“It sure is taking a long time to get to California,” says my five year old. We are aboard a Virgin America flight to LA, and somehow I have landed the middle seat, sandwiched between him and a muscle bound twenty something who is inhabiting his window seat and all of his space – what little of it there is to begin with you can hardly blame him – with a forthrightness and self-assurance that I only ever really encounter in men. Which is not surprising for many reasons, not least of all the article I’ve just read, while my son was happily ensconced in the Disney Channel, in today’s New York Times about wage disparities between men and women. Of course such disparities have been around forever, as have the articles about them, but what was new about today’s piece, on the cover of the Business section, was Harvard economist Claudia Goldin’s research which shows that even when women perform the same work as men they are paid less – that women doctors earn 71% of what male doctors do, and that women lawyers earn 82% of their male counterparts.
“Mommy, you can just end your story there,” says my son, now working his way through a book of hidden pictures and looking up to notice my laptop open on the miniscule tray table next to his. “Vacation is not for working.” Across the aisle my husband is watching “The Affair” for the first time because, through the auction of a theater we support, we have won, as part of a package of other things we wanted more (yes, Hamilton!), a tour of “The Affair’s” set. I don’t know much about the show other than what one can easily intuit from its title, and when I try to get my husband’s attention by calling his name several times – yes, I’d like help with our son now – he is so deeply engrossed in the show that he doesn’t even hear me. Finally I wave my hand into his peripheral vision and he whips off his headphones. “How is it?” I ask him. “Intense,” he says, and we switch seats.
In my new row, our thirteen year old son is watching the NCAA tournament on the little back of the seat TV, and our nine year old daughter is knitting, the two of them inhabiting their gender stereotypes so seemingly perfectly it’s scary unless you know that our daughter has a business selling hand knit necklaces for the school ID tags that parents are required to wear to enter school, and that she is currently working her way through $15 worth of commissions, at $5 bucks a piece. “I used to sell them for $3,” she says sheepishly. “But people are willing to pay $5,” I remind her, and she smiles and goes back to her knitting.