Saturday, October 10, 2009

For What You're Worth

Last night, dear ones, I had the opportunity to have dinner with some of the ladies from The Greenpoint Girls Group, at Papacitos. It's not often that your MatchGirl has an opportunity to break bread with so many smart, interesting and creative women. It was not only a fun evening, but inspirational as well. I came home wanting to make more art, to be more focused and to spend more time with like-minded people.

A few nights ago, I had a conversation with a fellow that I've just met. In telling a story about the purchasing of my first lap top - a gorgeous tangerine iBook - I was telling this fellow that, at the time, that was a really big purchase for me. I told him how I was working retail and making, something like, $10 an hour in 1999/2000. Instead of taking this as it was, an endearing story about me needing to make sure that I got this fantastic new computer in the cute tangerine color instead of the boring blue, he looked me up and down, saying that he didn't mean to be judgmental, but what was I doing, at 24/25 years of age, working at a job that only paid $10 and hour (plus commission)? Not to be judgmental, but didn't I have any plans for my life/future/etc...?

I related this to the ladies last night and they were appalled. More so than I had been, even.

You see, it came up as a natural part of conversation about un and under employment. It came up as one of the gals in the group said she kept seeing jobs posted in her industry that would maybe pay $8 and hour. It came up as part of a conversation about how, if you work in a creative industry, while it's always tough, it's even harder right now. And how it is an employer's market. And how everyone is trying to get something for nothing. And I related to the girls - artists and writers and food makers - the anecdote from above. They all said they hoped I wasn't going to see that gentleman again.

Now, I think I will give Mr. Judgmental another chance, and consider that perhaps he just has no idea how to speak to someone who is unemployed in this economy (or doesn't roll with too many people who are purely creative types).

It's not that I don't want to make money, gentle readers. But it's never been my priority. I want to live comfortably - more so than I have been able to live recently - I don't, however, want those who have never worked in my industry telling me how to do so. I don't want people who have never struggled to tell me how much they think I should make - or, more to the point, how much I should have made. I can't go back to 1999 and re-do my life. There's no use discussing it. Would I even want to? Probably not.

As I near a year of unemployment, my dears, I am thinking hard about those I spend my time with. I am thinking about how to make the best use of my time (even more so than before). I am thinking about the people I need to surround myself with. Amazing, creative folks, all looking to meet more creative and interesting folks? Definitely. People who are going to ask me if I am looking for a job (duh) or judge me based on decisions I've made in my distant past? Not so much.


  1. no matter how good he looks, if he can't relate to you financially (some people never ever had a $10/hr job) it's just going to be an ongoing issue.

  2. i wonder what Mr. Judgmental does for work?

    For what it's worth, dear writer, perhaps this fellow has brought up a valid point.
    I am a woman working in the arts who has witnessed several talented friends and colleagues get laid off. Still gainfully employed, I sometimes feel trapped and "thankful" for my job despite my salary being cut by 20%. I care about what I do as a cultural producer but this does not resolve the steadfast plight that women and working artists are underpaid in this country. Could Mr. Judgemental be a feminist reminding all of us (in our current jobs or before we get a new one) that we should demand a living wage in our respective creative professions?

    This group agrees: