Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Dispatch from Suze's Reading

Okay, not really "from" Suze's reading, but more like "three hours after" Suze Orman's reading this evening at the Union Square Barnes & Noble. I know how boring these recaps can be, so I'm going to do a tick-tock of my experience at the event:

6:20 p.m.:
I arrive at the top floor of the B&N, 10 minutes early, no less, and the place is packed with mostly women -- young, old, black skin, white skin, bright-pink hair, gray hair. It's kinda inspiring. All seats are taken, and they're corralling all the Johnny-come-10-minutes-earlies into a holding pen behind all the folding chairs. We all stand together in a more-or-less orderly fashion. I position myself directly in line with the podium. Five minutes later, a television cameraman places his equipment directly in my line of sight. Awesome.

6:25 p.m.:
I stare at the quite-nice background B&N has set up for Suze. Or perhaps CNBC has set up for Suze. Not sure who foots the bill for this kind of extravagance, but my money's on CNBC. It's a large, colorful backsplash: a Warhol-esque checkerboard of pictures, plus the logo for her show, plus her "People First, Then Money, Then Things" mantra. This stage and cultish enthusiasm reminds me of a scene I've seen on TV or in the movies, but I'm not sure which one....

6:30 p.m.:
Suze comes out wearing a fabulously gaudy soft-yellow knee-length jacket over a black top and black pants. And orange eyeglasses. I love this woman and her take-no-prisoners fashion sense.

6:40 p.m.:
Suze's been speaking for a few minutes now. There's no denying she's messianic, and there's no denying that she's trying to sell her book. For me, the quintessential Suze moment came when a woman in the audience shouted, "[Women are] biologically wired to take care of others!" With that, Suze got visibly angry and said, "Are you NOT biologically wired to take care of YOURSELF?" (Clapping from the audience.) "THAT is the question!" Suze continued. "And THIS is the answer!" She slammed a copy of her book down hard on the podium. (Wild clapping.)

6:41 p.m.:
I realize what this all reminds me of: Tom Cruise's over-the-top mysogynist character role in Magnolia. "RESPECT the COCK!" Except, well, this is the opposite of that: empowering women rather than desiccating them. But the medium and method are similar.

6:45 p.m.:
Suze has given out a few pointers (after maxing out the match on your employer's 401(k), put any extra retirement savings in a Roth IRA -- good advice) and revealed her big plan to get women saving and supposedly change the savings rate in America (which is in the toilet -- literally, the red -- now). I expected there to be a catch to her Save Yourself plan, but I can find none yet. If you go to the site and enter the code in the book (701 -- she gave it to us during the signing to prove she's not coercing women into buying the actual book if they can't afford it), open an account with TD Ameritrade, and put at least $50 a month into your account for one year, for a total of $600, TD Ameritrade will put a free $100 into the account at the end of that time period. Skeptical, I did some research online, and it's a good deal: The interest rate is 4.50%, which is competitive with the other high-interest money market accounts, including online darling ING Direct.

6:55 p.m. (ish):
Suze says she asked several banks and brokerage firms to help her implement the aforementioned plan, and only TD Ameritrade stepped up. She asked the TD Ameritrade reps who saw the deal through to stand up, and four women rise from their seats. That was a lump-in-the-throat moment for me. It was incredibly inspiring to see that these women implemented an admittedly risky business plan in order to help other women. She also introduces her friend from an organization called Count Me In that gives loans to women who want to start their own business. I am feeling the sisterhood here, people.

7:00 p.m. (ish):
Suze takes a few questions, but not that many, which is good, because I can only listen to people who live in the tri-state area talk about being a in a position to buy a house "within the next two years" for so long. (Lucky bastards.)

7:10 p.m:
Suze cuts off the Q&A to outline her "Eight Qualities of a Wealthy Woman." UGH! I hated that story online the first time I read it, and I don't want to listen to it now. But I do anyway, of course, and it's more entertaining as she tells it in person.

7:11 p.m.:
A short woman slurping a Frappuccino sidles up next to me, ostensibly to ask Suze a question, and keeps bumping into me intermittently while making a lot of noise with her Frappuccino straw. I give her the "Seinfeld" half-turn. She doesn't stop. I give her the "Seinfeld" full-turn. She doesn't stop, but she does say, "Oh, sorry," before continuing to bump into me. I can smell her Frappuccino. I consider leaning down and giving her a lecture on personal space. After 10 excruciating minutes, the woman in front of me leaves and I take her place, out of the literal reach of this annoying little woman.

7:21 p.m.:
Right before Suze leaves, she tells the members of the audience to write down the "Eight Qualities of a Wealthy Woman" on a piece of paper and look at it every time they're not happy. Um... I love me some Suze, but this is a book called Women and Money. It isn't the Bible. It's not even What Color is Your Parachute? Perhaps this kind of thing works with women who recite mantras and use aromatherapy, but I'll just stick to automatically funding my online savings account, cool?

7:25 p.m.:
Suze heads out to do Larry King's show after we all recite her "People First, Then Money, Then Things" catchphrase. There will be no receiving line for signing books. I will not get to meet her. But everyone can buy a pre-signed copy of the book that Suze asserts will be even more valuable as a first edition since it's not "personalized" and will be worth more if we're ever in a jam and need to sell it for fast money. Riiiiiiiiiight. I'm sure that has some truth to it, but I'm also relatively sure that most of the women at this signing are going for Suze, not to score some sweet eBay merch.

7:26 p.m.:
I'm swept along in the crowd to the escalator, and Suze is with her small entourage several feet behind me. We sort of pass each other on down escalator after down escalator. I LOVE her orange eyeglasses. I was so close to her that I could have said something to her (and it was relatively quiet -- we are talking about well-behaved women here), but I didn't. Because I am a big, flapping, shiny, clucking mechanical chicken.

My verdict:
It was great seeing Suze, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading my pre-autographed copy of her book. It's a bummer that there wasn't a signing, though, because I was all prepared to speak clearly and concisely about why I think she's amazing.

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