This is Not My Beautiful House
Kim France

EVERYONE should read this, not because it’s good — OK, it’s not badly written — but because of how perfectly and unintentionally it captures the divide between liberal urban elite America (“Hillary supporters”) and conservative rural America (“Trump country”).

For the record, I’m 100% liberal elite America — so don’t hate on me. I’ve lived in New York; I recognize the street names. I’m overeducated and I work a prissy white collar job and I’m very happy with it. But the fact that some 44% of the country wants to elect someone like Trump concerns me greatly — and it’s opened my eyes to just how pretentious and superior we sound when we talk about our lives. As such:

“Not long after marrying the man I would go on to divorce…”

Ha! Ironic! Because divorce is just one of those things that people do, like getting their appendix out and picking up their dry cleaning!

“I bought a Brooklyn brownstone that satisfied all my most fetishistic Brooklyn brownstone fantasies… The house was a touch narrower than the others, but… there were four floors, fireplaces in most every room, and a massive kitchen on the garden floor with Miele and Sub Zero everything.”

Gosh, I wish I could pay my mortgage. I wish my refrigerator worked. I wish pretentious assholes in New York hadn’t played games with my money and plunged the economy into recession where, for me, it still is. What’s a Miele? Does it keep your food cold?

“I had a generous clothing allowance, and was allowed to lease the car of my choice. I also had a driver — a very nice Israeli man named Avi… But possibly the best perk of all was access to very favorable home loans. Like, insanely favorable. Nobody didn’t take the loan, pretty much.”

Ah. And you tell me the system isn’t rigged? You just told everyone in the world that you get a special insider rates to buy any home you want, while most of us struggle to get a mortgage at all after the subprime meltdown that smart insiders like you created. And you clearly have no fear of being arrested.

“He was a teacher. He was a nice guy. He was kind of a jock, which was pretty exotic — and a poet, which was especially exotic in combination with the jock part… He had a deathly earnest streak, for instance, and his sense of humor was more goofy than arch. He dressed blandly, like the kid from the Long Island suburbs trying to look urban that he was.”

Sounds exotic. No, wait — sounds like a pet. And it sounds like you started out the relationship with the same kind of cute, indulgent, slightly superior attitude toward your “life partner” that you would use with a Shih Tzu. It’s so strange it didn’t work out.

“I thought I might hire an interior designer to help me decorate… So I called a noted interior designer/lifestyle guru/bon vivant with whom I shared mutual friends, and was pleased when he wanted to take the job. “Oh Kim, j’taime the idea. We will make it genius,” he promised.”

Nobody I know talks this way, unless they want to get punched in the face.

“We hung a Herman Miller pendant chandelier from the ceiling, and had an Eames womb chair in there too, upholstered in the iciest blue… and one of the vivant’s staff, a sweet boy named Leslie, found a glossy black antique oriental parson’s table at an antique store on Atlantic. It was all completely my taste, but nothing I could ever had conjured myself, and it felt like such a cool trick that you could actually pay somebody to do that for you.”

Yes, that is a cool trick. I actually don’t know who Herman Miller and Eames are, but I suspect you threw that in to give a shout out to other people like you and to make people like me feel bad. Also: your servants have servants? Must be nice to live in New York.

“Less cool, unfortunately, was actual life in the Brooklyn house. There was so much room — too much room for two people by far — and yet there was not one spot in the entire house that felt comfortable or warm to me. Like home.”

That is the problem that haunts me. Where, in the expanse of my one-bedroom apartment that I’m renting from some sleazy asshole who won’t fix the heat, because I lost my house in the mortgage crisis, do I feel comfortable and safe and warm?

“I developed a desperate — though unconsummated — crush on a man who worked at another magazine in the building... It wasn’t just that when he opened doors for me I realized that my husband never opened doors for me,or that at the end of the meal he’d always help me on with my coat…”

So, just to be clear: you want to be respected and paid a large salary as a top New York executive, and you also expect a man who makes a tenth (maybe) of your salary as a teacher to run around opening doors for you and make you feel special? Did you ever think about opening a door for him?

“Then one day… I went in for a baseline mammogram, and they found something. My husband was supportive in all the right ways, going to doctor’s meetings with me and taking copious notes, but we were fighting constantly…”

Many people would say that “being supportive in all the right ways” might be enough.

“So I suppose that’s why, when we found out that the beginning of my radiation was scheduled for a few days after he was supposed to leave for an artist’s residency in Washington state, I told him to go anyway… He was writing poems on an island in Puget Sound while I spent every morning in the charmless confines of the basement of the Beth Israel Phillips Ambulatory Care Center.”

So, you told him to go anyway, and he did so, and then you promptly turned around and stabbed him with it. Real people have to make real decisions and real compromises and live with the real consequences. We don’t whine about it or blame it on other people.

My point is not to call this one particular person out as a sheltered, self-indulgent jerk who shows not a mote of empathy in the entire piece — because there is very clearly a LOT of people who come off sounding like this. I’m not saying there isn’t real loss, real humor, real emotion in this story — or that you have to feel bad about making a lot of money or buying nice things. But Jesus, do you realize how much the rest of the country is hurting? Do you realize just how privileged and isolated and out-of-touch this sounds? Do you realize this only qualifies as “problems” for a very small 1%? I’m not making a rallying cry for Red America here, and I’m disgusted by Trump and his followers, but can you start to see where they get their deep resentment of people like us?

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