Because neurotic is the new black....

Ann Nichols

Ann Nichols
East Lansing, Michigan,
December 31
I write, I read, I clean up after people and I worry about things. I have a chronic insufficiency of ironic detachment. My birthday isn't really December 31; it's March 22 but it won't let me change it.


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APRIL 14, 2012 8:16PM

White Girl Problems*

Rate: 18 Flag

In the recent past I have twice opened articles on Major Famous Website because the title promised to give me information or ideas that were genuinely worth my time; in both cases the actual piece was best categorized as “Whining about White Girl Problems.” I do understand the need for editors to get eyes on pages, and the associated push to come up with catchy titles. A busy reader is not as likely to stop and read “Young Women Protest Circus Acts on Behalf of PETA with Public Nudity” as he is to drop everything for “Hotties Bare for Bears!”  Whole publications have succeeded for years based mainly on sensationalizing everything from elections to salmonella outbreaks. On the other hand, a thinking person might be willing, and even prefer to have some idea about the actual substance of an article before deciding to take the time to stop, drop and read.

The first story promised to tell how the writer paid off her “secret, hidden debt” in only two years. When I began to read and learned that the debt was largely student loans, I was excited. I have struggled with my own student loan debt for twenty years, and I imagined that I was about to read a step-by-step description of money snagged from weekly paychecks and stashed in a mayo jar, then moved to interest-bearing accounts, and finally used to pay off the lenders in a moment of transcendent glory.

The article was, in fact about this: the writer had a lot of debt. She decided to use the money she had been blowing on high-end shopping and travel towards the systematic paying down of her debt. There is nothing wrong with what she did, and I am happy for her, but here’s the thing: if I had discretionary money after the bills were paid I WOULD PAY OFF MY LOANS, TOO. Or, as we like to say here in the unsophisticated Midwest, “Duh.”  If I had enough money to spend a month seeing India, but couldn’t answer my land line because of bill collectors, I would pay my bills. Many of us do not have thousands of dollars in discretionary income to divert towards major debt incurred in better days. Not in this economy, not no-how.

A story about spending two years without overseas travel or Gilt Groupe in order to be free from debt is not particularly moving to me, and is definitely not useful or inspiring. It is, dear reader, a White Girl Problem disguised by a title calculated to reel in those of us struggling to stay afloat in tough times.

The other article promised to reveal whether or not men and women can really be friends. This is a topic that has interested me forever; I think it interests a lot of people. My husband and I have discussed it possibly 500 times, and I will just say that one of us thinks such friendships are possible, and one of us remains skeptical.

The actual piece turns out to be about a young woman who is stricken because (and I paraphrase) she is “so hot that no straight men want to be ‘just friends’ with her.” Awwwwwww. Her White Girl Problem is that when she meets men to whom she is not sexually attracted, but who find her sexually attractive, she can’t just keep them as friends because they are apparently sufficiently tormented by her inaccessibility that they are figuring out the whole carbon monoxide asphyxiation thing instead of hanging out with her. There is no discussion in her article about the possibility of friendship between men and ordinary women, like me, to whom every man in the room is not sexually attracted. Can we be friends with the testosterone-y crowd? Most important (to me anyway) where is the answer to the question posed in the title? If I cared about the problems of the fatally beautiful and friendless, I would watch “Gossip Girl.” When I open an article that promises some mature exploration of a complex and compelling issue, I expect something other than the narcissistic, first-person ramblings of an ingénue. I want experts. I want a seasoned view from a mature person. Otherwise, I want it titled “Don’t Hate Me ‘Cause I’m Beautiful” so that I can easily make the decision not to read it.

In some ways, this piece is a White Girl Problem rant about White Girl Problem “journalism.” I get that. At least I didn’t overpromise, and if you are reading this you are not, I hope, disappointed because you expected something different. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go smooth the knots out of my impossibly long eyelashes and polish my collection of vintage ingots. 


*As you undoubtedly know, I did not make up the term "White Girl Problems." I learned it from Babe Walker, whose hilarious Twitter feed can be found here: https://twitter.com/#!/whitegrlproblem. I don't know if she made up the term, but I felt like I should make ir clear that I did not. 

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I hate those articles that promise how to be free from debt then take it out of savings or like you have shared here quit traveling and eating out every night...I agree Duh!
Not every white girl's problems, or you would have related. What bothers me is the assumption that only rich or beautiful (usually also white but not always) people have stories worth sharing....

I agree that reading the stories of those whining about their own beauty or richness are pretty annoying, since both problems could be fairly easily averted by shaving one's head and donating all one's worldly goods to charity.....probably not the option either woman preferred. So they must continue their needless suffering...and we must figure out how to click elsewhere...

I should take a snapshot of the budget my husband and I were recently given by an oh-so-helpful Cigna financial advisor, for how we could manage to pay our hospital bills. The budget was a sample family monthly budget, with ludicrous entries like $100 a month for haircuts, and real stuff like property taxes completely unaddressed. Oh, if those who think they can counsel the poor so if we just are more careful we will have the money we need to cover the necessities only knew how ridiculous their arrogance renders them.

I've passed the age to be considered a white girl and now have Curmudgeonly Crone Problems.
Live and learn I guess...
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The London Telegraph used to have a column by the 13 year old Peaches Geldorf, daughter of Bob. It was (unintentionally) hilarious. She wrote so earnestly and cluelessly about her problems and the lessons she learned. Example, don't write anything less than nice about your friends on your blog, because you will discover that your most devoted readers are the people who were your friends before they read what you wrote about them and the wider world (your assumed audience) doesn't really give a damn if your friend Moon Unit has a really ugly zit on her nose (euwwww!) and if you were her, you'd have gone to a cosmetic surgeon to get it taken care of.
Frankly, I'm rather surprised that the articles weren't more about the authors relating to the white girls.
I have an aversions to Disco, Whiny White Boy music, Gansta Rap, Industrial-Trance-House-X dance tracks and Gumpy Old White Dude rhetoric... never understood any of it.
As a former reporter I'm daily appalled at what constitutes journalism these days. My 22-year-old daughter still courses through "Cosmo," knowing I will chastise her roundly if I catch her. Your recollection of the debt story reminds me of a Steve Martin sketch, "How To Become a Millionaire:" "Well, first you get a million dollars, then...."

P.S. I didn't feel deceived by your headline, just disappointed that there wasn't more sex in the piece.
Oh, yesssss! Let us give up cake, for a while.
Sometimes I wonder what life might be like if I did not know how to read. I imagine wandering along the beach, observing whatever washed up along the tide line, the cloud movies, sand patterns, new stories every day. I might know more than I do now.
i share your frustration at the all-too-frequently overpromising titles. on a similar note, i read too many news articles (online, in papers) that just restate the problem the title correctly states in paragraph after paragraph, using slightly different words. i reach the end thinking, hmmm, could have just done with a title? there's not even a stab at a solution? i may be showing my progressive bias here, but the author's often an ultraconservative politico, flinging crap like "unmitigated disaster" without a single example or alternative. (guess what i was reading this morning?) excellent piece, annie.
it is the new damn Question of the Ages:
(if you accept the 'new age'..& what age is not new, i say!)

can guys and gals be friends.
there will be alot of buried psychological issues with women
below a man's friendship.
but then again, same with a gal. daddy issues, whatever.

so what.

time to get these issues into the light.

solve em.
without f-ing!

' White Girl Problem is that when she meets men to whom she is not sexually attracted,
but who find her sexually attractive,

she can’t just keep them as friends
because they are apparently sufficiently tormented by her inaccessibility''

ha . she doesnt know men well, inaccessiblility is not
a thing we are exactly foreign to , we men...
it is cool..
but the girl gotta be cool if we say, hey, you look good today.

what the hell is the harm in that?
Thanks for this piece. Agree with many of your assertions and frustrations.
We have a saying here: "PREACH IT!!" Hahaha...hope you don't mind me using it. All I can say is "AMEN!" This month, I sat with a twelve year old girl raped by her own father who gave her the deadly virus and now she has no place to live. There was a public murder of a man who was sliced from ear to ear and then burned in front of his family, because he was from a different country. It is a shame what the world pays attention to... the title of this is so astute.
Agreed. Just read something on Salon about Tom Waits that was not about Tom Waits but about had that clickety clack self indulgent precious white grrrl problem rhythm to it, blehhhh..
Spare us please.