“Oh, well, um; I’m not really sure?” *Pauses, stutters words, and in a second goes from a confident grown-up to a bumbling moron who can’t seem to string a sentence together*
Yes, that’s me. All of the above. If I am honest, I am pretty sick of that question and what it means. It wasn’t until recently I realised just how much it annoyed me, and just how much we are defined by what we “do“. Of course, it used to be a question that didn’t phase me at all; a question I could answer confidently in a nano-second with a very proud “Oh, I work in sales in London for *Insert name of BIG cosmetics giant here*”. What a conversation opener, oh how interesting and engaging I was. Yes, my job seemed to define me in social situations and I didn’t even care.
It’s only really when we are meeting entirely new people that this question even comes up. Occasions and suchlike. At one recent occasion, I think I was asked by each and every single female sitting at the table “So, Elle, what do you do?”. It actually seemed to be the women that this was most important to, their stance the most aggressive on how we must be defined by our job title. Granted these women were all mid-twenties, London-dwelling, fashionistas; so perhaps at a stage in their life when what they do is the be-all-and-end-all of their existence. After all, it was for me once. What they didn’t anticipate from me (at least, I don’t think they did) was my answer. “Well, I don’t really.” Yes, I went there. I don’t “do” anything; and what are you going to do about it? Stare blankly at me, that’s what; forcing me to quickly follow up with “Well apart from a little bit of blogging and some stuff on social media.” (Didn’t mention the constant d*cking about on Instagram stories, wasn’t sure if they were ready for that?!). Of course then I just open up a can of worms don’t I. “Oh my, whats your blog called? What’s the subject?’
Me…. “F*ck, f*ck, F*CK!!”(internal dialogue, thankfully). This is when I just say the name of the blog casually, as if it has no meaning or emotive reasoning behind it and just tell them it’s an interiors blog; all in a massive effort to get them to shut up and just move on. Try asking me where am I from. How do I know the people who are getting married today? Hell, just ask me where I live or pretend we are five years old and ask me what my favourite colour is? (Pink, by the way, but I didn’t need to tell you that did I?). Just don’t ask me what I do and expect me to be defined by that as my title in life.
I used to think it was just “How many children do you have?” that sent me into a cold sweat and had me begging for the ground to swallow me whole; but alas, it would seem that this question has an equally awkward affect on me. Luckily, I seem to have managed to fudge my way through most answers and swerved the conversation in a whole new direction upon being presented with this situation (again, and again I might add). Perhaps it’s because what I “do” now is defined so much by Teddy’s existence. Yes I am his mother, but now, as a direct result, I am also a blogger, fundraiser and general “let’s start this conversation about baby loss” enthusiast. There I am being all bold on social media about how we all need to talk about this, and yet when faced with the question of “What do you do?” I can’t bloody do it, can I? I suppose I just thought they wouldn’t get it; but perhaps that was me just judging my audience too soon and not giving them a chance. I also never want to kill the vibe by saying “Well actually, my son died last year, so I couldn’t go back to my career and now I do X,Y and Z instead; but no, I don’t have a conventional job.” Do you see my dilemma here? I don’t want to p*ss on anyone’s chips by telling them the whole truth; because the truth hurts. Me. It’s yet another adjustment I make to my life to protect myself emotionally; another form of self preservation in difficult social situations. Another cross for me to bear, I suppose.
The truth is, I don’t really know where I am going with this, or why I have bought it up even; but I am pretty sure that this question shouldn’t be used in the way it is to “define” us in social situations. What happened to just being a good person? A great Mum, or a wonderful sister to someone? To being a great listener, or having the ability to make a room full of people laugh out loud (at you, or with you; I’m not really fussed either way….I am sure you’re fun to be around!). Anyway, that’s what’s important, isn’t it? What we do is merely a function in our day-to-day life and not what makes us who we are, surely? I mean, unless you’re curing cancer, or saving Elephants from being totally wiped out by bastard poachers; in which case your job is pretty f*cking important, so please feel free to wear a t-shirt telling me what you “do” so that I can come and hug you. What I think I am saying is this; just think about it before you ask that question; think about all of the other things you could ask first to get to know about a person before you ask that question.
So, the next time someone asks me, I’ll probably just go with… “Me? I’m doing life. How about you?”