You Could Say I Rode the Last Economic Boom Like a Sweaty Trucker Rides
a Parking-Lot Ho
Monday, 03 February 2002
I suppose you want to know what happens next, all the Edward Gorey details
and all, not that it's any of your business. Well I'm going to tell you
anyway, as punishment'
Bruce Labruce, 'Not That It's Any Of Your Business'
Christ, it's been too long. I've forgotten what you all look like: your
eager li'l faces, eyes shining and squinched up with enthusiasm, wanting
WORDS, and FACTS, and STORIES. To be honest, I didn't want to give you
the stories. I felt like having some SECRETS for once.
These ruby-red lips were SEALED, a subtle smile playing across them, eyelashes
modestly lowered, my diary snapped locked shut, hidden under a pillow,
wrapped in newspaper.
I wanted to keep my life to myself: to hug my bons
mots to me like a horsehair blanket; forfeiting glamour for mystery
and volubility for silence.
Don't worry though dudes, cuz dat shit is, like, totally over. Prepare
yourself for a bumpersized funpack of blather. Best pull up a chair, light
a fag, demand a massage from the Thai houseboy. This is some long sheeyat,
Let's talk about work.
I'm either incredibly lucky or incredibly naive or incredibly lazy or,
incredibly, all three. For the past three years I've completely avoided
having a 'proper' job. I've skived round on the dole whilst running a
tiny free pink zine, which I even managed to get the man at the dole office
to distribute for me, god blessim. I've worked for a teen girlz website
and earned fuck-loadsa cash and been flown to Silicon Valley to work.
I've written for an irreverent tv spinoff site, getting paid to indulge
my obsessions with Craig David and Jamie Oliver and penis size and lesbian
sex. I've even earned thirty smackers an hour simply to blather about
pensions. Yes, I was lucky. Yes, you could say I rode the last economic
boom like a sweaty trucker rides a parking-lot ho, and, yes, you'd be
But I've always been freelance. I've been the stranger, the perpetual
nu girl, the wacky kid in the corner, paid to have ideas and make people
laff an laff till their noses run, or to tidy wayward sentences and knock
slack paragraphs into shape.
I'm the one whose name nobody knows. I'm the one who doesn't have her
own phone line. The one who realises after a few days that it doesn't
matter whether or not she wears makeup, cuz ain't no one lookin in her
direction, not even her nominal boss. Freelance is da business, boyee.
Freelance was way cool, and hey, at last, so was I. I worked for Excite
and the big evil megacorp whose products fill your house. I worked for
a tv company in an experiment in 'cultural convergence' with oh-so-zeitgeisty
dot.com drama. (I think we could say, quite comprehensively, that the
experiment failed, but hey, it wuz fun!)
I drank coffees from paper cups whilst walkin down the street and talking
into a tiny phone through red-lipsticked lips. I ran a website. I had
a business card. I was nu meedja. And the whole time, one woman
was my inspiration and role-model: the thorn in my side, the pointy boot
in my ass: Bonnie Burton.
Burton was perhaps the original self-styled web celeb. I was Content
Producer at Excite while she was Senior Content Editor in a different
department. I stuffed a load of AMPs in an envelope and I delivered them
via internal mail with an effusive hand-written note which declared that
I was here working on the teen site and I had been a big fan of hers for
years and would she do an interview with me?
And she never wrote back, the slag, the bitch, the black-haired ho. (No
wonder I never bother to do interviews any more. Jes' blather on about
myself instead. Teach myself to pee standing up and use bizarro menstrual
devices to give myself something to write about. Fuck interviewing web
celebs, I thought: I'll become one myself.)
Some time towards the end of my tenure in SF, I stood behind Bonnie Burton
in the queue (not the pee queue, though peeing onto her back surruptitiously
whilst standing might have been just reward for her silence) - nono, the
queue for the in-house coffee' n' bagel bar.
This was Silicon Valley in early 2000, after all, and a flashy web company
wasn't a flashy web company 'nless it had its own bar selling lattes /
mochacinos/ frappes / fruit shakes / whatever, staffed by underpaid Mexicans
who would endure the rudeness and material stink of the San Francisco
dot.commers. I surveyed her chunky soled shoes and pale denim jeans and
smiled to myself: in typical AMP form, having been rejected, I now despised
the object of my hapless desire.
I finished my stint in San Francisco without speaking to Miz Burton, though
I would regularly visit her site and look at the pages wherein she would
brag of her fame
and her desire to become even more hugely renowned. I'd cut my eyes at
the photoshopped pictures
of her, whispering 'you're not as pretty in the flesh, biatch'. I'm a
supportive femuhneest sista like dat, y'see.
But things have changed. Now even the celebbiest of web celebs are Out
Of Work Content Producers jus' like l'il ole me! Maura dot com? Laid off.
Tom of Plasticbag.org? Laid off. And it was with no small amount of glee
that myself and Jo Insomnia noted that even Bonnie Burton was affected
by the recent dot.com slump, um, just like we were.
Is it possible to laugh at someone for sitting in the same gutter as you?
I'm not sure, but we gave it a shot. Schadenfreude, jealousy, ambition
- ugly things, suffusing your skin and hair like a golden shower, leaving
you feeling just as stinky when you wake up the next morning.
But no more. Are you ready for this, cuz I wasn't,
despite six months of preparation and longing -
I got a job! For perhaps the first time I have
no need of jealousy towards Miz Burton, so you'll find no essay on the
nature of female competitiveness here, sorry. So, how did this wierdness
The guy at the recruitment agency was quite fit, which probably helped.
Not that these things matter, of course, whaddaya think I am, shallow?
But when you've been inhabiting a world of headset jockeying and temping
agencies, and all you know is:
handing your cv to the receptionist
drinking the minging coffee
ticking the little boxes
taking a pointless typing test
dealing with the knockbacks like a goodgirl
- then one tends to grab one's joy where one can, and if one's joy lies
in sitting on - I mean, near - the face of a pleasantly-planed blond twentysomething,
then so be it.
I was hella surprised. Never in my frickin' life have I got a job from
an interview. Let alone a real job: copywriting, editing, project managing.
Y'know. Responsible shit.
I thought they could sense it on me: freelance, unconventional, headstrong:
wierdo. Normally ppl just read my stuff and say 'you'll do' and hire me,
not see me first. My writing is a better ambassador for me than I am,
But all they smelt was the Anna Sui perfume and the Poppy King lipgloss
and the Aveda Shampoo and the niceness. All they saw was a page tracked
birdfoot with proofing marks, and a piece of prose whipped into shape
with personaltrainer fingers, and nuggets of knowledge: solid, genuine,
flickering mica facts of website minutiae.
I am not going to say where exactly I work because the thought of my boss
with the shiny hair discovering this site and all my blather makes shivery
cold run through me like ice-cream.
But I can say that I work for a charidee fashion campaign (dahling),
writing and editing, scanning and doctoring photos of Jodi Kidd and Liberty
Ross and the like, hassling reluctant strangers for copy, composing email
newsletters, updating the website with scientific info and stories of
It's not like it was in the old days, in da meedjah. The fridge is not
full of free 'sodas' and five different types of mineral water and we
don't get free ice-creams on Fridays like we did at Excite. There are
no fizzy wine and dips parties on payday every month, no champagne-stuffed
fridge, no expenses, no free biscuits, no fine selection of Earl Grey
and Assam teas like there was at World.
It's Typhoo and Nescafe and a payslip that I have to squint at to make
out the miniscule sum that flows as a tiny stream into the giant lake
of my overdraft. I can no longer afford new trainers and paper-cup, lipstick-printed
coffee - and let us all heave a collective sigh of sorrow for the poor
li'l web girl, for what is a web girl without her coffee?
Nonetheless, the biggest surprise I've ever experienced, except when I
grew tits, is this:
I like my job!
After work last week, I found my favourite prostitute card ever in a phone
box on Tottenham Court Road. It features the above phrase scrawled in
magic marker: no photo, no list of skills; just a sentence describing
sheer unadulterated pleasure in getting regularly screwed for very little
money. I have pinned it to the noticeboard above my computer, and every
full-time, properly-contracted day, I look at it, and I smile.
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