RANDY COHEN WEEK.
(Please: Randy Cohen is a genius of America. He is a writer of rarefied satires (personal and political) and, accordingly, his work rarely appears in popular periodicals. He has written for the New Yorker, the Nation, and Late Night with David Letterman and, a few years ago, he was fired as head writer of The Rosie O’Donnell Show. He currently writes and edits the News Quiz for Slate, the on-line magazine. (Do visit!) He has also written books, but because the world is as it is, his classic collection, Diary of a Flying Man (Knopf), is out of print. As meager recompense, this week we are reprinting selections from it, for no good reason at all.)
“One Approach to the Shortage of Men is Sharing”
— The New York Times
When Jeannine Kagle, vice president and director of marketing for a large California winery, heard that her boy-friend was going condo, she was distraught. A year later, she’s delighted. “It’s time-sharing that’s made the difference,” Kagle smiled from the seat of her company jet. “My career always came first with me, and how much was I actually seeing him? A lot less than you’d think. Now I get Jack one weekend a month plus two weeks in the summer, and it’s terrific. I save a bundle on the upkeep and I’m still accumulating equity; the tax advantages are obvious.”
For some it was efficiency, for others the man shortage, but for Allison Esterhause, a New York City bond trader, it was an investment opportunity. “When Malcolm went co-op,” she recalls, “I was able to pick him up at the insider price — we’d been dating for more than a year — about fifty percent of his market value on a non-eviction plan. And I flipped him immediately. I made 55K on him, just over the weekend. It was the first time I’d made that much that fast, and there were no fees or commissions. With that kind of capital, I could easily afford a new boyfriend in a better neighborhood, one with a view.”
As more and more executives discover the advantages of applying their professional skills to their personal lives, new companies are emerging to cater to their needs. Pamela Markham is a senior VP at Mantech Associates, a firm that manages time-shared boyfriends and locates undervalued men about to go co-op. She notes: “We’ve gotten our clients in on the ground floor of some terrific guys — handsome, educated, charming, really presentable men that you can bring to dinner with your CEO and not be embarrassed.”
Naturally, Markham finds interest rates to be a constant concern. “Absolutely. A lot of these guys are interested only in themselves — windbags and blowhards! But if you can find a fellow who is even moderately attentive to his partner’s needs, and of course a bank that will provide the financing — anything under eleven percent these days — well, you’re looking at impressive upside potential.”
It was a happy accident that propelled investment banker Stephanie Ashforth into this volatile new field: "I was having one of those conversations with a woman I knew only professionally, after squash at the Athletic Club. We both were complaining about the men we were involved with, and our complaints were so similar — lack of commitment, immaturity, the sex thing. Then it hit us: we were talking about the same guy. We were each other’s other woman!
“After that, it was just a matter of our lawyers sitting down and hammering out the details: scheduling, maintenance, liability insurance; you know, in case someone breaks him, who covers the repair bills? And now my tax consultant tells me she can work out a great depreciation scheme on Phillip — once they hit fifty, these men can just fall apart, you know. With what I save, I’ll be able to pick up a little young one to use around town when I can’t get away for the weekend.”
Productivity gains, an unexpected byproduct, have been spectacular, reports Beryl Hewett. “With my professional obligations, I was spending very little time with Murph. I’d say I was running him at no more than thirty percent of capacity. He’d squander these huge blocks of downtime watching football on TV. A total waste. Now, thanks to the time-sharing plan I’ve established with a few other execs, we’ve got him up to seventy-three percent of capacity. What a saving! Your fixed costs are there anyway — shoes, beer, dental — but your output skyrockets. Our goal is to get him up to 90% by the end of the next fiscal year. We might look for a new limited partner, or we might go public with him. We’ll hash it out between sessions at the IMF next month; all the owners will be there, a happy coincidence. Murph? Oh, we’ll put him in the shop for routine maintenance.”
Margaret Durning, a Kansas City commodities trader, is seeing a very attractive man on a sale and lease-back arrangement. She transferred his title to the Lamarado Development Company and now rents him for weekends and holidays with an option to reclaim him in five years at half his replacement value. “The sale provided an infusion of funds that really bailed me out of a cash-flow bind,” Durning notes, “and it provided Lamarado with some sweet tax write-offs. It’s the kind of innovative, mutually beneficial response that makes you feel great about American management. Let me tell you, the Japanese haven’t gotten into this at all. They’re still fumbling around with antiquated concepts. It’s like the 1950s; I think they still go steady. We’re way out in front on this thing. It makes you proud to be an American and an MBA.”