So today my month of joblessness ended. I’ve endured the Time of my Non-Earning with stoicism, strength and courage (the names I gave, hurricanestyle, to the three major panic attacks I had) but as the user’s manual for MegaMan 8 says, there is a time for every purpose under heaven, and my time without a paycheck has been served. The College of Natural Sciences at the University of Texas needs an associate writer, and the college has chosen to believe in my ability to write associatively.
Hooray! I’m a man again! Precious bodily fluids once again course through my veins like an avalanche through a once-serene valley of gentle herbivores!
Which is to say that I got quite anxious, quite quickly. I hated that I couldn’t give an answer to the very nice man who offered me the job, who seemed genuinely excited by the prospect of working with me. I felt icky asking him for an extra few days to decide, and I felt horribly awkward trying to express why I needed those days (because there are other jobs out there that might be offered to me in the next week). I’ll feel mercenary when I ask him, in a day or two, if there’s any way they can boost the salary by a few thousand dollars so that I can pay off my college loans, feed my starving brother, buy crates of Vitamin C for the family of nomadic, scurvy-afflicted, sailing gypies to whom I owe a blood debt. I’ll also, naturally, feel ineffectual when, inevitably, I fail to be decisive enough in my request for more money to convince the dude that, without the money, I won’t take the job.
And that was just the shit that went through my head in the first ten minutes of getting the phone call with the job offer. Then there was the anxiety about calling the other places that interviewed me last week, and the presumptuousness (as I perceived it) of pushing them to make a decision when I’m not sure that I’ll take their job if offered. And then, of course, if I do get more than one offer, there’ll be the guilt, after taking whichever job, about the nudging I did of whichever employer I ended up turning down.
Are you annoyed with me yet? I’m a long squishy slip’n’slide of anxiety. And yet I’m also an articulate, charismatic, confident-seeming fellowwhich is why people seem to want to hire me (for very modest-paying jobs, it’s true, but allow me my affirmation; I’ve been without for some time). And it’s that co-habitation of anxiety and confidence that I find more interesting than the anxiety alone, and that I find myself having to insist on as one of the important themes of Masculinity and its Discontents (MAID).
I expect that I’ll be writing about my general anxiety a lot, here on this-here blog, but it would be a shame if the persona that emerges from my writing is of the sterotypical, Woody Allen-descended neurotic. It’s not who I am, though I’m certainly neurotic, and it wouldn’t be of much use to our projectwhich is, I think, to begin to sketch out some possibilities for being a relatively functional, relatively purposeful man in the 21st century. (Not that Allen hasn’t done great service to the cause of manhood with his relentless exposure of masculine insecurity, dysfunction, neurosis, fantasy, etc., but his is a deconstructive, not a reconstructive project).
The point, and my hands grow heavy as I say this, is to explore my weakness with the assumption that it’s forgivablethat a real man is someone who has a relationship to his weaknesses. He accepts some of them, he admits to some of them, he keeps some of them to himself to appear strong for his loved ones, he fights against others. He seeks counseling for the really problematic ones. He writes confessional essays about his fetish for peep shows. He blogs about others.