Tuesday, April 3, 2007


A woman with whom I shared an apartment in New York in my early twenties, when we were both in art school, used to rail at me about my "sense of entitlement." This would be in the heat of an argument about washing the dishes or cleaning the bathroom, things she felt she always did and I never did. For the most part, this was true. I thought you cleaned things when they were dirty (sometimes really dirty), not just because it was Saturday.

I railed right back, against her characterization of me as a typical American male accustomed to having all the housework done by a female. I didn't see it that way. Compared to some of my male peers whose mothers had waited on them hand and foot, I didn't see myself as having been pampered. But now, looking back, I don't remember doing much housework. My mom cleaned the house top to bottom every weekend and did all the cooking and laundry. She didn't clean my bedroom -- maybe that's why I had the impression that I was a liberated male.

Anyway, my roommate and I were great friends for many years (though we've regretfully lost touch now). Her eternal feminist vigilance was tedious sometimes, but I knew she was usually essentially correct, and I learned a lot from her about how to root out those biases in simple everyday transactions. I miss her.

I think a lot about entitlement, my sense of entitlement, during these periods in my life when I'm particularly whiny about money and my livelihood and my frustration not being able to make a living at what I want to do. Because of course I know that, though I'm broke and anxious about it, my life is relatively luxurious. I'm comfortable, healthy, I eat as much delicious food as I need every day, often more. I complain that I don't want to get a job as a cook for $8/hour, knowing that there are many people who are grateful for jobs like that, or would be grateful if they could even get them. I'm surrounded by people whose struggles to make a living are much more dire than mine, not just on the other side of the world but right here in Austin.

Still, I complain.

I say -- and this feels true to me --that I am so strongly called to make art that if I'm not able to, I feel empty and useless. But is that true? Or is it my white American male sense of entitlement at the root of my opinion that I should be able to do whatever the hell I want to do and somebody should pay me to do it?

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