ayelet-waldman

That was true, Iris would sometimes think, about marriage: it was only a boat, too. A wooden boat, difficult to build, even more difficult to maintain, whose beauty derived at least in part from its unlikelihood. Long ago the pragmatic justifications for both marriage and wooden-boat building had been lost or superseded. Why invest countless hours, years, and dollars in planing and carving, gluing and fastening, caulking and fairing, when a fiberglass boat can be had at a fraction of the cost? Why struggle to maintain love and commitment over decades when there were far easier ways to live, ones that required no effort or attention to prevent corrosion and rot? Why continue to pour your heart into these obsolete arts? Because their beauty, the way they connect you to your history and to the living world, justifies your efforts. A long marriage, like a classic wooden boat, could be a thing of grace, but only if great effort was devoted to its maintenance. At first your notions of your life with another were no more substantial than a pattern laid down in plywood. Then year by year you constructed the frame around the form, and began layering memories, griefs, and small triumphs like strips of veneer planking bent around the hull of everyday routine. You sanded down the rough edges, patched the misunderstandings, faired the petty betrayals. Sometimes you sprung a leak. You fell apart in rough weather or were smashed on devouring rocks. But then, as now, in the teeth of a storm, when it seemed like all was lost, the timber swelled, the leak sealed up, and you found that your craft was, after all, sea-kindly.
—  Ayelet Waldman, Red Hook Road
The Truth about Kim Kardashian Hollywood Alarmists

I’m 29 years old and I’ve kissed, flirted and disrobed my way through the world of Kim Kardashian Hollywood. 

This isn’t a commentary on the game, which is fantastic. There have been enough thoughts on the game, its world view and the pros and cons of playing.

This is about best-selling author and mom Ayelet Waldman, who last night (August 3) decided to take to social media to criticize Kim Kardashian Hollywood gamemakers, iTunes and Kim Kardashian herself for “preying” on children.

This is a long-fought battle. Parents have been targeting specific types of media for longer than I have been alive, believing these video games or TV shows breed violence, superficiality or a penchant for lip gloss. 

But I’m here to tell you that as an adult with a host of absurd interests and fetishes that Kim Kardashian Hollywood is only a money suck if you let it be one. 

No two Kim Kardashian worlds are built the same. 

Sure, we’re all eventually tapped by Elizabeth Korkov to be a last-minute stand-in for a crying model, but how we perform is up to us. Our characters are digital world simulations of a near-impossible goal: A-list manufacturing. How we dress, how we handle industry bad blood, is our touch of the button, not Kim’s.

Currently, my avatar is #1 in my world. He sports long, jet black hair, a black top and dark indigo skinny pants. His welcome note is “cum in my hair.” His name is Kevin.

As I said, the constructs of this game are clear cut across the board, but we manipulate the game to suit our tastes and our interests. We make the decisions to pay for K star coins or not. We make the decisions to dye our hair aqua marine or not. We decide if a Tribeca loft is really worth $10,000. We decide everything. We can even be gay, pansexual or polyamorous. We can be all of those things at once if we feel up to it.

So, while Ayelet’s son Abe is only 11 years old, there is more here to the story than it being simply his or iTunes fault. Abe’s mother is responsible for her children, not Kim Kardashian. 

Kim Kardashian helped create a wonderful game that’s more self-aware and progressive than anything in Google Play or the iTunes store today. Abe, understanding this and, simply, the popularity of this game, elected to download it and play. He then spent over $100 on in-app purchases. 

Now, Abe couldn’t have done this had it not been for his parents linking an iTunes account with an active credit card. That’s this instance. In any other instance, a child could easily steal a parent’s credit card and buy enough K star coins to earn that gorgeous military trench that is, sadly, out of my own income bracket. 

There’s an episode of Degrassi from the ‘80s where Melanie gets her braces off and treats her friends to pizza and soda. Then she learns that Snake wants her to attend the Gourmet Scum concert and steals $20 from her mother’s purse. She is caught and has to miss her date.

In this fictional retelling of a very common problem, Melanie acted and was made to face the consequences. 

In 2014 and with Ayelet’s Abe, Kim Kardashian gets the slap on the wrist. We’re made to feel sympathetic for her child because, as she tweets, he’s crying and says he didn’t think he was so stupid. 

So while we listen to poor Abe’s struggle with navigating the world of trends and commerce, Ayelet is on the phone with iTunes demanding a refund, which they honour. 

But why?

Why is iTunes or Kim Kardashian responsible for any of this?

I have not spent a single dollar on the game. Time-wise, I’ve even kept it pretty minimal, opting to wait it out for bouts of full energy to perform appearances for Immaculat Vodka or to make speeches for the charity Seeds of Hope. 

I know there’s an age difference between me and this sobbing child, which is why I’m not suggesting simply Abe suck it up. He spent his parent’s money without asking and that’s not cool. 

But why is iTunes or Kim Kardashian expected to pay the tab?

Ayelet is the mother. A mom who has written books about parenting and motherhood. And yet her life lesson for her son Abe, age 11, is that when you order your life by zeitgeist, you have every right to demand a refund if you make a wrong move.

Your actions don’t have consequences as long as you can yell at someone on the phone or e-mail a person until you’ve berated them enough that your money is securely back in your line of credit. 

The child is then perceived by a fawning parental cabal to be tortured by the demands of Kim Kardashian, Hollywood. 

Again, why is Kim Kardashian the target here? Why does Ayelet criticize Kim and the idea of giving someone famous like her money? Is Kim not providing a service? Yes, she is. Did Kim invent “fremium” games? No, she didn’t. 

Kim is an easy target for people like Ayelet who don’t grasp the reality of a person who made herself famous through reality. There’s a feeling that Kim hasn’t earned her keep and therefore is some sort of lesser being who values her lip gloss over the decency of children. 

That’s not fair. She hasn’t inserted demands into the game, such as, “buy this fur trimmed coat from my pre-release gift bundle for 120 K star coins or I will kill your family.”

She’s simply made a fun game that, should you desire, you could spend a bit of coin. If services have value to the user, paying for that service isn’t entirely out of the realm of expectation. Even Ayelet the author of books likely requires she make money to continue dispensing her own doses of reality. 

So, feel bad for Abe if you must, because who likes the vision of a crying child. But expect that he face the consequences of wronging a parent. And expect that Ayelet should know better than to admonish a person who had no hand in her child’s behaviour. She simply created a game that people would want to spend money on if they had it (or access to it). 

If Abe were to assault someone in the future, you can’t blame films and call Netflix to refund the charges. 

There are times as a parent when you realize that your job is not to be the parent you always imagined you’d be, the parent you always wished you had. Your job is to be the parent your child needs, given the particulars of his or her own life and nature.
—  Ayelet Waldman

“In the end the real wealth of the Hungarian Jewish community had not been packed in crates and boxes and loaded onto that train. What is the value to a daughter of a single pair of Sabbath candlesticks passed down from her mother and grandmother before her, generation behind generation, for a hundred, even a thousand, years? Beyond price, beyond measure. And what of ten thousand pairs of similar candlesticks, when all the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters are dead? No more than the smelted weight of the silver. The wealth of the Jews of Hungary, of all of Europe, was to be found not in the laden boxcars of the Gold Train but in the grandmothers and mothers and daughters themselves, in the doctors and lawyers, the grain dealers and psychiatrists, the writers and artists who had created a culture of sophistication, of intellectual and artistic achievement. And that wealth, everything of real value, was all but extinguished.”
― Ayelet Waldman, Love & Treasure

Sometimes, when reading works of fiction that are about Eastern European Jewishness, I wonder whether other readers feel about—feel for—these books as I do. It’s at best silly—good literature is empathy, unbound by ethnicity or nationality or religion or race—and at worst unfair, because I do not have a greater or more special claim to these works than anyone else. But still, I wonder.

And so I wondered this while reading Ayelet Waldman's Love and Treasure, which is about tracing a piece of jewelry through time (although the story is not told chronologically), and which was recommended to me by a friend, and which I just finished. The book is so consumed with questions of Jewish identity, individually and collectively. And hence, my wondering.

But at its best (and there are points at which I do not think the book is at its best—the last third was not, I didn’t think, as well-composed in terms of writing or cohesion as the first two) the book is also about Jewishness, yes, but also the universal search for identity, and about family, and inheritance, and, above all, love. And it filled me with a different sort of wonder.