Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The best advice I ever got.

When I was getting into the film industry as a young'un, the two people who had served as my mentors through an independent film gave me some terse parting words: "Don't get desperate."

It took me a while to understand what that means. It means don't take a shitty gig because you think you can't get a good one. It means don't humiliate or prostitute yourself to get a gig. It means that no matter how hungry you are--and you will get hungry--don't work for five bucks an hour, don't work where it's not safe, don't work where they don't follow the law. It means any time your instinct says "this is a screwjob" but your brain says "hey, it's work," it's a screwjob. It means always be able to say no.

And this is why I ultimately left the film industry--because I realized that unless you're talented, well-connected, rich, or lucky, (and I was 0 for 4), it preys on the desperate. Hollywood is full of producers, some of them quite big-name, some of them doomed losers, who think that you should be willing to do anything just for the privilege of getting their coffee--and it's also full of eager, desperate young people who bend over and grab their ankles and say "regular or decaf?" You don't sacrifice until you start getting respect, you just sacrifice and sacrifice until you realize that no one respects a sucker. In most industries that's where you simply walk away if you aren't getting respect from the start, but unfortunately in film there's a glut in the sucker supply so I ended up leaving completely.

Do I have to spell out how this applies to sex and relationships? If you're willing to do anything to get or keep a partner, there'll be some scary people willing to take you up on that "anything." If you think you have to humiliate yourself until you earn someone's love, you'll find the humiliation just keeps coming. If you're not willing to walk away from someone if they cross the line, the line will be crossed. If you settle, then what you settle for is all you'll ever have.

Don't get desperate.


  1. This is awkward advice. I don't disagree, but it's coming at a time when I'm examining whether I need to reexamine what I think I need or want.

    The balance between "don't get desperate" and "don't wait for Dr. Blue Eyes, Ph.D." still escapes me.

  2. Bruno - I think there's actually a large area between those two poles. To use the job analogy, there's a very VERY large space between "fifty bucks a day and getting my ass grabbed is the best I can get right now, I'm paying my dues" and "I want a corner office and a personal assistant on my first day."

    Don't get desperate means don't accept situations that are bad, not that you should only accept situations that are perfect.

  3. I don't disagree, but I suspect I'm not alone in struggling to hit even that large target (or in feeling clueless about whether I've hit it and staying alone is a consequence of something else).


  5. On the target metaphor, I feel like the target is large but often the same color as the area around it. I sometimes find myself in not-so-great situations: some of them get better or even reveal themselves to be good situations when looked at in the right light, while others get very screwy very quickly. Sure, "screwjobs" are easy to spot once the shit hits the fan and I'm already in the process of getting out, but I wish that there was a way to know which mediocre situations are just bad situations waiting to happen.

  6. I think I really needed this advice right now. Thank you so much for this post.

  7. The other thing that should be added is that there's always a chorus telling you that a screwjob is perfectly normal, so 'just suck it up' (god(s) how I hate that expression). Some of that chorus is so-called friends, and some of it is the culture, and some of it is 'what everybody knows' from popular culture. As a novelist who writes about relationships (what novelist doesn't) I get into ugly, ugly arguments on a regular basis about True Love (TM) and Romance, when I point out the public health implications of certain well-worn tropes about love.

    Best advice -- yes, hands down. I'm currently reading my way through your wonderful blog, starting with the Cosmocking (a highlight of each month!), the Fifty Shades send-ups, etc. Your work brightens my day even when it's speaking from the shadows.

  8. This is something I need to remember often. As I was raised by rad femmes, I have internalized a lot of beliefs around men being shitty, abusive people. Instead of that keeping me safe, it left me in a place where, when I was dating shitty, abusive men, I didn't think anything of it. As long as I continued to act on my attraction to men, I was destined to be in these situations, I reasoned, so why end this relationship that has some qualities I appreciated.

    I have since realized, mostly by finding some wonderful dudes, some by reading your posts, that what I have internalized is bullshit, but I still have to actively fight it.