Back in the day when I met OH (other half) at a party (See LOVE LIFE IN THESE COVID TIMES, 26/4/20) and he asked what I did, I told him I was a poet.
Much easier I thought than to tell him I worked as a copywriter!
Most people (ie possible future boyfriend material) looked blank when I said that. I’d ask if they knew what the job was and they would respond, “yes but tell me more.” I would then explain what the job involved – that I came up with ideas for ads. Ah Slogans they would say. Not slogans I would explain but the whole concept. I told them that copywriters wrote for all the media. That I conceived ads and wrote copy for press, posters, TV, direct mail, radio, point-of-sale material and the back of cereal packets etc etc. Of course today that would also include writing ads for anything and everything digital. I was fortunate in that I worked at a time when advertising was far more creative than it is now. When TV and cinema commercials were often considered a work of art. Of genius even. Just think of the Heineken and Levi’s commercials (if you are old enough to remember them) and you will know what I’m talking about. That was a time when you actually stayed in the room to watch the TV commercials and left the room when the programmes came on! No zapping for us then because we had no way of avoiding the ad breaks other than turning off the sound or switching off the TV altogether.
Once the person I was talking to found out what copywriters actually did, they would then spend the rest of their time with me talking about all their favourite ads ad nauseum (no pun intended). It was the same at dinner parties or any time I met new people. So I told people I was a poet. Well I was. And I am. I just don’t make a living from it.
It is the same for OH (other half). He only has to say that he works in cancer research to find that the rest of the evening is spent listening to people telling him all about themselves or someone they know who has cancer. There was one memorable occasion when the opposite happened. We were sitting having a meal at a wedding and were introduced to a friend of mine’s new boyfriend. What do you do? He asked. I’m a scientist, OH answered. How boring for you, responded my friend’s boyfriend. He turned his back and did not say another word to us for the rest of the evening.
Polite conversation is a whole lot easier nowadays as Covid has freed us from having to meet strangers at dinner parties or anywhere else for that matter. Conversations now usually start with “how are you?” meaning, “are you still alive and well?” and end with “stay safe.”
So what does one say when asked what do you do? I could just say I’m retired and leave it at that. I hate those four words, “What do you do?” Whether we like it or not, whether we think we do it or not, we all tend to judge people on what it is they “do”. As a woman of a certain age, I still do a hell of a lot. This blog for a start. And loads of other things – mostly enjoyable and rewarding ones. But in those far off days of dinner parties, no one ever asked about those. A bit like the charmer who asked OH what he did and then turned away, most men (and it is usually men) show no interest whatsoever in the person you are – only in the persona. You might be writing the next War and Peace or doing the most incredible voluntary work but if you are not doing any paid work then you are cut out of the conversation. I am sure that my female readers will recognise this all too common and ill-mannered behaviour.
As I wrote in my blog of 6/4/17 (Another Year, Another Birthday) once women are over fifty they become invisible to the opposite sex. Unless of course they happen to be sitting next to Helen Mirren or Debbie Harry (whose real name incidentally is Angela Tremble).
I hate it when women say, “I’m just a housewife.” In other words, I do everything imaginable in the home but am not rewarded for it other than in the satisfaction of knowing that my home is clean and my family are fed. Now we’re in the midst of the Covid Era, many more people are realising how incredibly demanding it is to manage a household, shop, clean, cook, wash, iron, garden, sew and bring up children. No wonder one of the first things relaxed by the government was the employment of nannies and cleaning ladies! Post Covid will anyone ever again say, “I’m just a housewife”. I sincerely hope not.
At future dinner parties (will there ever be such a thing and will we miss them if they disappear?) will people talk about all the new skills they learned during Covid? How they can now recognise twenty different species of birds, knit a suit, landscape a garden and bake sour dough bread. Or will we return to the old status quo – the snobbery of only being valued if you have some kind of paid employment.
In the meantime those of us who used to entertain people in our home are quite enjoying not having to spend half the day in the kitchen preparing food for everyone. Now all we have to do is
sit in the garden with coffee, cake or a glass of wine. It’s so easy and far more relaxing. Entertaining is much more pleasurable when you don’t have to tidy up the house or cook meals beforehand. And, what’s more, there’s very little clearing up to do afterwards. Now that’s my idea of the best kind of brunch, lunch, tea, supper or dinner party.
Off now to do some cooking. Dinner parties or no, we still have to eat! See you again soon.
© Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems