Business is business

Thinking about my experiences with the Wellness/Self Help movement …. The language of self help and personal growth informs so much of what we’re bombarded with daily in attempts to induce us to sign up to whatever.  So long as people are running their businesses ethically then I have no problem with this. As long as the business owner is operating according to their own principles, fair enough. I’ve had a couple of long conversations recently with someone who’s establishing a new business; he’s determined to provide a service informed foremost by integrity . He’s spent years refining his business concept.

At this stage, as I begin my own small business as a copywriter, I’m thinking a lot about the best way to go about this, how to promote myself, how to create my brand, and about the sorts of things I want to write and for whom.

I’ve read what I think are morally dubious sales pitches, for various online businesses, mostly offering coaching/courses/wellness programs. Many of the marketing blurbs involve a kind of pseudo-feminist rhetoric; a sort of pro-feminist language that has been co-opted in the service of capitalism while pretending it isn’t actually doing that.  One successful freelance journalist who sells courses uses a sales pitch to promote her writing program which tells a story about her being gang raped. Her sales message goes along the lines of ‘if I can recover from this and create this mega-successful career, then so can you.‘ I felt uncomfortable reading the story and where it went; it took me a while to articulate my distaste.

This woman comes from a country where misogyny, manifesting as violence and sexual assault against women (amongst many other things), practically underpins society, and yet she sidesteps this cultural and political reality to use the dreadful assault she experienced in the service of her personal gain, at the same time glossing over the reality of systemic female oppression. The rape was presented as out of context. She has every right to do this, of course, and all power to her for recovering from such an ordeal and forging an impressive career.  But the whole thing smelled bad. I experienced unease with the implicit message in her words: ‘See how I recovered from this atrocity and triumphed; any woman can! (Let me show you how…’). In truth, the effect of her using this story as a sales pitch made me doubt its veracity. Conflating a career as a writer/journo with a rape seems specious to me; unless one has gone on to report extensively on that or related issues, which she may well have done for all I know.

On the other hand, along with the new business owner I mentioned,  I have a friend who runs her own small business: a publicist in the arts, a person of integrity. She is service- oriented, generous and extremely professional. She only represents artists she respects. She gives good service and she knows what she is worth; a good role model.

More later.

Advertisements

Writing stuff feels good

Here’s me on my journey towards being paid to write. Having done so many courses in my life and having gotten excited about and started so many careers, I’ve decided to be a copywriter when I grow up. Now I know what to tell people when they ask me what I do. A copywriter is a proper professional adult thing to be.

in the past I’ve been scared of the world of business, held distaste for the corporate world, been reluctant to engage with the world of commerce. Now I must promote myself as being in service to these things. But what are ‘these things’? Not monolithic edifices to capitalism but a myriad different businesses with individual needs.

Rather than be reluctant to market myself, I can treat marketing as a game, an activity, a good habit like flossing my teeth or going to Pilates classes. See it as a process. Do the right things and results will follow. This is what I need to remind myself of regularly, because it up til now it has been discomfiting for me to ‘put myself out there.’

When I feel ambivalent about being a professional writer, when I feel discouraged by my lack of commercial success so far, when I feel grief-stricken about having ‘sinned against my talent’ , I think about Amy Winehouse, about whom Tony Bennett repeated that quote. I’m not suggesting I possess incandescent gifts like hers. But I’m here. All the talent in the world is nothing if you’re dead.

When I feel unmotivated, negative, paralysed or sick with anxiety about my work or lack of it, there is one certain antidote or cure and that is to write something. That’s all it takes. The pain of not creating is healed by a single thing: creating. I might not create anything significant to the world but making or writing something makes me feel good.

I’m stating the obvious here!

 

A Mother’s Advice to her Son about Women and Sex

Only have sex if you want to, not to make her like you. She might even tell you she loves you in order to get you to have sex with her. Don’t fall for it. Trust your gut. If you don’t want sex, just say no. 

Have sex if you want toNothing gives her the right to impose herself on you no matter how great a time you’ve had on a date. You don’t have to have sex to be nice or keep the peace, or because you’re drunk or you’re not sure whether you want to or not… 

Just because she’s paid for your dinner or the movie tickets, that doesn’t mean you’re obliged to fuck her. End of story.

If you don’t want to perform cunnilingus on her, don’t! If you feel you have to go down on her to make her like you, she’s definitely not worth it. And you don’t have to pretend to come to make her feel good! Sexual pleasure is a shared thing. Talk about what works for each of you. Have fun experimenting.

If she tries to talk you into sex without a condom, insist on your right to protect yourself. She may tell you she’s safe but if you’re not sure then don’t risk it.

If she shares intimate photos of you without your express permission, she has no respect for you. Report this and walk away.

Don’t let your heart rule your head – she might not want to see you again after sex. You can have a great time in bed without falling in love with each other.  But if you do, great!

If she  disrespects you in any way for having sex with her, forget her. She might tell all her friends that you two had sex to make herself look big yet still put you down for it. This is called slut shaming. Ignore it, hold your head up high and move on. You deserve better.

If you don’t know or trust her then make sure you watch her pour your drinks. Don’t go back to her place unless you’re confident of your safety. There might be other people there who mean you harm.

If you’re in a group of her friends and she puts you down or makes jokes at your expense or ignores you, she is disrespecting you.

If you don’t want to see her again, that’s it. If she keeps ringing you or turning up at your home or place of work or where you socialise, this is stalking and it’s illegal.

You’re beautiful the way you are. If she suggests you need to lose weight or is disparaging about your body in any way, that’s her problem. Walk away.

You don’t have to think she’s perfect or laugh at all her jokes. Enjoying each other’s company is a two-way street; one person doesn’t get to hold the floor while the other’s the audience. If she keeps interrupting you to explain things you already know, she doesn’t respect your views.

And if you have to pretend to be less intelligent than you are in order for her to like you, forget her. Find someone as smart as you.

Only get into a relationship with someone who is kind and who respects you. If she’s bad tempered, mean, rude or withholding, is this what you really want? Actions speak louder than words. You cannot love someone into being a better person. 

If she tries to control who else you see or who you’re friends with or how you spend your money, run, don’t walk! If she threatens you in any way, ditto.

You don’t need a woman to be with you to prove you’re lovable. You’re perfectly wonderful and worthy as you are, partnered or otherwise.

Now relax and enjoy yourself!

 

Rude Limericks

I wrote some rude limericks while pretending to be Dorothy Parker:

Ribald Limericks by ‘Dorothy Parker’

  1. A young monarchist Lass About Town

Was famous for not going down.

When a chap flopped it out,

She’d claim with a shout

“I’d only ever do that for the Crown!”

 

  1. In contemplation of love’s bitter dregs,

I measure my sorrows in kegs,­­

And I rue every day

I didn’t make the shits pay

Whenever I opened my legs.

 

  1. A lady poet wrote verses so glum

They prompted advice from a chum –

“Oh, my dear, what you need

Is to be rimmed at some speed –

Such pleasure’s to be had at the bum!”

 

  1. When one comely young man I espy

I wish If only his partner were I

But with my God damn luck,

When it comes to a fuck

His preference is, no doubt, for a guy.

 

Community and Bad Eggs

I’ve just come from performing in a theatre/dance/community production called SHORE in Narrm by Emily Johnson and Catalyst. Part of the inaugural First Nations Arts Festival at Arts House, Shore in Narrm was a very lovely, connected and gentle thing to be involved with. The production featured several events culminating in a public feast where everyone was to bring food to share. We were asked to bring a dish, something traditional we shared with our family of origin.

Bit tricky, this was, for me. Fish and chips? Friday was fish and chips night in my mostly non-Catholic family (only my grandfather and stepfather were RCs – both sexual abusers of children; now isn’t that a funny thing?) Fish and chips, however, is an expensive option these days when it comes to catering a feast. The sort of feast taking place here involved things like salted myrtle butter with wattle-seed damper, home-made dukkah created from home-grown, home-dried ingredients, possum and wallaby sausages (New Zealand possums; relax), couscous with garden nettles, all served on indigenous style platters made by local potters out of clay dug up in the area and fired in local kilns. Beverages included mulled ryberry and apple-juice and mint tea made from native mint plants.

In this kind of culinary company Watties Canned Spaghetti on toast wasn’t going to going to cut it, nor would supermarket mince pies and mashed spuds served with over-boiled cabbage and peas. Canned peaches and ice-cream was a family favourite and might been nice but the logistics of getting it there would be difficult to manage. Also, round where I live in Melbourne’s inner north it’s hard to find canned peaches with the traditional ratio of added cane sugar to fruit: 87%/13%.

Ice-cream was already being supplied by Emily Johnson. There was much talk about Emily’s ice-cream which was to be made following a traditional Alaskan recipe. (It seems incongruous that people surrounded by ice and snow would invent an ice-cream but there you go.) This ice-cream, a favourite of her family’s, as she tells it, is usually made with seal blubber. Or fish oil.  Word spread fast and as you might imagine there was a fair bit of anticipation. Emily spoke at the feast and explained that after much experimentation and several telephone conversations between Australia and Alaska, she devised a modified version of the ice-cream using vegetable oil. Pomegranates, another departure from tradition, I assume, were also involved. (I can report that the ice-cream was perfectly tasty, if unusual.)

What could I bring to the feast? Boiled eggs was a safe, although humble, bet. Then I remembered that my grandmother, or my mother, or someone, used to draw faces on boiled eggs when we were kids. I did that for my kids, at least once. I meant to, anyway.  So I boiled up nine eggs and got out my felt pens (which are called textas here), and drew faces on the eggs. I managed to crack one of the eggs by pressing too hard with something called a painty pen. (That’s what you get for owning a drawing implement with a name that’s one letter off the word ‘panty’.)

I had to think about the faces: not as simple as you might imagine. These were all eggs of colour, so avoiding any suggestion of racial stereotype was something to be aware of. Pretty girlie faces with red lips, round pink spots on cheeks and big spidery eyelashes would have been downright sexist and demeaning to women. Male-presenting faces would have been easy to do with beards and mustaches and bald pates but what a gender-heavy clutch of boiled eggs it would be if they were all blokes/trans-men. I didn’t imagine androgynous faces on eggs would be terribly fascinating and m-f transgender faces would have required, well,  pointing out, so that they wouldn’t be taken for ordinary girlie faces, and that was more work than decorated boiled eggs generally require. So I decided to do male- and female- presenting faces but make them generically old looking. There isn’t enough general representation of seniors out there and I do feel (somewhat) strongly about this. I drew wrinkled visages and called them ‘elder eggs’ although I had to hope that my old-faced brown eggs wouldn’t offend any actual elders, of whom the afternoon would be graced by several.

Off I went with my eggs to the feasting. When we arrived we given a postcard to fill out with the ‘story’ behind our choice of dish, to be included in a zine about the feast. We were also given tiny hand-made clay holders which looked like small vulvas in which to put a card informing people what was in the dish. (The holders were made, as we heard later, by potters crushing balls of clay in their fists so each holder comprised a hand-print of its maker: a beautiful detail, you’ll agree, and a telling indication of the thoughtfulness given to the whole occasion.) Anyone could see that these were boiled eggs with faces drawn on them but in the spirit of joining in I filled out a card, anyway.  During lunch I sat at a table with my friend Susie who peeled an egg for her son while holding him on her lap. It’s quite tricky to peel a boiled egg with one hand while holding on to your child with the other but he insisted on her peeling it, no-one else. By the time she’d finished he decided he didn’t want it after all. Kids, eh?

Someone else had brought boiled eggs too but they were curried eggs. My eggs (indulge me here), were perhaps, a tad more interesting. And, as it happens, my boiled eggs were a bit different, as I found out this morning when I ate the egg I’d left behind, the one that been cracked on top. For starters the yolk had a grey ring around it which happens when you boil eggs for too long, rendering them flavourless. That was bad enough. Standing in my kitchen I ate the egg in an absent sort of way while talking to my son about the dramatic nature of an episode of Outlander we’d watched together the night before. Now here’s a thing – as a result of becoming so mindful during the whole SHORE experience over the last fortnight I was focused intently on our conversation. My son and I were experiencing such a nice moment of confluence and connection that I didn’t want to distract myself by noticing that the boiled egg tasted bad. Rather than disrupt my train of thought to register this I kept eating it. Whether this is a reflection of the over-feminised social conditioning of my upbringing, where I’m unwilling to interrupt a man, even mentally, while he’s making a point, even if that man is my own son, or (more likely), it’s an indication of my inability to pay attention to more than one thing at a time, I hesitate to venture, but I ate the whole egg and only afterwards thought ‘oh’.

‘Oh’ ‘s right. That egg reverberated sulphurously and explosively through my digestive system later in the day while I was at the library. I’m lucky that I live in a civilised place where public libraries include public toilets on the premises. Worse though, was the thought that all the other eggs might have been bad too and that my contribution to a positively perfect afternoon, where untold care had been taken and preparation undergone to create an experience of community and abundance, might have given some unlucky person (or people) a horrible dose of the squits.