I’m writing this from a psychological cul-de-sac. On one hand, I’m hungry. I could really use a good breakfast. And there are no shortage of options; hell, I’m in Manhattan, if I wanted I could buy an Ethiopian scramble with truffle shavings off a food truck that also sells sangria. But I make publishing wages, so it’s important to recognize how much money gets flushed away on food purchases. And not just actual groceries; you have to contend with the juiced Manhattan prices, the ubiquity of attractive options, the actual food I bought already but is in my house receding into the distance like a rescue ship bobbing toward the horizon….and so I say “well, I guess I’m not getting breakfast today.”
Because that’s money being needlessly spent, right? The Dude who had foresight would have prepared a breakfast or at the very least kept a jar of granola in his desk (Dude Food Tip: Keep cereal at your desk. Free milk in the kitchen, remember?). So in order to become a better version of my actual self, the self who has no perfect fiscal option, I sit here, belly protesting. Visions of the murderously effective bacon-egg-and-cheese from across the street dancing through my head. Would I be a more efficient and happy Dude if I got that sandwich? Definitely. Would I regret the 3 to 4 bucks spent on it? Not while I’m feasting.
But like so many choices, this one slides out of reach like a dream when I begin to overthink. So here I am, hungry, angry, and reeling.
Now clearly, the other kind of food insecurity is the more important and pressing issue. But neglect isn’t just about hunger; it’s about self-care and coping skills and fuck it, it’s about your soul. Which is why I present three ways in which we neglect our eating selves, and tips to overcome them.
1) DISTANCE AND TIME
Official addendum to the Three Great Lies: “I don’t have time.” This is something I tell myself way more often than is true. Of course, the facile response to “you have to make time” is only slimly less flip and incorrect, but the point remains that in New York City and in professional contexts, the excuse of not having time (whether that excuse is given to yourself or to others) is a protest that, because we’re all rushing ourselves raw, we think of as some sacred incantation beyond reproach.
Well, it’s not. Saying you don’t have time to eat is a little bit of a lie. The only people who mean it when they say it have been standing on a Bouncing Betty or training a gun on a rabid bear all day. What you mean when you say “I don’t have time to eat” is:
You can keep a few day’s supply of healthy snacks at your desk (dried fruit, nuts) or in the shared fridge. You can get a deli sandwich in less time than it takes to populate a particularly gnarly spreadsheet. You can afford an orange.
And if you’re protesting that all the good dining options require travelling a little:
Time and distance are temporary setbacks to nourishment when you work in an office. If you find yourself pleading inconvenience due to them more than once a month, you’re not facing the root problem.
Of course, some dining options are close AND convenient, but they chip away at our funds a little more than we’d prefer. Which brings me to the second way we neglect our diets and bodies, namely:
Nutrition is expensive. It’s also a demand that’s in theory pretty inelastic, but in practice has a LOT of leeway in terms of money spent/health and satisfaction obtained (thanks to the modern food industry, which I’ll get to later), and it’s not like hewing to a few rules like “buy in bulk”, “eat food not too much mostly plants” and “don’t just count calories as a measure of nutrition” is going to be enough to ensure a healthy diet and budget.
We neglect ourselves by buying too much marked-up food, and we neglect ourselves by not buying food when we deserve it. It can be worth putting a little extra effort to make food that we could otherwise buy pre-made; however, always remember to ask yourself, what’s my time actually worth? If you’re gaining real satisfaction from doing it (as I do by making bread vs. buying it), continue; if you’re only doing it to be cheap and the idea of not doing it fills you with a slurry of anxiety and self-hatred, try treating yourself (gradually at first) by outsourcing that labor and see if it eases the pain.
Either way, when money, or lack thereof, stands between you and a nutritious meal, you have three options (aside from “make more money) with some helpful mnemonics thrown in:
The A rule - Package leftovers after dinner, load up in the A.M. Make 33% more for dinner than you need and immediately throw them in a container for tomorrow. In the morning, apportion enough time to either throw together or prepare your lunch; those Gawker links can wait, just read them at your desk like usual.
The B rule - Buy bulk and boring. Rice, beans, oats, legumes, all things that need to be customized and enhanced by sauces and seasonings and work for any meal of the day. Buy big plastic containers of pretzel rods or trail mix for your desk, and make them last. Spend now, fewer impulse buys later.
The C rule - Chickpeas. These are cheap to get dried, easy to rehydrate, and can be transformed into any number of healthy options. This one in particular.
But distance, time and money are all elements of the larger force at play, which brings me to:
There are things we know we can’t do. We can’t fight the food industry alone; we can’t fully avoid their supremely effective marketing of addictive food products for the purpose of economic success; we can’t will ourselves to not want poison; we can’t alter our body chemistry from the bottom-up; we can’t grow all of our own food all the time ever; we can’t survive on air; we can’t stop looking at dogs when they’re taking shits on the street (seriously, why is that?)
But we can learn to cook. Anyone who says “i just can’t cook” is basically saying “I just can’t tie my shoes”. Yeah, remember, it was tough at first? That’s how learning works. Anyone who’s no longer in school has likely just forgotten that kicking your own ass works, to varying degrees, no matter what you’re taking on. Sometimes cooking is fun. Sometimes it’s not. It’s always more fun than just sitting there hungry like a lump feeling like a lump.
We can avoid food we thought we could cook but didn’t, and now it’s rotting in the fridge; dry your herbs, freeze your milk and bread, pickle your vegetables, clean your crisper drawer, and for the love of god know your limits; don’t buy a giant bag of squash because you want to be inspired to eat greens, buy a small bag of squash so you won’t end up with half a bag of brown sludge.
We can turn down dinner invitations. We can turn down lunch invitations. Say you’re poor. Tell them your bank balance. Fuck ‘em if they don’t understand; if they offer to spot you and you don’t want to pay them back, don’t accept. It’s the need to appear better off that grows credit card debt like kudzu and gives markets the power to destroy lives. Don’t give in. Be true to yourself, even when that means saying “sorry, can’t, temporarily fucked.”
In the words of my sister, “a lot of the time i am just putting one foot in front of the other and trying to crowd out all the looming anxieties”. We’re never not slaloming from self-care to self-denial, from destructive instinct to constructive planning, but there is hope in food. There is stability in food. There is a creamy center beneath all this flavorless shale. Start fracking.
inanetitter asked: Given how candid this blog, do you not feel that it may be part of the reason that you have received some rejection letters while looking for a new job?
I sincerely doubt that prospective employers devote the tenacity, time, and energy needed to connect my resume to my Tumblr, judge me accordingly, and reject me consequently. But even if they did…
A lot of my advice about entering publishing mentions the word “networking”. For those of you with little to no experience networking, it is NOT a photo meme in which you dress in a trench coat and yell:
Rather, networking is a vital skill one must develop when entering, learning about, flourishing as a result of, and continually surviving within the publishing world. There are a lot of different approaches and resources available to you, so it’s important to have a plan. Here are a few helpful steps for you aspiring publishing folks!
Step 1: Gathering contacts.
This is the easy part. All you need to do is sit your ass at a computer and type. Corral a bunch of Twitter handles to follow and sort them into Twitter lists, as specific (“Macmillan Marketing Contacts”, “Cute Scruffy Agents”) or as general (“White Women”) as you want. Follow as many publishing blogs on various platforms as you can possibly stomach.
WHY DO THIS? Ostensibly to build your knowledge base and conception of opportunities/changes/business climate; definitely so you can better namedrop and mention something super industry-insider-y in conversation which will make you sound cool. (We all do this. Every single one of us.)
VARSITY LEVEL: Go to events, conferences, readings, whatever you can find on the “calendar of events” pages on bookstores/venues websites, and shake hands/introduce yourself and GET BUSINESS CARDS. Keep all this contact info in an excel grid and send inquiries about possible job openings when appropriate. Which leads me to:
Step 2: Talk directly to strangers.
"Hey @somepublishingperson, I really enjoyed #thatbookyouwereinvolvedinpublishing. It made my transatlantic flight without earbuds a total pleasure, somehow!"
"Hey (Some publishing person who you clearly didn’t just pick out of a hat), I’m looking for (relatively specific department) jobs in publishing; I would really appreciate it if you’d keep me in mind, and I’d love to send my resume your way if that’s all right."
"Hey (friend of a friend who works in publishing), I’m a friend of (mutual friend) and s/he was kind enough to send me your contact info. If you’re interested I’d love to buy you a coffee and pick your brain about publishing jobs!"
"Hey (person who doesn’t know you), you don’t know me but I’ve been checking your work out on (platform) and it’s pretty fucking awesome. Thanks for the good reading. Would you mind if I asked you a few questions on how you became (specific position this person has at their company)?"
Any humorless tweets in response to a stranger’s general observation.
Any attempt to communicate which implies too much familiarity with a stranger.
Anything that smacks of entitlement (note: this is different than confidence and if you have to ask, this is confidence:
And this is entitlement:
Anything that smacks of cut-and-paste-ism.
Anything that misstates their job title.
Publishing people understand awkwardness, insecurity, frustration, fear, and the overwhelming need to be liked the way astronauts understand fears of heights and flying. But they also had to overcome certain aspects of these qualities to get where they are, which doesn’t make them perfect, but it does make them finely attuned to people who aren’t trying to do the same, and they often have a hive mind that senses and rejects people based on their boring-to-snarky ratio.
Which is to say that if you’re constantly trying to directly ingratiate yourself to publishing people and all you’re getting is this:
Maybe, just maybe, it’s you.
VARSITY LEVEL: Form long-lasting friendships and/or romantic/sexual bonds with publishing people that are mutually beneficial and satisfying and based on respect and compassion. Offer to help them move. If you do this, we will totally pass on your resume and talk you up, qualifications be damned.
Step 3: Never stop, unless you decide publishing is awful and you want nothing to do with it.
Networking is a lot of not-fun sometimes. The obliviousness, constant self-selling, relentlessness, data-wrangling grind of it would already be a total slog even if you aren’t also apportioning your energies elsewhere (school, a job, significant other(s), creative pursuits). But it’s a numbers game; the more you reach out and connect, the more your chances of happening on that one weird connection which you’ll inevitably be telling your new coworkers about when you go out to happy hour together for the first time.
Refine your technique, try new avenues for contacts/info/advice, and keep emotionally limber. Networking is not a tunnel you dig to the surface; it’s a boat that you build in your garage. The hard part is the ocean, not the land.
VARSITY LEVEL: Give up networking, raise some seed capital, and gain a controlling stake in all the coffee shops and delis near the major publishing houses. Every knee shall bow to you.