To be frank, besides my mother, and a few close friends, no-one knows I am writing. That I spend a good portion of each day clacking away at my keyboards. When I am asked about my employment, as most of us invariably are, I always say
“I’m a pastry chef.”
If they inquire further about where I work, I say
“The House of Commons,”
While adding that I’m thinking of returning to events catering. All of these statements have been true, at one point or another. I did work in the House of Commons as a pastry chef, I did work events catering, and I loved it. Everyone was so respectful, and professional. In other words I can rely on my genuine experiences to wing it!
The original reason behind my lying was the desire for privacy, and to avoid the dreaded questions
“What are you writing?”
“Are you published?”
“Would I have read it?”
Not to mention the possibility of being on the receiving end of open derision, and dismissive smirks.
Recently while I was in Ireland visiting family and having a good old fashioned holiday, I had an unexpected and decisive realisation. Ireland was experiencing a massive heat wave, and I accidentally got sunburnt! Luckily I had plenty of coco butter to sooth my tenderised skin, and lathered it on gleefully while commenting on how silly perceptions actually are. (People are forever complaining about the Irish weather.)
So, one evening while I’m in a restaurant with some relatives, I was asked about my cheffing work. I was absolutely stunned by the sheer pulverising interest. It turns out, my PR relatives are all massive fans of ‘Masterchef’, a show I am acquainted with, but never got into. Never cared much for the ‘Big British Bake Off’ either. As much as I love cooking, and baking, I have never seen the appeal of reality cooking shows. For me, television, much like books, is all about good stories, and great characters, not competitions to win a place to work in a professional kitchen. Besides, I did that already(!)
My mother, bless her, was concerned I might have a problem with all the lying. After all, it usually goes
“Mmm, that’s interesting…”
Then we move on to something else, because, lets face it, no-one really wants to talk shop. Therefore she brought up my writing… Yikes! The look of contempt, dear God have mercy upon my soul. I’m nodding my head, and babbling about my ‘plan’ of considering a return to events catering… When I swiftly turn and say to my mother (the only one who’s actually listening at this point)
“Yeah, yeah, but that’s in my spare time, my day job…”
You get the grotesque and humiliating picture.
It wasn’t until the next day that the tidal wave of rage actually hit home. My mother and I argued as I tried to explain that I really didn’t give a hoot that they didn’t care. I mean, c’mon! They’ve got their own lives, and no, I wasn’t insulted by their lack of interest in mine. What I was raging about was their sheer arrogance. My aunt had gone on and on about her sons successes, and plans. Delighted, I was genuinely thrilled to know they are doing so well. I listened and cooed in all the right places, and gave some positive advice for the middle son who is struggling to figure out what he wants to do.
Any hoo, back to my point… I wasn’t insulted by their lack of interest. What I was throughly insulted by was their open snarling contempt. I’d shown courtesy and feigned interest in the details of their sons lives, even my own mother had too. Yet, when the tables were turned, where was their courtesy and feigned interest in me, and my plan (y’know, the real one)? All they had to do was say
“Oh? That’s interesting.”
And smile. Why, I raged had that been so difficult for them to do?
Therein lies why I lie, why I say only to people I known who will be kind
“I am writing.”
The one great thing that did come out of this was the realisation of just how important my writing is to me. I had fallen into a rut before the holiday. Grown weary of all the trudging onward, with the end seemingly further and further away. Going for days without writing had become a norm. So, for that I would say thank you to these particular relatives, but something tells me, beside this blog posting, I will never mention it.
I’d advise people to take care and pride in their writing, in becoming a writer, and sharing this fact with others. But let’s just say, sometimes our common sense and hesitation are there for a reason… The pain of honesty can be excruciating.