What It's Like to Fail.
November 18, 2013 3:44 PM   Subscribe

Twenty-five years ago, David Raether was a successful comedy writer -- a member of the writing staff of Roseanne. Five years ago, he was homeless. This is his story.
posted by workingdankoch (92 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
What happens when you hit bottom? I can tell you one thing: you don’t bounce back. You crawl back, fighting every step of the way. It isn’t a straight arc back up either; there are dozens of setbacks every step of the way. And the place you land isn’t anywhere near where you were when you slipped off the cliff.

Heart-breaking to read from a bright and honest man, but something every capable person who thinks things like this could never happen to them. Thanks for the link...
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 4:21 PM on November 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Wow, great story. I’d like to read the book but I’m allergic to Amazon. I may have to hold my nose and do it anyway.
posted by bongo_x at 4:53 PM on November 18, 2013


bongo_x, you can also order his book directly from Createspace.
posted by nicebookrack at 5:06 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


This hits close to home. In 2006-7 I was starting out on a career rewriting television scripts. I also had managed to reinvent myself and get a job as a manager in a government agency, and I had planned to do that job until the script rewriting took off.

Instead, the economy crashed, and the advertising that had been used to pay for the scripts I was rewriting had also vanished. On top of that, I lost my government job, and had to reinvent myself again.

Thankfully I don't live in California, otherwise, who knows? Maybe my family would have been broken up and I would have ended up living in a car.

Good on this guy.
posted by KokuRyu at 5:21 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


He got to live his dream job for a few years. He made fat cash and raised a ginormous brood and got to hobnob with the beautiful people.

Meanwhile, some of us are now middle-aged and still tending bar.

It's sad he fell off the boat, but at least his ship came in.

He didn't fail. He got enormously hugely spectacularly lucky and confused it with success.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:30 PM on November 18, 2013 [53 favorites]


Good on him for getting his life back together. But I think its pretty irresponsible for anyone to have 8 kids. And when he started mortgaging his house to pay for his lifestyle ('everyone was doing it'), my sympathy level started plummeting.

Now the German taxpayers are paying for his mistakes (happy they have a great safety net, but I don't think its a responsible move to keep having children).

He says there are 5 million homeless folks out there; I would respectfully submit his story is one of the less sympathetic ones (at least to me).

Glad he got a strong union when he was making fat cash though - it will give him the retirement that most of us will never see.
posted by el io at 5:33 PM on November 18, 2013 [22 favorites]


His mistake was choosing his family over his job.
posted by Renoroc at 5:35 PM on November 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Createspace is owned by Amazon, nicebookrack, and is essentially a middleman company to allow individuals such as Raether to access the printing and distro resources of Ingram without the hassle of setting up their own account at Ingram's Lightning Source subsidiary.

Amazon, like Elvis, is everywhere.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 5:35 PM on November 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


BOOO Amazon :(
posted by nicebookrack at 5:37 PM on November 18, 2013


He didn't fail. He got enormously hugely spectacularly lucky and confused it with success.

Damn, that's harsh, but it isn't wrong.
posted by MoxieProxy at 5:40 PM on November 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


I kept marveling at eight kids. Eight! Eight kids and a career as a TV comedy writer, that is optimism and courage. And then taking a break from writing with nothing really lined up, but the eight kids are still there, focusing exclusively on being a father and husband for a couple of years, living on savings, middle aged. That is enormous integrity, sense of priorities and courage. At least that's one way of looking at this. That having such priorities demands courage is what's wacky. Because wouldn't it be amazing if the safety net would be such that it didn't require superhuman courage to pick your family over a career. Of course, it would be more of a miracle to confidently produce eight kids with the serene conviction that somehow they'll be taken care of. Sow your seeds and let the universe work in its wondrous way.

Anyhow - eight kids. Wow. It's comical that the Germans are now stuck with paying for this, because America won't.

Meanwhile, eight kids. As he says, the most important thing to him is family and kids at this point. Good thing then he's had so many kids, he'll never run out of those relationships. Eight kids.
posted by VikingSword at 5:44 PM on November 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


Yeah, eight kids is excessive. I work in TV and I wouldn't even consider getting a friggin cat without a good hard discussion and the knowledge I could cut back my hours enough to have another living creature in my sphere. Going and having eight little humans is pure irresponsibility.
posted by nevercalm at 5:48 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow. Oy.
posted by Sticherbeast at 5:56 PM on November 18, 2013



He didn't fail. He got enormously hugely spectacularly lucky and confused it with success.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 5:30 PM on November 18 [4 favorites +] [!]


Eponysterical.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:59 PM on November 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


So his kids were in high school in an exclusive LA zip code, while their mom flew off to Germany, their dad was homeless, and they were crashing with friends?

This guy needs to learn some hustle, that reality show pitch practically sells itself.
posted by rue72 at 5:59 PM on November 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


While I suppose luck played a part in getting his job as a television writer, talent and hard work played a large part too.

Did having 8 kids cause his problems? I don't think so. He tried to do what he thought was right, and took several years off to be with his family. That was his downfall. He wanted to be closer to his family. I'm not sure how old some of the commenters are here, but we all make mistakes.

Thousands and thousands of people in California borrowed on the equity of their homes. He had to. After realizing that he could not find work in his industry again, he had to pay the bills.

Should they have downsized? Probably. But history, as they, is always 20/20. All of us in this thread may make a mistake at some point, but not all of us are going to be judged by the internet.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:06 PM on November 18, 2013 [12 favorites]


What I find sad is he didn't have any social safety net for himself. His kids had places to stay-but he did not.

Makes me wonder if we are getting the whole story. Because if we are it's incredibly sad.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 6:09 PM on November 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


And then taking a break from writing with nothing really lined up, but the eight kids are still there

And with the knowledge even then that it's basically career suicide to do so.

Makes me wonder if we are getting the whole story.

We're almost certainly not. For instance, his mentions of the separation with his wife amount to "and then we separated." If I had to guess, a significant source of tension in their marriage was his "it'll all work out" attitude.

we all make mistakes

Not all of us try to turn those mistakes into cash with a hard luck story. I'm more impressed by the intelligence of peddling his skills to startups for homeless wages.
posted by fatbird at 6:17 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have three kids, and the mere thought of just "taking a few years off" with no sure job waiting at the end of that multiyear vacation fills me with anxiety.
posted by jpe at 6:19 PM on November 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Why is everyone boggling over the 8 kids, and no one over the "friends with Tom Arnold" part. I mean, he got hired to write for TV (with no experience) by someone who's reputation is basically having no talent. So I can't see why he'd expect anyone other than Tom Arnold to ever give him a job.
posted by rikschell at 6:31 PM on November 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


rikschell: someone with no/little talent making megabucks by writing TV sit-coms in the 80s? This wasn't the shocking part of the story.
posted by el io at 6:49 PM on November 18, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why is everyone boggling over the 8 kids, and no one over the "friends with Tom Arnold" part. I mean, he got hired to write for TV (with no experience) by someone who's reputation is basically having no talent. So I can't see why he'd expect anyone other than Tom Arnold to ever give him a job.

This simply doesn't address that Roseanne was insanely popular. Quality issues aside, it was a very successful endeavor and there was a period of time where Tom Arnold was a good asset. It didn't last. They usually don't.
posted by cellphone at 6:49 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


There are Eight Million Stories in the Naked City...that was just one of them (obscure old television show reference).

Actually, I think it's 18 Million these days.

The details of the life and how he fell in the hole are just...details. What interests me is that he managed to climb back out. I'll be taking notes on that as I'm facing the street starting December 1.

It's the Phoenix that interests me...not the ashes.
posted by CrowGoat at 6:53 PM on November 18, 2013 [5 favorites]


Are there no homeless shelters in the Los Angeles area? I mean, I'm fine with the "I made my way back by Craigslist" aspect of it. I'm glad he made it back to semi-stability. But, it seems like homeless resources are nonexistent (at least for people like him) or he was willfully ignorant of them.
posted by ptaav at 7:01 PM on November 18, 2013


Reading stories like this at 26 - single and childless with a decent job with health insurance and a middle class salary - fills me with anxiety.

Then I'll think - oh wait! Maybe I'll be fine as long as I just don't have any kids and don't take out a mortgage on a nice house!

Phew. All I have to do is completely give up on the American dream and maybe I can slightly reduce my chances of slipping through the cracks like this guy did.
posted by windbox at 7:04 PM on November 18, 2013 [18 favorites]


great story -- the kids are a lot -- raising that many in America and keeping it fair and equal between them, even on $500,000/yr -- is tough. seems like an true account, but curious if he's sugarcoating how great the kids turned out though.
posted by skepticallypleased at 7:04 PM on November 18, 2013


Once again, maybe I'm older than many of the people in this thread, but Roseanne was a damn fine show.
posted by KokuRyu at 7:19 PM on November 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


Roseanne was a great show.

Are there no homeless shelters in the Los Angeles area?

Are there no prisons? Are there no workhouses?

He says there are 5 million homeless folks out there; I would respectfully submit his story is one of the less sympathetic ones (at least to me).

I would submit that none of them will seem very sympathetic given more than a cursory glance because we are conditioned to pick apart the stories to find out why they either brought it on themselves or aren't worth caring about anyway.
posted by Danila at 7:31 PM on November 18, 2013 [47 favorites]


Wow... I am constantly amazed at comments on Metafilter. So harsh, so judgemental. Look at us rip apart his life at comment on every mis-step he made.

All I felt when reading this article was sadness for another human, and enormous relief that I and my family are not in this situation. It could happen to others, regardless of the number of kids, or the "time off work" or any other reason.

I have a friend who has battled addition for over 20 years. Their life is a constant battle to stay afloat - including horror stories of hitting rock bottom. I would not dream of judging them for their mistakes - their decisions - who the hell am I to judge. I just try to be there to help when I can.

Some empathy... please
posted by greenhornet at 8:06 PM on November 18, 2013 [43 favorites]


It's absolutely terrifying that someone who was that successful, who made that kind of money and saved and invested it, could fall just like the rest of us who are either living from paycheck to paycheck or just above (or below that) in a relatively short amount of time.

Glad that he seems to be back on his feet, though he says he's still financially unstable.
posted by xingcat at 8:07 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


The 8 kids thing reminds me of the question in yesterday's thread whether the bad economy and unstable job market makes anyone weigh that into consideration when considering whether to have kids or buy a house. And in my case, absolutely I do consider that, but I can't say if that would change if I was suddenly, massively successful.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 8:11 PM on November 18, 2013


Is metafilter typical of USA-ian values, even though leftish ones? I'm surprised to read so many negative responses.

I'm an immigrant who's been very lucky to make a reasonable income here in California, but it's always seemed to my alien eyes that there's a tremendous wish to kick the guy who's down, and I've always felt that I'm closer to homelessness here than should be possible in a humane society. I'm taking care of an old Vanagon camper, just in case.

This guy hit the bell and it felt good, so he relaxed a bit to be more of a dad. What a terrible mistake.
posted by anadem at 8:35 PM on November 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


One TV writer making 500k for 10 years, probably makes 2.5 million after taxes.

A married upper-middle-class couple, working in middle management or engineering or something, makes 200k for 30 years. Taxes are a lot less on them so they could probably pull down 3 million over their careers. And no one would think of them as rich.

I don't see any way this dude could have pulled off living in a giant expensive house and raising 8 kids on his income. It's just not enough money. I'm not sure he really did anything wrong, other than not have a good grasp on his own finances. If he had a financial advisor, they should have advised him to train for a second career or ask his wife to start working right away. Even if he doubled his savings rate while working and moved to Nebraska after quitting, he couldn't have afforded to stay home for his 19-year gap.
posted by miyabo at 8:40 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Wow... I am constantly amazed at comments on Metafilter. So harsh, so judgemental. Look at us rip apart his life at comment on every mis-step he made.

I think this is what people on MetaFilter often tsk tsk (although only in situations where the person was not initially successful, and perhaps did not dare to reproduce horrid little brats) as "blaming the victim."
posted by KokuRyu at 8:41 PM on November 18, 2013 [8 favorites]


And no one would think of them as rich.

I would.
posted by aaronetc at 8:50 PM on November 18, 2013 [9 favorites]


Sorry, should have said rich enough to have 8 kids and a house in San Marino. Obviously anyone earning 200k is incredibly lucky by global standards, it's enough to buy most anything you want. But not enough to not work.
posted by miyabo at 8:53 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm reminded of an anecdote told by Jerry Seinfeld -- and this has proven difficult for me to google, so please forgive my memory if some of the details are changed, I think it was from the 2002 movie Comedian? -- talking about coming up the ranks of the comedy performance circuit along with Jay Leno and others, and how Jay continued to be worried about money long after becoming a multimillionaire.

There was a man, a night watchman or a security commissionaire at the NBC studio lot, who had formerly been a producer for a hit TV show many years ago, and Jay knew him by name and knew his story and would always say hello whenever he passed the man by. One day Jerry had observed this enough and it finally clicked, he turned to Jay and said something like "You're worried you're going to end up like that guy, aren't you? You're still worried that somehow you're going to lose it all."
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:54 PM on November 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


I think it's awful that this person was forced to sleep on the street, that he was destitute, that his family suffered through a Sheriff kicking them out of their home and the break up of his marriage, that his family has been torn apart. That's a terrible thing.

But the piece itself is strange. He doesn't put his financial situation in much context -- societal, political, or even in terms of his own family's finances: some of his grown kids are working, and his wife and daughters crash with them but he doesn't? he has a piano and tons of furniture but then he doesn't have enough money for a sublet room? he talks about the number of writing jobs decreasing, but says little about the general economy -- he doesn't have a take on it? He's so skimpy on details that it's difficult to put the pieces together of what exactly happened and how his (financial) perspective has changed, which muffles a lot of the resonance for me. And he also doesn't put his emotional situation in much context -- what does it feel like to be homeless while some of his children bring home the bacon, and even support their mom for a while? what caused the strain between himself and his wife? did he ever see the kids she took to Germany, and how does he feel about that (both about them moving so far away, and about them basically being economic refugees from the US?)? the kids left in LA, who were they staying with -- the son was in 14 homes?! how does the writer feel about his kid getting tossed from home to home knowing it's because he can't support him himself? I understand privacy concerns, but the writer doesn't even delve very far into his own feelings, either, which makes him pretty hard for me to connect to on a more human/personal level.

I think the piece itself is very shallow and vague and apolitical, and that's why the comments on it are tending to be shallow and vague an apolitical. I don't think that means that all of us are bad people, I think that means he's not a good storyteller. The twists his life has taken are heart-wrenching and I wish him and his family all the best, but I don't really feel as though I understand who he is or what happened or even what he was trying to communicate through this essay.
posted by rue72 at 9:09 PM on November 18, 2013 [15 favorites]


AFAI can tell, it looks like he'll be coming into his retirement in 2-3 years. Hope he can handle it. I know of a couple that's always managed to live high on the hog--in between bankruptcies.


Anyhow - eight kids. Wow. It's comical that the Germans are now stuck with paying for this, because America won't.


Not quite. According to the article: Marina decided to return with our two youngest daughters. They spent their high school years there and received a great education. And apparently at one point she married, and I presume her husband had a job.

Not that any of that mitigates the fact that the US has a shitty safety net for kids or adults.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:29 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


"I was now nearly 50 years old and had been out of the business for two years. Nobody was going to hire me anymore."

Two years, people.

Look, it's hard to give up on your dreams. It's hard to watch things slip through your fingers. You'll do just about anything to maintain the status quo. It is often only possible, in retrospect, to see where a certain choice had consequences. I seriously cannot fathom exactly how he and his wife ended up making some of the choices they did make. Some of them are really baffling from the outside.

His narrative has a very Choose Your Own Adventure feel to it where I want to flip back a few pages and take an alternate ending.

We like to read success stories and see ourselves in the heroic outcomes. We don't like to see ourselves in a story like this.
posted by amanda at 9:33 PM on November 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


Is metafilter typical of USA-ian values, even though leftish ones? I'm surprised to read so many negative responses.
As someone rather far to the left who was raised in the US, it's a struggle to view this guy with much sympathy. In particular, the presentation as a "riches to rags to riches" story without any context making it clear how unbelievably privileged his life has been rankles. Framing the tale as "even the elite have no security in our economic system" would have been a lot more engaging than "I accept responsibility for throwing away all my incredible luck. . . and now things are looking up anyway."

With a salary safely in the 1%, a mansion in San Marino, a $500,000 nest egg, an unsustainable number of kids, and a dream job that he walked away from for years without a second thought, this guy had incredible luck and resources most can only dream about. Even his homeless existence - hanging out with sympathetic Starbucks employees, passing for a customer at Pasadena Whole Foods, sneaking his kids into one of the most exclusive school districts in the country, and landing freelance gigs with Bay Area startups - is pretty far from rock bottom. (Though, without question, it's a far less pleasant life than the one I'm living now.)

Sure, when it comes to class war, the guy was a foot soldier of the lowest possible rank. Convincing him to switch sides would be way more productive than trying to beat him down, much less laughing as he's beaten down by his own kind. The bank that took his mansion is almost certainly doing less to better the world than he did, and the rise of reality television isn't really the sort of thing we can celebrate in good conscience.

There's no question we'd all be better human beings if we felt the same empathy for him that we do for people who never had the boundless opportunities and ongoing resources he enjoys. It's something to aspire to. But, it's not surprising that we aren't all capable of it.
posted by eotvos at 9:41 PM on November 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Even if he doubled his savings rate while working and moved to Nebraska after quitting, he couldn't have afforded to stay home for his 19-year gap.

I don't think hee ever intended to stay home for the whole 19 years. What struck me about the piece was that having gotten into the industry mostly by luck (he hadn't even written a script before!), he didn't seem to know how to understand how unstable the whole thing was and how tenuous his position might be.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 9:50 PM on November 18, 2013 [4 favorites]


I think there's a bunch of stuff missing from this. The series went into syndication, which means residuals. He could have taken a lump sum for his WGA pension, rather than wait 19 years to collect. Something is off, but I guess we have to buy the book to find out.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:55 PM on November 18, 2013 [2 favorites]


Well, I'm certainly able to empathize with his fat-to-lean career progression. I went from about eight years of steady work in IT where I could get a gig by falling off a log to two years of resume shopping and weirdly psychologized interview experiences that I'm honestly able to say broke me and let me happily walk away from that industry with no regrets, except the whole money thing where I used to show up and do stuff and they would pay me. The environment can change that fast, alas. It can even make sense at a point to take a break or change gears a bit.



I guess I am surprised that he wasn't able to use his professional network to get some kind of work, even given the couple of years of being out of circulation, but that was also a failing of mine -- I had dozens of people but I didn't start calling them until I was desperate.

I also turned down what could have been some lucrative opportunities that would have involved moving across country, due to family reasons. Do I wish otherwise now? Sure I do.
posted by dhartung at 10:15 PM on November 18, 2013 [1 favorite]


I went back and looked for more explanation of the eight kids. That's just not something that most people in our society choose to do, especially not if they have jobs that make heavy demands on their time. It was jarring, kind of like reading about someone who bought an elephant and was ruined by the costs associated with owning an elephant, with no explanation of why he bought the elephant.
posted by Anne Neville at 10:17 PM on November 18, 2013 [7 favorites]


Here is an interesting detail he left out: he got fired from Roseanne. Apparently he was aligned with Tom Arnold and got fired for writing a script with Arnold. In other words he got unlucky because of Arnold's and Barr's acrimonious split. Imdb shows he stuck it out with Tom Arnold for a few more projects and some pilots that never got picked up. Definitely a lot more to this story.
posted by borges at 10:19 PM on November 18, 2013 [4 favorites]



It's absolutely terrifying that someone who was that successful, who made that kind of money and saved and invested it, could fall just like the rest of us who are either living from paycheck to paycheck or just above (or below that) in a relatively short amount of time.


Which is why so many really want to blame the victim. Right now there are people researching hoping to find proof that it was really his fault and/or he deserved it.
posted by bongo_x at 10:27 PM on November 18, 2013 [6 favorites]


The working hours were hideous: Most days started at 10 a.m. and ended at 3 a.m. The easy nights were the nights we filmed, when we finished by 10 p.m. I barely saw Marina and the children, except on weekends. Our house was not a home but the place I checked into when I wasn’t working. Marina, meanwhile, struggled to deal with eight children.

So I had to make a change. I had to quit my dream job. (And honestly, I probably only had a few more working years left because comedy writers rarely work into their fifties.) I had carefully saved and we had lived well below our means, so I decided to take a couple of years off to devote time to my real job: husband and father.

For the next two years, I did that job full-time. We restored balance to our family life, and I was happy. I decided it was time to return to television.


Um, what?

This is...a lot of deeply unrealistic all-or-nothing thinking. He made himself quite a pair of Daedalus wings. I'm sorry he crashed so far and so hard and so badly, though; I don't think anyone deserves that.
posted by desuetude at 10:38 PM on November 18, 2013


I understand everyone looking for explanations or reasons or rationalizations about the mistakes this guy made, but even if he wasn't aligned with Tom Arnold, even if he didn't get fired, even if he didn't have eight kids, even if he didn't refi his house 6 times, even if he didn't step back to spend time with his family -- writing in Hollywood, be it for TV or films, is like being a running back in the NFL - you've got four or five good years, and then your knees blow out and you wake up forgetting the day of the week. Sustaining a career as a screenwriter is remarkably difficult, and if this guy hadn't have made mistakes, he would've gotten termed out as sitcoms declined and his age increased. Comedy writer rooms are small and young, and by the time you're 40 if you don't create a show or transition into features, you're fucked. And even if he did transition to features, he'd only have a handful of years to make that pay off. While this guy did make a lot of mistakes, he also could've played a flawless game and still ended up with a bad beat.

Honestly, I'm surprised more writers his age don't end up homeless.
posted by incessant at 12:04 AM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


So, he had eight kids. (And, actually, it turns out that there are lots and lots of families with six, seven, eight siblings - and some of those families aren't even living off TV writer salaries)

OK, so now that that's been mentioned - that he had eight (8) kids - it is kind of hard to believe the story as he tells it. That is, it reeks of the parts he likely left out either to make himself sound more likable or he simply isn't aware of. Which is kind of surprising as, you know, I would have thought he would be able to whip up a good tight story, even if it is about something as painful as being out of work and losing your home and being separated from your kids.

And the word for the German government paid for the upbringing of his two other kids - is not ironic, but shameful.
posted by From Bklyn at 12:19 AM on November 19, 2013


Why are people looking for an 'explanation' of 8 kids? Surely you know where babies come from by now?

Oh, wait...you want to know WHY! One presumes the answer is that they wanted to. Like I wanted two kids and some people want one and some people want none at all. The why of it is none of your concern, and seeking an answer just makes you look eager to participate in the Blame and Punish culture that seems so popular of late.

He flew high. Then he crashed. Him and millions of others. His story actually makes me feel better about my own situation. We lost our home last month after a two year foreclosure fight. We were far luckier than he, getting out before the Sheriff showed up, finding a better home in a better location for far less rent than the damned mortgage, family intact and much happier for having moved. It could have looked like his situation, or it could have been much worse. There but for the grace of whatever the fuck go all of us.
posted by MissySedai at 12:28 AM on November 19, 2013 [12 favorites]


I just wanted to say Roseanne was actually really good tv, until that last season thing
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 12:42 AM on November 19, 2013


He doesn't put his financial situation in much context

No; I just assume that everything was naively mismanaged - I assume he never sold his piano, for example, but paid storage fees until it was seized to cover debts, turning a nice little asset into another worrying liability.

One presumes the answer is that they wanted to.

If that's all then the point is that the plea for sympathy implied by the piece is impaired because people who take what they want without sufficient thought for the consequences are the authors of their own misfortunes. And having eight kids without a reasonable expectation of financial stability cannot but look irresponsible.

Of course your presumption may also in fact be wrong; maybe they're just obedient Catholics.
posted by Segundus at 12:56 AM on November 19, 2013


I feel for the guy on some level and think it is admirable that he is making it back on his feet, bit by bit and day by day. A big problem these days is unemployability due to any length of unemployment--I think legislation could change this to make employment truly equal opportunity, whether you have worked recently or not.

That said...not to be too harsh, but, man. The guy had a successful career and thought he'd be just fine taking a year or two off work. He glosses over just how active he stayed during that time, and yeah, eight kids is getting into Duggar territory. And goes a long way to explain why he quit. And he takes multiple mortgages on his house...this guy was gambling his and his family's future on some damn risky betting and he lost. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that, but man those were some extreme choices he made.

And! He waits another, what? Five or ten years and he'll have a nice, cushy pension, more than what most people get. He acknowledges this, at least. He seems like a stand up guy, but I won't be shedding a tear for him.
posted by zardoz at 1:29 AM on November 19, 2013


...like reading about someone who bought an elephant and was ruined by the costs associated with owning an elephant, with no explanation of why he bought the elephant.
It really tied the room together.
posted by fullerine at 1:55 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


The twists his life has taken are heart-wrenching and I wish him and his family all the best, but I don't really feel as though I understand who he is or what happened or even what he was trying to communicate through this essay.

I agree. Personally I think the eight kids were the least of his problems -- people can and do stuff gazillions of kids into single- and doublewide mobile homes, small apartments, and modest houses all the time. Bunk beds were invented for a reason.

I think his real problems were barely hinted at in the piece, things like magical thinking and his abrasive and combative personality. Reading between the lines, I suspect he burnt a lot of bridges as he went along, made some really strange assumptions and decisions, and probably continued self-sabotaging well after he hit bottom.

But even if it sounds like he didn't use much of what was available, it is still shameful that the US doesn't have a better safety net. There was an FPP recently based on that NYTimes article about older workers who are unemployed becoming basically unemployable -- people in his situation end up facing a serious structural problem, over and above any "good" or "bad" personal decisions they have made. We should be doing better as a society.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:22 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


It's sad that this guy had to effectively choose between seeing his family and keeping a roof over their heads. I can't help but wondering whether he would have felt the need to quit if his standard workday were eight hours long rather than twelve to sixteen.

Raether's case is an extreme one - the super-long days, the high-status well-paying job, the eight kids - but a lot of families have to make the same decision on a smaller scale, and the stakes are still plenty high.

And regardless of income or family status, no one should have to spend two thirds of every weekday at work. It's unhealthy and exploitative.
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:47 AM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


With all sympathies for the guy and his horrible experience:
I don't like the vibe of, 'hey, I was homeless, listen to my story because I had a great life and became homeless but HEY I WASN'T A DRUG ADDICT and none of it was my fault -- but then I pulled myself up with my bootstraps'

BitterOldPunk has it: he was lucky.
posted by angrycat at 5:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [6 favorites]


As a total aside Williams in Minneapolis is a great bar, they probably have 200 beers on tap and they're packed almost every night. I had no idea anyone famous had ever been there.
posted by miyabo at 6:11 AM on November 19, 2013


As other posters mentioned--when I started reading the article I wondered how long it would take for some of us on MeFi to raise the issue of 8 kids, he was lucky, he had connections, he was white and male, etc. In my book to be lucky is no more a sin than to be unlucky is a crime. Suffering and shame are suffering and shame. Poverty does not confer an automatic nobleness and free ride from responsibility any more than privilege should be dismissed as unearned and held in contempt. Some of the poor and unlucky, for a variety of reasons, move beyond the poverty. And some of the privileged, for a variety of reason, lose the privilege. Disease, luck, timing, the world around us, politics, power ( and the abuse there of), grit, determination and what have you is part of the human condition. Good for him--and he was lucky, and he had a bit of determination and history to draw on. And yes, it was easier for him to start 'coming back" than for most who are homeless. So what, it is his story and we all have stories.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:26 AM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


...writing in Hollywood, be it for TV or films, is like being a running back in the NFL - you've got four or five good years, and then your knees blow out and you wake up forgetting the day of the week. Sustaining a career as a screenwriter is remarkably difficult, and if this guy hadn't have made mistakes, he would've gotten termed out as sitcoms declined and his age increased.

I remember reading an article about this someplace like the New York Times, and it was being treated like it was news. This was in 2000-something, anyway, maybe after he made the decision to take a couple of years off. Of course, he was on the inside, not a reader of the New York Times.

I feel sure there is a lot left out, and can only guess what it might be. I wonder how his kids feel about all this and think it's kind of funny that he defines their being OK in terms of their work success. Maybe it's just projecting from people of my acquaintance who've dropped out of the workforce, but I also doubt that he said to himself, "Let's see, I think that for the benefit of my family I'll quit my job to stay home 24/7 with these 8 kids for whom I bring home the sole paycheck. " I suspect something that was more of a crisis. But the way the piece is written, I don't have a lot of hope for it to be fleshed out in the book.

Anyway it seems like he was still very lucky and was largely able to coast by on connections-- and his wife's German citizenship-- in terms of raising his children and he doesn't seem to have had one night of worrying that they might end up in foster care or something. It's a lot like a story about a displaced homemaker-- except that he seems to have known that bottom line the children would be OK. But again, were they really?
posted by BibiRose at 6:39 AM on November 19, 2013


"Let's see, I think that for the benefit of my family I'll quit my job to stay home 24/7 with these 8 kids for whom I bring home the sole paycheck. "

Yeah, it sounds like he got forced out with Tom Arnold and then hoped/expected that Tom would pull him along to the next venture. He waited. He probably worked from home on whatever leads Tom brought up and nothing panned out. It's easy for 2 years to go by like that right quick. Especially when you have 8 kids to raise and a wife to tend to.

I mean, go ahead and feel contempt if you want. There are other "more worthy" sob stories out there. This one just strikes me as surprisingly pedestrian. And those are important stories, too.
posted by amanda at 6:49 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I also find it strange that the piece is so unappealing in the way it's written. It's an interesting enough story but I don't think he's done a very good job of making you want to read more. He's a television writer! Why is there no dialogue, setting of scenes, anything to make the story stand out? (Other than the bare bones of the circumstances.) You read what are clearly bits of people's memoirs-- or appetizers for their novels-- in the New York Times and Salon and places every day. They're all knocking themselves out to get you to go check out their websites or Amazon pages. Why should I check out this guy's, and why doesn't he seem to care?
posted by BibiRose at 6:51 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


I didn't hate the piece. I've heard many similar stories, and I do feel bad for him because being homeless really sucks and I actually think all human beings deserve food and a place to sleep even if they have not made exclusively perfect life choices.

But surely I wasn't the only person waiting for a connection to this?
posted by hydropsyche at 7:24 AM on November 19, 2013


Is metafilter typical of USA-ian values, even though leftish ones? I'm surprised to read so many negative responses.

This is very typical of a type of American magical thinking that doesn't have anything to do with left or right, and is not limited to MetaFilter at all. Good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.

The front page of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser yesterday was a photo of a State representative with a sledgehammer, and the accompanying fawning story followed him around town as he smashed the shopping carts of the homeless. Because even in the "aloha state," being homeless is always the fault of the homeless person.

It's a twisted view of "karma."

I took the article as a reminder that this could happen to any of us, that we are not really as far away from the edge as we might think. 'Cause that safety net thing? It was dismantled long ago.
posted by kanewai at 8:45 AM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


So, his wife was over worked and 8 kids required care. Stress all over the place. I can't imagine such a household (even though my gran had 15 sibs). And doing this in LA?! More stress. Although that's a really nice corner (I lived nearby awhile in the 80's, in South Pasadena). It's a dog-eat-dog world out there, and he's not really a dog-eater. At least he sure sounds that way.

Oh, wait, he sounds however he wants to sound, he's a writer. But I think maybe the missing parts aren't his story to tell.
posted by Goofyy at 9:02 AM on November 19, 2013


I also find it strange that the piece is so unappealing in the way it's written

There are gaping holes that are lightly brushed over, and it's hard not to feel like what he's leaving out changes the story a lot.

Look, all media is emotionally manipulative in some ways, but this story feels much moreso because he's obviously glossing over damaging bits. He didn't decide to quit to spend time with his family--he back the wrong horse in his volatile career and got fired. He knew his career was volatile and with a short earnings window, and decided that they could gamble on maintaining an expensive lifestyle by refinancing the house (lots of people raise eight kids on far less money while keeping a roof over their heads). He presents it all as having good intentions for his children, but his wife still left him and his kids aren't helping out--and I know kids who leave high school every day to go to McDonalds to pay the rent their parent can't provide.

I don't feel as contemptuous of his choices as I am deeply suspicious of the narrative he's presenting.
posted by fatbird at 9:12 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was confused by the implication that if he couldn't write for TV or do a magazine that there is no other available job alternative and therefore he was homeless. Maybe he just chose to leave out the part about applying to tons of crappy normal people jobs.

I bet a ton of other people in LA with eight kids are keeping a roof over their heads without the benefit of a college education, a $500,000 nest egg, or Hollywood connections. It kind of comes across like he feels entitled to not have to stoop to the sorts of tough life choices that most average people face- like having a boring office job or moving to a less fancy school district and giving up the SAT tutors.
posted by forkisbetter at 9:14 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Maybe he just chose to leave out the part about applying to tons of crappy normal people jobs.

He didn't. He explains how he tried to work at Trader Joe's but the interviewer found it hard to believe that he would want a job there.

This story is frightening to me because I grew up with modest means, but I've managed to do pretty well as an adult. I sense that the drop is far and stories like this remind me how a series of unfortunate events can dislodge a well planned life.
posted by dgran at 9:18 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I don't criticize the guy's life choices more than I do the homeless folks at the terminal. What I object to is the implied distinction between good homeless and bad homeless.
posted by angrycat at 9:25 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was confused by the implication that if he couldn't write for TV or do a magazine that there is no other available job alternative and therefore he was homeless. Maybe he just chose to leave out the part about applying to tons of crappy normal people jobs.

The past five, six, seven years have been brutal, notably in California. Besides the meltdown of the economy (which left parts of California with the highest unemployment rates in US), there has also been rapid technological change that has slammed the "creative class," especially older mid-career workers who are too expensive to support on the incredibly thin margins of the "new normal."

In Vancouver, for example, the entire console video game industry has vanished. People who had worked their way up to middle management and perhaps the executive level are having to leave everything they have worked for to find work for the final 10 years of their career.

It is a brutal world for everyone now, and is just going to get more brutal and cutthroat.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:32 AM on November 19, 2013 [4 favorites]


I find the psychology behind some of the reactions here as interesting as the story itself. So many seem to be based on the attitude of, "Let me micro-analyze this story to figure out exactly how this guy was an idiot who brought on all of his own misfortune, so I can then comfort myself with the knowledge that *I* would never be so dumb to let a similar fate befall me".

Personally, I enjoyed this piece for what it was: An illustration of how a bit of bad luck combined with some bad decisions can cause complete financial ruin even for those who would appear to be immune. I remember a few years ago listening to a radio interview with Jenna Morasca, who won the million dollar prize on Survivor a few years previous, and she was mentioning that her winnings from the show were long gone. That seemed incomprehensible to me at the time, even knowing that a large portion goes to taxes. I always figured, I'm sure very naively, that an extra $600K would last me more or less indefinitely.

I appreciated this piece for its unique riches to rags story, even though it forced me to confront the uncomfortable, scary reality that I too am always just a few bad decisions and bits of bad luck away from having my own financial status altered dramatically.
posted by The Gooch at 9:41 AM on November 19, 2013 [10 favorites]


so I can then comfort myself with the knowledge that *I* would never be so dumb to let a similar fate befall me".

And it's dark, self-esteem-building cousin, "I'm going to poopoo all the Judgey Judgersons here who aren't nearly as empathetic as I am."

There's nothing wrong with judging this guy, and discussing your judgements here. We can require a paragraph of "I feel bad for him" throat-clearing before getting onto it, but judging him is what we should do. We should analyze his story and identify mistakes and question the text and develop consensus around an alternate path for him that represents us failing to make the same mistakes. We should learn from stories like this.

What a dreadfully boring and useless place Metafilter would be if it were nothing but a mutual hug society.
posted by fatbird at 9:48 AM on November 19, 2013


What's confusing to me is that the article skips over huge chunks of time in an awkward manner. Raether was let go from Roseanne in 1996 (along with Matt Barry and Ed Yeager), but according to the article, bought the big house in 1995. So obviously he continued working well into the 2000's as a writer.

Then it appears he what, may have been suffering from burnout or maybe looked around and said, "wow, never see the wife and kids and my marriage is doomed because of it," or who knows? I guess we have to take him at face value that he wanted to spend more time with his family and felt like he had enough money to take time off. Can't blame him there.

What I would find more fascinating, which I hope is included in the book, is some behind the scenes stories about working on Roseanne and other TV shows. For instance, there was a profile on Roseanne in the New Yorker in 1995 (full article subscription only, but excerpts describing the writing process in Show and Tell: New Yorker Profiles, by John Hull; do a search on Raether to see some interesting bits).

I also hope the book goes into more detail between the "moved into an apartment in 2006" and then he woke up in a van and became homeless. It's that sort of detail that makes Hollywood stories fascinating to outsiders (and helps sell memoirs). He sounds like a nice guy and hope he gets more and better coverage than this for his book.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 10:14 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


What a dreadfully boring and useless place Metafilter would be if it were nothing but a mutual hug society.

Well, I apologize for getting all emotive and huggy in this thread, but the double-standard on victim blaming, plus the quasi-Marxist class war mumbo jumbo (he's from the 1% and therefore is privilege privilege privilege blah blah blah) is really galling.

Displaying empathy is not a weakness.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:34 AM on November 19, 2013 [8 favorites]


And I have been through, to a far lesser degree, what this guy has been through. Not sure if you have children (sorry children-hating MeFites, but I do!) and have ever lost a job, but I can tell you that my privileged status did not help me one bit struggling to pay the bills and reassemble my life, or help me sleep at night.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:36 AM on November 19, 2013 [2 favorites]


Displaying empathy is not a weakness.

Agreed, but crapping on others for not doing the same is moral preening. What I find galling is all the "OMG Mefites, we're not being the community Mr. Rogers wanted us to be!" As is this:

sorry children-hating MeFites, but I do

Pointing out that having eight children creates massive fixed costs, especially in regards to maintaining an expensive lifestyle on very dodgy assumptions about income and the real estate market, is not child-hating. It's critique.

If you're feeling indirectly judged by criticism of Raether's choices, that's not a failure on the part of those of us criticizing.
posted by fatbird at 11:07 AM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


Well, I apologize for getting all emotive and huggy in this thread, but the double-standard on victim blaming, plus the quasi-Marxist class war mumbo jumbo (he's from the 1% and therefore is privilege privilege privilege blah blah blah) is really galling.

I get that you empathize with him, and that's fair. I also am not going to put this man on blast for having kids because jeez, if my parents had waited until they could afford kids I would also not exist. Money's not everything. Shit happens. Etc etc etc.

But I think it's going a bit too far to say this guy is the victim of a double standard, considering that about a week ago we had what was, in my opinion, a much better written and emotionally honest piece about living hand to mouth, and something like 85% of that thread was a derail about the horrors/not!horrors of that writer's $45/mo cigarette habit.

Personally, I have no problem saying this piece is badly written and reeks of self-serving bullshit, but that doesn't mean I think he deserves to be sterilized or live on the street. It's OK to hate the player AND the game, maybe some people think this guy sucks* AND the system's broken.

*and that's not a condemnation of you or your choices, either.
posted by rue72 at 11:36 AM on November 19, 2013 [3 favorites]


At least he didn't smoke.

[crap...on review rue72 beat me too it]
posted by kjs3 at 12:17 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


These comments are interesting in their tensions. I had a conversation with someone where they asked me who anyone could keep a bear locked up for its bile. Demand? Money? People do horrible things when the price is right. I offered a comparison to the demand for drugs in the US and all the stuff that happens in Latin America because of it. "That's different, those people are addicted!". "Is a swanky lifestyle not addictive?"

This guy didn't have a cigarette habit but he apparently had a sort of lifestyle addiction where he couldn't downsize or do things like be seen with his kids without a tie because of the school district. How much weight is put on status expectations robbing us of real choice?
posted by dimejubes at 12:30 PM on November 19, 2013


I sense that the drop is far and stories like this remind me how a series of unfortunate events can dislodge a well planned life.

There were unfortunate events, yes. And the social safety net in this country is practically non-existent. But the litany of bad choices--or as I see it, risky gambles--this man took was a long list. I don't think this guy's life was all that well-planned; who among us can take two years off work to be with family? Eight kids, which necessitates a huge house and incredible monthly expenses? Multiple mortgages?

It's not victim blaming as much as pointing out there are others much more deserving of our sympathy.
posted by zardoz at 1:13 PM on November 19, 2013


I'll preface this with sympathy that he ended up homeless - no one should be left in that situation.

However, I just have no idea why a person who lucked into a Hollywood writing job would think he could take two years off. It's tremendous hubris in an industry where you absolutely need to hustle to continue being successful.

I wasn't impressed by the writing and it was overall missing the details that could have made it a compelling story. He honestly seems like an idiot about his career and money. The unfortunate thing is that people in these situations seem to expect the money train to keep running, even in notoriously unstable careers. There should be financial education to address this sort of income situation (someone should have told him the house in San Marino wasn't actually affordable in his situation). His mentality reminds me of professional athletes who go broke - interesting SI article about that scenario - it's a better story.
posted by rainydayfilms at 1:23 PM on November 19, 2013


Personally, I enjoyed this piece for what it was: An illustration of how a bit of bad luck combined with some bad decisions can cause complete financial ruin even for those who would appear to be immune.

Yep. I'm not getting "Hey, feel sorry for me!" out of this piece, so much as "Look, this shit can happen to anyone, so be careful."
posted by MissySedai at 2:37 PM on November 19, 2013 [5 favorites]


Certainly, fortune plays a big role in the story, but there's a lot of cautionary tale there too, about not planning to handle a lack success, for instance. If I had to identify a basic flaw in Raether, it would be an optimism that turned hardship into personal disaster. It's awesome to say "I'm getting out of the rat race to spend quality time with my family", but that should have been accompanied by much greater downsizing. I really don't understand how mortgage refinancing in the mid-2000s to keep up a lifestyle wasn't a huge warning klaxon.

And what is it with San Marino schools that makes people go stupid? I have a friend in academia whose former colleague at the University of Southern California rents an apartment in San Marino in order to maintain residency there so he can commute three hours a day from Pasadena to pick up and drop off his kids from school.
posted by fatbird at 2:58 PM on November 19, 2013


It must be nice to have never experienced this so you can pick and choose who deserves sympathy based on a completely fucking made-up rubric of what it's like to be homeless.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:01 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


But I think it's going a bit too far to say this guy is the victim of a double standard, considering that about a week ago we had what was, in my opinion, a much better written and emotionally honest piece about living hand to mouth, and something like 85% of that thread was a derail about the horrors/not!horrors of that writer's $45/mo cigarette habit.

Yeah, it's not a double standard, Metafilter just hates everyone poor. I don't get it. It was this guy's fault for having eight kids, it was that person's fault for contemplating any kids at all. Money is the most important thing in the universe and managing it is the most virtuous of virtues. Windbox said it:

Phew. All I have to do is completely give up on the American dream and maybe I can slightly reduce my chances of slipping through the cracks like this guy did.

People take risks to try and live the life they want to live. I don't know what the fuck motivates other people's hatred and anger at them when those risks don't pay off.

I've been homeless for "living my dream" and as much as being homeless took a toll on me, I'm pretty fucking glad I did it and I wouldn't change that. I'm sure this guy feels the same about his eight kids and TV writing career while also clearly understanding that he made some mistakes with money. (Which, btw, money is very easy to mismanage if you don't have experience with it at that scale. I get that Americans are known for their indebtedness but I don't also see why people take such glee in condemning them for their financial mistakes in a market rife with bad advice.) I mean, maybe he should've stayed in advertising or insurance underwriting or whatever the fuck he started out in and never had any kids at all. That's the America I love, toeing the rope in terror that you might fall and find no net there.
posted by stoneandstar at 3:15 PM on November 19, 2013 [9 favorites]


It's not victim blaming as much as pointing out there are others much more deserving of our sympathy.

Thankfully I have plenty to go around.
posted by bongo_x at 3:38 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


A couple of thoughts:

Yes, we really do need a better social safety net. No-one should have to be homeless, no matter how poorly thought out their choices. And if there is only one breadwinner in the family, and the spouse absolutely cannot get a paying job when the breadwinner loses theirs, there needs to be some sort of (non-family, non-church) support system for the sake of the kids.

That aside, Raether had a family, and his poor decisions didn't just impact him, they impacted his wife and kids. I'm sure his son didn't ask to be bounced around to 13 temporary homes in one year. (My surmise is that he was already 18, or CPS surely would have at least investigated; or they did and the article didn't mention it.) They didn't ask to be part of a huge family that is now scattered over different continents, either. Huge family = fewer monetary and emotional resources for the individual kids. I don't know if Raether was reckless and selfish or just heedless, but mistakes are different when you have a family as opposed to when you are single and childless.

KokoRyu and BitterOldPunk have pointed out that making a cushy living from screenwriting is a rare thing, and even the cushiest gigs are precarious. That seems to elude those lucky enough to make such livings all the time - broke former celebrities are a dime a dozen. And most don't have enormous families to support when the gravy train runs dry. I don't know what the solution to that is, because it seems to be human nature for many.

Raether dismisses his son's experience with "my son wound up living in 13 different homes" - I'd love to hear the son's side of the story.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:00 PM on November 19, 2013


I don't know what the fuck motivates other people's hatred and anger at them when those risks don't pay off.

Fear.

At least, this is the conclusion I came to during our scramble last month to GTFO of the house we had purchased in 2004, before the Sheriff came and forced the issue. During our foreclosure fight, the only person besides my attorney that knew what we were going through was my bestie. He was loving and supportive, and probably saved my sanity.

When the endgame came around, and we lost essentially because we just didn't have the financial resources to fight any more, we STILL kept mostly mum until the week before we moved. Reactions from the people we told in that time period were "Holy shit, that's horrible!" from our closest friends and "Thank GOD you have that monkey off your back!" from my elderly in-laws. People we were super close to were supportive and helpful, and very concerned, offering us crash space if we needed it (we didn't, thanks to a very lucky Craigslist ad), moving help, and just plain old moral support.

After we moved, we told the rest of the family, and the most blistering lectures and condemnation came from people we weren't terribly close to, people who are much better off financially than we can ever expect to be. They were ENRAGED, and felt it was their place to question our every decision leading up to the purchase of the house, to lecture us about buying it to begin with (these were the same people who were on our asses the moment we got married to buy a house, and were infuriated that we waited until we could afford it), and picked and bitched and demanded answers to questions that were absolutely none of their fucking business, trying desperately to pinpoint that one thing that confirmed that it was all our fault. We shouldn't have had children when we did (2, and the youngest is nearly 18!), we shouldn't have bought the house when we did (because we were clairvoyant and somehow knew that it would plunge in value to less than half of what we bought it for just 2 years later?). Should have done this, should have done that, if we had done all the things that the people flinging shit at us had done, we wouldn't be in this situation. And we came to the conclusion that the reason these near-strangers freaked the fuck out at us is because they're afraid it's going to happen to them.

And it might. All the planning in the world isn't going to save you when something finally does go horribly, catastrophically wrong, either by happenstance or your own mistakes, or a combination of the two.

In the month since we moved, we have been happier with our situation than at any time since we had bought the other house. My better off brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law are still sniping and gossiping, and concern trolling us about "But, your credit score now!" (Don't give a shit.) and "You're not going to be able to buy another house any time soon!" (Don't ever want to be a homeowner again, it was a fucking nightmare.) and "What about the kids?" (What about 'em?) They are AFRAID that even if they do everything "right", they could end up like us - "failures". Quelle horreur! - and they're lashing out as if we've personally done them wrong.

Fuck 'em. They have no idea what we've been through. Their fear is their problem. When their time in the meat-grinder comes, it's going to be hard to be compassionate, given the shabby way they've treated us. But we will be, because life is fucking hard even when you think you've done everything right.
posted by MissySedai at 4:17 PM on November 19, 2013 [36 favorites]


Fuck 'em. They have no idea what we've been through. Their fear is their problem. When their time in the meat-grinder comes, it's going to be hard to be compassionate, given the shabby way they've treated us. But we will be, because life is fucking hard even when you think you've done everything right.

I’m going to get this tattooed across my back.
posted by bongo_x at 4:42 PM on November 19, 2013 [7 favorites]


And we came to the conclusion that the reason these near-strangers freaked the fuck out at us is because they're afraid it's going to happen to them.

And the hell of it is, it might. You can do everything right, and still fail.

I'm sympathetic with this guy. Maybe not for socking it away. Never seen $650K myself but when I was doing well I was driving the same POS 4x4. But yeah, can happen to anyone.

The only fault I find is not recognizing his own resiliency. I don't know if that's a matter of privilege, his background, whatever, but the ability to come back from taking hits, yeah, not a lot of people have that. And I'm a firm believer that you have to get up one more time than you get knocked down.
But some people take 99 hits and don't get up on the 100th. Doesn't mean you don't lend them a hand if you're still standing though. No matter who they are. It just seems to be something you have to do, just 'cause you're on your feet, and they're not. Nothing says that couldn't be you.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:35 PM on November 19, 2013 [1 favorite]


MissySedai, that was incredible. It's just such an abstract concept for me to wrap my head around. Fear? Why would you be so afraid? Then I remember that I've always lived on the bottom (what he says about knowing he's resilient and not being afraid because he knows he can live through it rings very true), and it must be much much scarier if you've always been in the middle or on top, and know nothing about losing it all.
posted by stoneandstar at 12:27 PM on November 20, 2013 [2 favorites]


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