And What Do You Do? by Diane Dickson
When I was in my late twenties, I worked as a receptionist. Not any old receptionist, I worked in the staff health clinic in a military hospital in Saudi Arabia. It was confidential work. It wasn’t just ‘Don’t gossip’ it was ‘Even if you pull my finger nails out with hot tweezers, I can’t tell you’. So, I couldn’t talk about what I did.
When I was in my forties I worked in the personnel department of a military hospital in Saudi Arabia. It was confidential. I helped to get people out of jail, who were only there because they were gay. I helped to repatriate people quickly, so they could die in their home country with their family around them, stuff like that. It was hard, it was draining, and it was very, confidential. I couldn’t talk about what I did.
People would ask me, and I would make vague comments and move along to another subject.
In my fifties I worked for a commercial estate agency. It was mostly rather boring, not only to me but to everyone, and let’s be honest, estate agents are not that popular. I didn’t want to talk about my work. I would mutter a bit and move on. I didn’t much talk about what I did.
All of this time I wrote stuff. By hand, on a manual typewriter, on a computer, but it was small and, even though one poem was published in an anthology, it was of no real importance.
Now, I no longer work for other people. I spend my days in front of a keyboard and I write and write and write. My books have got covers and blurbs and pages and for heaven’s sake they’ve got blithering bar codes. I am an author.
I am heavy in years, my silver highlights are natural, actually they are not highlights so much as – well hair really. My laughter lines have crossed the Rubicon to crow’s feet.
Recently a ‘virtual’ friend was bemoaning the fact that when she told people she was a writer they responded with all the irritating things that people ‘apparently’ say when you make that statement.
‘Oh,’ they say, ‘I’m going to write a book, when I have time.’ Or, ‘I wish I could do that, but I have to work’ and so on and so forth – apparently.
She was irritated. I was oh so envious. You see now, now that I am doing something that I could talk about, something that I could drone on and on about, something that I could lower my eyes modestly and refer to. Something that I would just like to say out loud – nobody asks me.
All I want, all I really, really want, is for somebody – well okay a couple of people probably – to ask me, ‘And what do you do?’ So I can say, with a modest lowering of the eyes, ‘Oh me, I’m an author.’