I used to work for a very small auto insurance company. Specifically, I worked on the underwriting software the company used to rate its customers. The rating each customer gets then determines the premiums they paid for insurance. And there were plenty of things that affected each customer’s rating. The big ones were age, gender, marital status, driving history, and the zip code of the customer’s primary residence.
After each customer gets rated, the highest “rated” (read: highest liability) driver gets assigned to the most expensive car available on the policy. So that means if there’s a BMW 5 series and a Honda Civic on the policy and there’s a 16 year old male (statistically the most risky) and a 44 year old female (the least risky), the teenager gets assigned to the Bimmer while his mom gets the Civic, regardless of who drives what in real life. Or if you have two vehicles but just one driver on the policy, that driver gets assigned to the more expensive one as if he only drove that vehicle.
The reason has to do with minimizing liability. It would take a lot more time and effort to verify that each driver on the policy is driving the car they say they would drive. And that would cost the insurance company more money. So instead of that, they just assume the worst case scenario and then charge accordingly. All of this happens with the explicit approval of each state’s insurance commissioner, who reviews and signs off on the underwriting methods for each company, as well as any changes in base premiums.
This is also an inadvertent explanation for how racism works. Because insurance rating, like racism, is simply a calculation on how to treat different people according to a set of traits shared among groups of people. Racism deals with treating people differently on the basis of their skin color. Car insurance underwriting considers more traits than racism, but it’s still a form of discrimination by proxy.
If you think that it makes sense to group drivers into cohorts based on age, gender, marital status, zip code, driving history, etc, you’re using the same principle that racists use. Because you’re judging an individual driver based on shared characteristics of a “similar” cohort rather than the individual himself. It gives a slightly more negative connotation to the saw “birds of a feather flock together”, doesn’t it?
We’ve all heard the stereotypes. Asians are good at math and bad at social interaction. Blacks are athletic and loud. Hispanics are ignorant and hardworking. Whites are entitled and naive. And nobody reading this would say we deserve to discriminate people based on their skin color. Imagine the public furor if FICO boosted the credit scores of white people and penalized black people. But we tacitly accept that it is proper to discriminate based on age, gender, and other observable characteristics.
There are plenty of male teenagers who are very responsible drivers. Unfortunately they comprise a very small minority of male teenagers at large. The insurance company has no way of knowing whether one male teenager is more responsible than his peers at large unless it spent a large amount of time and money doing so. The end result is that the responsible male teenager gets lumped in with the others and therefore pays much higher insurance premiums than he deserves in an ideal insurance rating system.
Ideals are hard to implement in reality, though. Reality is sloppy, lazy, arrogant, and extremely judgmental because it’s created by people who are mostly sloppy, lazy, arrogant, and extremely judgmental. The fact of the matter is that everybody has mental shortcuts and uses them on a daily basis. When it comes to mundane things like calculating car insurance premiums, nobody has a problem with it.
But when it comes to highly charged topics like racism, those mental shortcuts have to be hidden considering that the penalty for honest thoughts on racial prejudice is pretty stiff. And that’s a shame because sunlight really is the best disinfectant. If you’re not allowed to talk about racial prejudice (except in the most politically correct of ways, which is inherently intellectually dishonest), then it gets harder to bridge reality to the ideal.
I’ll end this with two thoughts:
1. The insurance company has an excuse for being prejudicial. It would be expensive and illegal for the insurance company to hire people to check on its customers’ lives to calculate the ideal insurance premium (the true expected value of the insurance policy plus operation costs plus a 3-5% profit).
2. People and institutions (which is really just another word for people) will continue to use discriminatory shortcuts/heuristics so long as they work, and well past the point where they don’t. Changing their attitude requires constantly proving them wrong. Unfair, but life’s unfair.
My parents called me the other day to “have a talk about my future.” They were a little concerned about my newfound “bohemian” lifestyle, which they still didn’t understand was nothing like the musical Rent.
“What is your back up plan?” they asked. “What do you want to do?” I explained to them that I have a job, and that I am doing something. “A job isn’t a career,” they said. “Do careers exist anymore?” I replied.
I’m sure they rolled their eyes at this, but I was serious, “Do they?”
Since that conversation, I’ve been thinking a lot about that particular question. Are traditional career paths less relevant now than they used to be? Does the 21’st century world of rapid technological change mean that our professional lives will be less defined and more fluid than before?
Previous generations mostly followed specific professional paths, either going into law, medicine, accounting, manufacturing, or public service. They joined a company, climbed the corporate ladder, got married, had kids, bought a house, and planned for the earliest possible retirement.
Today, the career landscape is different then it was thirty years ago. Technology and the Internet have opened up the possibility for young people fresh out of college to have immediate and lucrative success. You don’t have to go to graduate school, work your way up through the ranks of a company and become a partner to invent Snap Chat, become a YouTube celebrity, start a viral blog, or write an E-book. Moreover our culture rewards and praises people who invent things and we place a very high social value on individuals who achieve success at early ages. Forbes “30 under 30”, The New Yorker’s “20 under 40”, Fortune’s “40 under 40”, and many other lists like it all tout the successes of young entrepreneurs such as Mark Zuckerburg the inventor of Facebook, David Systrom who created Instagram, Jack Dorsey who started Twitter, and many others.
As writer Aaron Sorkin explains in his movie The Social Network, today, young, driven college graduates don’t ‘find jobs’ they ‘invent them’.
Clearly some part of the shift from ‘finding a job’ to ‘inventing a job’ is due to the fact that technology has changed the job market. Large companies like Kodak, which once employed over 100,000 workers, have been replaced by smaller ones like Snap Chat, which barely employs 30.
For many millennials, fluid, rapid, and constant technological change, has made the concept of “career”, defined by Merriam-Webster as “a profession someone does for a long time,” more and more irrelevant. In fact, unless you are pursuing work in law, medicine, or academia, there are very few modern professions you can hold for “a long time”. And while we will continue working for large companies, many of our professional successes won’t come from finding a job, but from creating one, which has made the lives of many young people more fluid than ever before.
Unfortunately, this uncertainty has created angst amongst many millennials. We think if we don’t achieve success early, we won’t achieve it at all. In reality, Americans are living longer and working longer than ever. And because our working paths aren’t as straightforward as they used to be, we should relish in the fact that we have more time to figure them out, not compulse over the fact that we can’t see the finish line. Remember, our professional lives will be different than our parents. The sooner we can embrace that uncertainty, the better off we’ll be.
And if there is any comfort in history just remember that Nelson Mandela didn’t become President of South Africa until he was 76, Julia Child didn’t go to cooking school until she was 40, Ray Kroc didn’t start working for McDonald’s until he was 52, and after countless rejections author J.K Rowling was 32 when she published the first Harry Potter book.
Okay, so I finished the phone conversation with my parents by telling them that since 40 is the new 20, at 23 I’m basically just being born.
Yeah, I’m going with that.
After a week of waking up with sensations of anxiety, things reached their bleakest point last Friday when I had to take a mental health day off. I cancelled almost every commitment, meeting, project, class assignment, teaching task, grading, writing piece, etc. I had planned to do, and spent the whole day in bed. Sooner or later I did start writing something that only had the effect of opening up old wounds or maybe finally dealing with them. And that was the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Or maybe it wasn’t so much a straw that broke the camel’s back as it was the trigger of strong feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Then came the feelings of emotional and physical paralysis. I couldn’t do anything; I felt like I just couldn’t do anything. So I cried. No, it wasn’t just one glistening tear or a few moments of “letting it out.” I sat in my bed and cried pretty regularly throughout the day. Anxiety, stress, tears, panic, and well, more tears, and more anxiety. This isn’t “normal.” And yet it seems not so abnormal for twenty somethings.
I’ve had a few days like this in the past; I can count them all on one hand. Apart from having to, or rather trying to, learn what it means to be a vulnerable person in my adulthood and diminishing my fears of being perceived as weak, I’ve also known that mental health is something that always needs attention. Having had loved ones who suffered and suffer from mental health illnesses, I am aware; I am always aware.
Yet I am also aware both from education, (Thank you Social Construction of Health class.) and experience, that how we speak of and deal with anxiety today is the result of the medicalization of well, just about everything we may perceive as negative. Now don’t get me wrong. There are people with both mild and serious mental health illnesses who benefit greatly from therapy – simply needing someone objective to talk to – and drugs – that help with the chemical composition of the brain. It’s a good thing and it is a necessary thing for people who struggle with their mental health.
But there are also people like me – who are caught up in their twenty something life and are maybe in transition of some sorts in that life (Check) or dealing with particular stressors (Check) or facing difficult decisions (Maybe?), that just need to take a day off or two. Maybe go for a run. Maybe indulge in some prayer and meditation. Maybe do some yoga. Maybe get some acupuncture done. Maybe get a massage or reflexology. Or maybe call your mother and cry some more. Maybe, all of the above.
I think anxiety is the new normal of the twenty something life. How can it not be? A generation that much was expected from is seemingly not living up to expectations. That aside, the twenties are a transition now more than ever from essentially being a child to being an adult, and all the professional, financial, personal, and spiritual challenges that go along with that. I wish I could take my dad’s advice and remember, “Growing up is not easy, so take it easy.” That is sound advice, isn’t it?
But I think instead, we medicate. I’ve always medicated by overworking. Sometimes over-exercising. Sometimes over-consuming food or alcohol. And indeed it is not limited to these for many in my generation. Sometimes it’s drugs, sometimes it’s sex; it can be anything, and it can be everything. Of course the problem with medicating with things you shouldn’t, or things you shouldn’t do too much, is that it catches up with you. And maybe only has the effect of making you more anxious. Eventually, you break down. Maybe all you need is a mental health day, and a day or two to get it together. That’s what I needed. Maybe you need more. Get help if you need more. Either way, you don’t have to face your twenty something anxieties alone.
I’m anxious about the future – not in ten years. The six-month future. Sometimes I wish I could just fast-forward to it because I think in that place, I will be 100%. Except we’re never 100%. In six months, I’ll have a different set of challenges to solve. Maybe I won’t need a mental health day but none of us are ever problem-free. Until we’re dead of course. But I’d be happy to put that off for a few more decades or so.
So make a list of what you can and can’t control, and focus on the former and leave the latter to the heavens. It helps. Counting your blessings help. Keeping your life and lifestyle in moderation helps; talking helps. You are not your anxiety, your worries, or your problems. These things will pass because they always do. Moreover they might be part of the big picture of your life but they are not the picture itself. Never lose sight of that big picture; there are thorns to be painted along with the roses. And the picture will always be more beautiful because of it.
Nearly every time a woman tries something new in the worlds of beauty or style, she is met with a frantic chorus of “But don’t you know men don’t like that?” Yes, yes she does know. But she is not out here attempting to harvest male attention like Rupees in a field of bushes, she is either doing this for herself, or doing it to get the coveted Girl-On-Girl Compliment. Not everything is about men, least of all these things.
1. Cute clothes.
It’s important to clarify here that there is such a thing as Time To Get Me Some D outfits, and there is nothing wrong with them. If you’re wearing a skintight American Apparel sideboob dress, and looking to collect some numbers and/or free drinks for it, good for you. But the vast majority of “cute” clothes are done for one of three reasons: 1. Precious Instagram likes on OOTD pics, 2. An approving glance from other girls, 3. The wearer’s own enjoyment. Cute clothes and D-getting clothes have nothing to do with one another for the most part.
I have spent an unfortunate amount of money on fierce-looking nails over the past few months, and am constantly met with the counterpoint of “You know guys don’t care about that, right?” I would finish this sentence but I must go retrieve my eyeballs, for they have rolled out of my head and across the floor to the other end of the room.
3. Elaborate hairstyles.
*Moonwalks into the room* No one is doing victory rolls or a beehive to please a man. *Moonwalks out silently while staring you directly in the eyes*
4. Sky-high stilettos.
There are certain shoes that serve certain purposes, from the professional to the comfortable to the practical. But then there are the shoes that harvest passionate “Ooh, girl, those shoes are adorable” from the other girls in the club. And those are the most valuable shoes of all.
5. Experimental makeup colors.
“You look like a clown,” a hater hisses upon seeing your turquoise eyeshadow. “I look like a mermaid,” you respond, flawlessly.
6. Vintage clothing and jewelry.
If you have ever been extremely excited about the jeweled brooch and fox fur coat that you got for only 80 bucks, you know that it is a joy that exists wholly within the self. A good day of vintage shopping is one of the most personal pleasures out there.
I would say that the average ratio of thong-wearing is 20 percent to look hot for someone, 80 percent to prevent Visible Panty Line, which is well-known for ruining even the sturdiest pencil skirt and/or silk charmeuse dress. VPL has nothing to do with men.
Right, because wanting to stay healthy for proper heart function and endurance is ludicrous — the only reason to suffer through an elliptical is for the approval of the gross men grunting by the free weights.
9. Steaks and whiskey.
Yes, technically this one isn’t about beauty or style, but it still belongs on this list. Every woman, upon ordering a steak or a whiskey (or, God forbid, the two of them together) has been asked at least once in a not-totally-unserious way if she’s “one of the boys.” No one is trying to impress you by eating a bloody steak, bloody steaks are delicious. And even though whiskey and I have had to part ways because it is the devil’s juice, I can totally get how someone would love it for what it is. Get over yourself.
10. Short hair.
My favorite thing about when a woman cuts her hair short is the immediate chorus of “DON’T YOU KNOW YOUR DICK-GETTIN DAYS ARE OVER, GIRL??” Short hair a hanging offense in the Court Of Looking Hot To Random Straight Men Everywhere.
11. Expensive bags.
If the idea was to attract male attention while carrying our various items around our lives, we would likely put them in a hobo bindle made of underwear and poke them in the face with it while out running errands. We are more than aware that expensive purses are not sexy, we do it because we want to look flossy as fuck and have other girls be like “I love your bag, oh my god.” That’s it.
12. Yoga pants.
Yes, yoga pants make your ass look good. You know what else they do? They basically allow the wearer all of the comfort and flexibility of pajamas/sweatpants without looking like the world’s saddest college freshman. They’re the best. (And also — GASP! — sometimes you work out in them.)
13. Matching lingerie.
I’ll admit that sometimes the matching bra and panties is about getting the D, but most of the time it’s about feeling like a put-together, classy adult woman who can conquer anything and has a secret source of confidence just under her clothes. The best business deals get closed when the executive’s lingerie game is untouchable, it’s just a fact.
Why work when you can just watch YouTube videos, and then x them out when someone important walks by? Here’s some clips that’ll help you pass the time.
1. True Detective: Oscars Parody
LA-based comedian Jon Rudnitsky has been making some huge YouTube waves over the past year or so. His two prior hits, House Of Cards Junkie and The Jewish Hunger Games: Kvetching Fire, have recently been followed up by the one you see above, a very well done True Detective parody that uses the show’s style to talk about McConaughey’s career. Rudnitsky’s McConaughey impresh is real solid.
Note: this doesn’t really give away any True Detective spoilers (I’m a few episodes behind, didn’t spoil anything), but is most def much funnier if you’ve watched the show.
2. New Material Seinfeld
Comedian Pete Holmes has been doing his thing over at TBS — his late-night show is churning away, making it’s mark with a solid guest lineup, funny sketches, and great ideas such as this one – New Material Seinfeld, a puppet that tries out jokes in the style of the great observational comedian.
Be warned: once you watch, there’s a good chance you’ll turn into that annoying person who can’t stop quoting.
3. Bill Burr: Paula Deen & the Media Cycle
Bill Burr explains the “public outrage” media cycle in regards to last year’s Paula Deen firestorm. With the recent mega-investment Deen landed (between -100 million), Burr couldn’t be more correct.
4. Religious Dad
Before the Workaholics guys were the Workaholics guys, they were grinding it out on the ‘tube. Here’s Adam Devine playing the part of a very funny “Religious Dad.”
5. Broad City: I Heart New York
As is well publicized, Comedy Central’s recent hit Broad City used to be web series. Here’s a particularly notable episode from 2011, featuring the likes of popular humans such as Kristen Schaal and Amy Poehler.
6. New Friend – Jimmy Tatro
Jimmy Tatro is an endless mine of funny, collegey-ish stuff. He’s now a
household beer can-laden, unclean apartment-hold name, but here’s his first. Very solid.
7. Key And Peele – “Pussy On The Chain Wax”
From last season’s Key and Peele, this is an incredibly funny, rather brilliant sketch about saying that aren’t actually sayings, and the process of “trying to start a thing.”