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Economic slowdown? Welcome to Smartmom’s daily life

for The Brooklyn Paper

Smartmom and Hepcat are as spooked as everyone else by the recent economic downturn. But as chronic, hard-working underachievers, it’s not like they really got to enjoy the recent economic boom anyway.

Still, there’s loads to be nervous about. As freelancers, Smartmom and Hepcat are dubious that they’ll ever get hired to do anything again. As Dumb Editor pointed out in last week’s column, it’s not likely that President Obama will be setting up a WPA for writers.

So everyone is glum, but Smartmom, ever the cockeyed optimist, is sure that there’s a silver lining to the world’s money troubles.

For one thing, the Depression of 2009 is bringing more people down to their standard of living: life in a rent-stabilized apartment with a minimal amount in the old savings account.

There are other benefits as well. Like coming up with creative and inexpensive fun. No more $25 entrees at the Stone Park Café or $100 seats at the Next Wave Festival. It’s time for potluck dinner parties, nights spent reading “Gravity’s Rainbow” or “Ulysses,” and extra intra-marital sex.

It’ll be like the 1930s all over again, a time when everyone pulled together and learned how to get by on a little — saving rubber bands and using a tea bag for more than three cups of tea.

In other ways, too, Smartmom is grateful for the these troubled times:

• For one thing, she won’t have to eavesdrop on any more conversations about kitchen fixtures while at Connecticut Muffin (she’s already switched to regular coffee at the newsstand). She’s had it up to here with those long-winded discussions about people’s kitchen renovations. Sub-Zero refrigerators. Garland Stoves. Granite counters. Enough.

As a renter, Smartmom never got to do a kitchen renovation.

Sure, she and Hepcat have bought their share of Metro Shelving at a kitchen supply stores on the Bowery. But she never got to pick out an expensive Miele dishwasher or a pretty backsplash.

• Now that there’s a real-estate slump, Smartmom can stop regretting not buying one of those then-affordable houses in the North Slope, South Slope and Ditmas Park they considered back in 1999. Maybe one day, they’ll be able to afford something in the Slope …

Nor will she have to endure endless bragging about how much her friend’s houses, coops and condos are worth and how rich they’ll be when they retire.

Those conversations always make Smartmom feel like the real estate loser that she is. It seemed like it was limitless how much her friends’ properties were going to be worth one day while Smartmom and Hepcat just sank more and more money into her landlord’s pocket.

Everyone knows that Smartmom and Hepcat are real losers when it comes to the real-estate wars. But now she’s just glad that they have a roof over their heads that they can afford, which will be big enough once Teen Spirit moves out next year to go on his Gap Year.

• She also won’t have to feel foolish for having decided to be a writer rather than a lawyer, a bond trader or a financial analyst. For years, she kicked herself for not choosing a more lucrative profession. Maybe it’s time to retire the envy she feels toward people who could count on yearly bonuses that enabled them to live the high life like second homes, ski trips and beach vacations.

• And Smartmom is glad that she won’t have to defend the value of public school anymore. Isn’t it obvious? It’s free. Get it?

• It’s also nice that Smartmom doesn’t have to envy those friends who had enough disposable income to collect contemporary art and famous name modern furniture. She can do what she’s always done: just frame one of Hepcat’s photographs if they need something on their wall.

Frankly, the new Depression isn’t that different from life as usual in their Third Street apartment. Economic insecurity, revolving debt, and a never expanding standard of living.

Welcome to my life, Smartmom says. It’s not that bad, you know.

Louise Crawford, a Park Slope mom, also operates “Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn.”

Louise Crawford organizes Brooklyn Reading Works events at the Old Stone House in J.J. Byrne Park. On Jan. 22 at 8 pm, the reading will feature new works by playwrights Lizzie Olesker, Gary Winter, Jessica Bauman and Scott Adkins. Call (718) 768-3195 for info.

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20somethingdesignertype from slope says:
Ain't it the truth, Smartmom? Was just talking to a friend today about how this 'depression' is going to finally teach my generation some proper money management. Lord knows we've been spoiled up until now.
Jan. 13, 2009, 8:51 pm

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