So you're at a party or out among people you don't know, and sooner or later, you can pretty much guarantee that at some point, one person or the other will ask, "What do you do?"
It's the kind of cliche question that isn't always as innocent as it seems.
Finding the right answer to that always made me nervous when I was married and full-time mommying:
"Oh, wipe messy butts, play "This Little Piggy," read "Green Eggs and Ham" over and over, spend endless hours playing in the sandbox and splashing in puddles — along with doing the massive amounts of laundry that requires."
That didn't seem to show me in my best light, so I'd give my professional title, even if I wasn't actively working at the time, and added, "and I'm a mom." Now that Trent's much older and I'm a divorced woman working full time, answering that is a no-brainer. I've slipped right back into my title.
But why is that an important fact to establish right away?
Is it just an entry into a conversation?
Is it to figure out someone's income potential?
Is it to figure out someone's drive and ambition?
Is it an accurate measure of who and what a person is about?
I love what I do, although it isn't a big money-maker. But I made the decision early in my life that doing something I love that's creative, that feeds my soul, is more important that having a big fat income — not to say that it wouldn't be nice if you could have both, however. But, I'm not sure what that says about me to another person. I have never been aware that it has worked against me — or for me, for that matter — and I don't think any man has rejected me for my chosen profession or my earning potential.
But if I were a man with the same career, would I be seen in the same light? Or would the fact that it didn't provide me with a generous income work against me? From what I hear from men, yes, it would. And I — as some male friends have told me — would be rejected by many women as partner material because of that.
It doesn't seem fair.
Interestingly, even though many more young women are making much more money that their male peers, it's creating all sorts of problems in the dating world. Not all men are comfortable with a woman making more, and many wealthier women have a tinge of resentment if the roles are reversed in dating and she ends up paying more or more often than he does.
Well, so much for becoming an enlightened, equal opportunity, gender -blind society.
I'm curious why people want to know what we "do," and I know it may make a difference depending on our gender and marital status.
So, here's my very informal poll:
Why do you ask another person what he/she does?
1. An entry into a conversation
2. To figure out someone's income potential
3. To figure out someone's drive and ambition
4. Other (but you have to specify)
I guess one can have fun with answering the question, though. On a Web site I stumbled upon, "Love" offers a creative spin:
You can pick the most interesting part of your job and emphasize that. Or you can pick how your job affects other people.
Ex: for me (I work at a nature center) on my facebook I wrote: "Saving the planet from environmental destruction, 25 kids at a time."
Or, if you were a banker, you could say: I handle more money than most people have ever seen in their lives.
"Angela" offers this:
My favorite response to The Question:
Q. What do you do?
A. About what?
But I'd have to say my favorite is "LifeFirst's" approach:
I was in a group of people, I was talking to this girl and she asked me "So what do you do for a living??"
I don't know what went through my head at that time.
But I lowered my head, glared at her, and I said
But I said it in a way that made sure she know that I was joking.
Basically, she (and everyone else) busted out laughing and knew i wasn't being serious.
Funny, but I can hear my parents' asking, "From this you make a living?"