employers about my blog before hiring so it won't come as a surprise. Hasn't been entirely flawless, but on the whole seems to work reasonably well.

Since Patrick's twice complained about topic drift, this probably isn't the place to discuss these issues, but if you've got any more specific questions, send 'em to me, and I'll see if I can enlighten.

#87 ::: ElizabethVomMarlowe ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:03 PM:

Those curious about the context in which Tessy mentioned her blog to her employer should head back over to BitchPhD's blog's comments. She explains it there. (Around comment 100 something, near the end.)

#88 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:09 PM:

If I may clarify, I generally try not to be a martinet about "topic drift", as a general principle. To quote the late F. M. Busby, "Digressions are how anything gets said."

#89 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:35 PM:

Huh. I thought one of the creepier things was Mr Olen's desire to fire the nanny when he thought what he was reading was inappropriate instead of just stopping reading the damn blog. (What he really meant was that what he read there made him feel things he found uncomfortable.)

About that whole we don't want people who look after children to have a sex life thing. You know, if one was female one used to only be able to be a teacher if one were single. Marriage immediately retired you and don't even THINK about any other sort of relationship. Because sex, you see, is evil and immoral and dirty and nasty and makes you unfit to be in charge of children. Unless they're your own of course. I suddenly wonder if this is solely an American meme...

MKK

#90 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 05:50 PM:

"we're drifting en masse into the "shame on her for being so stupid as to tell the employer""

I guess the point I was trying to make was that I _don't_ think it was necessarily stupid. There are a couple of good arguments in favor of doing what she did.

#91 ::: aa ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 06:05 PM:

Why did Tessy tell her employer that she was keeping a blog - and even gave her the address -, though?

Not crying shame on her for doing that, however. Just wondering about why someone would want to do that. Was it a well-meaning gesture, a token of friendship, and attempt to become a part of the family...?

Olen's behaviour is inexcusable. But I must confess that I fail to see why Tessy went and did that.

#92 ::: Aconite ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 06:13 PM:

Kathryn Cramer: To be clear: since Tess told her employers about the blog, she did not assume that her employers would never read it. Many others do.

Furthermore, the employers read it regularly for months and never said anything about it to Tessy (even when they fired her). Ms Olen gave the blog's address out to friends, even. Did Tessy have a reason to think they had any objections to the contents of the blog until she found out about Ms. Olen's piece?

#93 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 06:25 PM:

My emotional response to all this -- having previously discussed it with purportedly objectivity -- is fury. I know exactly what it feels like to be fired with no proper cause, without having received any warning that I've done anything wrong, and, afterwards, not only do others confirm that I've done nothing wrong, but the monster who fired me spins my misery and their cluelessness so as to profitably advance the monster's greater evil agenda.

I've mentioned the USA self-delusion that we have no Class System. One part of this which friends of mine in other continents usually add as corollary, is that American intellectuals are a group which should be naturally in solidarity with the working class, but are almost effortlessly co-opted by the ownership class.

In much of the world, one can say this even while being anti-Marxist, even though it depends historically on Marxist analysis. In the USA today, outside the university campus, the last refuge of Marxist reductionism of purely economic arguments to justify political acts is -- it seems to me -- those far Right Republicans who do not adhere to a specifically Christian fundamentalist belief, yet use the Christian Right to add to their ranks in the polls.

Topic drift, somewhat, but I do miss "Buzz" Busby, and think that he was right. But I digress.

#94 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 06:27 PM:

I believe it possible that Ms. Olen had judged her own life, found it wanting, and projected her feelings onto the closest available person who approximated herself.

#95 ::: S. Dawson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 06:50 PM:

MKK:

I suspect the assumption wasn't that conjugal activities unfitted a woman to teach, but that teaching would distract her from her wifely duties and impending brood of children.

On the other hand, in support of your theory, I think Oxbridge dons used to have to be unmarried. At least that (if I'm remembering correctly) wasn't a double standard.

Okay, I confess: I wrote this comment for the sake of getting to use "unfit" as a verb.

#96 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:06 PM:

And we appreciate you for it, S.

#97 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:13 PM:

It's a horrible lesson to learn how misplaced ones trust can be. I suspect Tess has learned to be cautious even with people whom she initially trusts.

Thus I suppose it is less likely that Tess will one day find her Internet-posted fiction or snarky blog comments in the folder her spouse has been building up for the divorce lawyer, to show why she is an unfit parent.

Happened to me. With a lot of legal work I was still able to work out joint custody, despite this, and 7 years on, I have a great relationship with my daughter - but I stopped doing creative writing around that point. The wellsprings just shut off completely.

It also happened to an Australian Goth type I know (a fairly talented amateur SFnal and splatterpunk writer). He lost all custody and contact with his kid. In the Family Court hearing, he was shown a piece of dark fantasy that he'd written and posted on a BBS only a couple days before, and when he acknowledged he had written it, that was that. (Yes, I am taking his word for this, and no it wasn't sexual.)

Back to Tess - is it a good thing to have learned not to trust? I don't think so. I'm not sure whether it is more damaging when someone learns "don't trust" or "don't create". I think whenever someone learns either of these, we collectively suffer. We may not realize it because we will never see what we lost.

Jim MacDonald - It seems to me that while your advice may be eminently practical, for many people it boils down to the two choices above: "Don't trust" or "Don't create". The third option: "Create only totally sunny, always sweet, never unconventional or sexual content" doesn't work in many cases because, well, some people just aren't like that. Tess didn't write anything terribly outrageous, from what I can gather, but no matter what you write or how sweet and innocuous your writing, it will never be pure enough for somebody out there.

If you aren't 100% a fluffy bunnies person, your choices are: "write stuff that's not what your heart wants to write" or "don't write, period", or "don't ever show anyone what you write." I can't fault you for realism, but I think we lose when potentially creative people are forced to censor themselves in the name of realism.

#98 ::: Alison Scott ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:20 PM:

I know, a little, a man who might take "never say anything to anyone that you don't want on the news" to heart. He once said something magnificently indiscreet that was quoted widely everywhere. Now tired of the way that people kept reminding him of this one error, he turned wearily to one questioner and explained, "The quotation in question happened in private with only one other person present. Think on that."

I am not sure how I would be changed if a comment I made in private suddenly became headline news.

#99 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:26 PM:

I am amused to report that "Helaine Olen" tops "London Bombing" as a search on Technorati:

Search 13.5 million blogs for the latest on: Top Searches This Hour

1. “Karl Rove”
2. “Harry Potter”
3. “Helaine Olen”
4. “London Bombing”

#100 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:32 PM:

S. Dawson: I don't recall anything about Oxbridge dons being requisite bachelors... hrm. Randomly looking up biographies of c19th dons only gives me one which mentions marriage, and that in a note that he never married... interesting. But possibly it was more the case in earlier, more clerically-dominated, years? Yet Another Thing to research when I have time, I guess.

(Gah! Must stop reading blogs. Keep filling notebooks with interesting footnotes.)

Wild guess: Perhaps there was a social aspect? There have been historically some pretty odd social standards about who should and shouldn't marry, and a society as artificial as Oxbridge academia would seem a good place to breed them. I mean, if it was a Cardinal Career Mistake for a junior fellow to marry, for whatever reason (and I'm sure we could invent some), then by the time they'd jumped up a couple of rungs you might well find you'd encouraged a culture of middle-aged bachelors, and one wouldn't want to break with Tradition...

#101 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:38 PM:

So . . .

How many Reality TV Shows / Episodes of LAW & ORDER (or CSI) / bad movies / good movies / novels will this incident spawn?

#102 ::: Robert West ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:40 PM:

Mike - it's not clear to me what the cutoff is. I have a friend who hasn't managed to pay his electric bill in six months, whose finances are shot, and who in the best of times barely makes enough to get by, who has a nanny - because his stepfather has a boat docked in a small Carribbean country and knew a teenage girl who wanted to travel to Canada and learn English.

Such stories aren't as rare as it seems like they ought to be.

#103 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 07:49 PM:

Are people considering that there's a trust issue from Olen's point of view too? I'm not defending her behavior, it's atrocious (particularly the continued slander and character assassination). But frankly I'd be pretty f***ing upset if I found out someone had posted details of my personal life on their blog without my knowledge or permission.

#104 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 08:08 PM:

From reading Tessy's rebuttal, I gather that Tessy had posted vanishingly few details of her employers' personal lives, and those few without names attached. The "last straw" over which Mrs. Olen fired Tessy was a poem that featured memories of Tessy's own parents fighting. Mrs. Olen assumed the couple in the poem was herself and her husband.

Granted, I'm taking Tessy's word for it, but even if Tessy really was inspired by hearing the Olens fight, the poem provides so little personal detail about the couple that it speaks badly of Mrs. Olen's paranoia levels for her to make the assumption.

Gods forfend Tessy blog about any married couple for fear that her employers take offense!

#105 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 08:16 PM:

Oxford has, since at least the time of Tolkien, favored married dons. This is in part to due with co-education coming to the university and the frequent necessity of meeting students in one's home.

I've been struggling to complete a post regarding an idiotic article from the Chronicle of Higher Eduction which advises graduate students not to blog because they won't be hired as faculty if they do, and now this comes along. I think the Macdonald has nailed the situation regarding Olen's wish-fulfillment, and pretty much everything else.

You know, it's not like people don't write really stupid things, and inappropriate things off the net--case in point, Olen's piece, which reflects much more poorly on her than on Tess, even if you've not read Tess's blog, and the Ivan Tribble piece in the Chronicle of Higher Ed. Both are more revelatory of the writers than I suspect the writers intended, and both are strikingly idiotic and unprofessional.

#106 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 08:41 PM:

Patrick Nielsen Hayden wrote:

> If I may clarify, I generally try not to be a martinet about "topic drift", as a general principle.

I do still shed the occasional tear for the topic of "why are thrillers always right wing, never left", snuffed out in it's infancy, on a thread long ago and far away. Because I really want to *know*.

But now I really do digress, and this is more open-thread material.

#107 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 08:48 PM:

JDM: I believe it possible that Ms. Olen had judged her own life, found it wanting, and projected her feelings onto the closest available person who approximated herself.

Isn't that what Hello Kitty is supposed to be for?

If this is the case, it would be quite ironic since Ms. Olen has very publicly declared her self-awareness.

#109 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 09:08 PM:

An interesting blog post on the subject: Taking recourse in "appropriateness":

The tyranny of appropriateness ... elevates various socially and economically and politically specific beliefs to the status of inarguable fact, while appearing instead to reduce them to "choices" that are clearly within the individual's control.

#110 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 09:10 PM:

Good one, Patrick. But, although it indirectly relates to “London Bombing,” there's nothing in there about the children reading “Harry Potter” --so it only covers 3 of the top 4 subjects on Technorati. But made me LOL.

#111 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 09:36 PM:

Clifton:

Jim MacDonald - It seems to me that while your advice may be eminently practical, for many people it boils down to the two choices above: "Don't trust" or "Don't create". The third option: "Create only totally sunny, always sweet, never unconventional or sexual content" doesn't work in many cases because, well, some people just aren't like that. Tess didn't write anything terribly outrageous, from what I can gather, but no matter what you write or how sweet and innocuous your writing, it will never be pure enough for somebody out there.

First, my name is spelled "Macdonald."

Second, I didn't say that, or any approximation of it.

What I'm advising is that I don't say anything I'm not willing to stand behind, and I'm not going to say anything behind a person's back that I wouldn't say to their face.

Notice, plesae, that I called Ms. Olen pathological. I believe it's true, accurate, and helpful. I'd say it to her face.

#112 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:25 PM:

Jim:

I apologise both for misspelling your name - I realize that's important - and misrepresenting what you said. What I wrote in response to your comments probably wasn't what I was trying to say to you; I dashed it off in too much of a hurry, and as should be clear I have numerous hot buttons in this general area.

Perhaps what I should have posted in response to your comments - rather than replying to my own little demons - is this question:

While "Don't say anything to anyone that you don't want to hear Dan Rather read" is undoubtedly the safest advice for everyone, how does that work for those who really think or write a bit differently from what others might deem acceptable? Does that become the new "Don't ask, don't tell"?

#113 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:26 PM:

One of the comments I saw elsewhere (more than once) was an appreciation of Olen's honesty in her examination of her own motives. On the surface that examination seems like an admirable thing. But artfully controlled "honesty" can be a very effective weapon when you are actually trying to assert control and express a relative position of power, and I think that that is exactly what Olen was doing. I never felt any genuine vulnerability in her account, just a display of reactions and behaviours for narrative effect. It might be deliberately done, or it might be unconscious; in either case it is an expression of privilege and an assertion of superiority.

"I am a vulnerable, self-reflective person; I am flawed (but interesting). That self-awareness and vulnerability make it okay for me to fire and then publicly trash someone who was in a (relatively) dependent relationship. And transform that trashing into (remunerative) journalism, of course."

#114 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:26 PM:

Larry Brennan: "One way to keep from getting tangled up in this sort of thing is to hire au pairs from overseas, as my closest friends have done. If either of their nannies had blogs, they would have been in Swedish, and therefore safely inaccessible."

Linnea and Johan Anglemark might disagree with that. Writing your weblog in a language other than English is a variety of security through obscurity: effective only until it's noticed.

Bob Oldendorf: "...not only could Olen not stop reading it, she recommended it to her friends. And then, having been made uncomfortable about her employee's diary/blog, Olen then publicized it in the NY Times! If Olen was embarrassed by finding details of her personal life in her nanny's blog, how could she have been so stupid as to give it a write it up in the Times?"

Julia: "I think Tessa was fired because she was giving Olen's friends an unflattering picture of life in the Olen house."

This part of the story initially confused me. If Olen didn't like what the nanny was writing, why did she get all her friends to read it? Why did she write about it in the NYTimes? And why didn't Olen's editor ask her these same questions?

I see it as a preemptive strike: Olen's trying to make sure the conflict is framed in her own terms, rather than the nanny's, and that the nanny would start the war with her character already trashed. Since the nanny hadn't written anything particularly offensive or identifiable as of the firing, I have to imagine Olen thought the nanny would have grounds for a bout of retaliatory writing.

People who steal think everyone's a thief, people who lie think everyone lies, et cetera. The episode tells us more about Helaine Olen than it does about the nanny.

It was a stupid thing to do. But then, you can afford to let yourself get stupid if your thumbsucking ruminations get published in the NYT, because only your fellow mass-media journalists have the power to retaliate at a comparable level.

Mythago: "I'm surprised Mr. Olen isn't coming in for more heat here. He didn't write the article, but he doesn't exactly come off as an innocent bystander here; long before Ms. Olen reaches the post about the fight, her husband is ready to fire the woman:

My husband thought her writing precociously talented but wanted to fire her nonetheless. "This is inappropriate," he said. "We don't need to know that Jennifer Ehle makes her hot."
And it's hubby who does the actual firing. But of course, here and on other blogs, there are comments making the snide inferences that it was all the missus making this decision and probably it had something to do with her fear of a younger woman in the house. (Because, y'know, it's all about the girls and their pathetic catfights.)"

I'm not sure I believe that part. Start with the phrase precociously talented, which is very strange in this context. You might imaginably refer to an eleven-year-old blogger as precociously talented, but the nanny is in her twenties. To me, the reported remarks of Olen's husband sound like the sort of thing a person would say when their spouse comes to them in a froth of indignation about the contents of the nanny's weblog.

I have two objections to calling this a catfight. First, fights between men don't automatically get assigned a totem animal. Second, this isn't a fight; it's a mugging. It's a prurient and grossly inappropriate disguised attack on a former employee by a woman who's in a far more powerful position, and is using it to publicly trash said employee.

"It's pretty funny to hear a journalist bitch about somebody else betraying their confidences and using them as a character in a narrative, mind you."

Ain't it just? I hope that for the rest of her life, whenever she egoscans the web, Helaine Olen has to hunt for other mentions of herself amidst thickets of archived discussions of what a contemptibly stupid piece that was. It's a just fate for someone who could write a stomach-turning paragraph like this one:

As I read her words I was transported back to my own youth and those feelings of awkwardness, fear, false bravado and self-importance. I could have told her that I understood her life more than she realized, that I had not always been the boring hausfrau she must see. I could say that I, too, once stayed out late, drank too much and slept with the wrong people. I, too, once found my work obligations a tedious distraction from creative pursuits and thought myself superior to my surroundings, just as she appeared to.
Where does this venomous bitch get off? Is she in the early stages of some kind of insanity? And what can her editor possibly have been thinking, to let that go into print?

Sean Bosker: "The line that really killed me was

"When our nanny referred to our house on her blog as work in a seemingly sarcastic fashion, she broke the covenant."
A covenant that the nanny never made, by the way."

Yeah, I noticed that. For a while I thought (in some amazement) that Olen thinks her employees have an obligation not to gripe about her. Hoo boy. Welcome to an inevitable feature of being someone's boss.

On reflection, though, I think this imagined covenant is "I can, if I wish, write about you for a broad audience; but you mustn't do the same to me."

There was a covenant broken. The person who broke it was Helaine Olen. You don't retail the personal life of one of your employees to persons in your social circle. It's vulgar. It also leaves you with no moral ground to stand on if that employee then retails stories about you.

It's painfully embarrassing to observe that Tessa, the Nanny, was far more reticent about the details of Helaine Olen's life than Olen was about Tessa's life. I trust that Tessa, a student of 19th C. novels, will notice and appreciate the irony.

"This story reminded me of all the bosses and landlords I've had who made me call them by their first names. They were usually former hippies who felt guilty about the fact that they were making money off of me, so I had to pretend to be their friends to assuage their guilt.

I'd much rather have old-fashioned bosses, who have dealt with the fact that they are making money off of me and that they have to make certain concessions to make it work out in their favor. Like fixing the plumbing. These guilt-ridden hypocrites like to be as cheap and bossy as possible, and then make their employees cheer them up about it. Part of being a boss is feeling some resentment from the underlings from time to time. Suck it up, Olen."

Absolutely and amen. One of the rules of thumb I learned when I was a secretarial temp was that an uber-boss who tells you to call him by his first name has an increased chance of being the sort who'll dump an "urgent project" on your desk at 4:45 on Friday -- and be affronted when you tell him it isn't going to get done before you leave.

Back then, I felt considerable guilt over preferring bosses who were older men, rather than young or middle-aged women. I was rooting for the women all the way, mind, but too many of them made terrible bosses. They didn't understand the working relationship, how to command underlings, or boundary issues in general. In retrospect, I've long since come to see that it wasn't a gender-specific character flaw, but rather their unfamiliarity with command.

Your employees don't have to tell you their secrets, make you a part of their personal lives, take an interest in you personally, observe your birthday, listen to your confidences, or make sacrifices that aren't in their job description. They will always resent reprimands. And if you fire them, they're going to hate you for it, no matter how justified you think you are.

Helaine Olen's line about the "sexual shenanigans" of her nannies -- yet another condescending turn of phrase, in an article studded with them -- is particularly telling. "Shenanigans" is how you describe sexual escapades the participants probably ought not be engaged in. But as long as the nannies' behavior doesn't affect the children, Olen has no right whatsoever to judge their private sexual behavior.

Furthermore, Olen shows herself a fool if she's hired unmarried young women and then been shocked to discover that they have sex lives. Nothing could be more predictable. And here's a point I'm not sure anyone else has made: one can hire thoroughly professional, fully certified, and presumably discreet nannies. They're out there. The catch is, they cost a great deal more than passably good but not career professional nannies like Tessa. If that's what Olen wanted, she should have paid for it.

I wonder whether Helaine Olen imagines it makes her sound genteel when she archly talks about her nannies' sex lives? It doesn't. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Jim Macdonald: Why do you assume the threat was sexual? It sounds to me like Olen was at least as envious of the nanny's writing as she was of her sexual opportunities. Though you may be right; if she's talking about the sex lives of all her former nannies, she's got issues. Perhaps she's been firing all her nannies unjustly, and is only writing about Tessa because she's the only one of them who's in a position to retaliate.

Kathryn Cramer: "The employer/employee relationship is the primary one, in this case. But Tess gives off better class signals than her employer, seems to me."

Same here. Granted, it's no proof. Writers are forever readjusting their class background in their prose. What I know for sure is that Helaine Olen sets off my faux-genteel alarms. No wonder she writes so enthusiastically about Hollywood celebrity hotels.

"This travel piece gives you a sense of Olen's usual voice..."

Does she then usually sound like she has a PR package open on the desk next to her keyboard as she writes?

Patrick: "To quote the late F. M. Busby, 'Digressions are how anything gets said.'"

Elinor Busby, wasn't it? "Without digressions, nothing would ever get said"?

#115 ::: Lydia Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:29 PM:

First things first: What's the deal with calling Tessy irresponsible? It's irresponsible to expect grown ups to act like grown ups? It may be kind of a shock and disappointment to get fired for speaking your mind. I'm always a bit surprised when people act as if what they put out on the Web and the Net have any hope of remaining private, but those are just mistakes, mostly based on not knowing enough about how the on-line world works. But irresponsible? To whom and about what? She offered a blog address to her boss. Big deal. Boss didn't like it, shouldn't be a big deal. Boss turns the whole thing into a huge emotional crisis of biblical proportions, and Tessy is being irresponsible? Oh, give me a break.

One of the odd details which struck me was Mr. Olen saying that this isn't appropriate. Near as I can figure from the timeline, Tessy hadn't yet managed to say anything about her employers. His comment seems odd, to me, since "appropriate" is context sensitive -- isn't it? Several people note that Mr. Olen falls out of the story, here, only to return as the bad guy to fire Tessy, still not bothering to tell her what the problem actually is. Olen implies that he does not read Tessy's blog. I wonder... The implication is quite clear, but she never says it specifically. Given the, um, decontextualizing (is that the word?) she uses so frequently in her article, I have to wonder if that detail just fell by the way side.

Ms. Olen writes as if she is revealing subtle truths and hidden longings about herself. She isn't. She's 40 years old and going through a mid-life crisis. Welcome to the club. Part of being 40 is looking backwards and wondering if you made the right choices. Women, in particular, look back and wonder what life would have been like with/without children. It's the defining choice for their future life.

Regret for who you never were is so normal as to be not worth mentioning (at least in the NYT), unless you have something clever to say about it -- which Olen doesn't. Instead, Olen tries to make it look more complicated, tries to make it look like she has these questions and doubts as a result of introspection stimulated by Tessy. Uh huh. She's blaming her mid-life crisis on Tessy. How convenient. Anybody want to step up and be my scape goat?

The one thing the piece is good for is a cautionary tale on false intimacy, on similated relationships. Don't do that. It hurts when you do that.

#116 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:40 PM:

Lis Riba: An interesting blog post on the subject: Taking recourse in "appropriateness":

The tyranny of appropriateness ... elevates various socially and economically and politically specific beliefs to the status of inarguable fact, while appearing instead to reduce them to "choices" that are clearly within the individual's control.
You're right; that's a striking piece. I find it clarifies issues no end to substitute "suitable for one's station" for most instances of "appropriate."

Enjay: Agreed. The only honesty I saw in Olen's piece was inadvertent.

#117 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:43 PM:

This assumes that Ms. Olen is telling the truth about Mr. Olen.

That's handy. If something in the article doesn't fit the salacious theory, write it off as a lie; only the fun parts are true.

I don't see any reason to assume Mrs. Olen is lying about her husband's comments. She doesn't strike me as particularly self-aware; if she didn't even grok how badly the comments about her own self made her look, why assume that she got all crafty about what her husband said?

We certainly don't know that Mrs. Olen is responsible for firing all previous nannies (if she had any--she refers to 'babysitters') or why. There's no suggestion that Mr. Olen did the firing because Mrs. Olen made him do it; after all, he's the one who believes that disliking the nanny's blog entries, even though they had nothing to do with her work, were a good reason to fire her.

On telling-the-employer, there's a lot of room between "she deserved to get fired" and "the poor thing is blameless." Yes, it was probably kinda dumb of the nanny to make the same dumb mistake Mrs. Olen did, and feel that they were Really Really Friends, so that it would be a good idea to give the Olens her blog URL.

But nobody forced the Olens to read it, either. Hell, Mrs. Olen says she STILL reads it.

#118 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 10:50 PM:

"On telling-the-employer, there's a lot of room between 'she deserved to get fired' and 'the poor thing is blameless.'"

As it turns out, however, the number of people making the second assertion appears to be approximately zero. Indeed, the woman in question explicitly rejects the idea. So why are some people so determined to argue as if this is the issue in contention?

#119 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:20 PM:

Mike - you write, (Random unrelated question: Just how much money do you have to make before a nanny starts being in the realm of possibilities? I'm not exactly poor, but I don't know anyone who has a nanny, and can't imagine affording one myself. They always sound like a luxury of the European nobility, not people with jobs.)

I have a nanny. My husband and I are certainly more well-off than the average American family, but our combined income is less than $100,000 a year and we carry a lot of educational loans. We are able to afford a nanny because both of us were able to convince our employers that our jobs could stretch to include some days at home. I work at home two days a week, and my husband works a flextime schedule that crams a 40-hour week into four workdays instead of five.

The other two days a week, we have a part-time nanny, which (as far as I can tell) is a fancy word for a babysitter who comes during the day while you're at work. She works about 16 hours a week in our home, and gets paid $10 an hour. We pay Social Security taxes on her wages. The amount we pay for nanny care, per week, is considerably less than we'd pay for full-time daycare in a group setting. But again, that's because we were able to arrange our work schedules so that we don't need childcare full time.

I've seen, elsewhere (at Dr. B's, maybe?) the assertion that any woman who can afford a nanny can damn well afford to stay home and raise her children herself. (As always, these are apparently parthenogenically created children, with no father to share the responsibility of rearing them.) I'm pretty sure that I'm not the only one for whom that statement is lightyears away from being true.

#120 ::: Jackmormon ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:36 PM:

Lydia,

I expect that H. Olen's representation of her husband is a mock-up, a compromise version that allows her her digs and him his dignity. The weird way he is presented as the final judge and executioner in an article all about H Olen's obsessions sent my reader alarm-bells tingling: I suspect that, at the end of the day, this piece is motivated more by tensions within the marriage than by Tessy as a person per se. Which is not to say that Tessy didn't end up harmed by the article, but the husband's role is clearly the most cloaked and the more important.

#121 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 18, 2005, 11:52 PM:

Kathryn: But Tess gives off better class signals than her employer, seems to me.
[Woody Allen joke about "better" deleted]
IMO, Olen's piece gives off excellent class signals, and signals that she is of the excellent class -- for certain values of "class", e.g. Gosford Park but not "class act". Ms. Olen's values are skew (math sense) to Tessy's, which wouldn't have been a problem if O hadn't had control over T.

A horrid thought: are O and the fact that her attitudes can get published in a major newspaper an example of the reasons the heartland despises the coasts? I haven't been fond of NYTimes for a while -- IMO they lost the last of the street cred earned from the Pentagon Papers by accepting Meese's word that nothing happened in El Mozote -- but I hadn't been thinking of them as part of the problem. I feel myself sliding Graydon-ward as I debate how much of the shift is simply a move by the money-oriented owners to increase their wealth by becoming something the wealthy will appreciate, and how much is a deliberate attempt to divide the less--well-off so the wealthy can continue thus.

((Geek note: Madeline: Ro\d/gers wrote the music; Hammerstein wrote the lyrics. OTOH, that's a trivial slip; my school once attributed "You've Got a Friend" to James Taylor, which would be like assigning that quote to Yul Brynner.))

#122 ::: Georgiana ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:05 AM:

Teresa asked the only questions I had left. What on earth was Olen's editor thinking? I can see sort of see Olen writing it in some kind of psychotic rage but who ran it and what did it look like before it was edited? I shudder to think.

As for how poor can you be and have a nanny - several years ago I had a sudden downturn of fortunes and ended up living on 11,000 a year in a county where the average is about seven times that. I lucked into a rental of a home that had been condemned (a friend fixed it up for us) with a beautiful garden for next to nothing and my three boys and my sister and her boyfriend all lived there and got by on that 11 grand a year.

I paid her half my take home and a place to stay in exchange for nanny services.

So yeah, if you know how to make a penny scream and you have very odd luck you can have a nanny for very little. Or half your worldy goods depending on how you look at it I suppose.

#123 ::: Jeffrey D. Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:12 AM:

When I back off from the real world aspect of this and look at it as the novel of manners Patrick first presented it to us as, I am fascinated by the shadowy figure of Mr. Olen. He is the only one whose voice we don't hear; most of what we know about him comes from his wife, an unreliable narrator. How strong were his supportive comments? Was he really more in favor of firing the nanny than Mrs. Olen, or was he just making polite noises when she brought the matter up? Or maybe he was like one of those internet lurkers whose replies only dogs can hear. And why did Helaine Olen make such a point of establishing her alibi for the time when the nanny was fired?

What a good novel this could be!

#124 ::: Jeffrey D. Smith ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:16 AM:

Jeez, it took me a long time to write that one paragraph! Jackmormon said much the same thing half an hour ago...

#125 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:23 AM:

That's handy. If something in the article doesn't fit the salacious theory, write it off as a lie; only the fun parts are true.

Odd what you think is "salacious" and an odd notion of "fun."

If something in the article isn't attested by a third party, ask what you know, how you know it, and why you believe it.

There're timelines to be considered. Tessa's blog has date/time stamps. We know she was fired on the 14th of February. We know (because she and Ms. Olen agree) that she worked for Olen for five months. That puts the start of her employment in mid-September. We know that the blog wasn't started until the middle of October.

After that, ask how likely it is to be true.

=====================

I'm not claiming that Tessy is a better writer than Ms. Olen (though I'm thinking it real hard) since these are the only samples we've seen.

What do we know? First mention of work, with no clue what that work may be, on 26 October:

"So, due to some odd hours at work tonight, I missed the first 20 minutes of the Gilmore Girls."

October 28th: "End of the work week and I dont have to return till Tuesday. But my end of the work week is really just the beginning. I work four days a week so I can do my other work."

And so on. When exactly was Mr. Olen supposed to have made his remark? After a piece of poetry was posted ... but several have already been by that time. Not enough to go on.

November 2nd. First hint of what she does for a living:

"I am on *break* sorta. A time out turned into a nap, which wasn't my plan at all. Sigh. But obviously he was acting out because he needed sleep, poor lad.

"Now, can you all guess what I do when not blogging about what I want to do?"

The remark about Jennifer Ehle is on November the 7th. Presumably Ms. Olen is reading by now.

November 22nd: "Everyone at *work* has a low grade stomach bug. It made for a very long day. But some wellness tea and a tumbler full of scotch later, I am feeling better."

November the 26th: "So, after re-surfacing from my dehydration stupor brought on by one of the worst stomach bugs I am back to *work* and procrastinating by blogging and reading blogs. I was delighted to know that dear dear Cat has started a blog. She is one of my guest bloggers ( though you guys never fucking blog, blog soon or get the boot) and well, I just think that this medium will be perfect for Cat. Perfect. I predict book deals from Cat's blog. Truly."

November 30th: mention of a husband and wife fighting. A Plath poem? I don't know.

Helaine is mentioned by name (first name only) on December the 13th, and we're told the kids are sick. With a poem about coughing. We've already had the post about the nightgowns by now. Presumably Ms. Olen is reading avidly every day, and has invited all her friends to follow along too... and we're about two months before Tessy is going to get fired.

Could this be the poem?

This is dedicated to Matt, Helaine, and Prof B ! Sharon Olds writes many wonderful poems about her children ( really, some of my favorite love poems). Here is a poem for anyone who has ever cared for a sick child.

Life with Sick Kids

One child coughs once
and is sick for eight weeks, the the other child coughs so
hard he nearly vomits, three weeks, and then
stops and then the first child coughs a first cough,
and then the other delicately and dryly begins to cough,
death taking them up and shaking them
as kids shake a box at Christmas. So in bed on
the third day of the blood when it would be
almost safe to use nothing,
just a tiny door left open for a resourceful child,
I cannot see or feel or smell you, I keep
thinking I hear the unconceived one
cough a little introductory cough.

*************************************************************************************

Yes, the kids were sick sick sick today. And I felt new sympathies looking at dark circles under a toddler's eyes.


December 15th, and she mentions the "kids" in that she thinks she's going to come down with whatever they had.

The "boring nap blog" is 30 December. Other than the word "nap," no hint where or what she's doing else.

January 10th (and due to be fired in about a month): "I have taken up monogamy and flossing." (No mention of work, but I though it was a great line.)

January 13th: Tessy gets up at 11, goes to work at 1 (yes, she used the word "work"!) "But H actually sent me home. I was going to tough it out...but I must have looked some kind of terrible for her to send me home when there was a toddler crying in the background."

January 21, and three weeks to go: "I am also loving my new Friday gig. Two twin infants on the UWS. So small and perfect. I look forward to it all week. Its the type of childcare that makes your uterus skip a beat instead of the more common impulse to double up on your birth control."

Snarky? Perhaps. A reasonable response to raising kids? You betcha. If you've ever raised kids, much as you love 'em, every once in a while you have to ask yourself, "What was I thinking?!"

Is this the post that made Ms. Olen go hermatile?

February 9th, and less than a week to go: "I am having the type of work week that makes me think being an evil corporate lawyer would be okay. Corner office, subordinates, no bullshit. Or at least a different order of bullshit.


"Seriously. Contemplated sterilzing myself yesterday."

Sounds like there's lots of stress going on. Sounds like work isn't a happy place.


And after she loses the job, no mentions of that job or any of the people until the 5th of July, when she learns the essay is going to come out.

------------

Okay, did I leave any out? That's the complete text dealing with "work" that I could find.

#126 ::: Jim Flannery ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:23 AM:

Okay, did I leave any out?

A couple, and fairly important.

Friday Feb 11 (three days before firing, after last working day before firing): "But today, my first day off in 12 days!"

[Weds Feb 9: the firing offense, as noted; also note that there are only three posts between 2/4 and 2/11]

Sunday Feb 6: Titled "Weekend Work Post"

Friday Feb 4: "Its actually Saturday morning now and I am slugging it out at *work* this weekend. Ugh-12 days straight before I have a break. Shitty."

Sat. January 29: "I managed to head to the UWS on Friday even though I had a terrible bout of nausea on Thursday. Again, constant exposure has made this the worst winter for illness. Vitamins, echinecea tea, 8-9 hours of sleep a night, and still my immune system seems defunct."

At some point in one of the comment threads Tessy notes that this 12-day unbroken stretch was required as "make-up" for her sick days. Personally, I'd have already quit by the time the 11th came around, but it's taken me a couple decades to learn that one.

As to when Olen started reading: Towards the end of Dr. Bitch's comments, Tessy says that telling Olen about the blog was the same event as telling her about the Sharon Olds poem. So Olen's reading of the blog begins sometime after Dec 13, and she presumably reads backwards ("scroll[ing] down to the next entry").

#127 ::: Lee Battersby ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 06:31 AM:

My wife died in 2001, four days after giving birth to our first child. The court case over this is still ongoing. At my last meeting with my lawyers, I was, to all intents and purposes, ordered to stop blogging because the opposing side were using the things mentioned to help their defence. As was my new wife, who (direct lawyer quote coming) is considered "the best thing that could happen to the other side".

If you are part of a court case you can have no public life. People will use your life to hurt you. In the eyes of both sets of lawyers I am not entitled to a writing career, happiness, or any other state than that which I was when the court case started.

I accept the loss of privacy: after all, if you want something to be private why blog it? But the active use of personal opinion and circumstance as a weapon is hurtful.

My sympathies go out to anybody who has faced this situation.

#128 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 07:27 AM:

I'm looking forward to the fiction/film/media which surely will be spawned by the "Olen Affair".

(Where does the name "Olen" come from, BTW? Is it Scandinavian??)

The maid or nanny has a long history in fiction and theater as the "confidante" or "chorus/commentator" character... though rarely with much identity/life of her own. We seem to expect that servants live through their masters.

For a different and radical perspective on domestic class conflicts, I recommend you read (or watch) August Strindberg's stageplay MISS JULIE.


#129 ::: Mary Root ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 07:58 AM:

Let's talk about the real class divide here: published vs. unpublished.

Woman with blog posts about family, gets smackdown from woman able to publish in the New York Times. How would Olen have felt if the equivilent of the information in Tessy's blog had been contained in a personal memoir in the New Yorker?

The phenomenon of blogging must be terrifying to the lower eschelon of freelance writers. Having fought so hard to become a "published writer," and now anyone with a computer and internet connection can get their story out to the world. Anyone with an good idea, and able to express it, can become part of the discourse. And it can't be controlled. (OK, it can be controlled, but not to the extent that some would prefer.)

#130 ::: Daniel ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 08:57 AM:

While I appreciate the political questions in all this (as in, free speech vs. the right of an employer to fire his employees when he feels uncomfortable with them), the first thing that came to my mind while reading the essay and the nanny's reply was:

"Strange how a hissy bitch-fit survives across intellectual strata."

That is to say: even though both participants were evidently educated 21st century females, the conflict at the core of all this still sounded very much like something that could have happened in a London backalley in 1860. Thus we've come full circle to Victorian novels.

#131 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 09:23 AM:

Am I the only one who thinks that warning your employer you may be writing about him/her in your blog is the most sensitive thing to do, if not the wisest ? At least I think I would have done it, if not only to prevent possible violent reactions; if your boss seems firmly against the idea from the start, you know you should either not take the job or restrict your blogging.

Oh, and all this has kept me thinking about one thing I took for granted: is there no american equivalent to the french "droit de réponse", or does it not apply in here maybe ?

#132 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 09:59 AM:

Many of the rich and powerful have nannies, maids and butlers... and also read The New York Times.
Theory: The article was published because the subject concerns them specifically: "Watch Out! Your Servants May Be Blogging Behind Your Back."

This only seems absurd if you, like most of us, can't afford domestic servants... or are domestic servants ourselves.

#133 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:05 AM:
But Olen, who didn’t like it that the nanny was exposing the Olens’ personal lives on the web, thought it was fine for her to expose the nanny’s personal life in the New York Times.

That's how it's being written up over at The American Street. But, as we've seen (and thank you, Jim Flannery, for finding those other posts), it wasn't true. The Olen's personal lives weren't mentioned even once.

Is that what got Olen so upset? The reason she was convinced the nanny had judged her life and found it wanting was because she hadn't written about it?

#134 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:06 AM:

"Strange how a hissy bitch-fit survives across intellectual strata."

A triple threat: class, gender, and intellectual superiority, all rolled into one short sentence. Daniel, I hate to tell you this, but any claim to be above such "back-alley" behavior, so to speak, is entirely belied by the very use of the phrase "hissy bitch-fit."

#135 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:36 AM:

"Am I the only one who thinks that warning your employer you may be writing about him/her in your blog is the most sensitive thing to do, if not the wisest?"

Kathryn Cramer has been making this point here and elsewhere.

#136 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:52 AM:

Several people have wondered about the motivation of the Times for publishing Olen's piece. I think we have identified one part of it already: "Your employees may be blogging about you!"

The other part is that the Times, like most of the fabled MSM, is nervous about blogging and often reflexively antagonistic toward it. So, an article with a moral of "blogging may get you fired" (for the entry-level upper-class-to-be) and "bloggers may blow your cover" (for the paranoid already-upper-class) serves the paper's purposes well.

Not to mention the appeal of opening a big can of gossip.

The 19th century novel of manners is certainly a hotbed of "indiscreet letters discovered in a desk drawer" as a plot device. The blog is our own standin for same. What is interesting to me as an observer of manners, is that what, in a previous century, would have been written in a letter to ones best friend is now metaphorically and sometimes actually plastered all over the front pages of newspapers.

Can we relate this to a change in social mores, a new social construction of the various meanings of privacy? Many people (amazingly) think of blogs as private, yet they are quite obviously not. Blogs are only private through obscurity.

I think we are seeing a difference between the 40-something's conception of what privacy is, and the 20-something's. I remember one of my early bosses (this was in the 70s), in the very early days of email, saying "Never write anything in email that would make you uncomfortable if it appeared on the front page of the New York Times." A great many of today's users of email and blogs wouldn't even understand that advice, much less follow it.

Ms. Olen reminds me of all the mothers (it's usually mothers, in my experience) who are convinced that they are still "cool" and "hip" and that their children will see them as such when they become teenagers. The nanny made the major mistake of disabusing her of that notion.

#137 ::: Tiel ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:55 AM:

So have I. In an ideal world, Olen and Tessy would have had a clear understanding up front that the family was not to be gossiped about (in any medium; I realize Tessy didn't have the blog when she started). If Tessy found that unacceptable, she could have chosen not to take the job.

I'm wondering if the sort of standard non-disclosure agreement that eg. software companies use would be applicable and enforceable to this sort of situation?

#138 ::: MD² ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:02 AM:

Just re-read the posts.
Sorry. Hadn't understood it that way.

Sight... and just then I was thinking my english had gotten a bit better.

#139 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:14 AM:

But the family wasn't being gossipped about.

#140 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:15 AM:

I have a pet theory that online exhibitionism is a developmental phase that a very large percentage of people go through when familiarizing themselves with the Internet. Tessy dipped her toe in it. But Helaine, much less familiar with the possibilities of the media, was sucked completely into the swirling maelstrom. Since she feels superior to bloggers, she couldn't exhibit in a blog. But instead chose the (electronically published) NYT for her confidences.

Now she's got a couple of hundred thousand people carefully analyzing her motives, wondering if she's psychotic, speculating about her relationship to her husband, etc. She's just committed the most interesting act of her whole life. I wonder what she will do next?

(A book about it?)

#141 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:20 AM:

Our dame holds up her wanton tail
As oft as down she lies
But yet will slander a wee thing
If she the trade but tries.

Who will mow me now, my jo,
Who will mow me now?
The soldier wi' his bandolier
Has banged my belly full.
#142 ::: Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:32 AM:

Mary Root wrote:
"The phenomenon of blogging must be terrifying to the lower eschelon of freelance writers. Having fought so hard to become a 'published writer,' and now anyone with a computer and internet connection can get their story out to the world. Anyone with an good idea, and able to express it, can become part of the discourse. And it can't be controlled. (OK, it can be controlled, but not to the extent that some would prefer.)"

As a card-carrying member of the lower echelon of freelance writers (National Writers Union/UAW 1981), the assumptions in this post are both bizarre and insulting. Does Ms. Root think we became freelancers in order to become part of some secret priesthood of information control???? I am really puzzled by the underlying unspoken premises of this. I write freelance (book reviews, local journalism, Dungeons & Dragons technical articles) to make a little money. How on Earth does blogging affect that? Can somebody please unfold this?

#143 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:34 AM:

I have a pet theory that online exhibitionism is a developmental phase that a very large percentage of people go through when familiarizing themselves with the Internet.

Ouch. Yes, that would seem to be born out by my observations and experiences.

#144 ::: Laura Roberts ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:34 AM:

Theory: The article was published because the subject concerns them specifically: "Watch Out! Your Servants May Be Blogging Behind Your Back."

That's my final opinion of it too. Or, writing about Tessy in the NYT is the same as inviting your friends to read your nanny's blog. Voyeurism, a titillating glimpse into the world of the trashy lower classes.

We might never know what Olen's "real" reason for firing Tessy was. I haven't read the article, but I doubt that she would be honest about what the last straw was.

Also, despite the trendiness of the whole blog thing, I doubt that the firing actually had anything to do with the blog. If Tessy was unhappy about working there, or having to work 12 days straight, her attitude would probably be obvious to her employers, blog or no blog. In fact, Tessy says she had already started looking for another job.

But it makes a great headline.

#145 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:35 AM:

James D. MacD--


Now I maun thole the scornfu' sneer
O' mony a' saucy quine;
When, curse upon her godly face!
Her c---t's as merry's mine.
An' wha'll, &c.

#146 ::: Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:38 AM:

Sean Bosker wrote:
"This story reminded me of all the bosses and landlords I've had who made me call them by their first names. They were usually former hippies who felt guilty about the fact that they were making money off of me, so I had to pretend to be their friends to assuage their guilt.

I'd much rather have old-fashioned bosses, who have dealt with the fact that they are making money off of me and that they have to make certain concessions to make it work out in their favor. Like fixing the plumbing. These guilt-ridden hypocrites like to be as cheap and bossy as possible, and then make their employees cheer them up about it."

Union organizers encounter this phenomenon all the time: baby-boomers, and even later generations, who think of themselves as hip and Not "The Man" but who act just as much like a greedy bastard boss as any cliche from the past. Especially when they are running a hip, cool, perhaps even nominally not-for-profit enterprise, they just go berserk when confronted with the hideous fact that they are bosses, and are regarded by those whose lives they rule with the same dubiety always reserved for bosses. (Ask anybody who was in on the unionizing drive for Powell's about how they were told it was a shame to pick on the owner of such a wonderful institution.)

#147 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:40 AM:

I think we are seeing a difference between the 40-something's conception of what privacy is, and the 20-something's. I remember one of my early bosses (this was in the 70s), in the very early days of email, saying "Never write anything in email that would make you uncomfortable if it appeared on the front page of the New York Times." A great many of today's users of email and blogs wouldn't even understand that advice, much less follow it.
and
I have a pet theory that online exhibitionism is a developmental phase that a very large percentage of people go through when familiarizing themselves with the Internet.

I'm 35. I was an undergrad when email was just being rolled out to the entire student body (where it had previously been restricted to the computer science dept and those working in the labs). My entire social group communicated through email and a local newsgroup. When we graduated and moved across the country, we continued to use email since it was (a) what we were already used to, and (b) cheaper and easier than long-distance (no need to worry about timezones, among other things). Now we've all got blogs and read each others' LiveJournals, which is even easier than the broadcast emails we used to send.

I realize I have no control over who reads my blog (and use friendslocked LiveJournal posts for items of greater security) but I don't perceive it as exhibitionistic, nor do I have that perception of Making Light or most other blogs. It's just a mode of communication. I'm certainly aware of my readership as I'm writing, and adjust what I say accordingly. And while I sometimes joke that *my* life is an open blog, I try to protect the identities of people that I'm writing about.

I don't think telegraphs perceived as exhibitionistic, even though every telegraph operator along the route could read what was being sent.

#148 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:42 AM:

Michael J. "Orange Mike" Lowrey:

Thanks for bringing up the NWU. They represent over 5,000 freelance writers, many of whom blog. They help find technical writing positions for members. They provide quantitative analysis of freelance rates in various venues. They have been at the forefront in the laws and politics of online publication. And they provide legal defense funds and representation. Perhaps if Tessy joined the NWU and filed a Grievance? Yes, yes, I know that the default advice to her would be to suggest that she spearhead an effort to organize all nannies towards Unionization. But, still...

#149 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:48 AM:

That is to say: even though both participants were evidently educated 21st century female

And here we go again: the third participant, an educated 21st century male, fades out of the picture so we can rub our hands over a "hissy bitch-fit" between the female participants. (

s smbdy lrdy pt mr cncsly, t nvr fls t mz m hw nbl w cn ll b bt sss lk rc nd clss, bt gndr strtyps? N wy. W'r hppy t stck p fr th pr pprssd wrkr, bt Gd frbd w stp blthrng bt hw wmn ght t b hm wth thr bbs nd nly rch btchs hr nnns, r snggrng vr th d tht vry mddl-gd wmn s trrfd tht hbby s bngng th yngr hlp.

baby-boomers, and even later generations, who think of themselves as hip and Not "The Man" but who act just as much like a greedy bastard boss as any cliche from the past

cf., Whole Foods. (And I remember the union drive at Powell's. Michael Powell being shocked that his family of employees would betray him by batting eyes at a union, yuppies in Portland screeching because unions might mean higher prices, and how dare those underpaid workers want something that would raise prices!)

As it turns out, however, the number of people making the second assertion appears to be approximately zero

Whatever you say.

#150 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:08 PM:

[Further musings, with apologies to Robbie Burns, inspired by anticipated trip to Caledonia, by JDMacD, and by TNH and PNH pointing out how Olen's over-close quoting from Tessy's blog did more to expose them all to the World's Scorn than the blog alone could e'er have done:]

O wad some power the giftie gie us To see oursel's as Google sees us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us. And foolish notion; What airs in taste and text wad lea'e us, And ev'n devotion!

#151 ::: Joy Freeman ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:10 PM:

So, I've been wondering, is it out of respect for the privacy of the husband, that only one of the various blogs discussing this matter (that I've seen, anyway) has mentioned his last name (not Olen) and occupation and body of work? Is it just because it's at least possible that he's a perfectly innocent party in all this and so shouldn't be subjected to the spotlight shining on his wife and ex-nanny? Is it just not interesting? Or is it some sort of code that I don't know about and am somehow breaking by even mentioning it?

#152 ::: DaveL ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:18 PM:

Lis Riba wrote: I don't perceive it as exhibitionistic ... It's just a mode of communication.

I don't disagree at all. However, I think a lot of people (of all ages, but skewed towards those who are older or less familiar with the genre) would think of blogs as exhibitionistic. Those of us who are familiar with fanzines and such are probably pre-immunized to some degree from this reaction.

I wonder how much exposure to blogs (and particularly the personalzine style of blog) Ms. Olen had before this experience.

#153 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:20 PM:

it's at least possible that he's a perfectly innocent party in all this

As we lawyers say, anything's possible. Of course, Olen's piece says that he was ready to fire the nanny after Ms. Olen first showed him her blog, on the grounds he didn't like reading about the nanny's sexual inclinations. And he actually fired her.

I'm sorry to be a broken record on this, but it's so tiring to see some intelligent, thoughtful people catch issues of class and privilege and narcissism bt hpply wllw n sxsm.

#154 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:21 PM:

The Times does seem notably antagonistic toward blogging, but I think this article has a far older pedigree. It is one of those lifestyle articles about the trials of well-to-do wives/mothers in the city. It has its origin in the old chestnut "It's so hard to get good help." "I had to sack the maid, she was gossiping about us" is its descendent. But there are other variations--the one that sticks in my mind is the nearly annual "What's a Mother of a Child at an Exclusive Private School to do When Her Child Comes Home With Lice?" article. O! the handwringing, and the underlying sense that such things don't happen to Us (educated, monied people), only the underclass.

I'm imagining that Olen told her friends about Tessa's blog in that spirit ("Can you believe what is happening to me?") and that the Times editor saw this as part of that same continuum.

#155 ::: fidelio ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:25 PM:

Entirely aside from the main thread, but since more than one preson pursued this tangent--

Up until the reforms of the mid- and late-nineteenth century, the faculty at the Oxbridge colleges were not permitted to marry--prior to the Reformation, they were clerks in minor orders, and so expected to remain celibate (or at least, officially unmarried). The requirement that both senior and junior members of the colleges (that is, if I understand their labelling system, both faculty and students) remain single, lasted until the Victorian reformers, who realized they might get better faculty members if they were allowed to marry, as many good candidates packed up and went on to other things rather than remain on campus, embedded in some of the more unrealistic medieval customs of these institutions.

On another tangent--yes, attention given in the NYT to self-absorbed twits like Helaine Olen does indeed do no favors to the rest of the country's perception of the coasts. Like the rest of you, we'd like to believe we're nicer than that, and when someone like Helaine Olen is allowed to reveal herself so blatantly, we wonder, like the rest of you, if her editor actually approves of what she's saying.

And yet a third tangent--one of my neighbors is retired from a long career as yardman and general factotum; he once commented to my landlady and me: "These people in [posh local suburb], with all the new money; they don't know how to have hired help." There are, indeed, rules, and one of the very first is: These are people you are paying to do things; they are not animatronic creations. Expect them to act like people.

#156 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:35 PM:

H. L. Mencken on This Blogging Controversy

"If you point out that human progress, as I have defined it, involves the practical enslavement of two-thirds of the human race, my answer is that I can't help it. If you point out that a slave always runs the risk of being oppressed by a particularly cruel master, I answer that a master always runs the risk of having his brains knocked out by a particularly enterprising slave."
Men versus the Man: A Correspondence between Robert Rives La Monte, Socialist, and H.L. Mencken, Individualist [1910], p.32

"...an aristocracy must constantly justify its existence. In other words, there must be no artificial conversion of its present strength into perpetual rights. The way must be always open for the admission of strong men from the lower orders, and the way must be always open, too, for the expulsion of men whose strength fails."
Ibid., p.73

"...in the United States, alone among the great nations of history, there is a right way to think and a wrong way to think in everything...in the most trivial matters of everyday life."
In Defense of Women [1918, rev. 1922], pp.viii-ix, p.x

"Such banal striving is most prodigally on display in the United States, where superficiality amounts to a national disease."
Ibid., Part V, p.195

"Wherefore, Nietzsche concluded that the chief characteristic of a moral system was its tendency to perpetuate itself unchanged, and to destroy all who questioned it or denied it."
The Philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche [1913], p.76

#157 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:42 PM:

Husband: screenwriter Matt Roshkow. Married to a guy who shaves his head, no wonder Olen though she was hip.

(Husband's name via The 15-Minute Hipster.)

#158 ::: Lydy Nickerson ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:46 PM:

The woman who was loving if a bit strict toward the children became in our view short and impatient, slamming doors and bashing pans when my toddler wouldn't sleep and sighing heavily if asked to run an errand.

This has been nagging at me for a while. Tessy came with impeccable references, has worked as a nanny in other situations, so how could she possibly have thought that slamming doors and bashing pans when the toddler wouldn't sleep was a good idea? If there was one thing I wanted when I was a nanny (very, very briefly), it was for the kids to nap and give me just a little bit of quiet. I can't imagine a nanny, even one who hated her employers, sabatoging herself like that.

Sighing heavily when asked to run errands? It's not usually the nanny's job to run errands. Being sent off to pick up the milk or the dry cleaning or whatever is a reasonable annoyance. Presumably mother is at home, capable of doing her own errands, since sending the nanny away to do errands would require that the kids be watched -- or was she being expected to bundle up two small children and take them with? I'd've sighed, too. It would be better, I guess, to explain why you didn't think the request was appropriate (there's that word again!), but I hate confronting bosses, also.

#159 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:47 PM:

"though" should read "thought"

#160 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:48 PM:

Kathryn Cramer:

I think you've found the essential eye of this storm. Matt Roshkow set up this whole thing, as a brilliantly Machiavellian ploy and publicity stunt for his forthcoming feature film with ABC/Disney: Model Behavior II: Nanny-Dumping Lawyer & the Blogstoppers.

#161 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:52 PM:

sighing heavily if asked to run an errand.

Have no idea if these are related, but it reminded me of this quote from Tessy's response to the article:

[W]hen Ms. Olen was sick with a 24 hour stomache bug, she actually had me get things for her, further exposing me to illness. And even though she employed me to take care of her children, not as her caregiver, she thought it was fine to expose me to more illness as I brought her soup, tea, crackers, etc.

#162 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:53 PM:

Regarding what is and is not appropriate to post on personal blogs, isn't it a subjective issue?

My internal regulation is "don't write anything you wouldn't want your grandmother to read," which for me is pretty limiting, but other people might be quite willing to discuss sex and drugs and whatever with their grandmothers, and so would have far fewer restrictions than I do.

So I think that these internal regulations can cause problems for people when they read blogs. It's sometimes hard for me to step back and realize that my personal choices and standards are not universal. That just because I don't want to write about certain issues doesn't make writing about them wrong.

And I think that's the first mistake Ms Olen made. Which was forgivable. It was her mistakes that followed that were the problem.

#163 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:57 PM:

Tessy's written a final post and it sounds like she's closing up shop for a more anonymous blog and taking much of the existing content offline.

Two excerpts that seem relevant to this group:

[A]t this point in the conversation, there needs to be a radical shift. Instead of talking about the details of my really, silly and well, oddly boring weblog, and instead of continuing to deride the choice Ms. Olen made (that point is clear) we need to discuss the more important issues this debacle should make apparent. We need to discuss: Public Utility and Discourse about Female Sexuality, Intergenerational Sexism, Ethical Standards for National Newspapers, Prudent yet Honest writing, New Spaces of Discourse and their Impact on Privacy.
and
I have implored for all concerned parties to write the NYTIMES. It’s a national newspaper that is supposed to facilitate the flow of information and ideas. If you feel it has done a poor job, they need to know that.

#164 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:06 PM:

A newly minted criminal attorney with a blog has an interesting thing to say about Matt Roshkow which had also crossed my mind:

Mr. Roshkow, we'll remember, admitted to firing the nanny for pretextual reasons. "[Matt Roshkow] didn't bring up the blog with her and instead cited other factors for her dismissal." Someone should consider that before hiring him. If named in an employment discrimination suit, would anyone believe that his stated reasons for the termination were his real reasons? After that Times article, I doubt it.

And then there's this interesting bit from a Hollywood rumor blog in the 1990s, which suggests to me the context for the Olen/Roshkow misreading of Tess's posts:

Anorexic Cannibal Sluts Attack in "MUNCHIES"

November 11th, 1998

Trust us. A premise as fucked up as the new MGM property "MUNCHIES" simply has to be real. Reportedly picked up as a script from Matt Roshkow (moo) and David Kukoff, MUNCHIES details the exploits of a group of four high school girls who as are unpopular as they are anorexic. Dubbed "the stick chicks" by their high school oppressors, the girls go off to a diet clinic for "rehabilitation". Upon returning, the girls are healthy, happy, and HUNGRY FOR HUMAN FLESH. That's right, they're now teenage cannibals out to take a bite out of crime...or cheerleader ass. Apparently, this script was a relatively hot commodity in filmland- as several studios dueled for the rights. MGM won after utilizing a six hit dragon punch combo on the competition, and expects to put MUNCHIES in front of the camera sometime in the first quarter 1999. Sounds absolutely ridiculous, but if the gore is done tastelessly (as it should be) it could be a great bad movie to watch while stoned and/or constipated.

Now there's class for you!

#165 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:09 PM:

Mythago: I don't fully exonerate Olen's husband, but neither can I find his fault in this clash; he seems to be no more than a supporting character in the dramatic goings-on between Olen and Tessy. I don't, for a moment, believe that Tessy merely offhandedly proffered her blog; I think Olen wanted to "befriend" the help, break down the employer-employee wall she sensed. I'm not saying Olen -pried- it out of her, or anything, but I truly believe she asked for it, or at least expressed much interest when it came up in conversation.

I pick up on Olen's shirking of blame in the matter, as well; "My husband let her go the following Monday"-- yes, this can be read as "My husband fired her," but it can *also* be interpreted as "My husband did the firing." I highly doubt Olen brought her child to Songs for Aardvarks, only to return home to find the hired help summarily dismissed. She had rejected her husband's desire to fire the nanny before; it doesn't seem the sort of decision one spouse would both make and act upon without discussion with the other. Especially in the instance that it hadn't before.

Also note the sentence before: "She had finally crossed my threshold of tolerance."

So it's entirely coincidental convenience, then, that her husband decides to let the nanny go the following Monday (also, I can't find the final offending post in question, but how many days were in between? Olen says "the following Monday," which leads me to believe it was several days before then. And Olen's husband didn't discuss his intention to fire the nanny in the meantime? Dubious)?

I'm not exonerating her husband; he is obviously a liar, as he doesn't mention the blog as a reason for Tessy's dismissal but then goes on to say he didn't want to find himself a character online. The way Olen tells it, however, her husband was a minor character in the overall story, and the true conflict and resolution occurred between the two women. He plays a bit part, and I don't think he served as the deus ex machina, either (i.e., he resolved the conflict between the two women by firing Tessy. There's more of the story we're not getting right there, I'd stake a pen on it).

I would, however, like to place blame where it is due, and I think it falls solely on Olen's shoulders. It's not a cat fight; this is one overpaid woman's educatedly hysterical rant against an employee who deserved a boss with some sense of decency and integrity. The way Olen writes of Tessy ("semi-promiscuous couplings," "tales of too much drinking," the matter-of-fact, fairly offhanded mention of Tessy's abortion) indicates a greater character flaws than there is really space to discuss.

Olen's husband is not entirely without fault, no, but that doesn't change the fact that Olen was a bitch, start to finish. Or that Tessy was innocent through the proceedings. Or that the New York Times should never have published such a piece of worthless drivel that lacks any journalistic merit whatever.

#166 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:10 PM:

"One may no more live in the world without picking up the moral prejudices of the world than one will be able to go to hell without perspiring."

H. L. Mencken, Prejudices: Second Series [1920]: "Scientific Examination of a Popular Virtue", p.174

"The formula of the argument is simple and familiar: to dispose of a problem all that is necessary is to deny that it exists."

Ibid.: "The Divine Afflatus", p.155

"...there is always a well-known solution to every human problem - neat, plausible, and wrong."

"No article of faith is proof against the disintegrating effects of increasing information; one might almost describe the acquirement of knowledge as a process of disillusion."

Mencken's 97-page preface to The American Credo: A Contribution toward the Interpretation of the National Mind [1920] by George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken, p.158

#167 ::: Andrew Gray ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 01:52 PM:

fidelio: Thanks. Mid-to-late c19th would also mean the opening of the newer English universities, which would presumably also mean they suddenly had much more competition for keeping academics.

#168 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 02:35 PM:

Mythago writes:

"As somebody already put more concisely, it never fails to amaze me how noble we can all be about issues like race and class, but gender stereotypes? No way."

Really? "All" of us? Really "no way"?

It seems to me discussion of this angle has hardly been absent from this conversation. I'm sure we could use more such discussion. But I take exception to the suggestion that it's been absent, or that anyone's been trying to shut it down.

#169 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:05 PM:

It seems to me that the downplaying of the husband's role is part of the general "childcare belongs to women" attitude from which the human race has not yet extricated itself.

The description of the household which he shares with Ms. Olen is indeed braodly painted as a man-in-the-background, mom-deals-with-nanny-except-for-firing-her one.

This aspect of the story is profoundly troubling to me - because, as a born-in-the-sixties, had-kids-in-the-nineties sort of idealist, I had always planned to be equal partners with my partner(s). It's an expectation that social realities have not quite caught up with (although in my own household, the partner is indeed a full partner in childcare).

All this speaks to the issues raised in Perfect Madness, by Judith Warner, a few months back. Olen and her nanny (not her husband's nanny... ...he was only the hatchet man, not the employer, it seems) are both caught up in a culture that undervalues childcare, childraising. For better or for worse, they're scrambling up from the "your work is without value" bottom of our societal heap.

It doesn't have to be that way, but in the US it has tended to.

What a different world, if instead of childcare being a matter of domestic service, it were a matter of professional, well-supported organizations? Creches can be horrid - but at their best, they can be truly wonderful. Creches can be well-staffed, well-organized, and nurturing. For kids, the alternatives are being their parents' probelm to dispose of or people their parents look forward to seeing at the end of the day, which is healthier? And which permits parents to work (both parents, not just a designated wage-earner)?

One of the comments made about Islamic countries is that they're squandering half of their workforce. It seems to me that we're doing much the same here by failing to provide the support that is needed to enable moms to work. (WIth one notable exception - the military has STELLAR childcare. Perhaps we can turn some of the defense budget to expanding that?)

#170 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:09 PM:

PunkRockHockeyMom: Aside from that one turn of phrase, Daniel does have a point. If he reforms his language, it'll still be a point.

Mythago, when Jim Macdonald is being salacious, everybody knows it. When he says he's not, he's not.

It doesn't take a prurient turn of mind, and an automatic assumption that any fight involving women must be about sex, to see that sex is already in play here. Helaine Olen's opening paragraph is practically lewd, sex is never far from her mind, and she refers to the sexual doings of her previous nannies while never mentioning any way it connects with their work.

Do you think Olen wasn't aware that the personal credibility of her former nanny -- 26, single, and evidently attractive -- would be severely undercut if she were depicted as having a lurid sex life? Men aren't the only ones who use these stereotypes as weapons. I don't believe for a moment that Olen wasn't aware that her smear would have that effect. No intelligent woman who isn't borderline autistic is going to miss that one. She was shooting to kill, when (by her own description) there was no reason to be shooting at all.

Jims Macdonald and Flannery, thank you very much for working out the timeline. The nanny's remarks about her employers are not what you'd imagine if you only read Olen's description. And if you stumbled across the weblog, with no other context, you'd never be able to tell who she's talking about.

What I find far more remarkable is Olen's requiring her nanny to work twelve days without a break to "make up" for being ill. There's something wrong with that. I'm not sure I can quite put my finger on it yet -- something about weekday and weekend schedules.

The other thing that's odd about that is that people who do childcare are bound to get sick. Children are busy little disease vectors, and their caretakers will inevitably be exposed. Since the only way to avoid falling ill would be to refuse to go near one's charges anytime they're actively sick or have been exposed to infection, illness can't be a punishable fault.

Mary Root, Michael Lowry: There's always been a continuum of publishing venues, great to small. Blogging doesn't threaten PSFs, or anyway not much. However, the blogging universe is unsettling, maybe even something of a threat, if you're a mass-media journalist.

Lydy: An experienced nanny with impeccable references who's slamming cupboard doors, and sighing heavily at her employer's requests, is undoubtedly irritated; but I very much doubt the irritation is aimed at the children.

#171 ::: Lucy Kemnitzer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:24 PM:

Teresa, what's wrong with requiring a person to work twelve days without a break is that it's illegal, unsafe, and immoral.

I'd like to look at this from a childcare perspective (having been a childcare worker for a long time).

Presumably she's hired a nanny because she thinks that she can get better childcare that way than to entrust them to a family day care home or to a day care center (which is not a safe assumption: the conditions that create good childcare, like the conditions that create bad child care, are present in each of these situations). If she then requires her nanny to work twelve days without a break (not to mentionthat the nanny is recovering from illness), she's undermining the quality of the child care. Particularly if she's then distracting her nanny from child care by asking her to do things that are not childcare related.

It's just more self-absorption on her part. She's not dealing with the needs of her children. She's dealing with her own little head trips.

#172 ::: Rivka ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:26 PM:

Mythago, for heaven's sake. Maybe people aren't talking much about Roshkow's role in all of this because he hasn't written anything about his own opinions and feelings. We have Olen's published account and Tessy's published account, which are dramatically at odds with each other. They've both written at length about their actions and feelings. Couldn't that be why people are, you know, discussing their actions and feelings? Does it really have to be sexism?

Olen puts opinions in Roshkow's mouth, but she also portrays Tessy's weblog as a hedonistic slutfest. She might be right about his feelings or she might not, but it doesn't seem unreasonable that people are declining to speculate.

#173 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:40 PM:

Shunra said: "It seems to me that the downplaying of the husband's role is part of the general "childcare belongs to women" attitude from which the human race has not yet extricated itself."

If anyone has downplayed the role of Olen's husband, it's been Olen herself.

#174 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:44 PM:

Regarding the husband, 2 points:

His narrative was somewhat compromised until recently, by the lack of a name. We've got one now -- Matt Roshkow -- so have at him.

Secondly, the NYT piece is published under his wife's name, not his. If it had been published under his byline, you can be sure that there would have been considerable discussion of his ideas about his babysitter in the context of his Mary-Kate and Ashley writing credits and his "Clueless'' meets "Night of the Living Dead'' screenplay sale.

Fresh red meat as his screenplays may be for this discussion, the fact remains that the NYT piece was written by his wife.

#175 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 03:47 PM:

It seems to me that the downplaying of the husband's role is part of the general "childcare belongs to women" attitude from which the human race has not yet extricated itself.

Shunra, your comments remind me of the press coverage of Louise Woodward. She was a British au pair working for a family where both parents were doctors, and their infant died under her care. Without getting into the details of that case, I remember hearing lots of questions why the mother couldn't afford to work at home in such a wealthy family, and a lot of talk of the mother's role, but very little about the father. And, again, both of them were MDs.

It might make an interesting thought experiment to imagine a man writing Olen's essay, talking about his nanny and his wife. We'd still be discussing the sexism of making a big deal over the nanny's sex life. I think there would still be a lot of talk of whether the wife was jealous.

#176 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:26 PM:

Here's an interesting piece from New York Magazine by a serial nanny-firer. What I find most notable is that one of the nannies was fired for taking notes:

It turned out that Alicia also had an obsession. She took notes. Detailed, eerie notes, which she jotted down in school exercise books. She would present them to us upon our return and await our comments. A typical entry might read: “8:29 p.m., the baby is crying; 8:31 p.m., the baby is still crying; 8:32 p.m., I comfort the baby by stroking him; 8:34 p.m., I walk with the baby in his bedroom; 8:37 p.m., I put the baby down; 8:38 p.m., the baby is still crying.” The entire evening would be recorded, including the precise times she switched on the television, used her cell phone, ate pizza.

“You know what freaks me out about this?” remarked Peter, as we mulled it over one evening, having told her several times that such detailed notes weren’t necessary. “They’re like coroner’s notes, the sort you go back over to establish cause of death.” He paused: “It feels like they’re written to be read out in court.”

My suspicion is that this nanny had worked formerly for someone who wanted written reports at the end of the day to find out what she'd missed. (These are not uncommon in fullday childcare centers.)

#177 ::: Chryss ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:30 PM:

I had an odd take on this, when I first read the article and the blog rejoinder (besides the shared "OMG-what-a-book-this-would-be!").

I kept getting the feeling that this was a bit of, for lack of a better term, generational jealousy. Olen & Tess are chummy & start to blur the whole "employer/employee" thing. Tess mentions she has a blog. Olen starts reading avidly, she's heard all about this blogging stuff and finally knows someone who's doing one!

Tess's blog is funny and pretty sharp. Olen forwards bits to her husband and friends.

Then (and granted this is just speculation on my part, but what the hell), "everyone" starts talking about blogs, and how they're the up and coming thing, and how it's a blow to traditional journalism blah-de-blah-blah. Olen looks at Tess's blog a little more critically. "Is this really a harmless online diary, or a threat to my future well-being as a journalist?"

Now (and again, I'm just idly wondering here) let us suppose that Olen has to step a little more firmly into "employer" role for a second. Maybe just a reminder about house rules/routines/etc. Or, Olen wants Tess to take on more responsibility that Tess doesn't feel should be hers (the whole debate about Olen's illness). Both parties are uncomfortable with this & no one clears the air.

Things start to fester. I see this all the time in office situations (not blogging but festering, sorry); why couldn't it happen in a home childcare situation? Instead of constantly putting warnings in a personnel file/keeping an employee log we have obsessive monitoring of the employee's blog.

And Tess gets comments on her blog. People who acknowledge how sharp and funny Tess is. People...who might side with Tess in any coming conflagration.

No, no, no. Better to just be done with the situation. Be proactive! Time for Tess to move on.

And then, just to strike a blow against bloggers etc., publish in the NYTimes. Try to get your stuff published there! HA!

I don't necessarily see this as a gender issue--I see this as a workers issue. How much does your employer get to control your personal life?

I'll stop now as this post is too damn long as it is...

#178 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:30 PM:

Lis,

I've been doing that thought exercise - trying to imagine a man treating household help in the way that Olen did.

At about the point where I imagine the man asking the nanny to serve him tea in bed when he's undressed, I start seeing sexual harassment. Could it have been perceived that way by a young, bisexual nanny? Was it just plain harassment?

Was it part of the job?

#179 ::: julia ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:41 PM:

Lis, what struck me about that wasn't so much that exposing her nanny to her germs was inappropriate (although certainly I think it was). What struck me about it was that by exposing her nanny, she was blowing the kids' opportunity to spend time with an uninfected caregiver.

I've had tummy bugs. Even really bad ones. I think I could make the sacrifice of heating up my own can of soup to lower the risk of my daughter coming down with one.

As a matter of fact, I have.

Miss Manners would have a field day with this story. Not only is the caregiver required to provide services outside the scope of her responsibilities (which are very imperfectly defined), she's required to do it even if it negatively affects the care of the children.

I suspect that if Ms. Olen, whose work for hire is far more similar to Tessa's than she cares to admit, were told that she had to go to Starbucks to get coffee for the office while she was waiting for the editors to get back to her with comments she would be really, really unhappy about it.

I also suspect that this is not the sort of demand she makes of the doorman or the guy who steamcleans the carpets.

#180 ::: denise ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 04:57 PM:


I wonder if we are moving or need to move to a new sort of "identity." Previous assumptions of privacy are eroding, anyone can do credit checks and get all sorts of background, intimate information is widely avasilible and there is certainly a sort (which to varying degrees) is willing or compelled to easily reveal things that weren't a part of our typical perceptions. Plus lots more willing to do it to others.

Noting the "varying degrees" I think the tendency is liberating, almost all of us are flawed human beings with some "interesting" behaviors and notions. This is cut out of social perspectives.

Yet we know for example many employees have resentments about their jobs, the managers know it too if they look, in some cases being upfront makes things go better. There really are social uses for covering things up and acting out roles, politeness can be wonderful etc. etc. etc. but there are also lots of people who can deal to varying degrees with "this is who you are," it's not quite picture perfect and would be willing to say "this is who I am and what I think" to varying degrees if they aren't goping to be killed by judgement schemes based on imaginery people.

I am all too aware of the costs imposed by some games of "honesty" etc. but I do kind of think we should be moving towards public beings that expose us more fully, that we may have no choice, that in judginmg people we might have to move towards the context of real people not standards that mantain fictions.

#181 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:08 PM:

Teresa: I admit that the phrasing in Daniel's comment may have blinded me to any actual intended point. I reread, and came to two conclusions:

First, it's not just the one turn of phrase. It's the whole comment. Upon re-reading, it still strikes me as condescending and yicky with gender and class stereotyping. And I really, really don't like the phrase "hissy bitch-fit."

Second, however, I do see a point, although it might not be the one Daniel intended to make. If Daniel's point was similar to yours, here--

Do you think Olen wasn't aware that the personal credibility of her former nanny -- 26, single, and evidently attractive -- would be severely undercut if she were depicted as having a lurid sex life? Men aren't the only ones who use these stereotypes as weapons. I don't believe for a moment that Olen wasn't aware that her smear would have that effect. No intelligent woman who isn't borderline autistic is going to miss that one. She was shooting to kill, when (by her own description) there was no reason to be shooting at all.

--then, as applies to Olen's behavior, I agree wholeheartedly. Olen is, in my view, looking to scratch Tess's eyes out. Anyone see "Mean Girls"?

Daniel, I certainly don't mean to put words in your mouth. If my re-reading is a mis-reading, please disabuse me.

#182 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:16 PM:

"The human race, to which so many of my readers belong, has been playing at children's games from the beginning, and will probably do it till the end, which is a nuisance for the few people who grow up."

-- First line of G. K. Chesterton's first novel, The Napoleon of Notting Hill.

#183 ::: punkrockhockeymom ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:20 PM:

Jonathan! I love that quote. I'm hanging it on my office door.

#184 ::: Shunra ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:25 PM:

JVP, have you explained the everlasting success of Peter Pan, divorce courts, and the television industry with a single quote?

#185 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:54 PM:

Lucy: Thank you. I haven't done childcare, but the setup felt wrong to me. Something about scheduling is still tapping at my hindbrain.

punkrockhockeymom, I don't know whether I've read Daniel correctly. I hope I have. I'll wait to see his answer.

And yeah, Olen was out for blood when she wrote that. It's creepy. All accounts should have been settled when she fired the nanny.

#186 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 05:59 PM:

I think the "nanny" will soon disappear. After this, the rich can no longer trust having human nannies in their homes. Every au pair will now be regarded as a potential terrorist subversive.

I can well imagine future upper-class couples having Japanese-made robots -- with state-of-the-art monitoring technology -- who bring up and look after their children.

What, you think it would be inhuman to let machines raise kids? Trust me: if Helaine Olen thinks nothing of letting her nannny work 12-day shifts, her social stratum will embrace the robo-nanny. Servants who don't have feelings, identity or rights!

#187 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 06:07 PM:

All accounts should have been settled when she fired the nanny.

Pure speculation, but I wonder how the kids are doing, whether they miss the nanny at all.

When my last job ended, I wasn't able to really let go until I finally got all my personal belongings back (something they misled me about). Once that matter was settled, I never looked back.

So that makes me wonder whether Olen might have some unresolved issues to be dredging this up so many months later. (Unless it's just been sitting on the editors' desk all this time)

#188 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 06:16 PM:

If Olen has a current nanny, I wonder what she makes of all this?

#189 ::: Stefan Jones ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 06:33 PM:

"I can well imagine future upper-class couples having Japanese-made robots."

Of course, you'd have to install a firewall in their brains' WiFi lobe to keep them from 24/7 blogging.

I bought a introduction-to-kindergarten book for a friend's daughter that featured, as the teacher, a sapient border collie.

That solution might work for nannies, at least until the kids figure out that their governess can be kept distracted with a tennis ball.

("Stop throwing that you damn little brats . . . aaaaaarrghhh, I'll be right back. Woof! Woof woof woof!")

#190 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 09:21 PM:

That's one version of the future of childcare. Another version is the use of slave labor. This one's already happening, all over the world.

Children sold into slavery in Thailand -- they're called "child domestic workers" -- work eighteen-hour days doing childcare and housework for the rich. Housemaids in Singapore -- they're called "foreign domestic workers" -- are at the mercy of their employers. They have scant recourse if they're treated illegally, and none if they're treated unethically. They work grueling hours, and are badly treated. 93% of the live-in caregivers in Canada are Filipinas -- it's called the "Live-In Caregiver Program" -- who are exploited, harassed, abused, intimidated, and underpaid:

Juliet takes care of two children, prepares and cooks food for a family of four, does the laundry and dishwashing, cleans the house, mows the lawn, does the car wash and shovels snow during winter. She is on call 24 hours a day. She has no relatives in Canada and sends half of her $600 a month salary home to her siblings and parents in the Philippines.

Her employer works as a director of a big advertising agency in Toronto; employer’s wife is a corporate executive. On weekends, her employer lends her to a next of kin to help with the laundry and watch two kids.

Yet Juliet, 26, is a college graduate from the Philippines. Well-mannered and coming from very religious parents, she is one among those trapped by unforeseen circumstances into Canada’s acronym for modern-day slavery – The Live-in Caregiver Program (LCP).

Juliet was duped into paying US$5,000 by an unregulated recruitment agency. After arriving in Toronto, she learned from the placement agency that the man who was going to hire her was fictitious and that she has to look for an employer herself. With her Middle East work savings almost gone and nobody to turn to for support, she accepted a job offer from her present employer. Her dream of a better life in Canada has, thus, turned into a nightmare.

Canada refuses to sign the United Nations Convention on the Protection of the Rights and Welfare of all Migrant Workers and their Families.

The Parliamentary Assembly of the EU has documented widespread patterns of slavery in Europe, including au pairs and mail-order brides who find themselves instead forced into full-time unpaid hard labor on threat of mistreatment or deportation, and outright slavery among children imported from Africa to work as servants. It's estimated there may be as many as 3,000 household slaves in Paris alone.

When I was growing up, it was common for girls from Mexico to come up over the border to work as live-in domestic servants in exchange for room, board, and a small weekly stipend. No way do they make minimum wage. No way do they get asked for their green cards, either.

I've gotten the strong impression that some of my friends in NYC don't ask for green cards either. I've heard it's a common problem with female politicians: it can be very hard to avoid hiring illegals, when your previous nanny just quits on no notice and you can neither stay home, nor bring your children with you to the office.

(Ever wonder why genteel Southern womenfolk were such hardline hold-outs as the Civil War drew to a close?)

Getting hard-assed about immigration doesn't keep women from wanting domestic help. It does make it easier for them to put the thumbscrews on the help they hire.

Robots would have to be pretty cheap to beat that.

#191 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:38 PM:

Apologies for having misidentified the "last straw" post--I think I got distracted by a comment on the Plath-like poem that said something like, "Do you realize this is the post that got you fired?" Olen does make much of it in her article, but perhaps her reaction to the poem was only a secondary character acting in concert with her reaction to the sterilization comment.

Major props to James D. Macdonald for digging up the timeline. Somewhere, here or elsewhere, I recall you saying that your flamewar archetype is the Archivist. Yeah, I think it just might be.

#192 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:45 PM:

H. L. Mencken Continues on L'Affaire Blogue

"...the chronic human incapacity for accurate self-analysis."
From Mencken's 97-page preface to The American Credo: A Contribution toward the Interpretation of the National Mind [1920] by George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken, p.17

"...one is always most bitter, not toward the author of one's wrongs, but toward the victim of one's wrongs."
Ibid., p.58

"...the obvious fact that human beings are not naturally humane - that they take a keen delight in cruelty whenever it seems to be safe."
"Editorials" in the American Mercury, Feb 30, p.153

"But the whole thing, after all, may be put very simply. I believe it is better to tell the truth than to lie. I believe that it is better to be free than to be a slave. And I believe that it is better to know than to be ignorant."
Ibid., pp.192-3

"All mammals, in truth, seem to have an inborn tendency to identify causation with volition. They are naturally pugnacious, and life to them consists largely of a search for something or someone to blame it on."
Treatise on the Gods [1930, 2nd. ed., 1946], p.13

#193 ::: jude ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:48 PM:

tessy mass emailed her blog to people. she told olen to read it. then complained about the childrens 'incessant whining.' i find it hard to feel sorry for her.

olen was kinder to tessy than tessy was to her room mate tara.

#194 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 10:53 PM:

Who are you, Jude? What's your interest, that you've started a weblog called IDON'TFEELSORRYFORTHENANNY? I have a poor opinion of anonymous attacks.

#195 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 11:30 PM:

The roommate Tara, of course!

#196 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:42 AM:

Something about scheduling is still tapping at my hindbrain.

I can't say what's tapping at yours, but what's banging on mine is that this was supposed to be a part-time job ("I work four days a week so I can do my other work."). I'm assuming an hourly wage: make-up time has no place in that scenario. One doesn't make up time, one is simply not paid for time not worked.

#197 ::: Mez ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 03:35 AM:

Very many Filipena workers in the Middle East. Possibly males in menial jobs too. The economy is very dependent on money repatriated from the overseas workers - throughout much of the world. Hence the vulnerability of the Philippines to hostage-taking in Iraq.

#198 ::: A.R.Yngve ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 04:10 AM:

Slavery. It never really went away.

#199 ::: Gluon ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:26 AM:

One doesn't make up time, one is simply not paid for time not worked.

If one is scraping by on part-time wages and sinking vast amounts of money into tuition and books, and what little is left over into rent and utilities and gas, one makes up the hours, or lives on air and water for a couple of weeks. Can't not go to work or school, and can't avoid the rent.

#200 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:43 AM:

On sick days: When my kids were little they went to a family caregiver (a mom who stayed at home and wanted to earn extra), then later to a preschool/daycare then school/aftercare. If my kids are sick I have to keep them home and take care of them, there is no other option. That means I have to hoard my sick days, so if I am sick I usually go to work anyway so I don't waste my sick days.
It must be quite nice to have someone who will take care of my sick kids and even take care of a sick me. Maybe my mom would do it, if she were still alive.

#201 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:05 AM:

Slaves -- why own when it's cheaper to rent? Bleh.
It's not like there's many options for Filipinos workers to earn a living in the Philippines.
Ang gipit
Kahit sa patalim
Kakapit
(The desperate will cling to the blade's edge)

#202 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:10 AM:

Heck, Nicole, if you want archivist-style flaming, I've got more.

Let's look at that "last straw" material.

First, let's look at the husband: What do we know about him?

From Tessy, nothing. Zero point zip. You couldn't prove from her blog that Olen was married.

From Helaine, the wife:

My husband thought her writing precociously talented but wanted to fire her nonetheless. "This is inappropriate," he said. "We don't need to know that Jennifer Ehle makes her hot."

Yet my awareness of this prior life and my knowledge that I'd outgrown it didn't spare me from feelings of intense doubt about my current life, times when I was convinced I'd made the wrong choices, days when my husband and I would spend hours tearing into each other over who should clean the tub after a child mistook it for the potty.

Looking at archived entries one afternoon, I read her reactions to an argument my husband and I had when she was in the house.

Mortified into silence, I didn't tell my husband about the post.

MY husband let her go the following Monday while my younger son and I were attending a Music for Aardvarks class. Even though she had posted entries about how discontented she was with our house and children and must have known there was a pretty good chance I'd read them, she appeared shocked. My husband didn't bring up the blog with her and instead cited other factors for her dismissal. He did not, he told me, care to find himself a character online.

So, per Helaine, we know that Mr. Olen frequently argued with his wife (they "tore into" one another for hours) -- two of the four mentions of him involve arguing with him. We know that he'd read Tessy's blog.

Now watch this next bit:

Mortified into silence, I didn't tell my husband about the post. Nor could I tell her how disturbed the situation was becoming. I was beginning to realize either her employment or the blog would have to come to an end.

A few days later her anger boiled over. "I am having the type of workweek that makes me think being an evil corporate lawyer would be O.K.," she wrote. "Seriously. Contemplated sterilizing myself yesterday."

Whatever her reasons, whatever her frustrations, this was unacceptable. She had finally crossed my threshold of tolerance.


When did Helaine claim she read that post that had the unnamed husband and wife arguing? A few days before the "type of workweek" entry. That "workweek" entry was made on February 9th. "A few days" before would be what -- the 5th of February? Something like that?

When was the post about the Plath poetry reading made? On November 30th. We know that Ms. Olen started reading the blog on or about December 13, barely two weeks later. We know that after that she'd been reading the blog avidly, daily.

At the time she started reading the blog, there would have been only six or so posts in December. Around 4,000 words. Shorter than the first chapter of the current Harry Potter novel. She could have read all of it aloud in under fifteen minutes.

To have seen more, she'd have had to have gone to the archives.

Did she?

Perhaps not, even when she claimed she was reading "almost obsessively." But her husband certainly did read those archives the very first day. To have seen the remark about Jennifer Ehle he would have to already have scrolled past that post. The post about Ehle was in the same archive, where this "ghastly" post is the very top of the page.

Even if Helaine didn't see it -- when the blog she was recommending to all her friends consisted of just six entries and two archives -- her husband must have. Why did he want to fire the nanny? Not "She's talking about our arguments in public," but "Jennifer Ehle makes her hot."

I think it's reasonable that Helaine saw that post at the same time her husband did, seven weeks earlier than she claimed. Yet she wants us to believe that up until early February she somehow didn't see "three ghastly pages" that are the very first thing you see when you look back.

I find that hard to believe.

Another timeline problem: Helaine writes:

"The blog had brought odd similarities to the fore.... we had enough in common ... I, too, had an abortion back then....

When our nanny asked permission to take her laptop to work so she could work on her graduate school applications while the baby napped, I said yes."

The permission to take the laptop to work was given in the second part of December.

The post about the abortion wasn't made until over a month later -- February 4th -- at or about the time when Ms. Olen claimed to have found the "fighting" post, ten days before Tessy was due to be fired.

I wonder what post it was that Ms. Olen read that day that so upset her.

#203 ::: xeger ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:35 AM:

TNH commented:
93% of the live-in caregivers in Canada are Filipinas -- it's called the "Live-In Caregiver Program" -- who are exploited, harassed, abused, intimidated, and underpaid:

....

Juliet was duped into paying US$5,000 by an unregulated recruitment agency. After arriving in Toronto, she learned from the placement agency that the man who was going to hire her was fictitious and that she has to look for an employer herself.

While I'm well aware that the live-in caregiver program is abused (and from both sides of the equation, never mind the middleman), I'd like to point out that this situation starts with the young woman being duped by an unscrupulous and unregistered agency.

There's some information about the Live-In Caregiver Program here. As written, the provisions are reasonably sane - and are also a way for somebody who likely wouldn't qualify for immigration otherwise to obtain permanant resident status [0].

It's a nasty catch-22 though - you can't have your employeer prosecuted unless you're willing to go to the authorities - but many of the people in the program are too worried about the authorities to go and talk to them.

"Illegals" are another case entirely, and completely unlikely to go to the authorities - which is a hard problem.

[0] 2 years under the LCP

#204 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:43 AM:

Be careful of making too much out of the archives. On Monday, Tessy wrote:

In the future, this site will contain favorite entries. But it will be edited and selected based on my tastes. So, if there is stuff you need in the archives- get it now. The full archives will not be available for much longer.
There's no timeframe for when she's doing this editing, or if by now it's already happened. So unless you made a backup earlier in the week, Olen may have been reacting to entries that are no longer present.

[Just checking that one page you linked, I didn't see any differences between the current and Google cache, but that may not be true across the board. The volatility of the internet can be very frustrating for archivists...]

#205 ::: pericat ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:53 AM:

If one is scraping by on part-time wages

That's why the worker goes for extra time, if it's on offer, and other commitments don't prevent. I'm clueless on why Olen would insist Tessy 'make up' the time, as if it were something Tessy owed her.

More, it looks like Tessy had other commitments during the non-Olen portion of her workweek and wasn't keen to work the extra days, that Olen presented them as a condition for continued employment, and fired Tessy shortly afterward anyway.

#206 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 12:38 PM:

Be careful of making too much out of the archives. On Monday, Tessy wrote:

I'm working from my copy made on Sunday night. It matches the Google cache. The complete text of that blog is short. No problem reading it end-to-end in an single evening.

#207 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 01:26 PM:

I think jude is harmless enough. There is a lot in the nanny discussion to push all kinds of buttons. She's had her buttons pushed a little differently than some others. Fair enough.

(And yes, I read what she said about me. She's upset.)

#208 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:27 PM:

Actually, for the 2 outraged readers who come here via jude's blog. I think I should clarify the context of my naming of Olen's hubsand, Matt Roshkow.

First of all, if you read the thread, what I was instigating against Roshkow was the barrage of blistering feminist criticism that some commenters seem to think he deserves. I think he would survive such an experience relatively unscathed.

Secondly, Olen quotes this anonymous source in the NYT and accuses him of firing the nanny under false pretenses. I merely give him a name.

Thirdly, Olen is not secretly married and her husband is, in fact, at least a minor public figure. I regard mtyself as a public figure and I'm sure that Olen, Roshkow, & I could all agree that a writer with screen credits is a much more important public figure than I am. Olen and Roshkow may even feel, given his Hollywood credits, that they are minor celebrities.

Fouth, if one were to bring feminist criticism to bear on the role of the husband, it seems to me that his portrayal of women in his work has some relevance.

#209 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:37 PM:

Jude may or may not be harmless, but so far I don't find her especially likeable or credible.

#210 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 02:55 PM:

That's funny: because of Law (who's also in the news for nanny-issues this week), the Obscure, and Saint, I'd been thinking of Jude as a boy.

What I found especially dislikeable about the don'tfeelsorryforthenanny blog was the opening paragraph, with Jude's assertion that (s)he only reads "left wing" bloggers, and the comment about the "borg brain," which made me wonder

a) what relevance this has to "left wing" anything, and

b) why read only read "left wing" bloggers with a "borg brain?" To me, those two phrases, at least, connote general derision, in which case the response is simple: don't read the damned blog.

Which, funnily enough, is the same thing I'd say to Olen. Twat.

#211 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 03:45 PM:

Speaking of Jude Law's nanny issues, this is really shallow of me, but heh, can't say I blame her. Talk about hard to resist ... :)

#212 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 04:06 PM:

Yes, that's very shallow of you.

#213 ::: mayakda ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 04:14 PM:

sorry *hangs head in shame*
;P

#214 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:04 PM:

I went and looked up Matt Roshkow in the Internet Movie Database. Mind you, the IMDb is far less reliable about writers and crew than it is about actors and directors. You can have credits on movies but not be listed there. However, from what I can see, Matt Roshkow's movie and television career is of recent vintage, and he specializes in truly dumb screenplays.

In chronological order:

1998: Teleplay, Mr. Headmistress, originally on The Wonderful World of Disney. Guy recently out of prison masquerades as headmistress of a posh girls' school to escape Mafia guys who want to collect on a debt he owes them: Sister Act meets Old Mother Riley, Headmistress meets Some Like It Hot. Roshkow is listed as the third of three writers, below Scott Davis Jones and David Kukoff.

1999: H-E-Double Hockey Sticks, made for the Disney Channel. An apprentice demon is sent to tempt a young hockey player who wants to be the youngest man to ever win the Stanley Cup. I'd say this was a ripoff of Damn Yankees adapted for hockey, only it's actually a 1955 opera called Griffelkin adapted for hockey. It was reviewed in the New York Times. Roshkow is listed as the third of four writers, below David Kukoff and Alastair Reil, but above Lukas Foss, who wrote the opera.

1999: Switching Goals, Disney. Vehicle for the Olsen twins. One's a tomboy, one isn't. They both play hockey, one willingly. They switch places. Trouble ensues. Review. Other review. Roshkow is listed as second of two writers, after David Kukoff.

2000: Model Behavior, Disney. The Prince and the Pauper meets The Swan. A shy girl who wants more glamour and a successful model who wants more freedom discover they look alike. They switch places. Trouble ensues. Roshkow is listed as the third of three writers, after David Kukoff for the teleplay and Michael Levine for the book.

2001: Associate Producer, Spring Break Lawyer, MTV Films. A would-be lawyer who's just been kicked out of law school heads down to Ft. Lauderdale for spring break to sell legal services to vacationing students who've run afoul of the law. Review quoted on Rotten Tomatoes: "Like a reject batch of dailies from a Revenge of the Nerds sequel, MTV Film’s Spring Break Lawyer is an impertinent brain-numbing comedy complete with the bikini-clad females, wet t-shirt competitions and drunken frat parties. -- Clint Morris, MOVIEHOLE"

2005: High School Confidential, Disney, due to be released August 21. By report, smart girl moves to clique-ridden suburban school, starts newsrag exposing foibles of the school's most popular students. Trouble ensues. Roshkow is listed as second of two writers, after David Kukoff.

Roshkow's other visible gig is teaching a seminar, $65 for three hours, called The Art of the Film Pitch: How to Sell Your Idea for a Commercial Hollywood Movie. Here's his own version of his bio:

Matt Roshkow has been a working screenwriter for almost ten years and has written and/or produced for almost every major studio and network in Hollywood. His credits include the ABC/Disney movies Model Behavior, Switching Goals, Mr. Headmistress, H-E Double Hockey Sticks, and (as producer) MTV Telefilm’s Spring Break Lawyer. His feature assignments include Paramount’s Clockstoppers, as well as projects with New Line, Warner Brothers, and Universal.

He has written original TV pilots for Fox (Parental Discretion Advised) and ABC (Big Hair) and has sold feature spec scripts (Munchies to MGM) and pitches (Spy Guy and Patsies to Universal and Imagine). He has been featured in Variety, Entertainment Weekly, and The Hollywood Reporter and has been a featured speaker at many film conferences, as well as a guest lecturer at the Yale Film Institute. His latest script, High School Confidential, is currently in production at Disney/ABC Cable Networks Group.

I don't know what "feature assignment" is supposed to mean. Here's what Variety said about Kukoff and Roshkow in November of 1999:
Low duo on a high

The writing team of David Kukoff and Matt Roshkow have just wrapped a 24-hour blitzkrieg of feature script and pitch sales.

Their Low Concept Prods. banner is getting the high sign all over town, first selling pitch "The Patsy" to Imagine Entertainment for Universal, and then their "Pathetic Obsession," to MGM, which they'll also produce.

"Pathetic Obsession" is based on an original idea for a script they developed with scribes Jonathan Green and Gabe Miller, who also write for Nickelodeon's "Keenan and Kel."

"Obsession," a college sex comedy about a quartet of students obsessed with an B movie queen, sold for mid- to high-six figures, and will be produced by Kukoff and Roshkow's Low Concept banner.

Separately, Low Concept sold U-based Imagine a pitch for "The Patsy," which Roshkow and Kukoff describe as a high concept comedy, about a romance within a secret government agency a la "Men in Black." Their pitch, which they will write, was also sold for mid- to high-six figures. Imagine exec Kim Roth will supervise its development.

In between pitches, the duo has taken a bevy of feature writing assignments:

*Currently, they are completing "Clockstoppers" for Par and DreamWorks, with Gail Anne Hurd producing.

*The two are rewriting "Wrecked" for New Line, which Roshkow calls "a sort of 'Clueless' meets 'Lord of the Flies,'" a black-hearted laffer centering on several rich kids' plight when their jet is downed in the Rockies.

*MGM has recently attached Eric Kripke to helm their original noir comedy "Munchies" which is in development.

*And, the two have signed a blind script deal with Twentieth Television for an half-hour pilot.

This is not my industry. People who know more than I do are welcome to tell me whether this casts any light on the story.

#215 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:16 PM:

I think where it sheds light is the strangely skewed reading the nanny's blog got by the couple. If you spend all your time thinking in highconcept lowart terms, the world begins to look a little different.

(Not my industry either, though I did spend 6 months once trapped as an agent's assistant at an entertainment agency.)

#216 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:23 PM:

(If her blog was so compulsively fascinating to them, why didn't he just rip off the juicy parts for a screenplay?)

#217 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:25 PM:

Teresa:

That was sort of the point of my joke:

Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 19, 2005, 12:48 PM:

"Kathryn Cramer:

I think you've found the essential eye of this storm. Matt Roshkow set up this whole thing, as a brilliantly Machiavellian ploy and publicity stunt for his forthcoming feature film with ABC/Disney: Model Behavior II: Nanny-Dumping Lawyer & the Blogstoppers."

Given the other posting about the legality or illegality of pretextual firings, in an Employment Law context, just imagine Matt Roshkow as a blisteringly crossexamined witness after the jury has been forced to view the worst parts of these worst movies.

"Throw the book at him!", they'd scream in the jury room. "We MUST send a message to decent society.

Hmmmm. On second thought, as someone rendered penurious by lawsuits, maybe not. The jury might love the movies, and award damages to the family for coping with a too-clever-by-half nanny.

#218 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:39 PM:

How could anything we could possibly say on thos blog bother him after some of those reviews? Ouch!

#219 ::: enjay ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 06:39 PM:

Teresa: I haven't done childcare, but the setup felt wrong to me. Something about scheduling is still tapping at my hindbrain.

Perhaps it's this: why would a parent want a nanny for 12 days in a row? This evidently does not reflect the normal schedules the family follows. So why the demand for overtime? Unless there is an emergency or unusual deadlines that can't be adjusted, or the parents needed a weekend off, wouldn't they want to take some time off during that period to spend with their children?

But according to Tessy, "...Ms. Olen asked me to make up two sick days. Yes. Which meant I worked 12 days straight." Apparently the reason expressed to Tessy for the overtime was that it was to make up for time missed, not because there was an actual need for it.

There may (or may not) have been perfectly good reasons for asking the nanny to work overtime, but it sounds like having those 2 missed days made up took precedence over everything else, including spending time with the kids. It sounds punitive.

#220 ::: Harriet ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 08:44 PM:

I do wonder, though, if she might perhaps have worked 12 straight days, but not all of them for the Olen/Roshkows -- doesn't Tessy mention another childcare gig, with a different family, where she works Fridays on the Upper West Side, with twin infants? That would mean that the O/R's had at least two Fridays "off" for private family-bonding ;-)

HLC

#221 ::: Kijikun ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 09:59 PM:

Having worked in daycare/teaching of the past 5 years, I think I have learned one thing (if not two):

Parents, unless single fathers, really do not want to know that I'm a living breathing human with a life outside their child. There have been expectations, parents that have truly been interested in my progress in school.

And two: Even the best of mothers will resent me at least once during the time I know them.

What does this have to do with Tess? Not much, I just like talking about myself.

Really, though; Tess as many have said, shouldn't have given her blog url to her employer, but at the time with the buddy-buddy attitude of Olsen, it most likely seemed harmless.

If Olsen had any problem with the contents of the blog there were many ways to deal with it. Nothing like a 'I've been reading your blog, and I'm a bit worried about you,' to make a blog be locked up tighter than Fort Knox.

But I really don't think it was all the 'sex, drinking, and sleep pill popping' that really got to Olsen. It was also those adorable twins and the fact that Tess dared love someone else children.

When you work with children, yes you love them, but you don't love them how their parents do. You shouldn't and you can't.

Plus I don't think Olsen would have liked it either if Tess had adored/loved Olsen's children the way Olsen though she should. Then she more than likely would have been upset that maybe her children loved Tess more.

And if Olsen thinks banging some doors and sighing is bad, gods help her should her children ever turn into teenagers.

#222 ::: Kijikun ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 10:03 PM:

Exceptions not expectations.

#223 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 20, 2005, 11:14 PM:

I think I understated my admiration for the research by Teresa, Kathryn Cramer, James D. Macdonald, et al.

The fun here, in our P.I. outfits, trenchcoat furled against the virtual rain, which makes the virtual streets noir, is tracking down personal details of people who've made some effort to be anonymous, or, similarly, pseudonymous on a popular website, blog, or Gray Lady poisoned puff piece.

#224 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 02:14 AM:

I agree with the suggestion, that the Olens were nuts, makes sense, modulo a specific sense of nuts. As G. K. Chesterton said, in "Orthodoxy" --

"Every one who has had the misfortune to talk with people in the heart or on the edge of mental disorder, knows that their most sinister quality is a horrible clarity of detail; a connecting of one thing with another in a map more elaborate than a maze. If you argue with a madman, it is extremely probable that you will get the worst of it; for in many ways his mind moves all the quicker for not being delayed by the things that go with good judgment. He is not hampered by a sense of humour or by charity, or by the dumb certainties of experience. He is the more logical for losing certain sane affections. Indeed, the common phrase for insanity is in this respect a misleading one. The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason.... Nevertheless he is wrong. But if we attempt to trace his error in exact terms, we shall not find it quite so easy as we had supposed. Perhaps the nearest we can get to expressing it is to say this: that his mind moves in a perfect but narrow circle. A small circle is quite as infinite as a large circle; but, though it is quite as infinite, it is not so large. In the same way the insane explanation is quite as complete as the sane one, but it is not so large. A bullet is quite as round as the world, but it is not the world. There is such a thing as a narrow universality; there is such a thing as a small and cramped eternity; you may see it in many modern religions. Now, speaking quite externally and empirically, we may say that the strongest and most unmistakable MARK of madness is this combination between a logical completeness and a spiritual contraction. The lunatic's theory explains a large number of things, but it does not explain them in a large way."

And the editor at the New York Times was equally "Reasonable" in running the Olen article.

#225 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 02:08 PM:

Enjay:

Teresa: I haven't done childcare, but the setup felt wrong to me. Something about scheduling is still tapping at my hindbrain.

Enjay: Perhaps it's this: why would a parent want a nanny for 12 days in a row? This evidently does not reflect the normal schedules the family follows. So why the demand for overtime? ... it sounds like having those 2 missed days made up took precedence over everything else, including spending time with the kids. It sounds punitive.

Thank you! That's it exactly. I knew there was something further about that schedule that bothered me.

#226 ::: Academic Coach ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 05:55 PM:

This is not an issue of class. the nanny is a wonderful, highly educated woman applying to grad school. It is an issue of power -- employer vs. emplyee, which is typically an issue of class.

Bitch Ph.D. does have the best commenters on the blog -- including the smart, interesting nanny in question.

#227 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 06:24 PM:

Academic Coach, Bitch Ph.D. does have excellent comment threads, but you're never going to get me to believe her commenters are better than mine.

#228 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 08:14 PM:

My 16-year-old son has a different take on "appropriateness" of blogs. He advises the students he mentors (it does matter that, at 16, he is a university senior) NOT to have a blog at all.

"Don't you realize," he tells them, "that companies will exist who make a living by searching out blogs of potential employees, paid for by the potential employers?" He scoffed at my countersuggestion that people create blogs of disinformation.

It's not that he disagrees with me about politics as such. Just that my 39 years of software experience is almost irrelevent to the way that "the street finds its own uses" of the technologies on which he and his chronological peers grew up. He's also mentioned, on Making Light, what a waste of time he thinks it is for me to blog here. He and his peers use cellphone extensively, and scorn buying of game software in favor of beta testing.

At least he doesn't deny that the music I like is music, or vice versa.

#229 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 08:20 PM:

JVP: My 13-year-old son doesn't have a blog of his own, although I have occasionally caught him reading mine. He uses the Web primarily to read video game sites, where they ostensibly discuss games but inevitably digress into all sorts of other topics. Just like here.

#230 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 08:37 PM:

Eric Sadoyama:

Thanks. Isn't it weird, being on the other side of a Generation Gap?

I count myself lucky that our tastes in books, TV, and movies have considerable overlap. And, now that he's a couple of inches taller than me, I'll get his hand-me-down clothing.

#231 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 08:53 PM:

Academic Coach: There are differing class systems that come into conflict, as is the case I think it the situation at hand. I tend to think of class in Paul Fussel's terms; Hollywood has its own class system which it is only too happy to impose on others whenever the opportunity arises. Though this couple can't rank terribly high in it -- recall the joke about the starlet stupid enough to sleep with the screenwriter to get ahead -- I believe they feel themselves at least to be in the bottom ranks of its social register, and thus superior to those who don't rank at all. In that word, literati don't rank unless their books have been made into movies.

The Boss gets to decide which class system is in play.

#232 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 08:55 PM:

should read "in that WORLD"

#233 ::: Eric Sadoyama ::: (view all by) ::: July 21, 2005, 10:06 PM:

JVP: Speaking of shared father-son tastes, I am highly amused and gratified that it is my fault that my son's first favorite music group is They Might Be Giants. The boy goes around the house, headphones on and CD player in hand, loudly singing along to Flood and Apollo 18. My work here is done!

#234 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 12:25 AM:

Eric: I know the feeling!

It would be highly logical to have the New York Times ask the Olens a few pointed questions. However:

"I have never understood the female capacity to avoid a direct answer to any question." -- Spock, "This Side of Paradise", stardate 3417.3

#235 ::: Will Entrekin ::: (view all by) ::: July 22, 2005, 08:15 AM:

JVP: Heh. I've never heard that Spock quote before. My first thought was how easily it could also apply to our current president.

#236 ::: Lis Riba ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 10:29 AM:

Can I just say I've been checking the NYT's letter column every day and am surprised I haven't seen a single letter about this article, given all the buzz it's generated around the blogosphere?

Curiously enough, today's Sunday Style section includes an article about a blogger done good who's gotten a book and TV deal...

#237 ::: Kathryn Cramer ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 05:56 PM:

Hard to imagine that they got no letters about it.

#238 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 07:28 PM:

Impossible that they didn't. The nanny asked people to write to them.

Is it possible that the NYTimes is going to stumble yet again by failing to acknowledge this in any way?

I've been thinking about the various remarks in this thread concerning the NYT's loyalty to the moneyed classes, and it's occurred to me that, as a paper, the NYT shouldn't have an overriding commonality of interests with them. Possibly this is a sign that we've reached that stage of social stratification where figuring yourself as a member of the ruling classes is so advantageous in the long run that it's worth sucking up all kinds of attendant damages along the way.

#239 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 08:31 PM:

My father's father considered himself a member of the ruling class, and the mayor of New York City and the Governor of New York State and their ilk flattered him, at least in his presence. He considered FDR to be an irredeemable traitor to said class. He also considered the New York Times to be a dangerously liberal rag, although I think he subscribed for the business news. Maybe for the Sports and Obituaries, too.

I grew up reading the New York Times, and it was one of the Big 6 in which I yearned to someday be published. The others were Mad, Punch, Scientific American, Science, and Nature. It shows lack of patience on my part that I've only gotten into 1/3 of those markets.

One of my brothers and I, and our friends, used to trace the Gothic front-page title to make our own little zine, The New Times. Sometimes The York Times. Or the Times York.

I had friends (well, parents of friends) who worked for the paper. That made them demigods. That they favored gin & tonic made me favor that drink, in principle, before I drank. The gin being Gilbey's or Tanquery, the Tonic being Schweppes, the gin being kept in the freezer.

I had friends on other papers too, the Brooklyn Heights Press, the short-lived World Journal Tribune, and so forth.

I was baffled by the Los Angeles Times when I moved here in 1968. You call THAT a world-class paper? Though I think I said something nice about their outgoing editor in the Crooked Timbre thread.

Either the New York Times has moved slightly to Left, or I've moved slightly to the Right, or both. The Theatre and Film critics no longer shape their genre. The power of the Book Review is diluted. My Dad and I bemoaned worse and worse grammar and spelling in the paper, even in the headlines.

But the New York Times still matters, and the democratic principle of reminding them when they stray from the path of righteousness also matters. I agree, Teresa. It is likely that they've dug themselves in deeper, and all the worse, after an ethics facelift. What do you propose?

#240 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 08:52 PM:

Which components of the New York Times have interests in common and which opposed?

What is the appropriate granularity when speaking of the New York Times Company?

With or without the Boston Globe? Where to stop zooming in or out? the reporter, the rewrite desk, the newsroom so to speak?

The pulps described a working class reporter,(obs SF Our Fair City) or a reporter with working class ties and sympathies does that sound like Jayson Blair's apprenticeship?

#241 ::: mythago ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 09:12 PM:

I've been thinking about the various remarks in this thread concerning the NYT's loyalty to the moneyed classes

I don't normally rely on cop movies for deep philosophical insight, but nonetheless: there's a scene in Deep Cover where Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum are trying to persuade a big-name Latino drug baron to do business with them. The drug baron accuses them of being racist and trying to screw him out of his share of the market. Goldblum's character dismisses this: "There are rich people and poor people. We're all rich people, so we're all on the same side."

It's amazing how many odd political maneuvers make sense when you keep that in mind.

Does it really have to be sexism?

Look, I'm sorry if not joining in every attack on Olen 100% is harshing the mellow, but as Amanda pointed out over on Pandagon, there is a very ugly and sadly typical undercurrent in many of the comments about Olen--referring to a "bitch fight," speculation that she was jealous that her husband would sleep with the nanny, and flat-out misreading (i.e. that Olen, not Roshkow, fired the nanny).

Of course most of the criticism rightly goes to Olen, who wrote the darn thing. Can you explain to me why, if it's not about sexism, this gets cast as a catfight with Roshkow "manipulated" by his wife?

#242 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 09:24 PM:

TNH: I've been thinking about the various remarks in this thread concerning the NYT's loyalty to the moneyed classes, and it's occurred to me that, as a paper, the NYT shouldn't have an overriding commonality of interests with them.

The NYT is a business; from what I see from the outside, it's going the way publishing businesses in general (not specific) are going, i.e. towards the money. That was the root of my remark starting the subthread. Granted that the vast majority of the staff and readership have little in common with the moneyed classes; but how much interest do the current (moneyed) owners have in the newspaper ethos rather than in their own class? Also, how much does the shape of coverage affect how much advertising they can sell -- is there more revenue in offering a smaller demographic with more disposable income?

#243 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: July 24, 2005, 11:29 PM:

CHip: Also, how much does the shape of coverage affect how much advertising they can sell -- is there more revenue in offering a smaller demographic with more disposable income?

A bit of an aside here, but has anyone noticed exactly how different the online ads are from the dead-tree edition of the NY Times? The paper has tons of ads for luxury products that only the very wealthiest can afford, whereas the online version is heavy on mid-market financial services offerings and other more plebian products.

If the Times were clever, they'd print an online only letter column to appease the web community, while the Paris(ite) Hilton class could remain blissfully ignorant of the class betrayal.

#244 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 06:03 PM:

Mythago, please. The people and arguments you want to answer are elsewhere. And can you please ease up on the language a little?

#245 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 06:41 PM:

Speaking of newspapers serving up different ads, the online WashPost has developed two versions of the home page. People with local zip codes get one, other people get the other. I think I'm being cheated of the international news.

#246 ::: Adina ::: (view all by) ::: July 25, 2005, 07:00 PM:

Marilee, if you can run two different browsers on your computer (for example, Firefox and Mozilla), you can claim different zip codes on each of them, and then see both versions of the home page.

#247 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: July 26, 2005, 04:27 PM:

Yes, but I don't think I should have to do that. I actually read the paper version and usually search the website when I want to link or quote online, but sometimes there's a headline that intrigues me, and now I'm not getting all of those.

#248 ::: Naomi Libicki ::: (view all by) ::: July 27, 2005, 11:23 AM:

Coming in on a side issue, here, Mishnaic law actually requires that teachers of children (boys, presumably) be married (men, explicitly). The assumption seems to be that married teachers are less likely to molest the students than single ones.

#249 ::: windypoint ::: (view all by) ::: July 31, 2005, 02:25 PM:

I've been mulling the Helaine/Tessy story over in my mind for a while now... I guess I'm just not as fast as everyone else at coming to a conclusion and thus will always be unfashionably late by internet standards. But here I am now, posting what I think is a believable plot behind this story. A humble speculation, a fiction of sorts, just for amusement.

I'm now seeing this as a story about conflict between a husband and wife. We know (I think it was from Tessy) that the wife wants to move out to live in a large house in the country or burbs and that this has been a source of conflict in the marriage. Indeed it is the only real source of conflict we've seen between them, adults with normal healthy relationships just don't argue that much over stupid things like who cleans out the bathtub.

It is reasonable to assume, given what we know of their careers, that Roshkow is the main income earner, and thus the one on whom will fall the weighty responsibility of paying for the big house in the country. Not surprisingly he is keen to continue with their current (presumably almost paid off?) accomodation. You have to commit yourself to write an awful lot of soul destroying scripts to buy a dream home.

Olen, on the other hand, doesn't have a lot of income and isn't about to go get some. She instead wants the big house in the country, which will presumably soak up a lot of her time in decorating, renovating, putting in a swimming pool and canning fruit or whatever it is wealthy people do when they are convinced that the country is just so cute and desirable a place to be. Her writing career is pretty much stalled, and she is writing stuff that pays OK but will never give her what it takes to have serious economic clout in the marriage. To put it bluntly, she can afford to buy lipsticks and shoes on her own dime, but for broader lifestyle issues Roshkow is the only game in town.

So Olen lays seige to Roshkow. Nothing is right. The hired help are all fools and bad for the kids. She's a poor put-upon oppressed woman, and makes darn sure he pays up in guilt when she cleans out a poopy bathtub. She argues with him in front of the help. She shares a window into her private life with her friends despite the fact he is a more private person than her. Then finally she shares their private life with the world.

Roshkow really doesn't like his private life splashed all over place, after all, it was one of his main gripes about Tessy's blog, and Tessy's blog was semi anomynous and referred rarely to his household. How absolutely perfect, that Olen can point to her possible big break being something that he detests and does not wish to see repeated. The NY Times is probably enjoying the kerfuffle, it might not be too hard to persuade them to take further articles of this nature...

So Olen has created a situation in which shifting her out to the country to spend all her time on a new home is probably the best thing for all concerned. She may not be able to afford a nanny for a while due to the extra expense, can't say as that will make either of the couple too sad. We'll see a lot more of the same sort of scripts from Roshkow, and hear a lot less from Olen.

Quite frankly I think my version of the plot is a good deal more sordid than the "bonking the babysitter" theories that abound, and is a superior one to post here because it has within it a few lessons for artists of any sort to learn about how personal commitments can keep you on certain treadmills during the most productive years of your career. And if perchance Olen ever reads this work of speculation, I hope she has learnt the lesson that when you post a spectacular and engaging story without a sensible plot, people will impose a plot whether you like it or not.

#250 ::: Chelsea ::: (view all by) ::: September 23, 2005, 09:54 PM:

Isn't the bottom line here about the imbalance of power between the domestic & the priviliged employer? I was thrown out of the home I lived in for eight years by my employer (whom I attended coparenting classes, whom I spent every holiday with, who considered me her best friend, someone whom I gave for free my services when she went in for invitro, someone whom I went in her room at midnight to give her shot in the ass so she could get pregnant, someone whom I had to pick up off the floor when she went through a eighteen month period of drunken debauchery, someone who may even have custody of her children today because of the help I gave her (and it clearly credits me in the Judge's Decision regarding custody). Why did this woman do this? Because her new boyfriend didn't think she should be so friendly with a domestic. And after she threw me out, she has stuck me with financial bills not mine, prevented me from obtaining my possessions from her house and worst of all refused to let me have contact with her children. The children that I raised. Not just in my "nanny and assistant" hours, but all year long, EVERY year of the children's life. Life is nice when you have a hundred million dollars in the bank. My blog is the opposite of the referenced one as I have begun positing all of the correspondence between she and I during my employment.

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