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Hired hands in the 21st century

June 09, 2012

During her research for "The Outsourced Self: Intimate Life in Market Times," Arlie Russell Hochschild found ads for people who will take care of a loved one's grave or pose as a mom or grandma who can be "rented." Here are a few other unusual professionals for hire:

• The Nameologist: It can seem like a big deal to name a baby, and for parents worried about getting just the right moniker, a nameologist will step in. Are Mikes impatient? Stephanies lacking in self-confidence? Fords artistic? "Are parents overcome by an excess of choices for names, as they sometimes are by an excess of choices for goods and services?" Hochschild asks.

• Wantologist: The concept of "Wantology" was originally used to help corporate managers with purchasing decisions. Today, a wantologist will help a client articulate desires by focusing on their essence, Hochschild writes, asking: "Can it be that we are no longer confident to identify even our most ordinary desires without a professional to guide us?" She cites the subtitle of a workbook for aspiring wantologists: "The first steps to really get what you really want is to really know what you really want."

• Rent-a-Friend: The service offers someone with whom to have dinner, see a movie or take a trip. Hochschild describes one such person for hire who caters to a desire for a one-sided friendship in which you focus on yourself and needn't support the other person "in their struggles." Another such service has potential "friend" profiles on its website.

—Mary MacVean

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