Maid by Stephanie Land

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Scott 2
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Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Scott 2 »

The memoir of a young single mother trying to make it on her own, working as a maid. She spends several years living below the poverty level and describes the experience in great detail. Random bits I found interesting:

1. Her daughter is on Medicaid. Depending on income, sometimes the author is also insured through Medicaid. She firmly believes doctors treat her differently because of it. She describes a small outpatient procedure for her daughter moving forward, despite the daughter being sick. She then gets rushed out of the hospital. This matches what I've read - doctors get lower re-imbursement rates for Medicaid and view the associated patients as charity work. It highlights a risk of the ERE strategy to used Medicaid.

2. Unlike the ERE strategy of living voluntarily below the poverty line, her position is tremendously fragile. The book is a stream of tiny life events cascading her into trouble. She has no assets, and any time her cash flow increases, it reduces the government programs she depends upon. That makes building a cash buffer nearly impossible. When she does get some money, one of the cascading events typically comes along and wipes it out.

3. Because of this fragility, how customers treated her had an outsized impact on her life. Something as simple forgetting about an appointment, causing her to lose a few hours of work, could send her life into a spiral. Alternatively, being flexible with when she worked could let her double a day's earnings, or take much needed time to care for her daughter. Seemingly token events, like letting her look through the "too donate" pile make an impact large enough to have warranted pages in the book. A good reminder on how important it is to treat someone helping you well.

4. She has a favorable view of the woman who employs her as a cleaner, despite the poverty level wages. She is grateful for the opportunity to work, very appreciative of the hours offered. Eventually, she also finds a few of her own clients, which offers double the hourly rate. But this doesn't shake her gratitude towards the low paying employer. Her life is so overwhelming, she doesn't have the resources to simply drop the poorly paid work until she can develop more of the good stuff.

5. Her jump into single motherhood was sudden, due to an abusive partner. Because he's constantly involved in her life, he is a constant emotional drain. She sometimes benefits from the free time offered by his custody periods, but the child support barely covers the cost of coordinating child hand offs, etc.

6. Recovery involves heavy use of government assistance programs. Interfacing with them burns a lot of her available time, sometimes to the point where the benefits fail to offer value. My general view on government programs has always been, if you can qualify, absolutely take advantage. We're all playing against the same rule set, after all. I was surprised how much they can suck. Her lived experience was also that some people, upon seeing her use benefits, would offer a "you're welcome!" - as if she personally took their tax dollars.

6. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation often impact her decision making. It forces small sub-optimal choices, like eating cliff bars for breakfast. It also causes her to make far larger mistakes that cascade through life.

7. There are some glimpses of non-financial resourcefulness at home within ERE. She dates a farmer for awhile, staying with him and helping around the house. At first this seems like an "easy mode" solution to the poverty, but the tradeoffs quickly mount. Even after they split up, she convinces him to let her harvest from the garden they'd been working on. She barters cleaning services for things like baby clothes and reduced rent. She finds free activities for her daughter, etc. Part of me couldn't help but observe - for the ERE male seeking a partner, she's got everything but the money! Incidentally, she has a lot of frustration over men wanting to rescue her, instead of treat her as a peer.

8. She pulls herself out of poverty with a writing career. It was interesting to browse her Instagram and see what that post-poverty life looks like. The Peloton bike stood out to me. I'd be interested to know what her new husband does for a living, if they are peering financially.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Sounds interesting. Will put on my list. I also had a lot of frustration about men wanting to rescue me when I was first divorced. Now I just see it as akin to how some dogs are herders. IOW, it’s about them, not you, but if/when you are vulnerable or trying to justify extreme small scale independence, you will be more likely to think it is about you. What brought this home for me was observing that “herder-tendency” men will exhibit the same behavior even with women who are quite affluent themselves and also other people within their social circle with whom they are not in any way sexually/romantically involved.

Alphaville
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Alphaville »

oh i read her vox article about cleaning people’s houses.

https://www.vox.com/2015/7/16/8961799/h ... ob-clients

it was ok—but quite self-righteous.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

Struck me as more naive than self-righteous. I learned that sort of stuff about other people way back when I was a 12 year old babysitter. I had even more time on my hands after the kids were asleep, so I would read their books, eat their food, and play their record collections too.

Going to estate sales is another similar experience. It’s sad how many households have almost the same boring collection of books.

Alphaville
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Alphaville »

everyone is fucked up though—and she, too, takes psychiatric medication. the fact that she did a 25c puzzle doesn’t make her a better person. the judgment is just a way of overcompensating. the loneliness and emptiness that she reports spying in others is not reserved for the affluent—the poor have the same but without the toys and with crappier crutches, like cigarettes.

ertyu
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by ertyu »

Some of what was in the article strikes me as possibly made up. You saw testosterone cream lady in her high heels on a date in a restaurant? How were you there as a single mom with a full time job and in poverty? And what sort of upper middle class pretentious person shops at the local industrial farming HFCS supply supermarket rather than at whole foods or trader joes etc? And if you were so poor, what were *you* doing there? The fact that there is an asymmetry in what service staff knows about you vs what you know about them is well known, but some of the details from the article really don't add up.

Alphaville
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Alphaville »

i don’t care if things don’t add up—i would prefer it really, as i prefer compelling fiction to breaches of confidence.

and there are many “millionaires next door” who are not fancy, especially in the usa, where there’s a tradition of everyone claiming to be middle class, and luxury can be seen as affectations.

e.g. i’ve had a few landlords who were loaded but dressed in cheap clothes or ate cheap fast food while fixing the house by themselves—that’s probably how they got rich in the first place. another business owner i worked with drove around in this ratty van while handing out gobs of money to family members. examples abound.

writer says her clients had to work hard to afford what they had, so they were not members of the nobility or anything like that (we have no nobility). probably just overextended middle class folks who move up from shopping at walmart to buying in bulk at sam’s club.
Last edited by Alphaville on Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

7Wannabe5
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by 7Wannabe5 »

@Alphaville:

I agree, but there is something about the scale of housing often afforded by even the moderately affluent in the U.S. that can make the emptiness seem more profound.

I am reading a book on the topic of extreme economies, and the author suggests that the working class inhabitants of Glasgow were happier (less likely to commit fast or slow suicide)in crowded tenements that had some design towards communal living than they are living in the subsidized more spacious housing that was funded to replace them.

OTOH, affluent people who hire maids are “better” than affluent people who don’t hire maids, but don’t clean up after themselves either.

Alphaville
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Alphaville »

@7w5 - yeah, i agree, macmansions are truly horrendous. suburban housing in the usa i find truly depressing. it’s either the city or the country for me, or i’ll kill myself too.

but that isolation and emptiness is a feature of american life in general, rather than a particular social class. there is more community at all levels in other places—although things are changing elsewhere too these days.

anyway, i had to hire a housecleaner when i was in grad school because although i had little money my life was insane and i needed help. lucky for me she was a salvadorean lady who didn’t resent her job or write books.

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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by jacob »

Where does https://www.amazon.com/Idealist-org-Han ... 399534873/ (from 2009) fit into this? Same person?

Alphaville
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Alphaville »

probably? it’s the kind of book a freelance writer would be hired to put together, yeah. not a lot of money in that sort of thing so it makes sense that she’d clean houses on the side.

-

eta: although her bio says she graduated in 2014, and her published work begins around 2015, so who knows... in 2009 she was already 30 but i don’t know every detail. so maybe? another bio says she wanted to become a writer aged 28 so that adds to chances she’d compile that book.

Scott 2
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Scott 2 »

When evaluating her VOX article, I think it is important to understand where she is coming from. Cleaning houses is her first significant exposure to even the moderate wealth of an upper middle class home. She is relieved to be earning $10/hr, feels extremely fortunate to get a couple hundred bucks, etc. She also needs clicks.

I do think her perspective rings true for a lot of people starting in poverty. Media gives an an idealized (inaccurate) view of being even financially comfortable, which confuses the poor person's already challenging path to escape. This is reinforced by an often insular culture. She doesn't have access to someone modeling how to be comfortably middle class, let alone a millionaire next door lifestyle.

I agree the privacy thing feels a little questionable. If you were one of her former clients, yikes. I would hope each house is an amalgamation of interesting anecdotes, pulled from a variety of clients. In the book, she is also brutal to her first ex-husband, who she shares custody with. I have no perspective to judge her experience, but wonder about the impact on her daughter. Both rehashing that history and the relationship tension of putting him on blast, to the entire world.
7Wannabe5 wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 8:52 am
OTOH, affluent people who hire maids are “better” than affluent people who don’t hire maids, but don’t clean up after themselves either.
I feel so attacked :D

I ran across a later article where she ends up hiring a maid:

https://www.theatlantic.com/family/arch ... lf/598207/

It also looks like she fell into another abusive relationship post-book, pre current husband.


There's a lot to unpack, but understandable given her background. That's a perspective I've been slow to grok. I intuitively want to evaluate another person's story based on my lived advantages. But, she doesn't have those to draw on. Maybe given the same starting roll I had, she'd be way ahead of what I've done. It certainly sounds like she has a stronger work ethic.

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Ego
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Ego »

I heard the interview on Fresh Air a while back....
https://www.npr.org/programs/fresh-air/ ... -it-on-min

My initial reaction was that this was a book for people who desperately want to experience empathy for their low paid maid so that they can assuage their guilt about employing a low paid maid. Doing so by reading a 288 page book about her - written by someone kinda like her - rather than having a two minute conversation with her is a funny way to go about it. The privacy violations she commits are just the right amount of harm to make the employer (reader) feel justified in continuing to hire the agency rather than dealing directly with the maid.

But I haven't read the book so what do I know. Is it an anti-Hillbilly Elegy?

Scott 2
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Scott 2 »

Not sure about the idealist book. Her blogging pre 2015 seems scrubbed from the internet. This article suggests a more complex past than presented in the book:

https://narratively.com/the-three-car-c ... d-my-life/

Scott 2
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Scott 2 »

Found her old blog on the wayback machine. I can see why it was removed, extreme oversharing. It's possible to trace back her first ex-husband's last name, linkedin, etc.

Ego is correct. The book offers a polished past, targeted at people just like me. Darn. I imagine with the upcoming netflix show, she had help scrubbing rough edges off her web presence.

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jennypenny
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by jennypenny »

@Scott--What I find most interesting about this thread is that you have the time, and willingness, to do a little internet sleuthing. Even your posts are a little more casual/relaxed sounding. The time off from work seems to agree with you.

sorry for the OT ...

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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by jacob »

At this point before anything regrettable happens it would be a good idea to review forum rule 6 and viewtopic.php?f=21&t=8476 vis-a-vis "the right to be forgotten" and the pragmatic consequences of digging into a burried past.

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Ego
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Ego »

Scott 2 wrote:
Tue Oct 20, 2020 1:32 pm
Ego is correct. The book offers a polished past, targeted at people just like me.
Truth be told, that post was more about me than anyone else. Mrs. Ego, who grew up in a household with multiple domestic workers, pokes fun at my ineptitude at managing them in our current situation. I do great with the trade workers. There is something about telling a cleaner how to do their job that makes me uncomfortable. Maybe because I know (presume) that if they had any other options they wouldn't be here cleaning. I don't know.

Scott 2
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by Scott 2 »

@JP - Thanks, I am much better for the time off. As Jacob alludes, this probably isn't the best use of my time, but having the option to waste it is fantastic.

@Jacob - agreed

ffj
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Re: Maid by Stephanie Land

Post by ffj »

I'm not quite sure what the concerns are with rule number 6. Who's getting doxxed?

Anyway, I've read the articles and listened to the interview.

She has developed a writing style that is abusive to all around her, especially her previous clients which had the audacity to provide her wages. I would have enjoyed a little more self-reflection on how her actions shaped her lot in life, but we get lectured on the hardship of applying for and receiving free money.

The interview cemented this notion that people are automatically locked into hardship when that is not the case. If you can make bad daily decisions, you can also make good daily decisions. You don't have to become a stripper because the local Walmart isn't hiring.

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