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KAI RYSSDAL: There's probably not a book out there that's going to compete with the last installment of Harry Potter when it comes out just after midnight Saturday morning. But for those who do have some time to spare for a little light reading this summer, Sanda Tsing Loh has a recommendation in this edition of The Loh Down.
SANDRA TSING LOH: Recently a friend gave me a hot, new beach read, "The Manny"! It's about a stressed Manhattan mom who hires not a Third World female nanny for domestic help, but that latest must-have accessory of Upper East Side families — the white male nanny, or manny. Who, in this case, is young and buff and apparently does more than dust.
Sadly, though, it's not quite the escapist fantasy I like for the beach. Because I already have a manny. Oh, yeah. He runs our household, and I can have at him any time. He is my husband.
Unlike the handsome but mysterious and constantly traveling zillionaire investment bankers necesary to the genre of chick- and now mom-lit, my husband is a musician, he is quite often home, and he's extremely unmysterious.
"Knives up in the dishwasher?" he'll say, bending over, not very saucily — and where's the French maid's outfit? — to correct my error.
Another of my personal valet's favorite sayings is: "Shall I pack that for you?" But note the passive-aggressive tone you don't get from the better hired male help. It turns out my manny believes I'm a horrible packer of food, clothes, toys and minivans — spatially dyslexic.
So he patrols the house, continually repacking bigger things into smaller things. I think he was a squirrel or beaver in a former life. Not able to find anything anymore — not to mention that all the important pots have been put away a foot higher than I can reach, such a pity! — I've moved into a state of learned helplessness, where after almost 20 years of cohabitation my husband does the shopping, cooking, dishes and laundry. I do the bills. It's hard!
My manny is also an eco-manny. To save the environment, he believes clothes should always be line-dried. All over the backyard. Even when we're having company. Look at those underpants flappin'!
It's not quite like dining al fresco on the Upper East Side. But how glamorous to enjoy the same quality of domestic assistance. "Good white help is hard to find?" Not so much. As long as you don't mind . . . "Knives up."
Ryssdal:: Sandra Tsing Loh, and her manny, live right here in Los Angeles.