I was at a meeting where a female acquaintance sidled up next to me. "So, Cha Cha," she said, with That Look. "How's being a full-time self-employed writer going?"
Immediately, my inner junior high girl issued a red alert. I repeat, a red alert: Mean Girl in the Building!
I girded my loins and smiled graciously. "It's going GREAT," I replied. Inside, I was bartering with my big stoopid mouth: "If you don't mention doing laundry or how you empty the dishwasher like a boss, you can have ice cream later. Keep it together!"
Mean Girl flinched almost imperceptibly, but soldiered on. "Oh, really?" She raised an eyebrow. "What are you working on?"
Working on killing you with my mind, bitch. "I have a bunch of websites I'm working on, and a magazine article. It's really great," I said, smile still intact. Inside, I'm all, "Yeah, that's about right. 'A bunch' isn't that far of a stretch from '1 client website and my blog that I would never in a gajillion years tell you about.' I'm still telling the truth."
"It's really freeing to be away from Corporate America?"
Almost as freeing as it would be to kick you in the neck. "Uh-hmm." I AM STILL SMILING!
"Oh," said Mean Girl, admitting defeat in the battle but not the war. "You know, I do a ton of writing. You know, as a lawyer, everyone thinks all I do is courtroom stuff, but all I do is write. I write 25 or 30 pages a day."
Just as I was wondering if I was really going to have to play the female version of "Whose Junk Is Bigger?," Mean Girl Sidekick showed up and inserted herself into the conversation.
"Ohmigawwwwd, I write all the time, too," said Sidekick. "Nobody thinks an auditor writes, but I do, like, all the time. It's good that I've always been a really great writer. I write so much. So much."
About this point, I started attempting an on-demand out-of-body experience. Mean Girl and Mean Girl Sidekick spent 3 minutes and 27 seconds discussing the vagaries of deadlines, and how they aren't real. Which, of course, any "real" writer knows. AHEM.
I was trying to be polite, but finally I gave up on the out-of-body experience. I picked up my purse and excused myself, as I didn't feel like justifying homicide to the police.
I'm annoyed, but mostly I just call bullshit.
It's bullshit that some people always have to one-up the next guy, even when it's clearly not a competition. If it were a competition, clearly, I would win. Because I am a professional writer who writes all the time and is paid to write and studied writing and continues to work to perfect my fucking craft every damned day. Sure, I'm carefully crafting web copy for Bob's Mattress Shack, but I'm also typing my real self into personal words and stories, spreading my soul like homemade preserves onto thin, delicate bread.
It's hard. Even when exactly 2 people read, it's hard.
And because I write about my real self, I can also call bullshit on myself. I just might be a bit overly sensitive about my new role, and may have a teensy habit of projecting my darkest "Cha Cha is just a lazy loser" fears.
But worse than that?
You how I made myself feel better about this entire junior-high interaction? I looked at myself in the mirror when I got home. I looked at my mascara, and my antique necklace, and my kick-ass cowboy boots. And I thought, "Those bitches are just jealous because I'm so much cuter than they are."
Because again, we're all in junior high. I'm no better than they are.
But it did make me feel better.