I Sold Emotional Labor and Here’s What I Learned

“Hello Patrons! (Patronis? Patronites? Pantaloons? Yeah okay it’s Pantaloons)

I am an angry feminist. I know. Shocker. I’m sure you all dropped whatever you were holding and it was probably heavy and it landed on your foot and then broke so now you have a broken foot and a broken whatever-you-were-holding and it’s sad all the way around. But at any rate I’m glad you heard it from me and not some other source.

So a couple of months ago I started selling emotional labor? Why? Well as a feminist and a woman who has met…men, it’s been my job for a while. Since my days of yore including with my emotionally unwell father on up, I’ve been holding the hands of strangers, church members, and drunk men at parties for a long time. I have a PhD in cleaning emotional sputum off of whatever outfit I have on. Emotional labor has been a bit of a hot button topic in the news lately because women are invoicing it as labor. We’re defining it as the work that it is. In the dismantling of traditional gender roles, men are now being held accountable for all the invisible hours women work to sustain the people in their lives. In the spirit of that notion, I started advertising on craigslist, and on fiverr, and in a couple facebook groups.”

My Cat Needs Dental Work or How the Author Turned Into Marie Antoinette

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Hi Peeps,

So I’m sure many of you have seen the gorgeous and lovely feline I get to call my soulmate. For those who haven’t somehow seen her (which is amazing because I have been waaaaay less than subtle about our relationship) this is my amazing cat, Zelda.

This is going to get more personal than I generally get because I feel incredibly guilty about this request and so I want to provide context. A year and a half ago my beloved cat, Fred Astaire, had to be put down. He was a tuxedo cat (see? the name is adorable right?) and he was a cantankerous old man who I was madly in love with. Now I am an adult lady who gets how pets work. There is no farm where dogs and grandpa’s go. I get it. And Fred was 15 and I got to spend 5 amazing years with him as my partner in crime. He moved to New Hampshire with me and got me through a really important break up (granted he mostly extorted pets out the situation but ya know, cats right?) and then spent 5 days in a car with me in January as I blazed my trail to the Bay Area and got to discover myself in a whole new way. He spent 15 hours a day in that cat carrier. I will say that on day three he was about ready to start shopping for new families but he forgave me once we came to Oakland. He helped me through my first year here and he was just an amazing cat.

I started my writing career in a really palpable way here, making amazing friends, working a day job I liked and provided health insurance, and putting myself and my writing out into the world with new perspectives and exposure.

In January of 2015 he got sick. Not running nose sick. But the sort of sick where you know the end is nigh but because I was just a person, and just a 24 year old madly in love, this was brutal for me. I took him to the vet where she basically yelled at me to put him down (shout out to the vet tech for being extra nice to me). I had 5% battery on my cell phone and I called my mother, and then my sister, and then my best friend Nathan, open mouth crying. It’s not that I wanted him to keep living, but I felt like such a failure that he was dying. In the end, my mother was generous enough to give me the money to put Fred down. I had to ask my mother for money to kill my cat.

I held him as he went and then I walked back to my car, sobbing, holding an empty cat carrier.

It was a fucking Tom Waits song.

Probably THIS Tom Waits song.

I went home and then promptly had a 3 month long flea infestation that I called The Ghost of Fred Astaire. My lungs are ruined from the poison I have inhaled.

I wrote a piece about it on my blog about carrying his antihistamines in my purse.

I planned on waiting 6 months before getting a cat and it worked out like that. I put out into the ether (facebook) that my womb ached for a feline.

Enter Zelda.

Or Zaza as she was known then. A friend of a friend had a cat she was trying to rehome. I was sent two pictures of the most beautiful cat I had ever seen (sorry Fred) and told that she was friendly and sweet. Sight unseen I said I wanted her.

Zelda came into my life in August the Monday before I was laid off from my non-profit job. Depending on your appraisal of the glass she either came just when I needed her or brought upon me a plague of terror. But when I was hunched over my computer spamming my friends and network with my resume, she was there. When I worried my friends were avoiding me because of my stench of failure, she sniffed me anyway. Her paws on my left arm as I sent out cover letters, letting me know that I could do this…but I had to figure out how to do it with just the one arm. Cats, right? For reference she is currently tickling my nose with her tail.

I named her Zelda after Zelda Fitzgerald because I wanted Zelda Fitzgerald to finally have a home that loved her and where she would be cherished and not die in an asylum fire.

This is the part where I probably qualify for a public stoning and I’m sorry.

Zelda was there to snuggle me and require that I play with her and keep me relatively functional. I had to keep it together because my cat needed food and a place to live. I’m an adult woman with ADHD and before I was laid off my medicine stopped being covered by my insurance. Before I could switch my health insurance was cut off and I had to try to apply and interview without meds. Operating without medication meant that I was in a constant state of panic. Trying to keep track of everything and knowing there was probably something I was forgetting and worrying it would make or break my ability to be hired or pay bills. I felt, and in many ways still feel, that when my illness is untreated that I am not succeeding as an adult. That I don’t have the tools and abilities to function. Sure, you can hold my face in your hands and insist that disorders and disabilities shouldn’t chip away the meager identity that I have around being a successful adult but it’s not going to work. I fought too hard to get here and I worry every second of every day about blowing it. Living without medication just reinforces that. I realize that is, in many ways, privileged because I have been lucky enough to have a supportive family and grow up with insurance and regular treatment. I hadn’t been without drugs in years and I had forgotten how severe my disorder is. It’s pretty bad. And so I was constantly worried I would, through neglect or stress, completely forget something that would get me evicted, keep me unemployed, or not be able to provide for myself. Getting my dishes done was a victory most of the time. In anxious frenzies I would send out 10 resumes in a day. I would worry that I hadn’t done the math right about food or forgotten about a bill that would overdraw my finances.

In the middle of that my car needed new brakes and spark plugs.

It probably still needs more work but I’m doing that thing where I’m just pretending it’s fine and hoping that’s good enough.

Zelda, having had many owners, treats every person who enters this apartment like a job interview and so she’s super social. HELLOOOOOO WELCOME TO OUR HOME! She has been spoiled and loved by all of my friends who have also been having a shit 15 months. We all got drunk at my place and pet Zelda because she loved us despite all the ways in which we felt like we hadn’t succeeded. She was always there with a belly to rub. This cat sleeps with my every night and is always happy to see me and sometimes, when I don’t love myself, she’s there to say “in addition to feeling like a loser you are not doing a good job petting me so it’s time to get our act together.” Which I think we all need to hear sometimes.

In July, after a long time of unemployment, temping, freelancing, and trying to piecemeal a life without health insurance together, I got a day job again. It’s going really well, despite me worrying that every single meeting I get called into will result in me being fired. I have health insurance again. I got to buy meds again for the first time in months. In fact, I feel incredibly luxurious because I can now afford the copay so that I can take my medicine on the weekends. That, to me, is a lavish life. I make enough money to afford my rent, student loan payments, and gas bill while still saving roughly $50 dollars a month. It’s actually really amazing and I am so incredibly happy and grateful.

My darling Zelda, apple of my eye, warmer of my face while I sleep, distracter from constructive work needs dental work. My vet originally quoted me a baseline of 600 dollars but warned me it would be more because of course. For that she could probably get dentures. I went to the low cost tooth cleaning people and they informed me that her gum recession and inflammation needs veterinary care. That was not what I was hoping for.

Now comes the part where I plead. My vet doesn’t really have payment plans and I have asked around at vets farther away for better prices and it’s all about the same. Even vet colleges. I’ve been warned it’s only going to get worse and now is the time to deal with it.  Since I’m in the middle of paying back debt that I had to accrue while I was unemployed and moving out here, I don’t really have much to throw towards Zelda’s mouth health and I’m having terrible dead cat flashbacks. Having a flashback of walking out of the vets office holding the cat carrier and sobbing is like having two Tom Waits songs play at the same time. This one and this one. That sound you are experiencing is my feelings. Dear God, turn it off.

So here’s what I’m asking you all, if you aren’t my regular patron where you help with my writing, that’s fine. But if you have been meaning to become a monthly member, now would be an amazing time to do it. Also if you don’t really have a bunch of money to toss around every month (I get that. Free content got me through almost a year of unemployment where I was constantly trying to find work and failing) but could make a one time donation, Zelda would really appreciate it. I didn’t want to have to knock her out (for a multitude of reasons) but she’s exhibiting symptoms of it impacting her and I want my cat to live 15 years at least before I become a grizzled, whiskey voiced piano player singing about her loss.

Anything would be really helpful and I honestly hate doing this. I do understand it’s a really ridiculous thing to ask for funds to help a cat’s teeth when we live in America which means just 2 months ago I could not afford Obamacare. Trust me. Guilt level unlocked and large house built there. But if you enjoy Zelda and if you had some cash to throw at her teeth, I would really appreciate it.

 

Hugs and Purrs,

Lauren Parker

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