The interaction began innocently enough. We met for coffee briefly while I was on my lunch break. This was right before Winter Storm Jonas compelled snowbound men and women to drop trou and get to baby-making.
We don’t really know each other, he and I. We run in the same circle; we share mutual friends. I am a writer. He is in marketing. He has a business degree. The nature of my work alone, depending on who you ask, renders it impractical.
“Why do you do it?” he asks me.
“Well,” I respond, “I do it because I never really wanted to do anything else. That was my choice. I make sure to eat and I pay my bills, but my sole focus has been on pushing myself artistically. I don’t do what I do for the money.”
“Do you think your writing will mean anything?”
“It means something to me,” I say. “If it means something to someone, that would be great, but I don’t have control over that.”
Then the bombshell: “Well, what will your writing matter so long as you stay single and unapproachable?”
“I don’t,” I say, “have control over someone thinking something like that either.”
I have no idea what he meant, exactly, but if my commitment to my work makes me single and unapproachable, then I’ll remain single and unapproachable.
* * *
The incident plays over and over in my mind’s eye, the video wound down to shreds in its spools. I am miffed, not because my attractiveness, an abstract concept as it is, has been called into question, but because my profession has been called into question. Its value has been juggled from dirty hand to dirty hand, felt up for lightness, for weight, for deftness, for dexterity. In a flash, I am invalidated.
That our society devalues cultural capital is obscene, but not unheard of. Bookstores are shut down on a fairly regular basis. The Barnes and Noble location in which I spent the majority of my free time during my high school years has recently been shuttered, but is just one casualty of many. Writing, as much of a task as it is a skill (and as much of a skill as it is a talent) is constantly devalued; the competition is fierce and there are freelance job opportunities out there which will pay you Dickensian pennies by the word within strict limitations on word count so your gas money won’t even be able to afford gas money.
But I stand for myself, because no one else can choose to. I stand for my life and my art because they were my choices, however foolhardy they may seem to others. I actually have a 9-to-5 which allows me to utilize my talents at the office to a great extent, but I have foregone security in favor of risk, of rejection, of vulnerability. I chose these things because they came with the territory. It would be dishonest of me to claim otherwise.
But this is not just my hobby, it is my passion, my life and my honor. I will speak out for it and I will defend it.
I can see how that intensity would make you think I’ll remain single and unapproachable. There are underlying layers to it sure: In the United States, you aren’t a human being, let alone your Social Security, without a job—a worthy job—and good credit. So it would be too easy, child’s play, as a matter of fact, to look at my life, look at my choices, and equivocate my lack of a partner to the ‘unapproachable’ devotion I have to my work. If I can see all of that, then it shouldn’t be so difficult for you to understand how it can make you appear intimidated.
* * *
Oh, there have been men in my life. A few have made appearances and then made swift exits in the last few months alone. I’ve dated around, but I haven’t “officially” committed to anyone yet, as nice as that would be.
I don’t have vanity. I’m a raw vessel when it comes to conversation, unfiltered and open when it comes to sex, ready to laugh with you and support you the second you think you don’t deserve a moment you spend with me.
Because you do, if I’ve invited you into my space. But what you do with that courtesy is your business.