Friday, 12 December 2008

Condolence Notes to My Career

For three weeks now, any e-mail I send to any company distribution list receives at least a few replies that begin: “I’ve been meaning to write – how are you?”

And so I repeat for the eleventeenth time: I’m fine, thank you. I say something nice – which also has the virtue of being true – that there aren’t many jobs that send you to Afghanistan one minute and St Tropez the next, and that I had a good run. I say perhaps I’ll come unglued when I get my official leaving date.

And what follows on that are emails that seem wholly capable of making me come unglued on the spot. The senders – often editors in New York -- write such over-the-top nice things about me and my abilities and my reputation that I’m starting to feel like I died. (Maybe death would explain the bizarre detached feeling with which I have gotten through the past few weeks.)

Cynically, I can't help thinking -- at least for a second -- that words are cheap and that these people need to assuage their guilt at the fact that they still have jobs. Jobs, I might add, that are much more highly paid and a whole lot less time-intensive and stressful than mine (few of these people ever answer email on weekends, let alone do actual work). I picture them running around like Oskar Schindler (I know this is a tasteless analogy, but still I can't help picturing Liam Neeson) -- after it's too late, bemoaning the little things he could have and should have done.

But then the moment of cynicism passes and I forward the emails to my personal account to read over the next few months.
I think I’m going to need them.

* * *

Last night I had tea (peppermint, not cream) with a frenemy I haven’t seen for months. She is a very successful freelance writer and TV personality with whom I will very likely be in direct competition soon (though not for TV gigs – so not me.)

She was a cheerleader in a former life – dyed blonde, big chest, and completely over the top in her enthusiasm for everything. We discussed a weight loss story she’s writing and of course the topic turned to weights – as in, actual numbers on the scale, and how she won’t be telling the truth in the article.

But she told me the truth (I think). I am two inches taller than her and weigh a good 10 to 15 pounds less than her.

I wasn’t gleeful – just shocked. Honestly. I'm not sure I've ever weighed less than anyone -- well, any thin person -- in my life.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Denial (De Nile?) is a River in Egypt

Is it wrong to debate using my $600 economic stimulus check from the US government for boots? Answers on a postcard. I'll be at

Is it wrong to debate using my $600 economic stimulus check from the US government for boots when I won’t have a job in a few weeks? (Is your answer still the same?)

I keep waiting for it to hit me, this jobless thing, but it hasn’t. All that has changed in my life so far is that I do less work – a lot less work – and I occasionally freak out about not having any money. And then I do lunatic things like decide to walk from Islington to Each Finchley – five miles – to avoid the £3 tube fare (and to burn off some Thanksgiving dinner), and then spend 300 euros on a 19th century rose gold-and-pearl bracelet I found at a Paris market (but I only went to Paris because I had a free Eurostar ticket. See? It all works out!)

* * *

Before the choice to keep my job was taken from me, I’d see the Evening Standard headlines about 2 million jobless and wonder if I was crazy to think about leaving my nice, safe employment. Now I constantly have two images in my head: one is where I’m being shoved off something (a cliff?) and I land, D-Day-invasion-style – on my stomach, crawling. In the second image, I’m trying to get off an overcrowded subway train, but the platform also is overcrowded, so I’m stuck. Paging Dr. Freud.

I guess I am stuck, in a way, no thanks to the British redundancy process, which drags on. I still don’t have a final leave date and I’ve only just gotten an answer on when my notice period starts (but not, of course, whether I’ll have to work in the office during it.) The British redundancy process is a lot like life in England itself – on the surface it’s lovely and polite and no one wants to be the one to tell you things you don’t want to hear. Oh, and there’s lots of alcohol. But because of that it’s also inefficient, frustrating, and bureaucratic. And in our office – because they are replacing all of us with one home-based correspondent (a job I think I’d need a lobotomy to consider applying for) – it has turned into Lord of the Flies. Every man for himself. You know the world has gone a bit topsy-turvy when you walk into your boss’s office and he quickly flicks up a computer game screen to hide the fact that he is doing actual work because he doesn’t want you to know he is desperate for said job.


I just want someone to give me a leaving date already. Would that be so much to ask?

* * *

This week I went to see my binge eating counselor and he told me I looked like I was still losing weight.
I’m not. I was at 150 for about 3 seconds, and now seem to be hanging out around 153-154, although that was before I went and consumed mince pies, brandy butter and brandy cream last night. And it’s only Dec. 10. Be afraid, be very afraid. I am.