Should I Be a Poorly Paid Writer or a Better-Paid Publicist?

The Concessionist gives advice each weekend about the sordid choices of real life. Trouble? Write today.

Dear Concessionist,

Is there a future in writing? Or in publishing at all? I’m in my early 30s, and find myself kind of unexpectedly at a career/life crossroads. For the past many years, I’ve been more or less happily living some milquetoast version of a professional double life. My main employment has been in communications: publicity, branding, social media, blah blah. It’s not at all terrible work, but it sure can be! The people can be fun and interesting, and you definitely get a kind of thrill from it. Plus the parties are usually pretty good.

At the same time, I’ve also done some writing for a variety of publications. It’s, like, what? A hobby? A creative outlet? Something interesting I do to keep myself sane? A kind of internet cosplay? I honestly don’t know. I have gotten an offer or two to blog on staff for some publications, but they were entry-level jobs with entry level salaries. The kind of thing I’d talk about with my friends, and say, “If I were 25, I would take that job in a SECOND. But now…” Because I’m a bit older, and making a pretty small amount of money just so I can satisfy my ego by being able to say “I’m a writer” at dinner parties seemed selfish and short-sighted. (Plus does that even impress people at dinner parties anymore, or do they look at you like you’re insane and poor?)

Now, however, I’m out of work, and have a few job offers. Some are working as a writer, and some are working as a publicist. The publicity jobs, again, pay at least $20,000 more. Normally, I’d be able to sigh and take the higher paying job—sacrificing my ego to—what? Well, ideas of responsibility, plans for my future, and honestly my own desire to make more money and live the lifestyle and have the self-esteem that go along with that. Somehow, though, this time, I’m having a lot of trouble. It seems like, you know, since I have an actual real offer for a not-insanely low salary to work in publishing, and passing it up is like 100% firmly acknowledging forever that I was always playing at writing, that I wasn’t really dedicated, that I’m a fraud, and that really I’ve been a soulless corporate drone my whole life. I mean, I’ve basically never cared about or been proud of anything I’ve ever done in communications, other than maybe my paycheck. There’s the satisfaction that comes from working out a knotty problem, or winning some kind of bureaucratic battle with my bosses, but nothing that I’d like want to (or be able to!) show my friends or family, or look back on with any kind of satisfaction.

I Gave My Cat to a Robot

good news, i’m officially the kind of guy who buys his cat a robot

— Rob Dubbin (@robdubbin) November 13, 2014

Rob! So what happened here?

Like anyone afflicted with toxoplasmosis, I care about my cat. His name is Fernando. We share a one-bedroom place, and I felt like he was getting bored with his small arsenal of feather wands and self-articulating lasers. He used to do these huge, four-foot X-Games backflips going after the feather thing, but those kind of stopped once he realized climbing up a chair would give him most of the benefits of jumping.

He was getting a little lazy, and I wanted to get him back some edge, you know? Fernando was a rescue but not like a mean-streets rescue; someone had left him and his littermates in the basement of a nice Upper East Side building before calling the Upper East Side of animal shelters. It wouldn’t shock me to learn they’d nursed him on tiny bottles of almond-butter smoothie, like the protagonist of a children’s book sold exclusively at Barneys.

Why You Should Always Lock Your Car Doors in San Francisco

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, writer Roberto Baldwin tells us more about living in a state of Uber confusion—which is to say, California.

Pulled over to text wife. Someone got in my car thinking it was an uber. Le sigh

— Roberto Baldwin (@strngwys) January 3, 2015

Roberto! So what happened here?

At some point every car in San Francisco will be an Uber and every citizen, a driver, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when a random stranger walked up to my car, opened the passenger door, and started to take a seat. Actually, it’s really my fault. I pulled over to respond to a text from my wife a few yards from the famous-for-charging-too-much-for-toast coffee shop, The Mill. If you’re a car near The Mill, you’re probably picking up or dropping off a very important startup founder or VC. 

Still it was a bit surprising when a gentleman who was on the phone started to get into my car. Before he actually took a seat, he peered into the vehicle and I asked, “Can I help you?” His response, “Oh shit!” He then quickly closed the door and ran off. I mean ran in the literal sense. He actually ran away from the car. 

All the Exposed Men’s Ankles in the February “GQ,” in Order

Thoughts Likely to Pop Into Your Head While Meditating at Davos

1. Fascinating conversation with Wim Drexler about how helicopters work. Terrific guy. Princeton.

2. Is my wife’s hair actually blonde?

3. I can’t tell if I really give a fuck about Greece or it’s just been going on so long I have convinced myself. Wait. If my wife’s hair isn’t actually blonde, is that less hot, or more hot?

4. Is it bad that during the Global Financial Council on the Global Financial System I kept thinking about how many we could just get rid of Cyprus?

I Was an Amazon Chew Toy

I moved to Seattle five years ago, after being laid off from my job in New York at one of those startups where employees rally around the VC-fueled dream until they’re dumped via email and locked out of the office. A job at a larger, more established company like Amazon sounded good. Solid. For my second round of job interviews, I had been called in for meetings at the department’s temporary office in the Columbia Center tower. In a city where executives wear faded jeans and backpacks to work, the Columbia Center is Seattle’s lone totem to conspicuous consumption: seventy-six floors that hover over downtown’s more modest skyscrapers by a good two to three hundred feet, and are wrapped in reflective black glass.

Amazon prides itself on a rigorous hiring process. For a low-level merchandising job in Amazon’s books department, after passing two phone screens that included a logic puzzle—“How many floors are there in the Columbia Center? No, don’t look it up! Pretend there is no Internet”—I was called in for five back-to-back interviews that lasted from morning through lunch. During a break between interviews, the human resources recruiter, Ashley Jones1, came in to tell me more about the company’s benefits. There is something about the fastidious personal grooming of HR recruiters that makes one feel dumpy; gazing at me behind thick, mascara-coated eyelashes that boasted immaculate lash separation, she talked 401(k)s and stock options while I stared longingly at her frizz-less locks. “And when we move to our new offices, you can bring your dog to work,” she said.

(Sugar) Baby’s First Date

On a recent Wednesday, my friend Annie1 went on her first date with a man she met through SeekingArrangement.com, the self-proclaimed “leading Sugar Daddy dating site.” Annie, a “Sugar Baby,” has been looking for what the site calls a “mutually beneficial relationship.” In exchange for companionship, the perks for Sugar Babies can include “financial stability,” “experienced men,” and being “pampered.” A day after her date with a Sugar Daddy, she told me about her experience.

James2 was one of the first people I talked to on SeekingArrangement. There are a lot of guys who just trawl the site for the second there’s a new profile to instantly favorite and message; that makes you feel adored, because you’ve literally just made an account, and then you feel like, “Oh my god! I’m so popular already!” But James just looked at my profile and didn’t do anything. I checked his profile and thought it was funny, so I was offended that he hadn’t said anything to me. So, I messaged him; I very much pursued him because I was pissed that he wasn’t paying attention to me. His original messages were pretty removed and not the most authentic seeming, so I just kept chatting him and trying to tease it out. Then it became this thing where he was clearly being much more authentic than I was, or, at least, appearing to be.

We talked for a solid month, at least, maybe a tiny bit longer. The original plan was to meet for drinks on Monday, go shopping, eat a nice dinner, and then probably get drinks at the bar of the hotel where he was staying. He messaged me to try to meet at an exceedingly fancy restaurant on Tuesday night, which I wish I could have done, except he ended up having a meeting with a celebrity. So, we just got drinks at around eleven on Wednesday, at the hotel bar, which was very chill and swanky. I walked into the lobby, where we had agreed to meet. I didn’t see him, and I was definitely the youngest person there. All of a sudden he appeared and was just like, “So, you’re here!” He was dressed really nicely, in a button-down shirt underneath a blazer, slacks and horn-rimmed glasses. He was very, very metrosexual, which surprised me because I’d imagined him as this pretty manly, kind of goofy dude. He was gentlemanly and pulled out my chair when we sat down at the bar.

I tried very hard to make sure we sat close, but also to make sure that ours knees wouldn’t touch—I didn’t want to do anything even remotely intimate, because at that point I had no idea how I felt about the entire situation. James kept complimenting me and telling me how glad he is that we could meet up because I’m always out doing something or meeting someone and how charming he thinks it is that I’m so social. The weirdest thing about it was how it was just like, pretty normal in terms of what we talked about. We talked about movies, art museums, the housing market, and his job. It came up that his real name wasn’t James, it’s Alan3. (I found out his last name as well, because he said it when he set up the tab at the bar, and it turns out that he’s totally Googleable: He’s really what he says he is on his profile and teaches at an Ivy League university.)

Remedial Bicycling

When a Door-to-Door Vacuum Salesman Has an Existential Crisis in Your Living Room

People drop things on the Internet and run all the time. So we have to ask. In this edition, writer Ijeoma Oluo tells us more about what happens when you let a stranger with a vacuum into your home.

No matter how much the Kirby dude compliments your hair, don't let him in. I'm like 5 years older than I was when he knocked on my door.

— Ijeoma Oluo (@IjeomaOluo) January 3, 2015

Ijeoma! So what happened here?

Many people believe the dreaded Kirby salesman to be a relic of the past—middle-aged men with bowler hats and worn suitcases, staying at cheap motels and lamenting failing marriages. But today’s door-to-door salesman looks a bit different. I have had experience with Kirby Salesmen before; my cousin had done a short stint after he got out of jail. The salesman who knocked on my door around 5:30 p.m. had the same desperate, slightly meth-y look to him. I knew that I needed to find a way out of this.

“Nope. No, sorry,” I said as I tried to shut the door. But before I could, another salesman, apparently the boss, appeared like magic. Horrible, dark magic.

“Oh wow, you have the best hair I’ve ever seen,” he said. “It’s absolutely amazing.” There must be some sort of training manual that says if you run across a black woman, compliment her hair. Ugh, I’m such a sucker.

I let them in with the promise that there was absolutely no way I would buy a vacuum.