Where Is Life More Expensive?

People keep mentioning that life is a lot cheaper in a small town in the Midwest than in a big city on the East Coast. As somebody who has lived in the Midwest, on the East Coast, in small towns, in big cities, and in really tiny towns, I can say that the issue is a lot more complicated than it seems at a first glance.

The housing (I’m only talking about renting since I’m ideologically opposed to mortgages of any kind) is, indeed cheaper in the Midwest. The choices, however, are quite limited. In Baltimore, we paid $1o0 less for our apartment than we pay for the one we have here in the Midwest. It was significantly smaller, but it was absolutely beautiful. It had a huge antique mirror on the wall and a real fireplace. Imagine having a real fireplace right in downtown Baltimore.

The utilities were cheaper on the East Coast and their quality was significantly better (I’m talking about the Internet, television, and telephone.)

Public transportation is cheaper in our tiny Midwestern town.

The food, though, is a lot more expensive in the Midwest. Of course, I don’t eat junk. I eat a lot of fresh fruit and vegetables and fresh meats and fish. The prices for this stuff are ruinous in a small Midwestern town. In a town in Oklahoma where I was offered a job, you needed to drive for 75 miles to get to the closest grocery store. Mind you, not an organic grocery store, or anything fancy like that. Just a regular grocery store. Within the town itself, there were convenience stores that sell the kind of junk I could not imagine eating. TV dinners and frozen pizzas, chips and chocolate bars. Bleh. So I refused the job.

In a big city (or even in a small town) on the East Coast, you can easily live without a car. And a car is a total money-guzzler. Here, you even need a car to go to a dollar store, which, of course, makes the entire concept of a dollar store moot.

And how about clothes? In New York, Montreal, Baltimore, etc. you can buy absolutely amazing clothes in all sizes very cheaply at Century 21 or its equivalent. I just bought two pairs of pants for something like $20 and $25 in Montreal and they look amazing. Here, however, clothes are supremely ugly and expensive. I have scoured the Metro St. Louis area for stores with passable clothes and have found nothing. This means that you have to travel far away to buy good clothes if you live where I do.

And books? Big cities (and even small towns) on the East Coast are teeming with used book stores. Here, there are none.

Now let’s think about people who have children. In a big city, there is a bizillion activities you can do with a child absolutely for free. Santa Claus parades, festivals, museums, galleries. Here, there is nothing. I have no idea what is it that people do with their kids in order to have a good time and help them develop intellectually. They can’t even go for walks because there is nowhere to walk.

This brings us to yet another added expense of life in a small Midwestern town. If there is nowhere to walk, you’ve either got to join a gym (expensive) or start frequenting doctors (insanely expensive).

Any kind of entertainment is located far away and is expensive in our area. In a big city on the East Coast, though, you could spend hours each day enriching yourself culturally for no money at all.

So I have to conclude that life in the Midwest is only cheaper if you are willing to eat garbage, wear horrible ugly clothes, read no books, drive everywhere, only exercise in the horrible perversion of humanity called the gym, and spend all your free time vegging out in front of the TV.

The healthy, cultured, intellectual lifestyles that even poor people can enjoy in a big city on the East Coast, however, are only accessible to quite wealthy folks in small Midwestern towns.

What Is It With Personal Trainers?

Why can’t they process the idea that some people aren’t interested in losing weight? My sister keeps going to personal trainers and they keep trying to goad her into dieting.

My sister is a beautiful woman (really, she is absolutely stunning) who wears size 10 and is extremely happy with her body. Happy, ecstatic, very content. As she rightfully should be. She only eats very healthy food and, like everybody in our family, she is a great gourmand. She keeps trying to explain to yet another personal trainer that she only visits him to get some physical activity, not to lose weight. The trainer, however, can’t get used to this idea and still pushes for a diet.

“So, how was your eating this week?” he asks in a tragic voice.

“It was yummy,” my sister responds. “Absolutely delicious. And plentiful.”

“Have you been thinking about the diet I suggested?” the trainer insists.

“I don’t need a diet,” my sister explains patiently.

“Well, try to pinch your skin,” the trainer says. “If you can pinch it, this means there is fat, so you need to go on a diet.”

“And if I can’t pinch it,” she responds, “it means I’m an anorexic who is barfing in the bathroom five times a day.”

My sister is a very authoritative, powerful business woman. I’m a cutesy, gentle wallflower by her side. So the personal trainer will not be able to bully her into an unnecessary diet. Just consider, however, what this badgering would do to a person who is less secure in their body image.

I Don’t Care About Your Needs

In find it especially lovely when the day before the final exam, a student sends me the following email (this is the entire text of the email with no editing on my part):

i got a zero on the final essay so what am i suppose to get a bad grade or what i need a good grade in this course so what do i do now

Not to get all Ayn-Randian on people, but I find this reference to what the student needs to be especially jarring. Why exactly am I supposed to care about your needs, you strange creature? Have you done anything to motivate me to care about what you need? I needed you to participate in your class sessions and I assigned 20% of the final grade to participation to motivate you to speak in class. I needed you to write a final essay and offered all kinds of assistance. I also needed you to learn how to write an acceptable email in an academic setting and I dedicated 30 minutes of class time to a Power Point presentation on the subject.

So what exactly is supposed to make me care about your unreasonable needs right now?

Current mood: very annoyed.

P.S. Three hours before the final exam, I meet this student in the hallway. He pretends not to notice me. It’s a really smart move to be rude to a professor on the day of the final when you know you’ve already failed the essay.

P.P.S. I’ve scheduled a spa session for next week because teaching freshmen this year has made me kind of bitter. People used to call me Little Miss Sunshine, which was annoying to a woman of my age, but I’d rather be that than Old Mrs. Winter Storm.

What Kind of Income Is Low?

I just heard on Diane Rehm’s NPR show that low-income people are those who make less than $40K per year. Such statements make every discussion of the rising levels of poverty in this country extremely suspect.

They also remind me of some spoiled brats I used to know who scoffed at my starting salary of $42K at my current tenure-track job.

Current mood: annoyed.

Answering Questions About the Protests in Russia

People are sending in questions and finding the blog through online searches about the protests in Russia. I decided to answer these questions in a separate post since there seems to be so much interest.

1. Are the Russian protests inspired by the #OSW?

– The answer is no. Absolutely not. And the tendency to explain things happening in other countries through what goes on in one’s own is never a productive strategy. The protests in Russia have nothing to do with the economy. I have not seen or heard of a single economic demand coming from the protesters in any of the sources in Russia I have been following during the recent events. The people who protest in Russia are members of the middle and the upper-middle class. One of their leaders is a billionaire who became famous for proposing 12-hour work days for his employees. The other leaders are very rich people, too. These are folks who have made enough money not to be seduced by the small amounts Putin pays to his fake supporters. Most of the protesters are comfortable enough financially to afford to have a civic consciousness.

If anything, the Russian protests follow in the footsteps of the Orange tradition started by Ukraine several years ago. Of course, the fiercely anti-Ukrainian Russians will never recognize this but we’ve seen similar protests take place in Ukraine in 2004-5 when the results of the elections were falsified and people took to the streets to reclaim their right to vote for whomever they want.

The protesters in Ukraine won. Their brothers and sisters in Russia are not likely to win.

2. Have the falsifications during the recent elections been greater than during the previous elections?

– Again, absolutely not. The elections were always falsified in really egregious ways and everybody knew about that. Nothing changed about the elections except the voters. They are not interested in sitting by patiently while their votes are being stolen any more. It took a while but finally people are slowly waking up to the idea that corruption is not OK. At least, when it is indulged in by people other than themselves.

3. What is the future of the protest movement in Russia?

– It pains me to say so, but the future of the protests looks grim right now. The people of Russia need a strong leader (or a group of leaders.) Historically, they have always needed a leader to worship and detest at the same time. There are no strong, effective leaders in the country today. The so-called opposition consists of sad, pathetic, out-of-touch remnants of the Soviet-time dissident movement and a couple of politicians who have squandered their political capital through decades of impotence and uselessness. None of them is a match for Putin in terms of effectiveness and strength.

I have a feeling that the protests are fizzling out already. Of course, this is one area where I’d really like to be mistaken. I will keep updating my readers on the developments in Russia.

I welcome any other questions on this subject. Most of the information on the Russian protests that I’m seeing in North American media is complete and utter junk.

From A Russian Radio Station

These are some of the things that I just heard on Russia’s most progressive radio station:

“Protests against the unfair elections took place not only in Moscow but also in Russia.”

“For a very long time, many people couldn’t fulfill their dream of moving to Moscow because housing was very expensive in the city. Now, however, this dream has become accessible to anybody. Our company sells cheap, luxurious cottages starting at only $200,000.”

“Great Britain is repenting the huge mistake it made when it allowed all those dark-skinned folks who have recently been let out of their cages in Africa to move to the country. These people should have stayed in their zoos instead of coming to a civilized country and destroying it. I’m sure everybody noticed that the darker your skin is, the likelier you are to be dirty, rude, and mean to others.”

None of the programs that contained these statements tried to be humorous or parodic. This was all said completely in earnest. And I didn’t even try the really hardcore ultra-nationalistic stations.

Ask me again why I don’t hang out with people from my country.