MargaretBetween now and the end of October, I will attend five weddings. Each one involves someone near and dear to me or to one of the Precious Jewels, and I am looking forward to them all. But for women more than men, I think, weddings bring with them the eternal question, “What will I wear?”

Of the five weddings, one is in Duke Chapel, and I think I have figured out that one. A very nice dress but nothing too flashy seems in order. No strapless, no sequins and not too short, but those are not issues for most women my age anyway. Another is in a fine hotel in the mountains, and the groom’s mother has given me good advice on that one, and since she is a major player in the wedding weekend, I will take her counsel. Two others are at different North Carolina beaches, one in a chapel and one at a club, and despite settings far more casual than Duke Chapel, I suspect both will be traditional — nice dress, not too short, not strapless and no glitz.

The fifth wedding has me stumped.

It will be in the pasture of a hog farm in Durham County. You read correctly — an honest-to-gosh, working hog farm that raises heritage pigs that have walked around all their lives, and that, as the farmer told me, “have only one bad day ever,” But what on earth to wear?

Being a good Southern girl, a nice dress seems in order yet again, but footwear is a real puzzle. I rarely wear heels and certainly not high ones, but tromping around in a pasture seems to demand flats of some description. I suspect the pasture will have been swept clear of “pig patties,” but you just never know when one might have been overlooked. One of the Precious Jewels suggested the white rubber fishing boots I keep at the beach, pictured here. They are perfect when I know things are going to be really wet — or worse, but high style, they are not.  

I have been channeling my mother and grandmother for their thoughts about this unusual situation, but so far they have not sent me any signals about appropriate footwear.

• • •

On a more serious note, the Brookings Institution, one of Washington’s oldest think tanks, reports that while our American job market is much, much stronger than it was during the grim days of the Great Recession, the recovery has not included everyone. About 7 million men in their prime working years between 25 and 54 are neither working nor looking for work. Shockingly, that is about 12 percent of all men in that age group, and another 2 million men in that category are looking for work but have not found it.  

This is not new news. Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, says the share of men in this age group working or looking for a job has been declining for 50 years.  Most of them are low-income individuals who dropped out of high school or did not go to college. Many depend on their wives’ income and a lesser percentage on government benefits. Says Furman, “They’re not spending any more time on child care, not spending any more time on chores. They are spending a lot more time watching TV than men who are in the labor force.”  

He says many of them have realized that employers are not hiring unskilled workers with little education, so they have quit looking, leading to a range of “bad outcomes,” including depression, substance abuse and suicide.

Furman argues that government policy can make a difference by encouraging education and improving access through job programs and access to childcare, but those are tough arguments in our currently overheated political atmosphere.

• • •

And speaking of politics, can you ever remember a more toxic election cycle than 2016? Ugly words like “crook,” “crazy” and “rigged” pollute our election process daily and almost surely guarantee that many Americans will stay home on Nov. 8 with pillows over their ears. And to think we have not even started debate season yet.

How much longer will this last?

A quick search of how many days left instantly brings up a website that ticks off the days, hours, and seconds until Election Day.

As of publication of this issue of Up and Coming Weekly, we have 75 excruciating days to go.

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