Last year, for the first time ever, I dated a writer. We met through a mutual friend, both commenting on her Facebook status. The witty banter turned to email which graduated to echat and eventually to the phone. We ignored the obvious hurdle of living on opposite coasts and started dating.
“Hey,” I began as I got situated in front of the computer. “Southern Women’s Review accepted one of my stories!”
“Uh huh.” He swirled the ice in his glass, took a sip, returned the etched lowball to the kitchen table where he was seated.
“Wow, that’s all I get?”
“Paige, I mean, you’re a ‘writer’,” he said.
“Please tell me those weren’t air quotes but a nervous tic?”
He shrugged, smiled. “Look, you don’t make a living at it like I do.”
“I need to go,” I said, before slamming the lid closed on my laptop. Then I spent the next twenty-four hours coming up with a collection of wittier retorts.
For the longest time, I didn’t consider myself a writer, not even a ‘writer’. I was funny, smart and sassy. I managed well under pressure and creatively problem solved. But for everything I was, I was not a writer. The closest I came to being a writer was being a blogger. Except people respect bloggers as much as they respect car salesmen, thereby circling me back to square one.
But when I started graduate school, set out for an MFA in Creative Writing, I finally felt empowered to identify myself as a writer. “I sell insurance, and I’m a writer,” I answer when asked what I do. The writing part? That always interests people. They want to know what I write, how I approach the process, what books I turn to for inspiration. Then they often pull me aside and, like sharing a deep dark secret, whisper the project they one day hope to write. Every time this happens, no matter how inane the proposed plot, I smile and excitedly urge him or her to write. “Sit down, do it!” I always say.
A few weeks after referring to me as a hobby writer, I ended the relationship. There were a lot of things wrong with that pairing, too many to list. But at the core, the biggest issue was I could never be with a man who believed in me less than I did. It isn’t that I want someone to blindly cheer me on. You don’t have to love what I write to love me. But belittling my efforts is, well, mean. And that’s how I came to understand that his opinion isn’t a reflection of my ability to write but his ability to be a ‘man’.