A few days ago Beyonce and Jay-Z had a baby. Although the media might have reported otherwise, obsessed as they are this week with the word “Tebow” which (loosely) translated can either mean, “Tight pants, cute butt” or “Pointing at the sky makes God love you,” that isn’t what they named her. They named her Blue, a name of which I’m loath to make fun, having named my 2001 Jetta the same thing once on a long drive to San Francisco.
Jay-Z, because he is Jay-Z immediately released a single about the birth of his child. And Jay-Z, because he is Jay-Z, it turns out, wrote a really nice song. I mean, I tend to get embarrassed when people become overly sentimental in public, and this song doesn’t do that. (That’s my general if unsophisticated litmus test.) Here it is.
Lyrically it’s R-rated, peppered as it is with profanity and “adult themes.” But that isn’t why the kid shouldn’t hear it until after college. I mean, isn’t it hard enough when your parents are just normal, everyday, hard working folks? What kind of expectation is already on you just for waking up in the morning with the last name “Z-yonce?” And now, on top of it, there’s your gushing dad telling the world with some certainty that not only are you his baby, but you will be a “younger, faster, smarter” him?
Okay, young, she’s got. Nailed it, in fact. I have no idea how fast Jay-Z is since I googled his miles per minute and got some song lyrics about a violent gang attack that while disturbing, neither helps me, nor the future adult-Blue. So maybe she can win that one too. But Jay-Z is smart. I mean, I think he’s smart. He’s a really good rhymer and he owns one of the largest hip-hop/rap corporations in the world, so I’m figuring he isn’t an “I can spell t-o-m-a-t-o-e” kind of guy (again, another litmus test).
But how can we avoid being measured by our gene pool? After all, we’re measured by everything from our car to our breakfast selection (Scandinavia, I’m mostly talking to you). My father was a physician in his life – kind of like becoming a rock star for Jewish people. My mother was an early childhood educator. My sister and I were afforded liberal arts educations thanks to our parents, but came out, more or less confused. What were we?
Undergrad doesn’t give you a job title. Apprenticeships, professional degrees and joining the mafia do. Most of the people I know (myself in included) fell into unplanned careers, and even now as we sit perched behind some desk or other, we aren’t sure what we’re doing here, if we want to stay, and if we want to stay, how to do so.
I have been a professional writer for a few years now. If people need proof I can direct them to books, websites, and many other places where I repeat that I am a writer in public making it seem more real and less pathetic to all of us. However, on a daily basis I wonder how one sustains it.
After my first book was published, The Good Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin (Plug. Check.) I probably should have hung out my “Relationship Expert” sign. I could have become a girl who helps people write their dating profiles. I could have counseled wayward couples. I could have gotten invited to weddings and been toasted during the thank you speeches.
But then I sold a second book and it was a humor book. Suddenly I found myself unable to name myself “Relationship Expert.” Maybe I was a humorist. Maybe I was like a taller, less squeaky version of all of those NPR writers who get to be on the Brian Lehrer show and talk about politics and say funny things about binge eating.
However, by then, I was a writing a business book and you can see the conflict of interest inherent in a career that makes fun of everything and one that monetizes everything. So, again, I remained non-committal.
When pressed I would proclaim, “I’m a Writer. You know how Meryl Streep can play a feisty American editor or a crazy British politician? You wouldn’t pigeon hole that lady into always playing the ingenue. Well, I’m like that except on paper. Except…you know, minus a fan base, critical reception or like…general reception.”
Then one day I was offered two weeks, seven dollars and a Fun Pass to write The Stoned Family Robinson. All of the sudden I was writing fiction. My dream job! That’s who I was, a Fiction Writer! A Fiction Writer never has to commit to anything as long as they can get on Oprah! Just call me Jane Austin! Dostoyevsky, anyone?
But when the book came out, rather than getting the coveted National Book Award, an interview with Terry Gross or even a must-read mention in People Magazine, I got a blurb in High Times and a blog on Celebstoner. I became a pot expert. An expert in pot. A coveted position to be sure, but again, not one I was certain I knew how to represent.
There is a difference between naming yourself an expert and being named one. In my case, I was nudged but never flung face first into any title. Therefore, those last steps, choosing to call myself a pot expert, a relationship guru or a marketing genius, well, other than dressed in scathing sarcasm, I just didn’t have the confidence or gene pool to back it up.
I am still searching for my title. Baby Z-yonce is going to have it just as tough if not tougher. But with every breath, every song, every book, I suppose we’re getting closer, she and I – and in the meantime, if we’re lucky, enjoying the ride.