Please pay me to go away.

Department of complaints.
Jan. 24 2002 10:48 PM

Inspired by Mariah

Won't you please pay me to go away?

Like deposed singer Mariah Carey (she just got $28 million from her record company for not making records for them anymore) and deposed wife Lisa Kerkorian (she's asking for $3.8 million a year in child support from her ex-husband, billionaire Kirk Kerkorian, who married her under the condition he would divorce her a month later), many, many people in my life have wanted me to go away. But Carey and Kerkorian have shown me my strategic error. I have always gone—for free.

Emily Yoffe Emily Yoffe

Emily Yoffe is a regular Slate contributor. She writes the Dear Prudence column. 

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I saw unsuccessful jobs and rotten romances as sources of shame, from which to walk (or skulk) away, pockets empty and dignity intact. What a moron! How did I not realize the power I had? What I needed to do was to keep showing up, writing unneeded articles, or providing unwanted conjugal services until I saw those magic six zeros appear in my money market account.

I guess I can be grateful that I was never escorted away from a place of employment by security guards, but I think the most I've ever come away with was a memo pad (it wasn't exactly a parting gift, but I'd already doodled on it, so I took it with me) and cake. Not a whole cake that I could stick in the freezer and eat slowly as my grocery money dwindled. No, a slice of cake that I ate on the premises to celebrate the fact I wouldn't be there tomorrow.

Then there are the romances. Overall, they've been costly. Following the sudden breakups, I've had to abandon hampers of dirty laundry to make my quick escape. There was the boyfriend who kept careful tabs of all household purchases. I lost the struggle for the dustpan and whiskbroom. Another one was just finishing graduate school, so I loaned him $1,200 for his tuition. I'm sure he intends to pay me back, but we haven't spoken since 1989. It didn't occur to me to bill any of them for the time I spent with the therapist recovering from these heartbreaks. But if Lisa Kerkorian can demand $436 a month to care for her daughter's rabbit and other pets, what should I have been charging to return me to semi-sanity? I never even walked away with any tangible assets. As one boyfriend, speaking for all of them, said, "I'm so glad you're not the jewelry type."

Carey and Kerkorian didn't pioneer the concept of getting paid more to not do what you used to do—think corporate golden parachutes, farmers paid to not grow crops—they've just taken it to magnificent heights. But still they had to put in the kind of slogging effort up front, singing all those songs, sleeping with an elderly billionaire, to get their going-away money. I think it's time to refine the principle. How much more lucrative and energy-saving to not do the work in the first place. That is, I think it's time that I get paid to never show up. That would remove the sticky issue of having had initial qualifications for the job (in Carey's case a multi-octave voice) or the romance (in Kerkorian's case youth and forgetfulness when it comes to birth control).

Since I can't carry a tune, no record company is going to pay me not to cut a CD. And since I am no longer nubile (but am happily married), no billionaire is going to pay me to stop … never mind. Given my qualifications in life, there is only one job I would consider. That is why I'm declaring myself the new CEO of Enron. If the board of directors wants to keep me from taking my seat at the desk, all they need to do is pool the money they got from exercising their stock options when the exercising was good, and I'll keep on never darkening their door.

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