Monday, July 2, 2018

Household Managers Are Not The New Kale

...if we can talk someone else into giving us some money for something that we just thought of, we can make our nut at the same time. It's really as simple as that.

I don't mean to be a pompous ass, but there's something about GQ Magazine that doesn't quite resonate with me. I'm not sure exactly what, but I find myself reading an article there only about once every year or so. And so today, I had my annual check in. And it was a very good one I'm pleased to report, although the article itself was over a year old. Maybe I should check in there more often now?

Please Stop Calling Things "The New Kale," by Marian Bull, was quite a gem. It took me back to a posting a couple of years ago where I defended the honorable title of Butler against the new-fangled (anything that's happened in the past thirty years, I consider to be new) marketed push of Household Manager certificates. You can read that posting here.

There's an old saying that I like, "follow the money."  It's a bit cynical, true, but I'm a New Yorker and so I get a waiver. And besides, the older I've become, the wiser I've realized all those old sayings are.

Anything in this world (including - for instance, things within the domestic staff industry) which is touted as the best thing since (insert here: sliced bread, potato chips, or, whatever), a replacement for something that was never really broken in the first place, is most likely being marketed for a reason, namely:

1) the same reason that all of us market ourselves, everyday, in order to proceed (or even progress, for those of us who believe in Maslow's pyramid) in endeavors which we think are worthwhile and make us feel good about our contributions to the world, and... 

2) because we all have rent, phone bills, partners' medical bills, and kids' braces to pay for, and if we can talk someone else into giving us some money for something that we just thought of, we can make our nut at the same time. It's really as simple as that.


Marketing stuff like certificates and vegetable chips is not a bad thing, it just needs to be kept in perspective. Although I'm amused to see that people who sell cauliflower are now calling it "the new kale," the truth is that cauliflower was pretty darn good all along, even before someone decided to make that ridiculous comparison in order to make a new buck or two. As the author wittingly points out, lots of stuff close to kale has also been pretty good all along, thank you very much:

From a culinary perspective, our reliance on kale as the Only Good Leafy Green Nutrient-Dense Vegetable is as lazy as this construct. Chard is also flavorful, and less tough, and just as nice when cut into ribbons and turned into a salads. Mustard greens have far more personality. Collard greens are wonderful when cooked into soup. Spinach is still a ‘90s relic but it has the whole Popeye iron thing going for it. 
- Marian Bull

I don't know about you, but that whole Popeye thing makes a lot more sense to me personally, than "nutrient dense."  

But to each their own.



And I see this everywhere.

Because, I remember when Butlers ran the show  -  and were at the top of the domestic staff food chain. 

But now, due to Household Manager-Is-The-New-Butler marketing efforts of the past three decades, an entire industry (and the currently-living generations of wealthy families) has become convinced, and will remain convinced, until the next generation of marketeers come along -  and sell the next title, just as convincingly. 

Personally -  I'm looking forward to a revival of the Scullery Maid.  


As I must now refer to myself as an "Estate Manager" to join in with this silly charade and remain marketable in 2018 to those families for the duties of which I am now qualified, I do often wonder what the original Estate Managers of centuries past (who were responsible for the expansive and beautifully sculpted gardens - not the interior operations) would have thought about all this stuff.

I also cringe, just a bit, that this newly created hierarchy creates a comparison itself, and we get lost in that very comparison, itself, and alone, and all too easily, much like the banality of "cauliflower is the new kale."  

But I'm not the new anything. And no one else is, either. Yet our titles are seemingly at the mercy of those who have access to greater advertising dollars than the rest of us.

None of these things should be the new version of the other. Each title (and vegetable chip) should stand on their own savory merits and take bows accordingly, which, for the most honorable title of Butler - used to mean, anyway -  someone who had spent several decades of 16-hour days on their feet, six days per week, honing their craft on the job and could serve, train, advise, facilitate, administer, and fully manage all functions within all magnificent and quite largely staffed, multi-property estates. With aplomb. 

But, stick around, Citizens.  

And let's see what they call us next.

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