Friday, May 24, 2013
Bucks, bikes, bosoms and needles
When I taught you
at eight to ride
a bicycle, loping along
as you wobbled away
on two round wheels,
my own mouth rounding
in surprise when you pulled
ahead down the curved
path of the park,
I kept waiting
for the thud
of your crash as I
sprinted to catch up,
while you grew
smaller, more breakable
for your life, screaming
the hair flapping
behind you like a
Linda Pasten's "To a Daughter, Leaving Home" is this morning's entree on The Writer's Almanac, a touching and dear lament every parent knows, whether it occurs the morning her daughter rides a bike or the night before his son leaves for college. One memorable essay written by a student of mine, years ago, remembered her father's tears--the only ones she ever witnessed--when he left her behind at a college a thousand miles away from home. I used that essay as a sample for years because every kid I ever had in a writing class knew something real about that story.
Ms. Pasten's poem does what poetry often will--it sets within us an image that stays. There are several here, all of them universal, but the one that's most striking is the child's hair, like a "handkerchief waving/goodbye." That picture now has a spot in the gallery of my imagination.
"To a daughter" is a wonderful poem, in part, because I'm in it, as are most of us. Pasten's story is my story, and yours, and a gadzillion others.
And it sticks with me this morning because of a news item I read about a man named Paul Tudor Jones, a gadzillionaire who, in a forum of other gadzillionaires round-tabling on the University of Virginia campus, explained that no women were around that table because once women have babies--what he said is once they hold that baby to their "bosoms"--they lose their sharpness, their technique. There are no women high-stakes traders because babies, he says, disorient the laser-like mind required to make really, really big money.
He may be right. I've always believed female perception is different from male perception, always felt that gender differences were as mysterious as they are real. But there's something about what he said that simply pisses me off, pardon my French.
What pisses me off is that what Paul Tudor Jones, gadzillionaire, said is somehow news.
What pisses me off is that we care what he says because he's a gadzillionaire.
What pisses me off is that his eleventy-seven million-dollar investment portfolio--his dough--gives him privilege and standing and political clout that vastly surpasses Linda Pasten's or any of a gadzillion others of us, men and women, who are ourselves more rich for having experienced that exact moment alongside a child on a bike.
Still, oddly enough, what Mr. Jones is spouting is a line with verifiable biblical values: look, we can either love people or we can love money. New Testament, even.
Mr. Jones may well be a fine, fine man. He has three daughters of his own, daughters he says he's encouraged to find a life that filled with doing the things they love, including, most likely, helping their own daughters or sons ride bikes.
And, who knows? He may well be right. I've never been a hedge fund manager; it's not a calling I'd do well at, that I know.
What he's saying is that if you don't give your life to making money, if you allow parenthood or marriage itself or any other distraction into a life calculated to make money, you'll never achieve, he says, what I have. Something about that makes me wince.
I know it's a dirty rotten thing to say, but he's the one, after all, who's spouting biblical values, so let me say it anyway: his arrogance makes me appreciate what a teeny tiny space the eye of needle really is.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:35 AM