Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Tonight I went to a men's meeting. I won't say which one - it probably isn't a secret, but it just doesn't matter.

At first, they asked us to articulate the thing that was the source of our feeling for the week. Mine was all about the past month and how I haven't been paid for any of the work I've done lately, and how I'd been starting to feel completely crazy inside, filled with anger about it. At some point, I was babbling about these various scenarios - one where I'd done the work and hadn't been paid yet (Native Peoples magazine, for anyone considering writing for them) and another project where I had said in my contract that I wouldn't start work until I got a check for half upfront, and they hadn't paid me either. I was dying to start the project because I LOVE TO WORK, but I was making myself hold back untilI got the check and I was just dying inside.

At some point, I started to cry. I felt like such a fucking baby, but for some strange reason I felt super connected to the people in the room, and I was just so tired of feeling angry about the way I put myself out there and work hard and I'm always broke because I'm waiting on one goddamn check or another. I never write about this stuff, and maybe I should, because it's just so painful to try so hard to be a person with a voice in this shit-for-brains culture, and to just always get pushed around for it.

Later on, after a break, they said something about being time to work on "a man's work," and they asked us all to pick a number. I chose five, arbitrarily, and I had the highest number so it was my issues they were going to work on. (I'll know better next time, ya fuckers. ;-) All the men but one left the room, and when they came back, they had decided that we'd role-play the scenario...

I guess I had mentioned my dad a couple times while talking - today was my father's 74th birthday - and when they came back, they asked me to choose one man to be my father. I chose a guy...I couln't stop giggling, because it all seemed so ludicrous. Then they asked me to choose one guy to be my client - and I chose this guy who all night long had struck me as someone who enjoyed the role of the antagonist...later I would realize that he actually *did* remind me of my real dad.

So then they stood my dad before me and said, "What does your father say to you?" And I said, "He keeps wondering when I'll get a real job. And he keeps wondering why I still call him for help sometimes when I'm 37." And they turned me around so I was standing in my dad's place, and the "dad" was standing where I had been. And they said, "You are your father - what will you say to your son?"

I have mimicked my father's voice a thousand times in my life, but I have never had a Gregory before me to yell at, and in moments, I had become him. "Jesus Christ, Gregory, you only call when you need money for chrissakes, you live 2500 miles away in goddamn Santa Fe, New Mexico with your crazy mother and her hippie boyfriend..." the pyschodrama was more or less total, but it hadn't climaxed yet.

The consensus more or less became that because of my father, I didn't really feel like I deserved to be paid for the work that I did, and so when I didn't get paid, I didn't confront people about it because I had miserable self-worth. A good guess - incorrect, as things would turn out, but a good guess. And so I was told to become myself again, and to confront the client that refuses to pay.

He was a right bastard. The man should have a career being the asshole client. (Maybe he does, though I was told after the meeting that he has shared in previous meetings about being in the exact same position as me.) Anyway, as soon as he said he couldn't pay me, I caved, as I usually do, and proceeded to hang up the phone. And he was being such a bastard...I had said it had been ninety days already, and he said it would be another 45 days more, and at that, I snapped.

"You goddamn fucking cocksucker, what if I come over to your fucking magazine and pull my piece from your fucking hard-drive." And I was in this guy's face, ready to slug him, when all of a sudden self-preservation kicked in and I ran to the opposite wall, hit it about ten times with my fists, then grabbed my notebooks, said, "I'm fucking out of here," and almost made it out of the building, before I was stopped by the voices of men and stuck in my tracks.

"How the FUCK did that happen?" I didn't even know these people or this group and here I was, in the throes of a scenario that plays out in my mind almost daily, when I try to confront the people that owe me. But I never do THAT - not anymore. A few years ago, I would shit down the necks of fuckers that wouldn't pay me, but then I just learned to avoid confrontation altogether - and just stay quiet and hope they would pay me instead, without confrontation.

"Stay passive and you don't get paid. Get aggressive and you don't get paid. Either way you're fucked," said the guy playing the client.

It all felt like "Fight Club" to me. It made me want to quit this horrible hideous profession I'm in and do anything else. It made me wonder what it was about me that made people want to take advantage of me. I never want that anger in my life - I would've decked that motherfucker in another time and place - and I felt, as I do now, as I've felt for some time, totally trapped, whether by myself or by the forces in my life, in a place where I'll always feel helpless.

I am so angry with the way I've been treated in my life. That anger subsumes all other issues, where most days I can't think of anything else. I burn with the slow burn of being burned and having no one to turn to, no avenue to go down other than the ones I've gone down before. Maybe I'm wasting my time trying to do anything other than wait tables. All I know for sure is that I *can't* ever assume that anything anyone says is true, and that any work I ever produce will ever earn me anything other than the empty mailbox I see when I'm waiting for a check. And it's doing something to me lately that it's never done before. It's making me want something entirely different - I just don't know what it is yet.