Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
Yesterday, was my first day of my last semester of my last year in law school, which according to the current climate is a bigger waste of time than the summer I spent after college writing my novel when I never had time to write. Over the weekend, this NY Times piece came out and has been a topic of much discussion among my peers who mostly don’t have jobs. It certainly made my earlier blog on alternatives to being a lawyer seem very real. But essentially, the article insinuates it is not worth it to go to law school for most people because they will never work as lawyers and even if they do find jobs, the jobs will never pay enough to make the requisite 250k debt worth it.
But as someone who’s 5 out of 6 semesters in, with no legal job prospects, and only went to law school because she wanted to write for Law and Order, I’m here to tell you, that there is one thing that makes the whole experience worthwhile which the article doesn’t make one mention of: a legal education. The knowledge you gain from three years of law school is an incredible tool to have in life and I couldn’t be happier that I decided to stick with it.
I actually sort of love law school. I mean, I hate the exam part, and the first year truly was a brutal existing, but I love knowing what I know. Knowing about our laws affords you an incredible amount of power in this world. And I’m not talking about the whole thinking like a lawyer hogwash, people tell you. If you were analytical before, it doesn’t make you think any differently. If you struggled with analysis, you’ll be better at it and be able to apply it casually. But the real benefit, is this vast body of knowledge, hundreds and hundreds of years of case law on the rules that make up our society gets poured into your head. So by the end of it, you know so much more.
For the people that never end up working as lawyers, their law degrees are not merely serving them as a badge of prestige. They will forever make better decisions about contracts because they will have a general understanding of contract law. When their landlord threatens to charge them for something not in a lease, they will know their rights. And when a cop who pulls them over for speeding asks them to open the trunk, they will know they can refuse. The law touches every aspect of the world we live in, and just understanding how makes you better be prepared to live your life. I’ve seen how this is true even in a creative field where people are always telling you what’s illegal and what can’t go in your contract. Now, this may not be worth going 250k deep in debt for alone, but if your goal is an education, there’s something to be said for that, even if it no longer means you graduate with a 160k a year salary.
This applies even in dating too. This past fall, I took a negotiation class and loved it. I had no idea how useful skilled negotiating can be in the dating arena. In fact, I wrote my final paper for my negotiation class on relationships which I will happily post for you as soon as my grade goes up. In the meantime, fellow advocates, all I can say is buck up – you may have no job, terrible credit, and debtors calling you daily, but you’ll always be able to threaten to sue people who piss you off and you’re less likely to get screwed on a prenup. Beatus homo qui invenit sapientiam!
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January 7, 2011 | 9:30 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I was lunching with a gay friend of mine, Bentley, a few days ago at Lemonade on Abbot Kinney (if you haven’t had their watermelon-tarragon lemonade get over there asap!) and we were both complaining about a nettlesome girl, Kara, we know. I have a very short tolerance for certain types of people and socially challenged girls happen to be on my short list, so while I tend to steer clear of her, Bentley has really taken the brunt of Kara’s misguided invective. I mentioned that I hadn’t seen Kara in months and he said “I had to cut off all communication. She wanted me to be her gay best friend and I just couldn’t handle that.”
I don’t know why, but it had never occurred to me before how much a certain type of girl, must seek out the gay best friend but it made perfect sense. I have a great many amazing girlfriends in my life, some of whom, I’ve known literally since infancy, so I don’t put myself in that class of girls who always has problems with other women. Therefore, I happen to be very good friends with a few gay men because I adore their personalities and we’d be friends regardless of anyone’s gender or sexual orientation. But for girls like Kara, the gay best friend must seem like the perfect salvation from catty girls. But really, Kara’s problem isn’t other women, it’s her. She’s made lousy choices in her life – like always dating losers and then getting mad at her girlfriends when they criticize her boyfriends, or dressing provocatively at work and then feeling victimized by the women she works with. But for Kara, the ever-elusive Atlantis of the perfect girlfriend, is the gay man: someone she would never be intimidated by or jealous of and whom she could complain to about boys and girls.
But for my friend Bentley, this seemed to be a chronic problem the gay man in LA is exposed to. He is constantly swatting away annoying clingy girls that want to latch on and have a gay best friend. When I asked Bentley for more details, he seemed exasperated by the whole fad. He said he has to choose really carefully which girls he’ll get close to because otherwise, all these girls will harass him for friendship not because of a mutual interest in one another, but just so the girl can emotionally unload and blather on to her “best friend.” It seemed sad that Bentley would have such difficulty in perpetuating casual relationships with girls. These girls need to stop focusing on finding a gay best friend to fix their sorry lives. Gay men can’t even legally marry in this state. Torturing them with stories about your attempt to remarry your deadbeat ex-husband who said he doesn’t love you is just cruel.
January 5, 2011 | 9:21 am
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
My mother and I were recently discussing the fascinating psychoanalysis A.O. Scott gives Natalie Portman in his recent New York Times article about Black Swan. When the subject turned to the actress herself, my mom rolled her eyes and scoffed as she said:
Now she’s marrying that guy and having his baby.
What’s wrong with him? I like that she’s marrying a ballet dancer.
Nothing I guess.
Mom, why are you making that face?
I don’t know. I thought she was better than that.
Better than what?
Nothing. (the subtitles were reading the girl gets knocked up by some dancer who she’s gotta marry now like she’s the Britney Spears of Harvard)
I don’t know.
Mom, he’s a dashing French and incredibly talented - probably one of the top five dancers in the world right now. And getting pregnant first is just what my generation does. My generation views marriage as something to consider when you’re having kids. Not the next step in the relationship.
But is this true? I don’t know why exactly but I felt myself getting very defensive about all of it. Maybe I thought she was better than this too and I was determined not to be disappointed? It got me thinking.
But my mom had a point. Why would even she, the Harvard educated Audrey Hepburn of our generation not wait to get pregnant till after marriage? Is that really so old fashioned? I know for some people, pregnancies arise unexpectedly and I certainly don’t believe that at that point a criterion for having a child would be marriage. But it just happens too often to too many celebrities to just be accidents. Penelope Cruz, Jessica Alba, Lily Allen, Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez, Nicole Richie, Jaimie Lynn Spears, Padma Lakshmi, Brooke Burke, Salma Hayek, Naomi Watts, Isla Fischer, Bridget Moynahan.
And this is just from one quick Google search. I have no problem with their decisions to be single and have a child. I can even imagine a scenario where I might chose to do the same. But my question is, why would you want to? Do so few people really care about getting married that it’s become obsolete. In Europe this is certainly true - almost no one my age gets married.
But doesn’t anyone want the romantic narrative of love, then marriage, then baby? I’m assuming that plenty of these women had the option for that and yet some chose a different path. Is part of this trend more a celebrity issue than a generational issue? Perhaps, if you’re that successful in your career, you figure that marriage would simply limit what you could do in life, and you prefer your freedom to romance.
I guess I’m still of the old fashioned ilk, that think giving up part of your freedom is what makes love so powerful. What greater gesture in life is there, than to give up a part of yourself to be in love? I’d like to think that no matter what, even on top of the world, I would happily give up part of my freedom for love. I’ll always believe that the love you get in return for the sacrifice is better than any reward the top of the world can give you. Plus, who says a few divorces has to be a bad thing?