I’m in a mood today. Actually, I’ve been in a mood for a few days, and felt the need to rant about the things people say that annoy and/or piss me off, because I am the type of person that lets this stuff build up for months on end before I get pissed off enough to say anything about it. So if you’re looking for warm fuzzies today, I do not have them.
These are not of any particular category, other than the “things I lay awake at night getting pissed off about” category.
-”Oh, you’re an artist?/Are you still painting and drawing?/Do you do (landscapes/portraits/dog butts)? You should paint/draw _______, that would be beautiful!”
No. I shouldn’t. Let me tell you why: I don’t want to, or I would have already done it. Or I already have plans to and haven’t gotten around to it. Regardless, it isn’t up to you to tell me what I should or shouldn’t be creating, unless I’m taking a class from you or you’re paying me. If you give me money, I will happily paint/draw/crayon whatever you like, but until then, you don’t get an opinion on what I as an artist choose to create — or not create. For some reason, the main suggestion people make is usually some kind of landscape, and I don’t really understand this. I don’t know why people seem to think that any landscape I paint is going to be more beautiful than what they can actually see with their own eyes. Or why they think a landscape deserves to be painted, for that matter. Yes, it’s beautiful; that doesn’t mean it needs to be on canvas. Take a photo. Because chances are if I were to paint it, it would probably be in funky colors and there would be something “off” about it that makes you uncomfortable, anyway.
-”How did you do that (painting/drawing/dog butt sculpture)?”
I can’t tell you. It’s not a trade secret or anything, I just literally could not tell you, even if I tried. Artwork (for me) does not involve a recipe or an instruction manual. I piddle around for a a little bit, take a step back and look, piddle around some more, rinse, and repeat. I eyeball and I guess and I experiment and practically none of this involves thinking about explaining how I do it, I just do it. You are not a scientist (probably) and can’t explain the exact chemistry behind why your cake rises, and I am not teacher and cannot explain the method behind my madness, because there isn’t any, and what there is has become so second nature that I don’t realize it’s method anymore. (If, incidentally, you can explain the chemistry behind batter expansion, insert your own analogy and stop being a pedant.)
-”How did you get the idea to do that?”
I went out to my inspiration garden and picked an idea flower. I don’t know, it just happens. My mind flies frantically around in endless circles most of the time and occasionally it lands on something worth putting on a canvas or paper or computer screen. If I knew the secret behind where ideas come from, trust me, I’d tell you, and then maybe people would quit bugging artists about where they get their ideas and artists would quit feeling compelled to come up with detailed explanations that they probably thought up after the fact specifically because they knew that they would be asked that question.
-”I wish I had your talent. I’ve never been very crafty.”
This is a two-parter. Firstly, do you not understand what an awkward statement this is for me? People have been saying this to me for most of my life and I still have no idea how to respond. I can’t give you what I can do, and I can’t teach you, so what do you want from me? I understand that this is supposed to be a compliment (somehow), so is this a situation where I’m supposed to say, “Thank you?” I feel like that’s probably not it. It’s also a little presumptuous. I don’t have very much raw talent. I’ve been drawing and painting for most of my life and threw entirely too much money at schooling for it. You can tell because the stuff that I do right now, out of practice, is hardly up to par with the work I did during college when I was doing it all the time. If you picked up a pencil at three years old and never put it down except to graduate to paintbrushes, and then went on to burn an extortionate amount of midnight oil in studios that reeked of turpentine and linseed oil, and still can’t manage much more than a stick figure, then you can be wistful about my “talent.” Otherwise you’re discrediting the 25 years or so of practice I’ve had at it.
Secondly, I understand you’re a victim of a society where “art” is indelibly linked to “craft,” but stop. Just stop there. I’m not going to go into definitions here because they can get a little muddy, so let’s just boil it down to this: Leatherworking, woodworking, things you make with paper and glue and string, those are crafts, though they can be artistic and in some cases can very well be art. Painting, drawing, sculpture, etc., those are arts and are not always art (and we are definitely not getting into that discussion, as there are whole college courses dedicated to that one). My painting is not a craft, although painting may be my craft.
Just don’t tell a painter they’re crafty, okay? Use the word “artistic.” It’s safer.
-”Do you want kids?”/”When are you going to have kids?”
The only person who is not related to me who can get away with this question with zero offense taken is my best friend, and she does not ask because she knows the answer because I willingly discussed it with her without her having to ask. It is a complicated one, as a person might guess by the fact that I am 28 and do not have any children. At this point, it’s a pretty safe bet that either I don’t want them or I don’t want to talk about it, and it’s an incredibly nosey question to ask, anyway. You’d have to be living under a rock at this point in history to not be aware that a lot of people exist in the world to whom the having of children is a sensitive topic, so it would behoove everyone to stop being so damn inquisitive about it, especially if this is the first time I’ve ever even had a conversation with you. “What church do you go to?” “How long have you lived here?” “Are you married?” “Do you work?” Even “Do you have kids?” These are all acceptable conversation topics for someone you don’t know all that well. “Do you want kids?” is not. Worry about your own uterus, mine is my business.
-”You’re so brave to marry into the military! I could never do that.”
Okay, first of all, I did not “marry into the military.” My husband and I had been married for three years when he joined, and it was a decision that he made sure I was okay with before he ever stepped foot into a recruiter’s office. Even if I hadn’t been okay with it, I never would have tried to keep him from doing it, because I love him and want his happiness above all else, and also because my job at Long John Silver’s — which I was definitely not interested in making into a career — kind of paled in comparison to a career in the military. There was nothing brave on my part about him enlisting; quite the contrary, it was a lifeline that saved us from a paycheck to paycheck lifestyle where we had to decide between paying the electric bill this month or getting groceries.
-”I could never stay at home and not work. I’d feel so useless, like I’m not contributing. I like to contribute to my household.”
Do you even understand what you’re saying to me when you voice this opinion? Me, the stay at home wife*, who doesn’t have a job or draw a paycheck? Think about the words that are about to come out of your mouth before you say them, and you’ll keep a lot more friends. You wouldn’t tell a vet that you couldn’t do their job because you’re not heartless enough to be able to euthanize an animal, so don’t tell a stay at home wife that you couldn’t live her life because you’re not lazy enough.
*I actually did go out this month and get a job, with the intention of gaining ground a little more quickly on the paying of debts. I worked for two and a half weeks before I put in my notice, and my last day of work is August third. I love everything about being a homemaker and missed it dearly. The only thing that would make it better would be if I could actually talk someone into giving me a paycheck for it.
-”My (really old relative or friend or acquaintance) smoked for 20/30/40/150,000 years and quit cold turkey. If they can do it, anyone can.”
I hate any statement that ends with, “If ____ can do it, anyone can.” Because it is categorically untrue about everything. I don’t care if your 97 year old aunt with leukemia who has been on radiation treatments for a year and a half just finished a marathon, there is a 20 year old out there somewhere who wouldn’t be able to do it. You’re insulting the person who has legitimate reasons for not being able to do whatever by telling them they just don’t have enough willpower or spunk or dedication to do it. Smoking, specifically, is a very personal thing, and believe it or not, not everyone can just put them down and quit. Everyone’s level of addiction is different and everyone’s level of tolerance for withdrawals is different. Also, if you’re not a smoker, there is basically no reason to have a conversation about quitting with a smoker unless they initiate it. There is almost always absolutely nothing you can tell them that they don’t already know, and nothing you say is going to convince them to stop until they are personally ready to do it. Most smokers have had people telling them their entire lives how bad smoking is — what makes you think that you’re so super special that you’re going to be the one person who has enough power to convince them to quit? You’re not. I don’t care if it’s your spouse or your parents or your kid, or how close you are to them, they will not quit until they are ready and likely the only thing that trying to convince them otherwise is going to do is piss them off.
This is why I hide in my house 90% of the time.