I really hate this guy. I won’t say his name because my friend told me “Do not use names on your blog. You’re really angry right now.”
I hate him.
So I got this really cool writing gig a few weeks ago. It was going to be steady. It was going to be big. I had just started. I was working with an editor. This guy. A guy who only asked me three questions about myself when we started working together: “Are you married? How old are you? How else do you make money, aside from blogging?” A guy whose followup question to my answers was “What does your husband do for a living?” A guy who, when I asked the questions back, told me that he worked mostly at a company that made medical instruments, but edited on the side because he just knew he was really good at it. A guy who chopped my pieces into little, awkward bits, made me sound like a robot, and then accused me of writing without passion. A guy who liked to tell me what writing was about. “To write well, you must first care. Care deeply,” he said, telling me I wasn’t doing that.
“There is nothing interesting about this piece,” he wrote, when I sent him a piece I thought would be pretty interesting.
And here is where I went wrong:
“Do you think you could express the same sentiment in a nicer way?” I wrote back. “It might be more productive for us.”
“I’m sorry that ‘not interesting’ seems like harsh language to you,” He said. He told me it was too bad I was so sensitive.
“It’s not that my feelings are hurt,” I said, “It’s that I think we should figure out an effective way to communicate, so that the editing process goes as smoothly as possible.”
And here is where I went even more wrong:
I added, “And just to clarify, that’s not an apology. As you are probably aware. But that’s OK. Let’s move on. Do you want me to send you a new piece?”
I sent him a new piece.
He didn’t like it. He didn’t explain why.
“Do you want me to try again?” I said. “Maybe you could give me an idea what you’re looking for?”
But he wasn’t interested. He told his boss he couldn’t work with me, that he didn’t like my writing, and his boss fired me. Just like that. One paycheck. Done.
When I saw her name pop up on my phone, I knew. The way you know when all of your tingly animal instincts suddenly kick in at once.
She was very sorry. Very, very sorry, she said. She thought I was great. Really great. But this would not work because the editor didn’t like me.
I think it was because I talked back. Because I told him that he hadn’t apologized and that I cared about how he talked to me. That I expected to be treated respectfully.
Mistake. Why did you think you could talk back? SUCK UP. SUCK UP. WHY DON’T YOU KNOW TO SUCK UP? WHY DON’T YOU KNOW HOW TO JUST TAKE IT. WHY DON’T YOU KNOW ANYTHING ABOUT LIFE??
I have really, really hated a few people in my life. They have always been people who have power over me. Not friends who slight me or boyfriends who were mean. But people who make me feel helpless. People who I can’t hurt back.
When I was younger, every time someone hurt me like that, I wanted to become famous, just so that I could have some famous interview on TV and tell the world that they were terrible and stupid and make the world hate them with me. I wanted to have an undedication in the back of my New York Times bestselling novel. “This book is not thanks to the following people, who seriously screwed me over and who are some of the most pathetic, scummy people in the world.”
Two of them were college professors. The first one was the one I wrote about in my piece on Salon. I changed her name, of course. But not a huge amount. She found out I’d been homeschooled, and then she made fun of me in class. And then there was the professor who gave me an F because I missed a test. I had to perform Yom Kippur services that day. I tried to make it up a day late. He told me, in front of the class, that I was irresponsible. That I had failed.
I am not sure that I was entirely successful at not crying at all in class.
But an interesting thing happened. I later asked the professor who had failed me to be my thesis adviser, because he was smart and important and because I wanted to face him. And we became close. And he came to my wedding and visits me in the city occasionally.
He wouldn’t make it into my undediction anymore.
Which is what I am telling myself about the editor I hate. The guy who got me fired without giving me a chance. The guy who wanted to be really clear about who had the power. Even though I am a 25 year old freelancer and he is a 45 year old guy with a steady paycheck (that mostly comes from something involving medical instruments). It is probably not as bad as it feels right now.
It is probably a hundred times better.
Even if it’s hard to see right now.
Right now I want to destroy him. And I can’t. There is nothing I can do.
But sometime later, I won’t even care. The way I don’t care about the teacher who made fun of me in front of the class freshman year. She was such a small person in my life, that I can’t imagine wasting time on her now.
Just like that.
* * *
Does anyone have a story about being fired to share with me? I’m pretty sure reading some would make me feel a lot better.
Unroast: Today I am a little sick, so I love the way my stomach feels, because it isn’t sick, and I’m thankful.