So you’re schmoozing with newly met people, and the inevitable question arises, “Soooo, what do you do?”
I often answer: “I stay home,” which gets all-knowing, humpf!, freeloader-type nods from one side of the aisle, and looks of relief and exuberance from the other.
Depending on the audience, sometimes I answer “just a mom” and the patronizing, condescending ‘only the most important job on earth’ is their automatic response. Just like when a cop says: ‘license and registration please.’ It’s what comes out of their mouths. Honest and raw and degrading. I hate it but use it as a screening tool for all potential friends. The only thing worse, is when the question is phrased — today, as in 2008 and-I-swear-I’m not-making-this-up: ‘What does your husband do?’ To which I not-so-calmly answer, “Evolve.” It’s happened. More than once.
Only recently have I begun to identify myself as a writer, instead of just a mom. And it feels good. Really, really good to say this out loud. The ooohs and ahhhs are palpable. ‘Anything we know?’ they ask, flirting with celebrity. They expect novels, Vanity Fair, screenplays, maybe TV, definitely Good Housekeeping and Glamour, perhaps The Wall Street Journal? Nope, nope, nope, nope, nope, nope AND nope.
They don’t expect laundry detergent. Or saw blades, warts, cruise ships, sweepstakes or cancer care centers. So I explain JUNK MAIL, and apparently everyone has heard of that. The air in the room deflates.
All those pamphlets, fliers, advertisements, yes, junk mail that end up on the floor of your car, bottom of your purse, or teetering precariously on your kitchen counter — that’s what I write. Companies pay (hopefully) people like me (really, really hopefully) to explain, advertise, promote, cross-market, condense, expand, generalize, communicate, formulate, clarify, describe to whomever their audience is whatever it is they’re hawking.
I never dreamed in a smoke-filled college bar of one day writing snappy prose for a direct mail agency, but let’s face it, I never-EVER thought I’d be a mini-van driving, carpooling, coupon clipping, Costco shopping mother of 4. Never. So while not nearly as prestigious as journalist, it’s what I do. A writer sure sounds glamourous, but for most aspiring Great American novelists, essayists, and humorists, it doesn’t buy new cleats.
And so for now, at this chapter of my story, you want to know the bottom-line? I am the winner. I am just a mom, who writes to pay the bills so I can keep on being a mom. It’s been a pretty interesting story up until now, and far from over.