"[Elle] me le paiera! Je lui passerai ma plume au travers du corps!" —Balzac responding to Sainte-Beuve's review of La Recherche de l'absolu.
The other day I was procrastinating and trolling around the internet looking for nothing in particular that might satisfy my moderate epistemophilia. Somewhat distracted by the Dollar Tree Ode to Mediocrity Bowl playing in the background, I planted ankle deep in Jan Franciso's flaming dog turd of an article about the going rate for babysitters. My soul in a flash bubbled over with piss and vinegar as I read astounded the Huffington Post would print such tripey drivel. This Mother/Blogger/Hack wants to pay your kids 5 bucks an hour so she and her husband can share a Blooming Onion and catch the latest installment of the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit sextilogy. She is upset that some neighborhood teens rolled their eyes at her when she recently attempted to shake them down.
I won't even bother taking down the specious reasoning of a statement like "I expect them to watch a movie with my kids and feed them a little pre-made dinner. Probably almost exactly what they would be doing at home for free;" or the ridiculous extrapolation that gets us from "My father-in-law is a remarkably tenacious worker. When he was ten, he decided that he wanted a horse" to the stupid back-in-the-dayist claim that these damn kids nowadays are ruining everything. A single workaholic pony lover does not a solid inductive argument make.
This post is for my nieces and nephew who I love dearly. Because I never, never, ever want them for a single second to consider believing or even listening when someone with more power and more resources than they tries to convince them that their limited time on this planet isn't really worth all that much. I wish there were a word in the English language to describe a fundamental socio-economic relationship where those with limited means, like teenage babysitters, have to work for reduced wages for the benefit of those who possess greater resources. KIDS! YOUR TIME IS PRECIOUS! DEFEND IT WITH TENACITY WHENEVER SOMEONE TRIES TO TAKE IT AWAY FROM YOU! And while I would never condone teen on teen violence, it might be worth knowing—when Suzy the kissass accepts Ms. Francisco's substandard wage—that sometimes scabs get bricks put through their windshields.
When I was a teenager, I got my first job at a notorious chicken sandwich chain restaurant. I spent hours breading chicken breasts, scrubbing disgusting flowery milkwash gunk off giant sifting baskets, and cleaning women's restrooms. I made $4.75/hour while a reprehensible homophobic family lined their pockets off my time and effort. I could have been learning Spanish, woodworking, or auto-repair. I understood nothing about the value of time.
I think back to my good old teenage days as beer-funneling, whipit-stealing, pot-smoking, mailbox-bashing, meathead, and I watch in awe as my niece spends hours on a Sunday studying for Algebra exams. She finds recipes on the internet and makes delicious deserts for Christmas dinner. She swims competitively, gets up at ungodly hours to go practice, works on her high school's yearbook staff, drives herself to church on Sunday mornings, works two jobs during the summer, puts her money away responsibly, and brings much joy and vibrance to our family. My blood boils at the thought of Ms. Francisco reducing such a beautiful young existence to "well kids just sit around watching movies and making pre-made food these days. I wish we were back in the day when everything was still great."
Babysitters of the world, roll your eyes! Roll them in unison and with gusto! You have nothing to lose but your time. Which is to say, you have everything to lose. Eyerolling is the proper response when the old hag down the lane tries to trick you into believing your time doesn't matter simply because you are young. Hold out when you get offered shit wages. Play the long game. Stay home and study your SAT words. You'll get more out of it in the end.
And if a mother/blogger/hack really wants to have a serious discussion with you about value, ask her how much her child's safety and well-being should cost. Surely the 9 bucks she might save by low-balling adolescents on her kids' behalf can't actually be worth it.