Ayn Rand, Worst Aunt Ever
February 20, 2016 3:53 PM   Subscribe

Ayn Rand's letter to the collection of chemicals with delusions of grandeur that is her niece is what you would expect.

From the comments: "The dress was sliver-gray, like the brushed aluminum wing of a Douglas DC-7. It was cut against the bias, its very lines suggesting forward motion; relentless, imperious progress. It had a small bow at the hip."
posted by Foci for Analysis (45 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
Anyone want to borrow $25? memail me.
posted by cjorgensen at 3:57 PM on February 20, 2016 [8 favorites]


Sounds more like Ayn *Rant* amirite?
posted by randomkeystrike at 4:02 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


Ayn Rand lived 9 more years because socialized medicine paid for her cancer treatment and welfare paid for her food and housing.
posted by humanfont at 4:10 PM on February 20, 2016 [102 favorites]


Borrow the $25.
Intentionally refuse to repay said $25.
Horrible aunt removed from your life permanently.
Look good AND feel even better in new dress.
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 4:15 PM on February 20, 2016 [89 favorites]


Ayn Rand; a firebrand; likable as of a can of bland Spam, flan, and sand.
posted by duffell at 4:23 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


"Wait a minute. What's this eighteen-percent-a-year shit? You wanna borrow twenty-five, the vig's three bills a week. Fifteen for the vig plus the twenty-five, that's forty big ones you go a whole year, buddy! You hear me?" - Ayn Rand, The FountainheadLetters to a Parasite of a Niece
posted by a lungful of dragon at 4:32 PM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


So Rand wrote, what, 500 words across the two letters? Probably took her an hour, at least. And she's willing to loan $25 interest free to her niece for about a year (equivalent to about $250 today). All to teach her a lesson.

Two selfless acts, out of concern for another human being.

Even Ayn Rand wasn't a true Randian.
posted by Frayed Knot at 4:32 PM on February 20, 2016 [25 favorites]


"what neighborhood initiation ceremony?"

"oh, don't take on so - look, all you have to do is walk up to mrs rand's house and ask to borrow a cup of sugar - you know it's just a way of introducing yourself and getting acquainted"

"well, alright, but why is mary giggling?"

"getting acquainted with mrs rand is so FUN, isn't it, Mary?"

"oh, yeah - i can't wait until she does show up to one of our mississippi rummy and maitai afternoon socials"
posted by pyramid termite at 4:34 PM on February 20, 2016 [20 favorites]


Horrible! Ha!

Actually, I think the advice is quite sound, and written with obvious care.
posted by huron at 4:35 PM on February 20, 2016 [10 favorites]


Well, I would feel there was something wrong with me if Ayn Rand LIKED me (also applies to Trump, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Shkreli, Dick Cheney - don't let him invite you out to hunt).
posted by oneswellfoop at 4:42 PM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


This is very Randy of Rand, but if you've spent much money servicing consumer debt over the course of your life you probably kind of wish you'd had a relative who was willing to make themselves out to be an asshole just to teach you something about financial responsibility.
posted by prize bull octorok at 4:51 PM on February 20, 2016 [7 favorites]


I think Ayn Rand was a deeply weird and wrongheaded person, and this first letter does nothing to disabuse me of that notion. However! Like Mallory Ortberg, I was very charmed by the second letter she sent her niece:
"When you have the time, let me know something about yourself and your future plans. This is not an obligation; you don't have to do it, but if you feel like it, I would like to know more about you. Mimi told me that at one time, you wanted to be a writer. Is that still your interest? If so, we have a great interest in common.

I don't know whether you remember me at all, but I remember you as a perfectly adorable kid who sat on my lap and criticized my shoes and haircut. Let me see what you have turned out to be."
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 4:59 PM on February 20, 2016 [24 favorites]


I like the shade thrown on the siblings.

I wonder how much the niece girded herself for this. Was it something they all laughed about? "Don't worry, she'll cough up the money, and a sermon besides."
posted by nom de poop at 5:01 PM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


I dunno. I think it takes a fair amount of chutzpah to ask for money from an aunt you've basically never met (except when you were a small child and insulted her outfit!), and she's well within her rights to give you a lecture, especially if your siblings have borrowed money and not paid it back.

Oh god, I think I may be defending Ayn Rand! Make it stop!
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 5:06 PM on February 20, 2016 [25 favorites]


Yeah, I have to say, on balance, this is less horrible than I was expecting, though still very much in keeping with my understanding of her and her character. I think if you have the temerity to ask her for the money, you have to expect the lecture, the scold, and the stern glare - I would expect those more than the possibility of actually receiving $25. But I do like the second letter, which makes Rand seem surprisingly human. The second letter, therefore, is clearly a red herring.
posted by mosk at 5:20 PM on February 20, 2016


Slightly eccentric, but in no way unkind. Rand expressed many aspects of her outlook and personality in monstrous ways, but this isn't one of them.

It's actually a useful illustration of the fact that it's not a person's political views or personal outlook that make them good or bad, it's how they apply them in relation to other people. Had Rand had this attitude to people more generally, I'd have disagreed with her views, but I wouldn't have disliked her.

As Granny Weatherwax puts it "I ain't too certain about where people stand. P'raps what matters is which way you face."
posted by howfar at 5:34 PM on February 20, 2016 [3 favorites]


If only she'd stopped after the 4th paragraph, I'd kinda like it.

When I was 20 and living in my first and worst apartment, I was given a copy of The Fountainhead by a guy who was trying to sucker me into selling Amway. I'd barely even heard of Rand, and the book sat around for a few years until I finally read it during evenings at a coffee shop in Akron, in the wake of the enormously painful divorce that followed my ill-advised first marriage, when I barely knew who I was. I was buoyed by it.

What I've learned about her work since then has been so disappointing.
posted by jon1270 at 5:46 PM on February 20, 2016


"if you've spent much money servicing consumer debt over the course of your life you probably kind of wish you'd had a relative who was willing to make themselves out to be an asshole just to teach you something about financial responsibility"

or you could be normal and decent and describe how much real debt sucks instead of playing manipulative games to teach a lesson
posted by idiopath at 5:50 PM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


In my categories of irresponsible people I now have a slot for "people who are kind of long winded jerks to medium-distance young relatives (sub ahead I g: who asked for money)." It's been a fruitful day.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:52 PM on February 20, 2016


i truly despise ayn rand's writing, but this:

"i despise irresponsible people. i don't want to deal with them or help them in any way. an irresponsible person is a person who makes vague promises, then breaks his word, blames it on circumstances and expects other people to forgive it. a responsible person does not make a promise without thinking of all the consequences and being prepared to meet them."

i relate to this so hard. this is basically my battle cry, in every area of life. oh god oh god.
posted by millipede at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2016 [11 favorites]


"When you have the time, let me know something about yourself and your future plans. This is not an obligation; you don't have to do it, but if you feel like it, I would like to know more about you. Mimi told me that at one time, you wanted to be a writer. Is that still your interest? If so, we have a great interest in common.

I don't know whether you remember me at all, but I remember you as a perfectly adorable kid who sat on my lap and criticized my shoes and haircut. Let me see what you have turned out to be."


Ha, this reads to me so much like "Dearest Niece, I really thought I'd hear back from you, as I assumed you must be hard up for cash if you're willing to write to ME for money. I guess you have other people you know who can lay out a payment plan without page after page of passive-aggressively suggesting you don't repay your debts. Dammit. Dammit. Please write again."
posted by 23skidoo at 5:59 PM on February 20, 2016


A tiny bit of perspective. $25 in 1929 is $346.37 in today's dollars.

So while this isn't a large sum of money, it's also not piddling. If a relative, that I didn't even really know, asked me for this amount I'd probably give it, but dammit, I'm also giving the lecture!
posted by cjorgensen at 6:01 PM on February 20, 2016 [4 favorites]


"It is 30% very good advice, 50% unnecessary yelling, and 20% nonsense."

This is actually a very fair assessment of most of Ayn Rand's writing. I think the incessant myopic priggishness of the Objectivlists has unnecessarily shaded my feelings of her early novels. Well that and the fact that the "20 percent nonsense" in Atlas Shrugged was clustered around the climax of the plot making the back half almost unreadable. But there always was a fair amount of clear headed assessment of other people's bullshit hiding among Rand's yelling and nonsense.
posted by midmarch snowman at 6:13 PM on February 20, 2016 [14 favorites]


Seems pretty clear to me that this is a person who would take far more delight if they were not paid back the $25.
posted by billjings at 6:18 PM on February 20, 2016 [16 favorites]


Metafilter: 30% very good advice, 50% unnecessary yelling, and 20% nonsense.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 6:29 PM on February 20, 2016 [56 favorites]


i truly despise ayn rand's writing, but this:

"i despise irresponsible people. i don't want to deal with them or help them in any way. an irresponsible person is a person who makes vague promises, then breaks his word, blames it on circumstances and expects other people to forgive it. a responsible person does not make a promise without thinking of all the consequences and being prepared to meet them."

i relate to this so hard. this is basically my battle cry, in every area of life. oh god oh god.


Copying and pasting this to send to friends who flake on plans
posted by sallybrown at 6:55 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Metafilter: 30% very good advice, 50% unnecessary yelling, and 20% nonsense.


I would hope that the bulk of my contributions have fallen under that final 20%.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 7:12 PM on February 20, 2016 [6 favorites]


humanfont: "Ayn Rand lived 9 more years because socialized medicine paid for her cancer treatment and welfare paid for her food and housing."

I can't tell if this is saying something about Ayn Rand or something about socialized medicine.
posted by Red Loop at 7:28 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


What did Connie have to say about Ayn’s haircut when they met again?

The photo illustrating the article makes me really miss Spy magazine's celebrity math. Something like Marco Rubio x short fingered vulgarian Donald Trump + Pete Rose.
posted by TedW at 8:43 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ayn Rand lived 9 more years because socialized medicine paid for her cancer treatment and welfare paid for her food and housing.

I'd so love for this to be true, but I actually now think it's bullshit.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 9:30 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Up thread somebody gave the value of 1929 dollars I believe it is supposed to be 1949 dollars which makes the loan 248.46 not insubstantial but not 340 whatever it was.
posted by Pembquist at 9:37 PM on February 20, 2016 [2 favorites]


Borrow the $25.
Intentionally refuse to repay said $25.


Would you really respect yourself if you acted like this?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:50 PM on February 20, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ayn Rand is a hilarious person in many ways - her essay on why a woman shouldn't be president is my favourite piece of Rand comedy gold - but the awful people who take her seriously have soured me on her. I do like that she altruistically dedicated her labour to telling her niece to despise altruism, in the same way that I enjoy the fact that the Ayn Rand Institute is a non-profit.
posted by Aravis76 at 2:11 AM on February 21, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pointing out that people seem to read "dress" as "haha, needless girly frippery, what a spoilt brat". When a dress is, you know, what women wore back then. A basic necessity.
Sure, it's a mighty expensive dress, but you don't know what she needed it for or how she would be judged and penalized for not wearing the right thing, or for refusing to attend
You just don't know.

Ayn Rand didn't assume frippery or intentional rudeness or spoilt character. Ayn Rand extended the courtesy of assuming best intentions, despite having been burnt by the girl's siblings before.
posted by Omnomnom at 3:56 AM on February 21, 2016 [13 favorites]


What makes this amusing to me is not the advice - which isn't all that bad - but that the letter, like her writing, shows no evidence of any sense of humour and demonstrates her urge to pontificate. She'd be the Worst Party Guest Ever.

It's like Atlas Shrugged: its plot was interesting at times, but her characters were all humourless caricatures. And I just skipped John Galt's long speech, as I didn't see any point.
posted by tallmiddleagedgeek at 6:48 AM on February 21, 2016 [2 favorites]


There has to be something charming about her, or she would never have gotten so popular. On that note, Donald Trump can also be quite charming.
posted by fungible at 8:16 AM on February 21, 2016


I think if you have the temerity to ask her for the money, you have to expect the lecture, the scold, and the stern glare

I think you have to expect that from pretty much any interaction with Ayn Rand.
Neighbor: Good morning.

Rand: A self-sufficient person requires no unsolicited blessing. A morning can be made good only through man's striving to make it so. My morning belongs to me and no other. I need no outside approval to make its goodness manifest.
posted by dephlogisticated at 10:12 AM on February 21, 2016 [21 favorites]


I wrote an email not dissimilar to this not so long ago, but with less harsh language.

I'm from a poor background, so the only times (probably closer to 85-90%) I hear from my father, brother or younger sister is if they want to borrow money from me. And the "borrow" should be in massive sarcasm quotes, as I've never received anything back. I'm a student subsisting on loans and part-time work to get by, and all three of them have their own income, so it's annoying to keep getting the requests time after time.

So after my younger sister sent me yet another message asking for money 'to get home', I replied that I would of course since it was an emergency, but I'd need a definite promise that she'd repay it on her payday in two weeks. Did the same for my brother and dad when they next called to ask.

Never received any reply, or a reply to any message I sent since.

Summary: Even your family can be sponges. Maybe even especially. And anyone who can make me sympathise with Ayn Rand goes on my List. The List is non-specific but it is extensive.
posted by The Zeroth Law at 10:47 AM on February 21, 2016


Oh, for pity's sake. I'm an aunt. If one of my nieces wanted a special graduation dress and couldn't afford it, it would be my present to her. Ayn Rand deserved to die alone and on welfare.
posted by tully_monster at 12:24 PM on February 21, 2016


that's a pretty fascinating shift in tone on that last sentance, tully
posted by phearlez at 2:05 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


God this reminds me of that thread where I ended up feeling sorry for Michael Bay.
posted by howfar at 2:25 PM on February 21, 2016 [1 favorite]


When I first met Mimi, she asked me to give her money for the purpose of taking an art course. I gave her the money, but she did not take the art course. I supported Marna for a year -- for the purpose of helping her to finish high school. She did not finish high school.

...

I want you to understand very clearly, right now, when you are young, that no honest person believes that he is obligated to support his relatives. I don't believe it and will not do it.


I dunno, kinda sounds to me like you will.
posted by babelfish at 9:40 PM on February 21, 2016


Borrow the $25.
Intentionally refuse to repay said $25.
Would you really respect yourself if you acted like this?

Would I respect myself for ruining the day of one of the twentieth century's most malevolent philosophers, whose inhuman ideas of self-sufficiency directly fueled the rise of Thatcher- and Reaganism and the misery and death of countless poor people? Is this like one of those brainteasers about whether a time traveler in 1928 is ethically obligated to steal Hitler's wallet?

Plus you just know she'd spend hours and hours writing scathing letters to your parents, cousins, professors, and anyone who had ever met you, which means less time to write books cheerleading rape and oppression. Win-win!
posted by Mayor West at 5:37 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


Neighbor: Good morning.

To be fair to Ms. Rand, I often have to resist the urge to respond to "how are you?" with some similar kind of thing, only to remind myself that those words don't mean anything more than "hey, I see you and I know you."
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:58 AM on February 22, 2016 [1 favorite]


that's a pretty fascinating shift in tone on that last sentance[sic], tully

You're right. She should have refused the welfare.
posted by tully_monster at 8:50 AM on February 24, 2016


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