This post had me thinking,
not for the first time,
about the quandary so many of us face
when asked to put down our occupations on a form.
I have in my time been occupied (and sometimes paid)
as a painter, illustrator, archivist,
gardener, teacher, nurse,
mother, book editor, researcher,
writer, special needs tutor,
cleaner, cook, furniture restorer,
Of course I haven't always been paid,
and there's the rub.
Does the question on the form want to know
what my skills are worth in monetary terms?
Does it want to know where I rank
in an employment hierarchy?
Does it want to assess how interesting and important I am?
Certainly, in social situations,
it often serves as a shorthand;
a box to put you in.
Indeed it is usually the first question
you are asked by strangers.
(Are you more or less interesting, important,
well paid, than me?)
But for most of these forms it is utterly irrelevant.
They might just as usefully ask you for your shoe size.
Even if I could quite legitimately write,
opera singer, obstetrician or oligarch,
baker, broadcaster or ballerina,
it would only represent a snapshot,
a tiny fleeting sample
of all the occupations,jobs and careers
that make up many lifetime's experience.
Leaving that space blank though -
well it allows for some ambiguity,
a refusal to be boxed,
but it also feels self-effacing
and slightly stroppy.
I'm not yet of retirement age
so retd. won't wash.
I quite like the idea of being
a bon viveur,
in its literal sense.
Perhaps lifer would be less self-congratulatory
but has the criminal overtones of a mal viveur.
Well, hungry is what I am now.
Luckily I have no forms to fill in
or I would have to write
sandwich maker in the box.
I leave the last word to the inestimable