The Insanity Track
A male said to me once after years of standing on the platform of the subway, "I die a
little bit down there every day. but I know I am doing so for my family."
BHI Moyers, cooutbor, The Power of Myth’
I’ve never done a single thing I’ve wanted to in my whole life.
Sinclair Lewis, Rabbin
What distinguishes the married male executive from the married female executive? The higher up the married male executive goes, the less likely is his wife to work outside the home. (Eighty-seven percent of wives of top executives (vice-president and above) work inside the home, not outside the home2) Conversely, almost all the husbands of female executives work full time outside the home So the married male executive has a wife who is a financial burden. A married female executive has a husband who is a financial buffer The married male executive has more home support from his wife, but he pays for that by treating his profession more as an obligation; she has less home support, but she can treat her profession more as an opportunity’.
A man in one of my workshops put it this way: "When I was fired, the mortgage payment became the mortgage nightmare. When my wife got sick and I hesitated – just for a moment – to find the best and most expensive doctor, I felt guilty. And when 1 saw my children say good-bye to their best friends because we had to move, it broke my heart. Just days after I had watched them cry – saying good bye, I got a heart attack."
When we hear a female executive say’, “What I need is a wife," everyone says, "Yeah!”, no one says, “Take on the financial burden of a husband and you’ll find a wife.’ ” Or, "Just ask a man to be a househusband and you’ll find one." In my workshops, I have met thousands of men willing to parent, cook, manage the home, and arrange the social life in exchange for фе income of an executive woman he loves. I meet few executive women volunteering to financially support these men. And I see few ads in the personals saying, "Successful woman wants handsome househusband."
It is exactly, then, the tendency of a family to mean financial burden to an executive man and financial buffer to an executive woman that leads to men
being more likely to fall into the lawyer trap, the doctor-as-slave-trap, and the paper warrior incinerator. . .
The lawyer trap
ITEM Forty-one percent of lawyers would enter another profession if they had to do it all over agamJ
ITEM The alcoholism rate among lawyers is almost twice as high as among the general population 4
Many lawyers enter law with the fantasy of becoming a fcrry Mason. Instead they become a paper mason They expea to work with people. They become isolated from people They desire to be a legal pioneer. They become a legal prostitute
Both male and female lawyers are much more likely to feel like prostitutes when they’ work for corporations. One woman who quit being a corporate lawyer to become a mountain trail guide pul it like this: "Lawyers are trained to separate their feelings from the position the client wants them to take, which serves you well as a lawyer, but it is lousy for you as a human being.’*5
While both sexes are disillusioned by this pioneer ideal and prostitute feel and often face an $80,000 or so debt when they have completed law school, I’ve heard only the younger male lawyers say what a friend of mine said: “I’ve always wanted to enter public service law, but it pays so little; unless I go into corporate law, I’ll never be able to get married and have kids’’
It has been my men friends, then, who have been most likely to succumb to the bribe of big salaries and least likely to quit when they hated what they were doing. When corporate law did not fit their personalities, the men were more likely to change their personalities than to change their careers. This made them more vulnerable to the lawyer trap: To earn the big salary, he has to bill clients for sixty to eighty hours of work per week. But since many staff meetings and administrative tasks are not billable to clients, the attorney’s real work week becomes seventy-five to ninety hours.6 Thus, the lawyer trap.
The trap is also a setup for corruption. For example, when Anita Hill worked at a private firm, she was suspeaed of falsifying time sheets and billing clients for work she had not done. Why? A former colleague feels “she couldn’t meet the demands placed on young associates at the firm.’’" She left to work for the government and then a university – she was not supporting a man and children.
In their search for pay and respect, many lawyers find instead chest pains, hypertensk>n, arthritis, and insomnia – in their thirties. It is just this greater willingness by men to prostitute themselves for the pay-and-respect bribe that makes us think of a man when we hear a lawyer joke.
Doctor at tlaw
ITEM First-year residents n pediatrics and obstetrics averaged 90 hours per week, with one m ten surgical residents exceeding 122 hours per week.®
ITEM Medical residents m New York who are on call average 2.4 hours of sleep per night.’
When a young woman’s death in a New York hospital was attributed to mistakes made by exhausted doctors, a state committee was appointed to determine whether donors’ long hours were jeopardizing patients ™ The result after one female died? New York became the first state in the nation to recommend limits for donors’ hours: "no more than 24-hour shifts and 80- hour weeks."11 In two lengthy New York Times articles on the committee’s work, though, there was not one mention of how the donors’ long hours damaged the donors’ lives, hurt their marriages, deprived them of time with their children, or turned them into slaves.
A Central African legend illustrates the universality of the understanding that training to be a medical donor is done at the risk of one’s life. The legend goes. . .
Once upon a time there was a half-man. one-legged, one-armed, so one-sided that, if viewed from the off-side, he was invisible. If he encountered you, he would challenge you to a fight. You did not have to accept. And if you did accept and lost, you would die. But if you accepted and won, he would show you how to use so many medicines that you could become a proficient donor.12
When I taught at the School of Medicine at the University of California in San Diego a few years ago, I saw young, fresh, bright, first-year med students enter medical school "on top of the world " A few years later, most of the men were drained, distant, and preoccupied. They – had become half-men. Most of the women, however, had become "three-quarter-women.’’ Why the difference?
First, with a few exceptions, most of the women in my classes, usually first-year students, knew by the end of the first year that they would choose a field which (1) created the fewest demands at odd hours and (2) gave them °K>re contact with human life than human death. Nationwide, this propensity leads female doctors to choose fields such as child psychiatry or adult psychiatry; to avoid all surgical specializations and all cardiovascular and
pulmonary disease specializations.15 In brief, the women avoided becoming half-women by avoiding the fields that would put them in constant contact with death or make them prisoners of other people ’s schedules The men could learn from these women.
The male students were more likely to compete for the long-term, ideal position – one giving them control over their lives as doctors. Since the competition for the ideal positions was fierce, many men compromised, chose the contact-with-death specialities, and worked 100-hour weeks, earning money that only their families would have time to spend. In the process of gaining control of their lives as doctors, they lost control over their lives as people
Unfortunately, the process of gaining money in his life usually meant alienating the wife in his life. Sometimes this leads to a legal divorce, but more often to a psychological divorce. Which is why a survey of doctors’ wives reported in MedicaUMrs found the doctors’ wives harboring hostility that was ‘stunning to behold.’’14 Yet the wives remained married to the doctors. Why? More than anything else, the wives said, they wanted security from marriage. Apparently their husbands picked up their wives’ desire for security more than their wives’ hostility toward the persons who provided it. The men, then, were often prostitutes to an illusion of emotional security. At least their wives had the reality of economic security.