I had the opportunity to attend a Chanukah gathering over the weekend. In truth, I was a step above a party crasher and didn’t really know anyone there besides my girlfriend. But the folks were pleasant and the food was tasty – there was a corn pudding that I could have eaten until I hated myself. Oh the lovely holiday noms!
When you are in a room full of strangers, there’s the predictable tide of polite small talk. However, I was taken aback by a remark one woman made to me. She asked what I do, and when I told her she said, well, that must be exciting. At face value, those words mean one thing. However, her intonation and body language pretty much shrieked, Dear Lord, you have a boring job. How sad for you.
Really? The judgmental things people say. (Or at least think out-loud.)
However, it did get me thinking about an article I read recently that spoke to this very scenario. We, as a society, feel pretty comfortable asking strangers what they do for a living. It’s part of the socially acceptable getting-to-know-you routine. Whether we do it consciously or not, we use that information to formulate the initial impression of that person. Unfortunately, the entrenched stereotypes often take hold – accountants are naturally stuffy, artists are innately eccentric, lawyers are inherently devious. Worse, if someone works as a janitor or waitress or in retail, they’re immediately viewed as lower class. And woe betides the poor person that’s between jobs; there’s usually some very uncomfortable silence after that kind of disclosure.
Here’s the honest truth. It’s callous and unfair that society uses professions to label, for the reality is that the average person has a job, not a vocation. How we pay our bills does not define who we are as an individual.
So next time someone asks me what I do, I think I’ll tell them – I sing, I write, I garden, I hike and when they look at me cross-eyed I’ll say, oh, you want to know how I pay my bills…