I strip, er, I mean, I write

I’ve been grappling with a cold for the past couple of days. It’s my body’s way of saying “Stop” in a fashion that I can’t ignore. I retired to bed for most of one day and emptied the mental queue of the guilt jobs that usually run on a daily basis. Sometimes you have to take a break, and not feel bad about it.

I’m on the way to recovery so those guilt jobs are back on track–not as frequent, but they’re pinging me with quiet relentless regularity.

A couple of weeks ago, not even an hour after I handed in my MA, I bumped into an acquaintance and was asked the question that every graduate fears: “What are you going to do next?”

At the time I had a headache that reduced my world to a narrow point of focus–the box of painkillers in my hand–so it was hard to think of anything beyond “Take drugs.” I waffled about a couple of plans, which sounded as if I knew what I was doing.

The other day I recounted this story to a friend of mine who is an artist. She spluttered in outrage that I was asked such a crass question.

“The next time someone asks you that, tell them that you plan to be a stripper in Buenos Aires!” (With an imagination like that I sometimes think my friend would make a better writer than me.)

Her attitude was that my reply would so startle people that they would realise that perhaps the question was somewhat indelicate in the first place. I can think of a couple of people who might offer cash on the spot for a preview of my routine, but that’s another story…

To be fair, that question is engrained in people. We are defined by our activity, by what we do. For most people that’s a safe 9-5 job that they can wrap their heads around. Hey, even being a stripper I would have regular hours and a healthy income. At least then people could say to each other, “I hear Maura’s stripping in Argentina,” and others would nod, perhaps with raised eyebrows, and note, “That’s a nice earner, and the weather’s great down there.”

When I was working on the MA it was easier because when people asked I told them I was a student, and they were satisfied with that answer, if a little surprised at the subject: screenwriting. When relating my recent academic endeavour to a clergyman, a puzzled stole over his face and he queried: “That’s, er, writing, for..?” thus allowing me to supply the words gently “… film, television, that kind of thing.”

Hail, glorious career!

I wonder how much it costs to fly to Buenos Aires…?