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The Bag Lady’s Lament

January 10, 2009

Alexandra Penney—a New York artist and former editor of Self Magazine—lost her life savings in the Madoff debacle. Now she shares her wrenching trauma in a Daily Beast exclusive.

What makes Alexandra Penney’s experience with losing (or not having) securities and luxuries any more wrenching than people who have been without their entire life? No, I have not read all three parts of Penney’s trauma drama, nor will I. Skimming it is sufficient.

Using the Daily Beast’s use of the term trauma, I am quite sure Alexandra Penney has been traumatized. The poor thing is also too traumatized to understand all the vitriolic comments she has gotten about her story. I wonder if any of those comments have to do with the fact that she comes off sounding as if she is whining about having to work instead of being free to create art. Don’t you people understand, being free to paint and use taxis instead of the nasty old subway, was the reason she ever worked. Surviving had little to do with it.

I began to think about my options: I’d have to sell the cottage in West Palm Beach immediately. I’d need to lay off Yolanda. I could cancel the newspaper subscriptions and read everything online. I only needed a cell phone. I’d have to stop taking taxis. And who could highlight my hair for almost no money? And how hard was it to give yourself a really good pedicure?

To be honest, I wish she would shut the fuck up. This is how it always works, isn’t it. People like Penney are given a venue to make money off appropriating the narrative of the people who have truly lived (is living) that narrative. The fact that Penney has assets, regardless of how inferior those assets are compared to the ones she has lost, puts her in a more privilege position than many people who are living in poverty and people who are living pay check to pay check (you know, working class people and lower middle class people). When Penney realized that she had to go back to writing in order to butter her bread, you know that dreadful profession of writing that so many people would kill to suffer; did she have to worry about interviewing? Selling herself? Looking the part? Coming from the right schools? Knowing the right people? Compromising her principles? Or did she just have to make a few phones calls?

I wonder why Penney has decided to write about her time as a newly indoctrinated less fortunate (or as she calls herself, (PoRC) person of reduced circumstances), instead of writing about how people like Madoff was/are able to steal money. What is wrong with writing about the culture that nourishes a desire to get rich by exploiting others? What is wrong with writing about how removed from reality she became while living the life of a rich New Yorker. She has lived in New York City for most of her life and it has been thirty years since she has taken the subway.

And at the prospect of losing her housekeeper, Penney laments:

I wear a classic clean white shirt every day of the week. I have about 40 white shirts. They make me feel fresh and ready to face whatever battles I may be fighting in the studio to get the best out of my work.

How am I going to iron those shirts so I can still feel like a poor civilized person? Even the no iron ones need touching up.

Instead of putting an evil eye on the culprit, Penney (and the people who employ her) has decided to profit off the struggling class narrative. This of course silences the real struggling class. If a member of the struggling class decides to submit their stories, she/he would be told she/he has it all wrong, that her/his story lacks plausibility. “No, if you want an example of having to live hand to mouth read Alexandra Penney’s work. Then come back with a new draft and perhaps we can talk.”

The woman calls herself a bag lady. A bag lady!

  1. Anna Belle permalink
    January 10, 2009 11:56 pm

    Couldn’t agree more, kitty. Grrrr.

  2. Deb permalink
    January 11, 2009 7:05 am

    Kitty…What Anna Belle said!

    And then I went to CNN and saw this shit!!!! “Madoff investors may get money back” Read the article to see where they’re going to get it!!! Miss Penney may be able to hire somebody to iron those damn shirts after all.

  3. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 11, 2009 7:11 am


    “SIPC is a non-profit agency set up by Congress to maintain a fund to help investors who had accounts at brokerage firms that failed. The fund, supported by broker dealer assessment fees, has $1.6 billion.

    SIPC has mailed more than 8,000 applications to Madoff investors so they can file claims for any money they may have lost.”

    The super-rich look out for each other. I don’t recall the poor employees who lost their life savings due to Enron and Kenneth Lay getting money back, —but of course many of them were working folks-to middle class, so fuck them.

  4. Deb permalink
    January 11, 2009 8:04 am

    I know right????!!!!

  5. Anna Belle permalink
    January 11, 2009 5:24 pm

    So right again! We should bring back defenestration for these folks, so we can literally throw them out of their ivory towers.

  6. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 11, 2009 7:23 pm

    Anna Belle, good idea. It could be used as a stress reliever for all those po’ folks who have nothing better to do than iron 40 white shirts. And some wonder why watching the beheadings of royals was such a popular pastime with a carnival atmosphere.

  7. Anna permalink
    January 11, 2009 8:21 pm

    SIPC what?! This info just ruined my day, my week, my month – yeah – once again the values of this country on full parade.

  8. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 11, 2009 10:26 pm

    Sorry Anna.

    It may just be the wording, but doesn’t this part, “SIPC has mailed more than 8,000 applications to Madoff investors so they can file claims for any money they may have lost.” looks like the SIPC is going to the “victims” and not the other way around. You know, the way victims have to go to FEMA and other agencies for “help.” So, it is not just that the SIPC is there for these prima donnas, they are cuddling the rich and acting like SIPC is in the subordinate position.

  9. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink
    January 11, 2009 10:27 pm

    Yet the government, especially Congress will not play the subordinate position for the people, the common people who put them in office, or supposedly put them in office.

  10. Deb permalink
    January 11, 2009 11:03 pm

    Kitty…”It could be used as a stress reliever for all those po’ folks who have nothing better to do than iron 40 white shirts.”

    You are too funny!

    And I knew you would see it!!! I’m saying to myself, “Self, they don’t even have to go TO them to get the damn money!!!” Hell, most of those damn people in NOLA who went TO Fema and applied for that “Road Home” money (over and over again at time because there was always somthing missing) are still waiting for checks! This is 2009! Nobody’s in any hurry to “search” for more money for them! This is all so very telling, though most people aren’t listening – and routine.

    Anna…I agree, but that’s just it. Those are, and have been all along, the values of the Bolsheviks running this show – people just don’t want to admit it, or see it at all. They’d rather pretty it up with “Hope” and “Change” for the masses who will continue to willingly believe it, unless and until they hone some critical thinking skills.

  11. naginata1 permalink
    April 4, 2009 9:26 pm

    I guess it’s ok to trash women here based on their economic status?
    What gives with that?

    By the way, I am formerly Satsuma. I think all women should do nothing but go after money. Money is everything. Forget about rape. Forget about violence. Money is our ticket to freedom.

  12. The Fabulous Kitty Glendower permalink*
    April 4, 2009 11:09 pm

    Penney is hardly living the life of poverty. She has very well off children who have offered her a place to live. A lot of poor women don’t even have that option. She does not have to live in New York, she does not have to use the subway. Her children have made that clear.

    Whereas I would normally take care when it comes to “trashing” most women, that is hardly the case for Penney. Her privilege and disdain for everyone but her kind is being criticized here. When she was high on the hog, she didn’t give a rat’s ass who else was suffering, particularly women. And what nerve calling herself a bag lady. She has no clue what and how a bag lady really has to live.

    I call it a comeuppance, perhaps for her jewel of the book that did a lot of women no good, if not harm, —————— 1982 best-selling book How to Make Love to a Man.

    “Her 143-page long book How to Make Love to a Man became a best-seller in 1981. The book took two years for Penney to research, which included interviewing more than 200 men and reading numerous books, but her biggest challenge was writing it in a tone that would be acceptable to the mass market.”

  13. December 3, 2010 8:25 pm

    Mary you done took a ride in the time machine. LOL! Thanks.

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