With graduation season in full swing, another horde of callow youth is stampeding into the labor market, like so many spooked cattle. In a labor market like today’s, the prudent assumption is that it’ll be a most degraded scene, one overwhelmingly favoring the children of the well-to-do over the children of the middling and poor. It’s the rich girls (and boys) who can rely on the old man’s money enough to take advantage of unpaid internships, while those who are entirely spared the Hall and Oates Effect are forced to, say, sling hash at Burger King to help their parents make rent. There are more of the latter than there were a few years ago, if for no other reason because of our national policy of putting homeowners out on the street for the pettiest or most specious of reasons. Their richer classmates aren’t so much the one percent as the five, ten, or twenty percent. Some of these give a damn about the ethics of taking unpaid internships, for example, their effects on an already depressed labor market, but many of them are too desperate to put their parents’ money where their mouths are, and a great many of their cohort seem not to give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves.

That was certainly the impression I got at Alma Mater. I’d like to think that the classes following my class of 2006 came across some ethics along the way and doffed the high hat, but I know that some of the most prominent 2007 grads were just odious, and I have a suspicion that my impressions of subsequent classes have been tainted by my associating with small, overwhelmingly upstanding samples of their members.

In any event, this being America in a depression, the labor market will certainly favor unctuous, disingenuous kiss-ups. They tried to train us for that role at Alma Mater, but I gagged. Then I played the game for a while in the real world and gagged again, finally settling in a holding pattern in the underground economy. On account of an eruption of family drama that I can barely process in my own mind, let alone commit coherently to the electronic record, I have spent most of the past week in Sacramento, which seemed like the most reasonable place to try to escape the vortex of the underground economy as I lived it and assuage possible doubts about my California residency. So there: I’m still a Californian, bitch! I’m still in professional and personal disarray, too, bitch, but the signal-to-noise ratio seems to be increasing. It almost always does upon departure from Jackson County.

The workplace is a different kind of bad aboveground. For example, yet more of my friends are removing their surnames from their Facebook profiles in the hope of safeguarding their job searches. Inquiring minds at human resources want to know about their social lives. In an equitable world, these individuals would be called dirty old men and might be reported to the police.

In almost any piece published about the dangers of online activities for job-seekers, the onus is put on the applicant to be judicious. Well, fuck me. Let’s take Facebook as an example. Facebook started as a platform accessible only to its members, and it continues to offer privacy settings for members to restrict access to their profiles as they see fit. Requests by an unwanted third party to see a person’s Facebook profile are tantamount to requests to listen in on his phone conversations or read his mail. Surreptitious access to a private Facebook account is tantamount to wiretapping or tampering with the mail. The fundamental problem is not that employees or prospective employees are engaging in disreputable behavior and documenting it on Facebook. The fundamental problem is that employers are not compelled to treat restricted-access social media sites with the same respect that they are compelled to treat private telephone communication, private e-mails and the US mail.

By “disreputable behavior,” I mean almost exclusively behavior involving sex, drugs and rock-‘n-roll. Alcohol counts as a drug because that’s exactly what it would be called if psychosis weren’t the official national drug policy.

Occasionally, some numbskull will do something like file a disability claim, go on a series of impressively non-disabled vacations, and post hundreds of pictures from Disneyland and Key West on his Facebook profile, where dozens of friends of his boss can see them. This is the same sort of person who, as a Hersheypark employee, would have called in sick and then used his employee pass to enter the park as a guest. This is a special kind of stupidity, one that will be with us always.

By any sane standard, this sort of behavior is much more disreputable and much more material to an employer’s interests than an employee doing a drunken milkshake on South Padre Island on personal time. The problem is that HR is the usually the last department to be sane enough to recognize this. In fact, pettiness in recruitment and personnel management seems to be getting worse. This is to be expected when unions have been eviscerated and the help is desperate and scared. Obsequiousness in job applicants tends to aggrandize those who might hire them, just as obsequiousness in labor aggrandizes management.

Our young people are being told that photos showing them carousing at drinking parties, or scantily clad, or consorting too enthusiastically with the opposite sex, will jeopardize their job searches. What the hell has happened? Has the economy quietly been taken over by holy orders and Baptist Bible colleges? Once again, what we have is a serious boundary problem. The employers don’t know their proper place. Ours is a hypocritical, voyeuristic culture, one in which we censoriously accuse the nubile young women around us of being drunken strumpets at heart because that’s what we’d like them to be. A fair number of them are, in which case we wag the accusatory finger with one hand while furiously beating our meat with the other. But isn’t it the stated policy of most workplaces for employees not to wallow in these obscene fantasies on company time? HR probably wouldn’t be allowed to go to a strip club during business hours, but apparently it is allowed to pore over the titillating but immaterial after-hours behavior of the help on the pretense of doing due diligence.

Let’s not pretend for a second that the behaviors in question are anything but mainstream, or that they can’t be normative. Most Americans drink. A great many use illegal drugs, often remaining fully functional despite being drugged up, and in some cases functioning specifically because they’re drugged up. Bloody few of us are able to manage without some sort of sexual outlet, be it a spouse, a mistress, hookers, a fuck buddy, a friend-with-benefits (there are differences, notably that the latter is less likely to studiously ignore her booty calls when she runs into them around town), or self-service, which is illegal in Oregon and New Jersey. Never mind; that’s a different kind of pump-your-own. Much of the internet is devoted to what a tittering John Tesh and his pastor call “reproductive messages.” Oddly, this material isn’t so much devoted to reproduction per se as to wasting one’s seed corn, but not to worry, barring certain cancer treatments and other extraordinary medical operations or diseases, there’s always more whence that came.

Without face-to-face reproductive messages, we’d be dying off like the Shakers, or like the Japanese with their virtual girlfriends. Like it or not, we can’t send lateral tap roots under a highway and sprout another cluster of trunks on the other side like a Russian alder, nor can we be pollinated by bees like almonds or oranges, although some of us might have suitors hovering around waiting to eat out our flowers. (That’s what she said. Actually, to be grammatically correct, she said it in the first person singular, unless she was Camilla Parker-Bowles. Eww. Hey, now, Prince Charles made that allusion first.) On the macro level, fucking is good for us as a population. Likewise on the micro level, for individuals. The exceptions to this rule generally have to do with population dynamics, not with the underlying sexuality. For instance, we have big problems with overpopulation in much of the world, and we have travel patterns and sheer numbers that facilitate the spread of venereal diseases that would otherwise be extremely limited in scope. We also have the tools to greatly reduce unwanted preganancies and the spread of these diseases, although the authorities at your church might not want you to use them.

Speaking of which, it seems that the Catholic Church is bursting with ostensibly celibate clergy who can’t contain their own sex drives, the darker sorts of which we’ve all seen described in the papers. I’m just sayin’. I might not have gone through with RCIA had I known that I would still be single on the cusp of thirty. I probably would have done more to cultivate friendships with slutty girls instead. From what I’ve gathered, many of them are low-drama after they’ve put out because they don’t have sexual hangups. They’re comfortable with the fact that they like to be fondled and fucked. They don’t pretend to be seeking eternal virginity or two weeks of celibacy a month when in their hearts they’d rather be pinned to the mattress every night. They don’t spend their lives bursting at the seams with repressed sexuality and redirecting it outwardly into enterprises like natural family planning evangelism. Oddly, some of them don’t talk much about sex. This isn’t an irony; it’s a paradox. They don’t need to talk about it because they’re comfortable just letting it happen, or jumping a dude.

Actually, this “reproductive” behavior that doesn’t result in reproduction has its advantages in a world that is overpopulated and a country that has a destablizing labor surplus and is approaching its own carrying capacity, if not already past it. Arguments to the contrary from church authorities and reactionary politicians are mostly cornucopian nuttery driven by a combination of an economic policy demanding prolonged growth that in an organism would be cancerous and, of course, sexual repression. It’s hard to keep a shit economy secret from a nation that is living it. Which will they believe: another round of bloviation about “green shoots,” housing starts and durable goods orders from some earnest talking head on the nightly news, or their lying eyes? When it comes to economic reporting, our media are starting to look Soviet: the News contains no Truth, and the Truth contains no News.

These are yet more reasons for responsible young people to delay or forgo marriage and childrearing. (I’ll address the irresponsible elsewhere from time to time, particularly since many aspects of American policy are fashioned to cater to them and abet them.) This is not an auspicious time to bring a child into the world or to fight with one’s spouse over one’s dwindling money before having no more of it to fight over on account of attorney’s fees.

For much of American history, the average person spent his twenties, and maybe a bit of his teens, married and raising children. These days, however, a lot of young people are finding that this isn’t the perspicacious course of action that it once was, for the reasons that we’ve discussed. Their sex drives are, like Meat Loaf, all revved up with no place to go. This helps explain a number of cultural institutions that worry or annoy the current crop of sex scolds, including online pornography, dating and hookup websites, campus promiscuity, and, most relevant to this essay, the meat market clubs that have taken over neighborhoods like Manayunk.

Manayunk isn’t crude enough for some people. Junior Bear’s sister, Big Bear, runs with a group of hard drinkers of questionable taste who for some reason consider it the highlight of their weekend to go barhopping on Butler Avenue in downtown Conshohocken. What mystifies me is that what I’ve seen of the Conshohocken drinking district is surprisingly low-key and sane. It’s more or less normative. Its clientele, maybe not so much: as far as I’m concerned, there’s no way that an evening of drinking can be reputable when it’s referred to as “the Conshy Strut.” Maybe I shouldn’t complain, since I had a good time the night I took part in an abridged Conshy Strut, and in fact I had the longest strut of the night since I walked all the way up Butler to Germantown Road to catch the L bus back into town. Still, these are what might be called friends in low places, or maybe low friends in high-enough places. In any event, I know how to find me some low and dodgy individuals.

So does Big Bear. She has really cut back on the drinking and the trashy boyfriends in the past year or two, but in her heyday she frequented worse places than anything I’ve seen in Conshohocken. Much worse. Maybe the most impressive was Whiskey Tango, a sort of outpatient frat house for grown-ups just down the street from the Somerton R3 station. There are some roaring drunk vulgar Irishmen in the Northeast, and some of them found their way onto the Philadelphia police force. At least one of them damn near found his way off the police force by getting shitfaced in circumstances such that his captain threatened to fire his probationary ass. This officer was PPO Hooligan, one of Big Bear’s boyfriends. PPO Hooligan isn’t the only rough-hewn Philadelphia cop I’ve known or seen around town, so I figure he must have been drunk as a skunk to get his captain into that foul and uncompromising mood.

An employer might have good reason to be concerned about an employee turning into a predator or a totally disorderly shithead when he goes out drinking. Throwing back a few and dancing dirty with strumpets at the Whiskey Tango is another matter entirely. Dancing, even dirty dancing, isn’t illegal.

Well, in the fictional Bible-thumping town depicted in Footloose, it was. Footloose was a terrible movie. It was so bad, it was good. It was definitely a fitting tale of hootin’, holllerin’, brawlin’ Georgia rough-n-tumbles to watch on a redeye from LAX to Dulles that wasn’t just bucking, but creaking. It had a surprisingly uplifting message: this flight really isn’t as bad as being tossed off a truck into a dirt pile in the course of redneck horseplay. Had it ended five minutes earlier, we might have had a case of a 737 comin’ outta the sky two hours early, diverting to Albuquerque at 2:00 am to patch up some bruisers. The only more fitting place for a screening would be in the same Baptist skies, but on a flight to Atlanta. You know what they say down south: even if you’re going to hell, you have to go through Atlanta first; a redundant tale, to judge from some accounts I’ve heard of Hartsfield.

But I digress, even if not to Albuquerque on short notice. The defenders of liberty in that Georgia backwater rose up and fought for their right to party. That isn’t a right enumerated in the Consitution, although the Declaration of Independence did proclaim “inalienable rights” of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Ouch. That could be tricky for the sex scolds. Dancing sounds awfully like something that young men and women might pursue because it makes them happy, and grinding without government or church interference might be a form of liberty. Gee, could the Founding Fathers have possibly meant for these rights to be construed so broadly? Surely they meant for these filthy activities to be outlawed by local governments at the behest of religious zealots, and those caught engaging in them to be flogged in the town squares.

Maybe. On the other hand, Ben Franklin’s original intent was to put a bag over her head if she was that homely, and a comely mulatto girlfriend always made Thomas Jefferson’s most favorite constituent, Little Tommy, stand upright in the sight of the Lord.

Bull fucking shit. These guys founded a Christian nation. Right? They were good Christians. Please tell me they were good Christians. All right, we’ll ignore Jefferson and make William Bradford out to be one of the Founding Fathers instead, but surely George Washington was a good Christian to the end.

Of course he was, if one defines Anglicanism as purposely refusing to receive communion on account of irreconcilable differences with Anglican theology.

Say it ain’t so, George!

Shit, let’s move on. A cohort of theocratic throwbacks has made it its life’s work to litigate America back to the days of Plymouth, to invade Merrymount and hang its citizens for their liberty and happiness, but these busybodies aren’t prevailing against the country at large because are courts are more equitable than that. Instead, they must fight a thousand little battles (a figure of speech, and a lowball one at that) at the local level, often on school boards, and in our diffuse private sector, which the courts have been relatively hesitant to restrict on behalf of equity for its employees, the idea being that one is always free not to work at Wal-Mart. That’s a charming idea, and one that is particularly resonant for sheltered Stanford law grads and second-generation federal judges. Y’ain’t been to Arkansas, mister, has ya? Don’t worry, the Clintons can give you some pointers on robbin’ the little people in accordance with state law. Them’s fine folks, Bill and Hillary.

School boards are a particularly effective place for busybodies to throw their weight around because they’re doing it “for the children.” That’s why we just can’t risk retaining a teacher who used to work as a stripper, or who is photographed drinking alcohol after hours. It might give the kiddos the wrong ideas. Never mind that the internet will do the same thing, the main difference being that the student takes the initiative to seek out indecency in that case. Another difference is that the internet doesn’t have an underfunded pension with a white elephant headquarters on the riverfront in West Sacramento. School boards are easily hijacked by disgruntled, parochial minorities with axes to grind because local politics is boring as hell for years, until suddenly it’s seat-of-the-pants frightening in a bolt from the blue. It’s kind of like air traffic control, but on a longer time frame. When it’s boring, the normal, well-adjusted people aren’t in place to defend teachers who keep their personal lives separate from their professional lives. When it’s in crisis mode, the normal sometimes can’t mobilize fast enough. It’s a lot like the plot of Footloose, but without the music. (What the fuck do I know about the music? I watched it as a silent movie because I wasn’t about to spend $2.00 on headphones, and also because I was too busy listening to the plane.)

Contrary to popular opinion, it is possible to keep one’s personal life separate from one’s professional life. It’s called discretion. This virtue is apparently at a decades-long nadir, but some people still have it. If easily titillated parents or other screeching stakeholders breach the privacy of social networks in order to expose it, they should be told to go to a burlesque show. If they want to go around sniffing other people’s underwear, there are companies in Japan that will e-mail them a catalogue upon request, but reasonable people should be free to tell them to go fuck themselves if they project their neuroses in public. We aren’t talking about Mary Kay Letourneau bedding some teenage stud with an unpronounceable name (which was really just a private matter between two people of dubious judgment who were nonetheless capable of giving consent by any rational appraisal). We’re talking about hypocritical voyeurs, sexually frustrated peeping toms and wistful dry drunks trying to worm their way into the lives of other people who respect boundaries more than they do. The Victorians had gynecological day spas for the former sort, as well as a shitload of churches for the latter sort, who unfortunately strayed from the holy precincts at every opportunity in order to impose their restrictive morality on everyone else.

There are some things that your colleagues, or your customers, or your bosses just don’t need to know about your after-hours life. There was a big scandal in Portland a few years ago when a police commander, Mark Kruger, set up a monument to Nazi military officers on a tree owned by the city parks department. He called this tree the Ehrenbaum, or Tree of Honor. The Portland Police Bureau didn’t consider this unauthorized use of a tree honorable, and it subjected him to “sensitivity” training, which might be better described as a short course of brainwashing.

Here’s the rub: by all accounts that I’ve seen, Kruger’s workplace comportment has always been that of an officer and a gentleman. His off-duty offense was basically an overly Germanic still life version of Letters from Iwo Jima, done on a tree that he didn’t own. As a disciplinary matter, the last part was key: he didn’t own the tree. The brass could have just told him not to post things to trees he didn’t own in the future without permission. As a matter of free speech, the salient question is whether the Portland Police Bureau really gave a damn about that tree and the proper sort of honor that it must be accorded. Probably not. This was basically a case of a cop who was a class act on duty but maybe, one speculates, had some dubious political inclinations and historical interests that he liked to express as a private citizen when he wasn’t on the job. He had a sense of discretion, if not also a sense of the honor due to park trees that matched the official sense of the city government. The PPB had no such sense of discretion in his case.

Portlandia absolutely has to do an episode about this. It should be called “Nazi Behind the Bush.”

It isn’t always a question of an officer, a gentleman and an Ehrenbaum. If you’re a cop, your bosses might have other skeletons in their closets, not Stephanie Lazarus’s skeletons, hopefully, but still things that might embarrass them, and that your nonranking ass simply has no need to know.

You might, say, wonder about your lieutenant, the one who goes elk hunting, or so he says, in Michigan every fall. He always comes back emptyhanded. Weirdly, he also comes back emptyhanded from the tree stand where he supposedly spends doe season, a tree stand that is suspiciously close to the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire. Then, with a little theft of honest services on one of the stationhouse computers, you discover that the lieutenant’s trips to Michigan always coincide with the Upper Peninsula Medieval Festival of Gallantry. It was a derivative theft; the lieutenant stole the same honest services first pursuant to costume planning for the big bash.

Oh. Now you know why he knows so much about ales, meads, and obscure Benedictine fruit wines. Of course he doesn’t want you to know that he spends a weekend every October riding around on a horse dressed like Robin Hood doing battle with royal knights, or vice versa. You might not want to give him too much shit about your discoveries, either. The lieutenant might know more than you think he does about your doings in Somerton.

And how about your captain? She swears she spent Sunday afternoon down the shore, sitting under an umbrella on the sand in Avalon, catching up on her cooking magazines. That’s her story, and she’s sticking to it. Oddly, that’s not the story you heard from your buddy on the Wildwood police force, who knows the captain from a piney roadhouse that they both frequent in the ass end of Mays Landing. Stranger yet, the captain wasn’t there Sunday. Your buddy was there; he figures it’s as good a place as any to pick up cheap dates who’ll be too witless to sue him for child support; but the captain was absent.

It turns out that she was even farther from the shore than you had imagined. She spent the whole day at a roller rink in a strip mall in Cinnaminson, taking part in the Jersey South District Roller Derby Finals. More embarrassing, the winning team goes to Mid-Atlantic Regional Championships in Elizabeth. That counterterrorism conference in Newark two weeks from now is just a ruse. The captain knows how to keep a bitch from terrorizing her without a PowerPoint lecture from an academy blowhard on the junket circuit.

They call her Captain in that life, too. But you don’t need to know these things. What happens in the Pine Barrens stays in the Pine Barrens. What piney dive bar? It’s the damndest things that people think they see in the Barrens.

Watch your privacy settings.