Yeah, so, I bought a shirt at Target today for $4.98. That’s my sassy, naughty splurge, peeps. I feel dirty, oh, so dirty. Go on. Lick me. I taste just like the armpit of a 12-year-old in a Chinese sweatshop.
I’m writing this while waiting for an unemployment insurance rep to get to me. Twenty-two minutes, the recorded message said I would need to wait. Gives you an indication of roughly how many folks are calling unemployment these days.
I’m calling to check on my eligibility for another unemployment extension. Some folks argue that I might be eligible; some folks argue that I’m not, that that well has dried up for good.
I have learned a few things about public welfare in my time. I know what government cheese looks like, I know that state health insurance means well but is a tangle of red tape, I know what WIC stands for and that it saved our lives, for a time.
Here’s what else I know: Did you know you can still receive unemployment benefits with an occasional writing gig here and there? I was relieved to find that out. That will be really helpful while I work on putting the finishing touches on my new dominatrix den. I hear it’s rewarding work. Good pay, very undemanding clients.
Thank you for holding. All claims representatives are still busy. We are experiencing an extremely high volume of calls.
Yeah, I figure it’s worth a call, to see if the government is still including me in the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to keep three figures in the checking account. I figure it’s worth 22 minutes.
I used to be full-time, until Mousegate. Now I’m struggling to find freelance work.
This was not the plan. The plan, of course, was that I’d publish that book back in 2005—the book that David Sedaris’s editor loved. She did! She really really did! WE ARE TALKING THE DAVID SEDARIS! HIS BOOK EDITOR! She called my agent from a plane. I like saying that still. She Called My Agent From A Plane. Doesn’t that look nice?
But the marketing department vetoed it, in the end. They said my voice was too quirky, not “sellable” enough. David Sedaris’s editor said not to give up. She told my agent that she’d try to publish my “second book.” I cried for three weeks straight, and I can pretty much point to that moment in time as the moment my life as I knew it started to slide right down the shitter.
It’s 2010, and I still don’t have that first book published. That book was a collection of essays about—yup—combining motherhood and writing and art. It was good. Good stuff. Back then, it was a pretty good reflection of who I was, what I was about.
But it’s not relevant anymore. I’ve tried to rework it. I’ve tried to reorganize it. I’ve tried to rewrite it. But it’s too painful to revisit in the midst of divorce. I was happy, really happy, when I wrote it, and that’s not the kind of reminder I need every day, thank you very much.
Now, I feed the kids alone and I feed the dogs and the cat alone and I beat depression down with a stick daily and I borrow money from my folks that I can’t pay back. I look for work. I blog to keep my voice out there, my quirky, not-so sellable voice. I laugh when people poke fun at blogs, as if blogging were akin to sitting on one’s ass, eating bon-bons and watching Dr. Oz.
A lot of mamas blog. I happen to think that’s a fantastic thing. I like to think that the blogging era is what will be remembered as the point in time when herstory got even with history. Seriously, if you’re here at Work It, Mom! you probably already know this: There’s an amazing amount of mamas—single and not—writing terrific stuff. The delivery system just happens to be their blogs. Some write lovingly, carefully. Some write boldly, sassily. Some write gorgeously, brilliantly, lyrically.
How great is that? Who knew so many of us paid such close attention in English class? I’m proud of those of us who blog doggedly away, who have been doing it for years now. The full range of human experience is out there—and motherhood is taking shape in words across the globe. It’s getting its say.
Some bloggers get paid a little here and there, some get paid in review products, some get paid through ads. None of it amounts to big cash or endorsements or magazine articles, unless you make it to the ranks of Dooce and Finslippy and Bossy and Dalai Mama Dishes and Woulda Coulda Shoulda. They deserve what’s come their way. These women are bright, smart and damn funny.
A few years back, I had the privilege of working closely with Alice from Finslippy and Catherine of Dalai Mama (and Ben and Birdy) on a project that we knew would never go anywhere, for a big corporation you’ve definitely heard of. Within three minutes of meeting each other, we were all howling with laughter in a fancy-schmancy corner conference room in NYC. Within ten more minutes of getting to know each other, we knew in our collective, subversive Mommy Guts that the people who’d hired us to share our knowledge of “real moms” and create some funny material for them were never, ever going to go with our stuff. They wined us and dined us and taped all of our ideas. They listened as we pitched some genius material—comic and authentic and sharp and well-argued. I was proud of what we came up with. But we knew. As we selected pillows at night from our hotel’s pillow menu, oh, we knew.
It was the working mother’s equivalent of a one-night stand. They didn’t call. We found out through the grapevine they’d “gone in a different direction,” a direction as treacly and icky as those mythical bon-bons women are supposed to have eaten on couches while watching TV for years on end.
We shrugged it off. It would have been nice, had it worked out. We moved on. We keep moving on.
Had it worked out, I might not still be hearing, Thank you for holding. All claims representatives are still busy. We are experiencing an extremely high volume of calls.
I am still holding. I am still busy. I am experiencing an extremely high volume of stress, but I’m managing. The girls are dressed and fed. And I am still writing. At the very least, even if nothing big or shiny or book-tourish comes from my writing, the sentences still exist. I will have left something behind. I will have done the work, paid or not. My daughters will always know that I was paying attention, to them, to me, to this unpredictable life.
I am skipping ahead to the second book. If I’m quirky and unsellable, then I reserve the right to write my second book first. I’m just THAT quirky, baby. And perhaps, someday, David Sedaris’s book editor will call my agent from a plane—again—to say, “I loved it, but the marketing department hated her. Tell her I’ll publish her third book.”
At which point I will hopefully be in another NYC corner conference room, signing a deal for my first, second and third book with someone else—a publishing company that will go down in herstory as the publishing company that created the genre of Mama Quirk Lit with the brilliant, once-unsung Jenny Mattern.
But I really have to get off the phone with unemployment first.
Thank you for holding.