I have always been an oddly jealous girlfriend. Never the type to whine or complain when my significant other goes out until the wee hours of the morning with their friends, or ogles porn, or becomes transfixed by Ghost Whisperer, I’m not easily threatened by other women. In part this is because I dated women exclusively for a really, really long time, and I’ve come to know the intricacies of crazy that go along with the fairer sex. (Ask me for my secret when it comes to stopping a flood of tears. If I charged for that I’d be able to buy myself several new computers.) It’s also because I believe that it’s healthy to maintain an active fantasy life while in a relationship. Also, I have less than an A cup on top, so my boyfriends and girlfriends have needed to open a whole extra folder for bookmarked pages of nudity solely to remember what a grown woman looks like. No, I will not fly off the proverbial handle if Simon decides to spend the better part of his day staring at Suicide Girls, even if we know one of them. But if he so much as receives one of his gazillion Twitter text messages while we’re in conversation, well, hell hath no fury.
I never thought there was an equivalent for him. I just assumed that so long as I didn’t bonk anyone else, and so long as I made sure to snuggle up each night, he couldn’t care what I did. After all, he’s a guy. Who is he to want to spend time with his live-in girlfriend?
We’re learning about time management. After moving in together I think it was generally misunderstood that we should probably ignore each other most of the time, only because, well, we were living together. We could just coexist in our own little worlds without much interaction because we didn’t want to overextend one another or wear out our welcome. So what initially seemed like an opportunity to live with our best friend and have ridiculously loud sex in every corner of the house quickly became a semi-silent game of hide-and-go-seek, punctuated only by the sound of trip-hop and rap over competing computer speakers.
This has not been helped by my second internship. My first apprenticeship is still going on. Being an editorial intern for Curve magazine has been an exciting crash-course in the inner-workings of the publishing world and has taught me how to write “sexy and gay” articles about everything from Blackberry accessories to political campaigns. It has been completely manageable in the sense of time and workload, after all, it was designed to provide ten hours of unpaid work to any writer looking to work for a lesbian lifestyle magazine. My second interning endeavor has not been so easily divorced from my sense of self-worth and my understanding that there are only twenty-four hours in a day.
A few months ago I wrote about Stephen Elliott sitting down to discuss the complexities of non-fiction with me. I was awestruck and had walked away feeling, or, rather, knowing that I didn’t necessarily have the moxie to be a memoir writer of any great consequence. Around Thanksgiving Stephen wrote me asking if I’d like to help him out with his recent project, an online magazine called The Rumpus. He was kind enough to offer me the Assistant Editor slot on the masthead. It was a start-up, an attempt, a hobby. There wasn’t any great promise of wealth, fame, or immortality. I believe that when I was asked if I wanted to help out the question was phrased, “Would you like me to take advantage of you?”
It was an opportunity to write with an author I admired, and a way to fill my time with something more productive than muttering expletives about our lack of new clients. It was also a means to cultivate a portfolio slightly more exciting and diverse than one scraped together from dyke-speak tech reviews and musician bios. I did not think that I would become attached to the magazine in the same way Glenn Close once became attached to Michael Douglas. I also didn’t think I’d be moving to Oklahoma prior to the site’s launch.
The problem with pet projects is that, like pets, they require an inordinate amount of time and dedication. Also like pets, you can find yourself strangely devoted to them, staring at them as they do nothing but sleep. The amount of headspace that The Rumpus has come to occupy in my tiny gourd is somewhat ludicrous. I’m sure this is compounded by the understanding that any flaming hoops I jump through will be held by a writer whom I admire. I found myself being berated by porn stars, interviewing celebrities, and offered a ticket to San Francisco to attend the launch party. The rest of my life was a series of cardboard boxes, poverty, and one stressed out boyfriend. But I had my side project, and it was important to me.
Just as the middle-aged man who discovers his old Fender in the garage and decides that it’s time to “make it big,” my priorities seemed to suddenly shift. Where once my free time was dedicated to my own personal projects, this blog included, now nearly all of my time was spent brainstorming articles, or writing them. I receive emails about the site, and opt to work on it rather than, say, folding my clothes. It was only a few days ago, when I realized how soon the launch was and how little time I’d spent settling into my new home, that I decided to cancel the complimentary ticket to SF and to take some time to relax. None of the anxiety that came with The Rumpus was foist upon me by Stephen, or even by reality. It was, and is, a sick mix of fear, poverty, OCD, and escapism. You dry out an alcoholic, they’re going to find a way to get their fix. I work incessantly. A project like The Rumpus, that is constantly looking to acquire new content, is the workaholic’s equivalent of an open bar.
Many people are technically workaholics, or people who dedicate more than forty hours a week to their job. Technically it’s defined as “an obsessive compulsive disorder that manifests itself through self-imposed demands, an inability to regulate work habits, and an overindulgence in work to the exclusion of most other life activities.” Sure. Fine. Right. But, as with most things, none of this is a problem until you start fighting about it with your significant other. Once we were forced to compete against the machines for the other person’s attention, and once our own collective unpaid and personal work began to be neglected, our voices and our blood pressure began to rise. This situation isn’t uncommon, in fact, it’s a relationship problem that destroys many couples, with 55% of marriages with a workaholic partner resulting in divorce. The solution of which, to me, is simple. Don’t get married.
Last night Simon and I sat down to play a game of Scrabble while we baked meringues. [Editor’s Note: We are not natural homemakers, but we are overachievers. Never having made a baked good from scratch before, we decided to begin with one of the most difficult recipes to master.] His phone had died from lack of batteries. I kept staring at my monitor, waiting for an email response to a review I’d done on Bride Wars.
“Can we, like, have a day where we don’t use our computers?” Simon asked. Honestly, he could have asked me if I wanted to try out being furries and I would have been less shocked.
“Uh. Sure. Next Sunday?”
We agreed. And then I thought for a minute.
“And no Twitter on your phone.”
“Okay,” he said. And then he upped the ante. “And no computer after a certain time every night.”
“And no Twitter on your phone,” I repeated.
Agreed. So tonight we will begin our experiment. Will we become zombies, with nothing to say to one another? Will we begin checking random household objects for updates or Direct Messages? Will we begin speaking in only 140 characters or less? Will I completely trounce Simon in Scrabble yet again?
Only time will tell. But for now, I find the prospect of going low-fi and old school completely mesmerizing. Just be sure to send any imperative emails, text messages, or titillating Twitter updates before 6PM.
There’s an interesting CNN article about being a workaholic, and it comes with a list of questions to ask yourself and see if you, too, are obsessed with your job. I’ve created my own list of questions to see if you’re suffering from the same sort of sickness:
– Could you recognize the people you speak to most during the day if you saw them on the street or would it require an avatar?
– Do you try to take nearly every experience and reduce it to either a pitch for an article or 140 characters or less?
– Do you wake up refreshed or do you wake up, check your Inbox, and press “Refresh”?
Drop me a line: AinsleyDrew at gmail dot com. Thank you to everyone who donates, and to everyone who writes and gives me another reason to obsessively check my email.
You can feed the obsession.
Or you can just feed us. We’re always looking for new clients, as you can tell, work is our obsession.