The toxic conflation of profession with identity is endemic in our culture, but I’ve made an effort to cultivate spaces where more meaningful parts of my life are valued over what I do for work. I thought I had created a safe space in my social life where people would only talk to me about things I actually care about, but this sweet delusion came crumbling down when someone at a party asked me a completely rude question (what I do for a living) instead of the polite and inclusive question: What are you watching on Netflix?
What kind of sicko would reduce someone to the exploited labor they toil away at in order to afford things like shelter and their Netflix subscription?
Apparently Katie’s partner Tom who’s desperate to make friends (loser) because he just relocated from Seattle. When he approached me by the bar, I was happy, fresh-eyed, and confident. I was completely ready to give my takes on Bridgerton season two, Old Enough, and Is It Cake; in other words, meaningful, normal topics that a person would discuss. But boy was the wind about to be let out of my sails.
“So, what do you do?” Tom asked. Brazen, disrespectful, borderline sociopathic. What do I do?! Even my closest friends don’t know what I “do” because it’s a weird made-up job at a tech company that I don’t really know how to explain. Of course, my real friends know that I’m currently rewatching 30 Rock to fall asleep, Gilmore Girls when I’m anxious, and Paddington while I eat (I finish all my meals in like 10 minutes so I’m working my way through it).
The notion that I would have anything to say about my job while I’m not there is sheer lunacy. After all, it’s not what we do that defines us, but what we visually consume while scrolling Twitter, slowly folding laundry, or lying on a yoga mat. Want to forge a human connection?
Try asking about what actually makes us human.
This experience was harrowing and made me lose a lot of faith in how people are going to work together to address issues like climate crisis and systematic racism when we don’t even know how to have real conversations about what we’re watching on Netflix. I spent the rest of the night recuperating by the door, where I ran into someone leaving early because Tom asked them what they’ve “been reading”. Go back to Seattle, freak!