It's hard to feel sorry for a 40-something Internet millionaire who drives a sweet Porsche. But that's what locals B. Scott Taylor and Dan Merchant, authors of the roman à clef The Great American Stay-At -Home Wives Conspiracy, would like you to do. Taylor and Merchant's page-turner, which arrived in bookstores this past holiday season, would have you believe that behind every Richie Rich living in an 8,000-square-foot McMansion is a hot mother of three armed with honey-streaked locks, a spankin'-new set of 34-Ds, a black Amex card and unsavory intentions.
The best part of the book? It's set right here in Portland, Ore., poolside at the posh Multnomah Athletic Club and amid the Range Rover-saddled streets of the West Hills. Internet millionaire Taylor, the co-founder of marketing company Taow Productions, was inspired to pen the tome after overhearing a gaggle of hausfraus at the MAC trashing their husbands. Tongue-in-cheek though it may have been, the seeds of a conspiracy theory began to take root inside his brain: Just what exactly do stay-at-home wives do with their lives? After he discussed the subject with TV writer Merchant, Scott's imagination conjured up a dark side of westside womankind, where all men are under a reverse Stepford Wives spell, enforced by the traditional female art of withholding sex and manipulative mixed messages. He self-published a small run of the book in 2004. In Conspiracy, clever wives unite against unsuspecting husbands, BJ's equal Beemers, and all available spoils go to those with XX chromosomes.
OK, so it's not fodder for a Nobel in literature—it's more the Maxim version of chick lit—but it did make us scratch our heads. Are Portland's ladies who lunch on the deck at Bluehour really fembots planning to take over the world via the institution of marriage? We discussed the book with a handful of local ladies who had a chance to eyeball advance copies of the book in order to get a real read on P-town's upper-class women.
WW: Basics first—what did you think of the book?
Renae: I thought it was hysterical. All in good humor. Just poking fun.
Donna: In my opinion, I thought it was kind of an interesting foray into the male psyche, in that it's what they think—and maybe most women don't want to know what they think.
Victoria: It was spot-on. I loved hearing the gritty truth.
So you have friends who manipulate their husbands to get what they want?
Juanita: Absolutely. Of course I've known people like that. I wish I had that life! I'm just kidding.
Renae: One woman gave me the business about not volunteering enough at my kid's school. She drives an $80,000 Range Rover, and her husband is the sole breadwinner, and I thought, "I have to put food on the table. Are you kidding me?" The irony is that her world is so different from mine, she doesn't even understand that that's just completely uncalled-for.
Emily: It's all about infidelity, not being concerned about morals and standards. I know one situation where the husband is home with the kids, and the wife is out partying with her boyfriend. Or another friend of mine whose husband had a very public business pitfall; after that, every single one of her friends cut her out of the social scene. I've never seen blackballing so horribly in my whole life.
What's your take on the stay-at-home wife life?
Renae: Well, with women who have their husbands on a short leash, you feel bad for them, because ultimately, that's not love. All that is, is a business deal.
Victoria: I think it's fuckin' fabulous. But I don't have children. Stay at home, take care of yourself, take care of your man, be a good person in the world and have a blast.
Juanita: I've been a stay-at-home wife. But I was always chairing events and raising money. I think [the authors] are talking about people who may not have been as engaged with the community.
Emily: I know one woman who doesn't work but has one child and a full-time nanny. What is she doing? It's not a joke. It's a joke because it's so ridiculous, but it's factual.
Are you a member of the multnomah athletic club?
Emily: I'm a lifetime member. It's a huge babysitting facility, and these women go to the MAC club not necessarily to work out but to observe their perceived competition. And then there's MAC's "Family Fun Night." It's supposed to be Romper Room with their kids, but there are kegs there. Ladies are dressed to the nines, and the guys are all in their post-work suits. My stepbrother says it's the best place to meet women.
Juanita: I'm a member there, but I'm the kind of person that I go in and do my workout and get out. Lounging around hasn't been the thing I've done.
is there anything in the book that you recognize in yourself?
Victoria: I manipulate, I'm the queen manipulator. I've always known I was a good salesperson, but I learned I was really good when I managed to present my case to charter a Swan 52 sailboat for $12,000 for a week for me, my stepfather and my mother and myself.
Renae: Oh, no. I'm perfect.
The Great American Stay-At-Home Wives Conspiracy
Donna Mossler, 55, a stay-at-home mom and recently retired Intel exec.
Juanita Howard, 50, a local business owner and former Meier & Frank lingerie model.
Renae Morgavi, 34, a single mother who currently lives in Malibu, Calif., but hails from the 'Couv.
Emily Duden, 37, a workin' gal who grew up in the Dunthorpe 'hood.
Victoria Shimagel-Budihas, 44, stay-at-home wife and the self-described "luckiest person in the world."