Sunday, May 3, 2009

What Do You Do?

You're out at a social gathering, balancing a glass of chardonnay and a flaky bit of something that appears to be at once creamy and a bit nutty. The person blocking your view is drinking a dirty martini and digging through the gin for an olive,  and while doing so comes up with the tired question..."So what do you do?"   *insert sound of air escaping from tire*

There was a time when the 'good girl' in me would have answered this question, just because I thought I was supposed to answer people's questions. Someone asks, you answer. I'm less inclined to do that any more (a wonderful condition that started when I turned 40) and that particular question -- here in Manhattan at least and possibly elsewhere though I can only speak for here because here is where I am -- reflects badly on the asker. It's well known that people ask that question to classify the person they are speaking with (trader, actor, socialite) and it's just rude, really, in so many ways.

So these days, if the olive-retrieving plebe is crude enough to ask what I do, my response will be something along the lines of, "Oh, I try to do as little as possible, don't you?" *wink wink*

I love this. It completely frustrates the "What's Your Caste" game player, and instead of finding out whether they can adjust their head above or below mine, it frees them up to talk about more important things --  like what kind of music they enjoy or, I don't know, whether they read actual books or use a Kindle. 

And isn't that what we really want to talk about anyway?


Kalanna said...

Can you send that particular condition my way since I'm under 40 and am in desperate need? I'd love to be more coy and less "everything on my shoulder" with strangers. Good for you!

Thauna said...

I love your answer and yes, let's really talk about something more interesting than judging what social ranking everyone fits into. I can see that exact situation in Manhattan...maybe I've watched too much Sex and the City and it helps me to completely envision you're story.

I'm at a place where I love to tell people what I do...after working hard to change careers I love it when people ask. However, things are much different here in Utah and it's not such a casted society.

Arteefaque: (är'tə-fākt') * said...

I do loathe this myself. I am a professional as you know, but the other thing I cannot abide is the use of titles of Ms , Mrs or Miss. I title all of my official correspondence with my full name. Thats all. My martial status really has nothing whatsoever to do with the correspondence (no bearing on it). The only titles I can abide are 'Dr' or such. Its funny how women are defined by status (Mrs)and men just get 'Mr' which says nothing.

Jo said...

THANK YOU for putting this out there. I have done so over at my blog because I have been frustrated by this question many times being that I am disabled, do not work and don't have children.

BTW, it's not just in Manhattan, it's here in NJ now too. (Mostly because many people from NY have moved here recently and many have brought that mentality with them).

You wrote, "...reflects badly on the asker. It's well known that people ask that question to classify the person they are speaking with (trader, actor, socialite) and it's just rude, really, in so many ways."

teri, I couldn't agree more and I am so glad someone else feels this way.

Brandie said...

ha ha! I love your answer! Sounds like something I would say.

Lizzi said...

I love your response Teri! Who cares what other people do? Be who you are and I'll be who I am and we can find out about each other...what we like and don't, what we think and what we care about. Social gatherings would be so much more social and interesting if everyone was more thoughtul and less worried about caste.

City.Girl.Em said...

Teri, you are so savvy! This is written like a magazine article. I agree with you. Why should we really care what someone does? What it is is a conversation starter. It's time to start a conversation about some other topic besides our way of making a living. Good call.

Holli said...

As someone who absolutely HATES this question as it brings up stuff about me I'd rather not get into at a party or with a stranger for that matter, I LOVED your answer and will be using it quite often I think!!

Cyn said...

I am also going to be using your answer!

Brenda said...

Okay, I am going to play devil's advocate (not that I like being classified by my job because I want to add that I am so much more than my title says), but is it just possible that while in a social gathering, people are just trying to break the ice, trying to grasp something to connect with, so they reach for the easiest thing possible: your occupation.

When I was a SAHM, I would say I was a public education advocate and writing a book about the public education system and what it needs to succeed.

It was all true. I just never mentioned that I didn't get paid a dime for what I did, but I had an incredible amount of self satisfaction by doing it.

So next time, someone ask Jo, the gardener, what she does, you should just say you write novels, garden in your spare, moderator a writing group, and are just a general all around workaholic!

that will impress them...because I haven't met one person on the chicks forum that isn't impressive and I wish I lived near each of you so we could really hang not just virtually!

Jo said...

Brenda, THANK YOU! If we were closer, I'd find you and give you a great big hug!

Brenda said...

Jo, we really don't live too far from each other. I live near Philadelphia and you live near the Jersey shore, so save that BIG hug for me.