Socks! oh socks; where art thou? Growing up in the South Bronx, there weren’t that many people who lived in houses, let alone owned them (or so was my experience). This meant many of us had to go to the Laundromat to wash our clothes. Throughout the years, I went on to boarding high school, college dorm life and apartment living in Washington, DC, Berkeley, California and Manhattan. This all meant that I had to share washing machines with others. Inevitably, socks would be lost and never to be found again. I even once completely forgot about a load of laundry at the Laundromat. Can’t remember what I had left in there so the clothes can’t have been too important. So, why is this so important for me to travel down memory lane? Home ownership! The cornerstone of the American experience. The American Dream whereas 67.4% of all occupied housing units in the United Sates are occupied by the unit’s owner (note the sound of birds chirping in the background).
I longed for a home to call my own like every other successful or at least like every other American family out there (not in New York City). But living in Manhattan did make the purchase of a home somewhat prohibitive (median home price is $840,000 and medium home price is $1.4 million-OUCH!). So we waited and we waited. Then upon learning of my pregnancy decide to take the plunge and go buy a house. We looked everywhere in New York, but at the end we ended up in the suburbs! Oh, the horror! Well, I thought even if I can’t live in my beautiful cherished Manhattan at least I will have my own place and my own washing machine.
The first laundromat supposedly opened in Fort Worth, Texas in 1934; but that may be in dispute. The term “laundromat” can apparently be found in newspapers as early as 1884 and they were widespread during the Depression. Washing machines in the home had a certain kind of cache in that they served as an indicator of wealth. There are even some that argue that the washing machine did more to liberate women than the advent of the birth control pill. Swedish statistician Hans Rosling suggested that the positive effect the washing machine had on the liberation of women, makes it “the greatest invention of the industrial revolution”. Thusly, the washing machine has played a great role in history-recent history. Yet, why is it that even within my own home the socks disappear?
Home ownership has been promoted as government policy through tax policy which allows a tax deduction for mortgage interest payments on a primary residence. But let me tell you there is also something called the Alternative Minimum Rate tax and in New York-you are screwed over by it. Home ownership may alleviate your tax burden your first one or two years after purchase after that you better have a truckload of kids and dependents to feed. Plus, now, now I have to look after a yard that is unbelievably large and steep in its slope -thus not much I can do with it other than take pictures of the wildlife.; along with a thousand little home repairs that have to be done each weekend. Is this the American Dream? I’d rather be kayaking in Kauai than filling in holes in the floor board. Was the dream about owning something –anything? Don’t we own our lives, our trajectories? Supposedly, there are better school districts (and consequently better public schools) in the ‘burbs. But why am I still paying for private school? It’s like I’m being double taxed. Oh vey!
Don’t get me wrong-I like owning something-in the grand sense of ownership. I can paint whichever way I like, I can play my music at all times (well, within reason, eh). I can plant. I can lay bricks! I can create! (should I have time). But one thing I still can’t do is find the socks the washing machine has swallowed up. Sigh.