I hate this question so much but I imagine that to many of my readers it seems entirely innocuous. I want to unpack some of the unpleasant baggage this question is carrying around.
What someone means when they ask this question is “What do you do for work?” but that’s not really what they’re asking. This question is an invitation to justify your existence and to reveal your class and status. I think a lot of people don’t really mean it like that. They’re asking it as an icebreaker and they think the worst thing about it is how bland it is. It doesn’t feel bland to someone who’s struggled with unemployment.
Back when I could still work I often didn’t because I couldn’t persuade anyone to employ me. It’s hard not to take unemployment personally. It feels like everyone else can get a job and that you’re stuck at home being a drain on society. Being unemployed can feel like you’re failing at the most basic things about adulthood. And then you’re introduced to a new person and the first thing they do is to ask you what your job is.
“What do you do?”
If you’re choosing not to work because of your mental health then this question feels like an attack. How can your mental health be incompatible with work? How dare you prioritise your wellbeing over your economic value.
If you can’t work outside the home because you’re a carer, either for children or for vulnerable adults, then this question is a chance to be reminded that nobody regards caring as “real work”.
If you’re an artist of any kind then this question is a reminder that not only do people not think art is a “real job” but they also don’t think that artists should get paid.
“What do you do?”
“I’m an artist/writer/actor/film maker.”
“No but what do you really do? What do you do for money?”
If you’re retired, or if you can’t work because you’re disabled, then this question is another reminder that your not a real person in the eyes of a lot of your peers. That’s why people are happy to pretend that the pandemic is over. They’ve convinced themselves that it’s only the old or the sick that have to worry about dying and that’s not a problem because…
A lot of people making this calculation don’t even finish the thought. They don’t really confront what they’re saying by equating someone’s value with their ability to work. They certainly haven’t thought about the fact that many elderly and disabled people do actually work, or contribute to our societies in other ways. It’s a mental dead end that prevents them from absorbing the horror of the idea that almost all of us will become worthless to capitalism eventually and that when that happens we’ll be an abstract on the other side of a string of dots
As the pandemic continues, and Lockdown looms again, I’m increasingly hearing people complain about the idea of forcing healthy people to take precautions in order to protect the vulnerable. Well fuck you too.
Sorry. Was that a bit rude? This discourse is making me a little tense. You see I’m one of the vulnerable. I’m disabled and I have a couple of medical conditions that put me at a particular risk from COVID-19. When you say, “It’s not that dangerous. It’s only the sick and the elderly at risk.” I hear “I don’t care if you die so long as I am not inconvenienced.”
I care. I don’t just care about my own life. I care about my children, who’ve been pretty clear that they’d like me to stick around a bit longer. I care about my elderly mother and my uncles and aunts. I care about your elderly relatives even if you don’t. I care about my sick and disabled friends. I care about the medical professionals who’ll have to try and save us if we do catch it. I care about the NHS that could really do without the additional strain.
It’s not going to kill you to stay away from the pub a bit longer, or to wear a mask in public, or to have a quiet Christmas. Those sacrifices are definitely better than a few weeks of pneumonia which is a common effect of COVID-19 even for healthy people.
Anyway I feel I should be compensated for having to find out how many people don’t care if i die. So I designed a thing.
It’s available on clothing, stickers, tote bags and, of course, masks. All profits to me, so I can pay my bills.
As I write this the world is on fire (mostly metaphorically but there are a few literal hot spots). There’s a clown in the White House and a buffoon in 10 Downing Street. The whole world faces the crisis of a novel virus which is just deadly enough to kill a lot of people but not quite deadly enough for the average layperson to instinctively fear it.
You know what absolutely nobody needs right now? Yet another (so far) unpublished author spewing dubious entertainment in an effort to get you all to (some day) buy my books. On the other hand it’s not like I’ve got anything else to do today. How about you?
I suppose my first job with this blog should be to make it clear where I stand on certain issues. I’d hate for anyone to follow me based on some inaccurate assumptions about what a white GenX woman like me might believe.
Black Lives Matter
If your feminism isn’t intersectional then it’s worthless
Independence for Scotland
Climate change is real and dangerous
Vaccines cause adults
Disabled rights are human rights
The scientific method isn’t perfect but it’s still the best game in town
Now we’ve got all the big important stuff out of the way let’s talk about the other stuff that I believe. The stuff above is the stuff that I absolutely will end a friendship over. Everything else is just a matter of opinion.
I like swearing and I think that in the right context it is both funny and clever. I understand if you don’t and I won’t try very hard to persuade you otherwise but you might find that you don’t enjoy this blog. You might also dislike many, but not all, of the books that I’ve written.
I like it when there are moments of humour amidst the darkness. I try to put that in my writing. I can see how that wouldn’t be for everyone. I just hope you’ll understand that if I use humour at times when you find joking inappropriate then I’ve done it as a deliberate stylistic choice and not out of ineptitude.
I believe that since this is my website I can write what I want in it. I make the rules here the same way that I make the rules in my home. I’m open to suggestions in the same way that I’m open to suggestions about different ways to do things at home. It’s still on me to make the final decisions.
So here we are. Well, here I am. It’s really only me. Shouting into the void and hoping that someone will hear. Sometimes I feel like blogging is like keeping a personal diary but hanging it from the town noticeboard.
I’m going to stop writing this post now. I’ve been trying to work out how to bring it to a close for more than an hour now and this is the best I can do.