Over the past three years, more and more people have gone independent, or freelance, but many…if not most…people in the arts have worked independently for a large part of their careers. In celebration of Artist Cafe Utica’s return to freelance/independent writing services, here are a few reminders for those outside the arts, who are looking to hire an independent writer or other artist.
Provide them with enough details of the work you want them to do.
Writers need to know what type of piece you need written, when you need it, and if there is anything they should be sure to mention or avoid mentioning. If you commission a painting, the artist needs to know if subject, color, size, materials, or style matters to you. Musicians need dates, times, proper names and current locations of venues. Of course these are all common sense details. Just don’t forget to include them in your messaging to the person. You may think “everybody” knows you sold your place on A street and bought that new place on “Y” street, or that your office is decorated with paintings of upstate New York, but the person you’re talking to may not have heard.
Respond to follow-up texts, calls, and emails seeking more information graciously. The artist is not trying to bother you, they are trying to make sure they have enough information to provide you with the item or content they have agreed to create for you.
Respect terms presented on their professional website or stated when they agree to the work.
An independent artist is in business for themselves. They may be an individual, but their career is their business. Treat it as such. If you were to hire someone to do repairs on your house or car, and their webpage or their paperwork included terms of service, you would honor those or go elsewhere. If you use the services of someone who has signed up to sell Avon or Arbonne, or you ride with Uber or order your dinner from DoorDash, you abide by the terms of that service when it comes to prices, returns, coupons, and free gifts. An artist’s terms of service should be treated the same way.
Don’t just assume they’re going to work for free because they love what they do.
An artist who wants to work for you for free will let you know. They’ll offer you free work, or post it on their website or social media that they’re doing something for free. If they have a price listed, or you talk to them and agree on a price, pay that price. You wouldn’t tell an independent sales person that you won’t be paying for the products you ordered because they use them and love them too. You wouldn’t refuse to pay a math or science tutor because the person’s main job has been teaching junior high math for thirty years and they clearly love their work.
Pay for what you order
If you ordered standard work, something the artist would do in a normal course of work day or week, you only need to pay the stated or agreed upon fee for the service or item.
When the artist has to put out money they would not have otherwise spent to provide the work, you need to reimburse them for that expense, or provide a way for them to access whatever you need free of charge. If you ask them to review a film that is only available on a paid streaming service or in movie theaters, they need your login details or you need to buy them a ticket to the movie. If you ask for a review of services at a new spa in town, you and the writer need to agree to the services you want reviewed, and you have to pay for them to have those services. These are not gifts or bonuses. These are your business expenses for the project you want done.
This only applies to expenses that are absolutely necessary in order for the artist to complete your project. If you order an article about a coffeehouse for your food blog, including a review of the coffee, you would have to pay for my coffee. If you ask me to interview the owner and write about the history of the place and I just want a coffee when I get there, you do not have to pay for that.
Keep communication professional
There is no need to send a formal business letter to a musician you’ve known as a friend for years. You can probably just ask them if they can perform in normal conversations, unless they ask for written confirmation for their business records. A meeting is probably not necessary if you want a writer to produce some evergreen content for your webpage that can be described via email.
This does not mean anything goes when messaging the person’s professional page. An artist’s professional page is not the place to hit on them, send them unsolicited personal advice, or spam them with constant requests to do things that have nothing to do with their art.
This extends to in-person communication and the event or other work time as well. When an artist shows up to a venue to find the manager too drunk to communicate with them, gets verbal abuse or bullying from someone who has hired them to produce written content, or encounters some other unpleasant personal behavior, they are much less likely to work with that person again, and will probably warn others away as well. It is in your interest to treat artists with respect if you want the arts to continue to be a part of your business.
Support your favorite local artists, whether you can afford to spend money or not
Booking them for paid gigs or readings, buying their albums, books, or paintings, and supporting them via fundraising sites such as Patreon are of course appreciated by local artists. But if you would like to hire someone in the arts but you just cannot afford that right now, support them anyway.
Free activities such as sharing gig announcements, liking webpages and facebook pages and groups, and spreading the word about their work verbally are also big boosts.
Remember that the arts are essential
During the recent quarantine, those who were tempted to brush music, literature, poetry, paintings, photography, sculpting, and other art forms off as just “hobbies” or “people doing what they felt like” or “just for fun” learned how much they depend on the arts to cope with difficult situations, to celebrate happy times, and to impact social justice. Never forget that the arts are an essential part of our lives.
Author's note: Anyone who takes a copy of this article for their professional webpage has my permission to add the name of their band, studio, or their own name, and an invitation to contact them to arrange a gig or other work to the end of the article. Please feel free to add a sentence, or a paragraph or two along the lines of "Band A, a local classic rock band, is back on the road and available..." or "To gain your own skills in painting, sign up for lessons at studio B..."
S Someone on your facebook feed is disabled or sick. They regularly post about their daily struggles, medical appointments, therapy appointments, and emergencies. In most cases, these situations are genuine. But sometimes, it is all a lie.
The term “Munchausen's Syndrome by Internet” was coined in 2000 by Dr. Marc Feldman, a leading authority in Munchausen’s Syndrome and Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, now called Factitious Disorder and Factitious Disorder by Proxy in medical literature. Munchausen’s Syndrome describes a pattern in which a person induces, creates, exaggerates, deliberately worsens, or lies about having one or more illnesses or disabilities. In Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, the person displays the same behavior, only the illness or disability is created, exaggerated, worsened, or lied about in someone else. Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet occurs when a person uses the internet to perpetuate one of these disorders.
As with the other forms of Factitious disorder, Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet is carried out with the primary goal of controlling others, and/or gaining attention, sympathy, nurturing, or pity. While the person may have a secondary goal of getting money, gifts, or time off from work or school, this will not be their primary motivation. A person who makes themselves or someone else out to be in worse shape than they are with the primary goal of gaining resources or avoiding any type of work is “malingering,” not engaging in Munchausen’s behavior.
Here are just a few of the most common signs of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet.
The condition is “too textbook.”
In any medical condition, the patient has to have a certain number of symptoms of the disability or illness, as judged by a medical professional qualified to make the diagnosis, in order to be diagnosed with something. The specifics, including the specific number and pattern of symptoms, will vary according to the condition. However, almost no medical problem requires absolutely every, or even most, of the possible symptoms or signs for a diagnosis.
Those using the internet to exaggerate or falsify a condition often claim too many symptoms. They seem to have everything wrong with them that a person could possibly experience with the disorder or disability they claim. Sometimes, the posts are more realistic, but sound as though they're copied from case studies in a textbook, or are in such a different voice than the person's normal tone, they seem copied from another website or a book.
Posts contain contradictions
Despite their careful attention to faking or exaggerating a condition, Munchausen by Internet perpetrators tend to get caught up in the drama they create and make mistakes. A person who claims they have debilitating allergies and respiratory problems may claim they cannot be around any type of fumes, then post photos of themselves getting a chemical treatment at a salon when urged to “treat yourself.” Or they might make one post about their condition making them unable to eat, then post a photo, but forget to edit the edge of their dinner plate out of the shot.
Claims go to extremes, and often swing from one to the other
People with genuine disabilities and illnesses cope with a wide variety of experiences. Some are dramatic, but many are mundane. They must cope with everyday challenges and issues, that may or may not be interesting to their followers on social media.
In falsified or overblown situations, the perpetrator often behaves as though their condition is made up entirely of extremes. They may repeatedly claim a miraculous healing followed by a life-threatening or dramatic emergency. New, intense symptoms might develop regularly.
Something seems to happen to them anytime something happens to anybody else.
This sign is the easiest to see in online support groups. The Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet perpetrator will often post about an illness or disability related tragedy or a miraculous improvement immediately after anyone else gains attention for something they post. But the person may also post to their personal page anytime anyone on their friends or contact list posts anything that gains attention. Watch for dramatic posts soon after a mutual friend gains attention online, or for the suspected Munchausen’s by Internet perpetrator to comment on a post, and then add something attention-getting to their own page.
The person’s life is full of tragedy of all kinds
Because the person’s primary goal is to gain attention, they are often willing to expand their efforts outside of their alleged illness or disability. Watch out for people whose lives are not only a constant battle against an illness or disability, but a series of serious issues or tragedies.
Friends, family members and other supporters sound suspiciously like the individual in question.
Some Munchausen’s by Internet perpetrators go so far as to create fake accounts. These are designed to make their condition seem more real, and because they know that we tend to follow virtual crowds on social media. Seeing somebody else offer encouragement or sympathy is likely to encourage us to add our comment. One of the most telltale signs of these invented family members, friends, and other supporters is that they sound an awful lot like the person they’re supposedly talking to. They may use the same terms, make similar word choices, or talk about the exact same topics.
Anyone who suspects someone else of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Internet can only look out for themselves and others. Quietly withdraw your attention from the person’s posts or page. Reach out to others privately if they seem to be getting drawn in. Openly challenging or arguing with the suspected perpetrator will only get you cast as the villain in their narrative.
by Jess Szabo'
originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
In a few days, it will be May, Mental Health Month….and it hardly seems we need it anymore. Various mental health issues are discussed openly, written about online, and portrayed in the arts. The rarest and the most common mental health issues are favorite topics, and we especially love to borrow terms from the diagnosis and treatment of those health issues, and use them to mean whatever we want. Here are just a few of the most commonly misused mental health terms.
OCD: “I wanted to just leave the books on the table, but my OCD wouldn’t allow it,” we might say, or “I have OCD about getting the dishes done instead of leaving them in the sink.” Statements like this don’t mean any harm or ill will, they are just inaccurate. What you are describing here is a perfectly normal dislike of clutter or dirty kitchens. “OCD” actually refers to “Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder,” a mental health issue characterized by obsessions, such as fears or urges the person must fight to control, and compulsive behaviors. A person with OCD might indeed be distraught by a discarded pile of books or a sink full of dishes, but it wouldn’t be a simple irritation and urge to clean things up. A person with true OCD would experience deep distress over fears of germs or the urge to arrange things in a certain way.
Depression: Depression is a mental illness characterized by intense feelings of sadness, loss of interest in things the person once enjoyed, fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, physical pains that cannot be explained by another illness, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, loss of appetite or the urge to overeat, and difficulty concentrating. The symptoms last for at least two weeks, and cause a discernible disruption in the person’s life. In common speech, we use “depression” to describe ordinary feelings of sadness, guilt, or fatigue that are actually direct responses to instances that arise in our life.
Triggered/Triggering: The true meaning of the word “trigger” in mental health care is when someone with PTSD experiences something that launches their mind into a flashback of the traumatic event they experienced. If someone has PTSD from being attacked in a parking garage, and their mind causes them to relive the trauma every time they enter a structure similar to a parking garage, that is a “trigger” for the person. In contemporary popular speech, people use “triggered/triggering/trigger” to refer to absolutely anything that bothers them in any way. We say we’re “triggered” if something irritates, angers, saddens, sickens, or otherwise distresses us for any reason. Many people have unfortunately taken this one step further, and use the word as a power grab. When someone claims to be “triggered,” everyone else is immediately expected to alter their speech and behavior to please that person.
Psychopath: Most of us have the idea that a psychopath is someone who is out of touch with reality, but that actually describes “psychosis” or the state of being “psychotic.” A psychopath is a person who lacks all empathy for other people. They are unable to love people as most of us do, and can only experience shallow feelings for others, as one might have for a favorite item of clothing or piece of equipment they use often. Psychopaths do not feel shame, remorse, or guilt, even in situations when those feelings would be warranted. They are, however, typically highly skilled at reading people and faking genuine emotions for others. Most are charming, personable, and persuasive. While we tend to say someone is “psycho” or “a psychopath” when they do something shockingly vile and disturbing, most psychopaths are not violent. They don’t value human life and dignity, they just don’t want to risk the punishment if they get caught, or find the aftermath of violence unpleasant on a personal level. Most psychopaths are actually perfectly suited to work in corporate America. They can make decisions that generate cash for the company without regard for the impact those decisions might have on people.
Dissociative Identity Disorder: (often called DID, or Multiple personality disorder, or “having alters” in common speech): While this disorder is listed in the latest Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, the book used to classify mental illnesses, there is much argument among mental health professionals as to whether this disorder actually exists, and if it does, whether it is created by unethical or incompetent therapists rather than a true response to extreme distress. .The trauma necessary to create it is certainly real, and it is definitely possible for the mind to split to protect itself, but how and whether or not true separate personalities form from this is debated. For the purpose of this article, we are going to assume that it is a real disorder, including the formation of distinct identities within one person. And those distinct identities would need to be there…along with a certain number of other symptoms, for the diagnosis to be made by a professional. Somebody who goes on YouTube claiming they “have alters” or “know they have DID” because they sometimes like to eat foods they usually don’t choose, like to switch up their clothing style from time to time, or felt more sensitive or easily irritated recently is jumping on a bandwagon for clicks and views, not describing a genuine struggle with a mental disorder.
In our art, we can use misdiagnosed, misunderstood, or misused terms from mental health to further the plot or aid in character development. A character who insists they’re “OCD” when they’re just irritated by clutter, someone who confuses ordinary sadness with depression until they meet genuinely depressed people, or a psychopath who has everyone fooled but reveals himself in the narration of the story would all work well in a piece of creative writing. Off the page, when we are dealing with the genuine health issues faced by actual people, much more care and caution should be taken. If you suspect that you are dealing with any mental health issue, whether it be one listed in this article or something else, do not attempt to diagnose and treat yourself. Contact a licensed, professional mental health care provider as soon as possible.
Author’s note: This article is the first in our special series on mental health for May. These articles are intended to generate ideas for art work, clarify some misunderstood terms often found in writing and other art forms, and encourage artists to tend to their own mental health and support the mental health of others. They are NOT intended to diagnose or treat any condition, or to stand in for any form of mental health care. I am not a mental health professional on any level. Anyone who believes they may have mental health issues, or that the mental health issues of someone else are impacting their lives is strongly encouraged to reach out to a licensed mental health provider, or speak to a trusted doctor, nurse, or pastor as soon as possible.
For two years, we did everything online because of the pandemic. Now that we are returning to offline gatherings, the price of gas and everything else has made staying home and interacting online a necessity for more and more people all over again.
Due to the increased stress from all of these issues coming one right after the other, online support groups are especially popular, but they can be confusing to navigate. It’s easy to join something because of a single keyword, only to quickly realize you have little in common with anyone else posting or chatting. Or maybe you do not personally face the issue, but it is something you would like to write about in a song, novel, poem, or script as a way to publicize the issue for those who do.
If the group has the words “support,” “survivor,” “victim,” or “warrior” in it, that group is for people who personally cope or have coped with the issue.
Regardless of what you may think of using any of these terms to describe a person who has grappled with an issue in their life, these are some common terms to denote a group for people most directly impacted by whatever the issue might be. A “Depression support group” is for people who have been diagnosed with Depression, or in some cases, who have experienced symptoms for weeks, months, or years but been afraid to seek treatment. If the group is for “Natural disaster survivors,” it’s for people who have been in the direct path of a natural disaster. “Bullying victims” is for those who are currently dealing with bullying or have in the past, and “Fibromyalgia warriors” is a group for people who live each day with fibro.
While some groups with these keywords may welcome those who are simply concerned about those who deal with the issue,as a general rule, they are limited to people whose lives are directly impacted. Regardless of their policy on this, online support groups are not for those who are merely curious or seeking information for personal use. Never join a support group in order to write about an issue, market your services or your art to the group members, or “just to see what those people are really like.” You may have helpful, loving intentions, but this is not the way to carry them out. It will only make the group members feel uncomfortable or afraid in what may be the one place they felt they could open up. If you cannot find another group that addresses the issue, contact the administrators or a moderator via private message and ask to be pointed in the direction of general resources.
Look for keywords like “awareness,” “education,” and “advocates” if you are not personally impacted by an issue, but seek to learn more about those who are.
Groups welcoming those who want to learn more about an issue so they can help in some way are typically named “awareness” or “education” groups. They may also be a group of “advocates,” or “supporters.”
Read through the group description carefully before you join a group like this in order to write a paper, article, novel, poem, script, or song about someone with the issue. If the group exists for education and awareness, members may have no problem with you joining in order to complete a project that publicizes their issue or presents those who cope with it in a realistic manner. Just be upfront and honest about why you are joining the group.
Everyone who gives you advice or guidance on any issue in any online group should be assumed to be a “peer supporter” unless they can prove otherwise.
It is easy for someone who knows a little bit about an issue to come across as an expert to someone who knows nothing about it.. Always check with a verified professional in the field that deals with the issue you are experiencing before doing anything anyone in an online support group tells you to do.
Even if the person offering advice can provide links to their professional webpage, remember that reputable professionals do not join online groups and beg people to be their clients in order to drum up business. Check with a licensed professional in your area before taking health, legal, or banking and investing guidance from anybody you meet online.
Remember that group moderators are volunteers.
People who serve as the administrators and moderators of online support and/ or awareness groups volunteer their time and energy. It is not their job. This means you may have to wait a bit before being approved to the group, having a post approved, or getting an answer to a question. Allow the people that time. They probably have a paying job, kids, and/or other volunteer work they need to tend to as well.
If you seem to never get an answer back, if it’s been weeks and you have not heard from anybody, quietly leave the group and look for something else with a similar focus. The first group may be inactive, or the group may be so big, the moderators cannot keep up with it.
Respect the privacy of everyone in private groups, regardless of your reason for joining.
Putting people “on blast” by copying their post or comment and pasting it on to your personal page or another group page is a popular way to show everyone else their inappropriate or unpleasant behavior. In some situations this reaction may be merited. When the person has joined a group with the understanding that their membership in the group and what they say is private, it is not.
Trolling, harassment, or disagreements that disrupt the work of the group should be dealt with inside the group, and quietly reported to the group moderators. If nothing is done, delete and block everyone involved and leave the group. Unless the situation escalates to the point that you need to provide the person’s name to law enforcement, there is never any excuse for “outing” someone for dealing with an issue they may wish to keep private.
Online groups can be confusing. It can be hard to tell what the group is for, and how serious everyone posting is about confronting the stated issue or spreading awareness. But they can also be useful sources of support and/ or information if approached carefully.
As wages remain low and prices go up, many are left to depend on tipping even more than before. While tipping is always optional and up to the audience member, customer or client, here is what to reasonably expect…and what to give when you are receiving a service in the course of your work.
You and your band are being paid to perform at an event.
The standard tip is $25 to $50 per band member. This tip is typically offered by the event’s host or coordinator. If you’re playing a wedding, for example, a member of the wedding party or the wedding coordinator will be most likely to offer you a tip.
There is an open mic at a local business, and you are a performer.
Don’t count on the money from the tip jar. Unless otherwise announced, the tip jar money is for the event’s host, not the performers. Tips for people who take the stage to read their novel or poem or play or sing a song are placed in a jar, basket, or case onstage. If you play an instrument, tips are customarily tossed into your instrument’s case. If someone chooses to tip, they will probably contribute between $5 and $10. Anyone who requests a song will probably add a few more dollars.
You’re performing online. Your audience is watching you via livestream.
The standard tip for an online performance is $10 minimum from each audience member. Fans who have been following your career, audience members who request a song via the chat function, and anyone else who simply wants to offer extra support may offer $20 or more.
The event is live and offstage. You are the D.J. or music program host.
Tipping the DJ at the rate of 10-15% of the total charge for the performance is customary. The person who hired you will offer the tip. Audience members may offer anywhere from $1 to $5, but that is typically done only when someone requests a song.
You arrive early for the open mic or gig, or hang around after your performance. You are seated in the dining area and a waiter serves you food or drink.
As with any other situation in which you sit down at a restaurant staffed by waiters, tip at least 20%. If the person went out of their way to provide excellent service, quickly bringing drinks for late- arriving band members, carrying trays around your guitar case, or doing anything else extra to accommodate you, increase the tip to 25% or more.
The rehearsal or writing session has taken up more time and energy than expected and you need to order food and/or drinks. You use a delivery app like Uber Eats, GrubHub, or DoorDash.
If the driver does nothing more than show up at the door with the correct order packaged neatly, you need to add a tip of 10% to 15% to your total bill. Delivery drivers who go out of their way for you, waiting at the door until the band finishes a song, bringing extra plates and utensils so orders can be shared, or walking up an especially steep hill to get to your rehearsal space should be tipped 20%-25%.
You are unable to drive yourself to the performance or rehearsal. Nobody is available to give you a ride. You depend on Uber or Lyft to get you there.
Rideshare drivers should be able to count on a tip of 15% to 20%. This is for the average safe, clean, pleasant ride. You may want to offer a slightly higher tip to the driver who helped load your instrument or other equipment into the car.
The band is taking a break and everyone is hungry. You run out and pick up the takeout order. When you get to the counter, there is a tip jar next to the cash register or order pickup window.
In the past, tipping was not expected at self-service windows. Today, a tip of 10% of the total bill is customary. While you are picking it up yourself, the tip is for the staff who carefully prepared and packed your order.
Writing this song (or poem, or novel) has absorbed so much of your focus this afternoon, you completely forgot you were supposed to run to the store and pick up some items you forgot the last time you went grocery shopping. And you have to do it fast because you need to be at a venue to perform this evening. At the store, a floor associate goes out of their way to help you gather the items quickly, and the cashier bags everything according to the room it belongs in to save you time.
Retail employees at “big box” stores are one of the few categories of service people you should not tip. They will certainly deserve it, especially if they have gone out of their way for you. But tipping them will likely get them reprimanded, if not fired. And don’t try to sneak them some cash when the manager isn’t looking. Large corporate retail stores have cameras all over the place. If the manager doesn’t see them, somebody else on staff certainly will.
Some appearance maintenance is in order before your next performance. You head to a salon for a cut, color, professional skincare service, or manicure or pedicure.
Tip professionals who help you look your best at least 25% of the total cost of the services. As with all other tipped work, if you asked for something that was especially difficult or time consuming, tip a bit more. This applies to time spent in consultation too. If your goal was to adopt an obscure retro style, and the stylist took extra time to scroll through multiple web searches on your phone with you, or if you weren’t sure what you wanted when you walked in, and they spent time helping you make a decision, show your appreciation with a higher tip.
When you are in a position to receive a tip, of course you will respond with grace and gratitude, regardless of the amount offered. When you are in the position to offer a tip, always err on the side of generosity. You are supporting your fellow artists and community members.
by Jess Szabo'
Originally published on Artist Cafe Utica
In part three of The Challenge that Failed in the Best Possible Way, we finish out the first two full weeks of my “What really happens when you apply to 100 jobs?” challenge.
Day 8 : November 3:
The jobs I can even reasonably apply to are dwindling. I didn’t even apply to any jobs today, and simply checked my applications and updated my list of jobs.
Day 9: November 4
The only job I could even apply for that would fit into the rules of this challenge is for a spa receptionist at the nearest casino. I would have to either arrange to use the Call a Bus service, or make one heck of a side income to honestly accept something like that, because it is something like a forty mile drive from me.
So far, I’m up to 17 jobs for the challenge. I have still only gotten an offer to work as a temporary cashier at <Big Box store>. I didn’t even get an interview on the two jobs that I would actually take as second teaching jobs.
Day 10: November 5
My day started with working my real job, teaching writing to adults online as an adjunct English instructor. But my day of this challenge started with a rejection letter from <well known cell phone company>.
One of the reasons I have trouble getting job offers from entry level jobs is because it looks like I have too many options. They want people who would appear to have no choice but to keep working for them. They want kids with no previous job history and no education they can take someplace else. They want adults who have never worked, and would have trouble getting another job for a very long time. They want retired people, because althrough they would have the skills and experience, there is still so much ageism in our society, once it’s clear that you retired from a career, it’s hard to get re-hired back into it.
My resume, with my graduate degree, more than a decade of experience in two fields, and an active multi faceted career in a third, looks like I can just go out there and get a desirable job anytime I want. That is clearly and obviously not true, as second teaching jobs do not even appear to be opening up right now, but that’s the way the corporate types who read my resume and cover letter see it.
The second notable moment of this challenge today was a rejection letter from one of the jobs I actually wanted. This is just an experiment to see what job hunting is really like, but I do also have my eye out for second teaching jobs, and this was one of them.
I also received a second “just for the challenge” job rejection. These are starting to sting.
Day 11: November 6
Today I made it through one fifth of the challenge, with my 20th job application. It was for a breakfast bar attendant at a nice hotel in town. They demand one year of restaurant experience. For a breakfast bar attendant. That would be the person who takes the empty self-serve pans back to the kitchen, puts the full ones out on the bar, and keeps the dining area the guests use clean. People with a year of restaurant experience can go get jobs as servers and actually make decent money through tips.
Day 12: November 7
It has been less than two weeks, I’m only up to 21 submitted job applications, and I am already running out of jobs I can reasonably apply for. I even applied for one yesterday and got immediately rejected, because I can’t tutor both English and math.
This is a similar problem to what everyone who applies to work at <national chain restaurant mentioned before> is going to encounter; they want somebody who can do the work of three jobs, for low pay.
November 8: Day 13
I just put in for a temporary holiday job cutting and wrapping cheese for< a specialty food store.> They actually asked me how many years experience I have working with specialty cheeses, and made me take a management skills test to finish the application.
This is becoming an absurd pattern.
November 9: Day 14
It must have been the cheese wrapping job application that wore me out enough to need a day off. Overall, this portion of the journal shows that the “all these jobs are available, people just don’t want to work,” claim is flimsy at best, and is in many cases, completely unfounded. The jobs are posted. They are not necessarily available to anyone and everyone who needs or wants to work.
Any job is going to have reasonable requirements. Anyone seeking to fill a position is going to need someone who meets the basic qualifications to do the job. Rejecting my application if I applied to work in a garage or for a home repair service would be completely reasonable. Not only do I have no skills or training in that area, I’m more than a little dense when it comes to that type of intelligence, and would have a difficult time learning how to repair appliances or work on cars in the first place, never mind reaching a professional level in it.
But the longer this challenge went on, the more it became clear that many employers are….well….asking people how many years of experience they have with fancy cheese.
All professional artists do not have low incomes, but many do know what it’s like to struggle financially. If we do not personally have difficulty making ends meet, we probably know someone who does. In addition to the financial issues themselves, those who live on low incomes must also fight against myths about their finances and their lives overall.
Myth: People who are poor are only poor because they make bad choices when it comes to work and money.
Reality: The amount of money you have is the result of a wide variety of factors coming together. And while your own behavior does indeed play a large part, it does not alone determine your wealth. The amount of money your family of origin has, the place you were born, the time you were born, your physical and mental health, and the educational opportunities available to you are just some of the factors that determine your financial situation. Singlehandedly ruining your own finances is possible, but it’s certainly not the only way a person might be classified as “poor” in terms of financial resources.
Myth: People with low incomes do not work.
Reality: During the recent quarantine, we learned that we cannot survive without the people who stock grocery shelves, ring up our purchases at the grocery store, prepare our restaurant meals, and deliver everything to us. Most of these jobs are among the lowest paying in the country, despite demanding so much of those who work them. According to a November 21, 2020 article by Michael Sauter in USA Today, the middle class in New York begins at $30.797 per year. Someone working forty hours per week, for four weeks every month, and all twelve months per year in a $15.00 per hour job in customer service is going to earn $28,800. That means this person will work full time, and still not be able to earn a middle class income.
Myth: Poor people live lives of luxury provided by government programs and charity handouts.
Reality: While there are individuals who know how to “work the system” and use social programs in ways they were not intended to be used, it is both unfair and incorrect to assume that individuals who behave this way are representative of absolutely everyone who has ever used them. There are mid-level corporate employees earning upper middle class incomes who embezzle funds and cheat clients too, but that does not mean everyone you see working in these positions is doing so.
Myth: Those who complain about not having enough to live on are just entitled and narcissistic. They don’t want to work because they think they’re too good for all the available jobs out there.
Reality: There is a lot of narcissistic entitlement in our culture today. It is all about me and what I think and feel about everything, what’s most comfortable and convenient for me, all the time. Perhaps the most striking examples of this sense of entitlement are those who think that just because they own or manage a branch of a major corporation, they’re entitled to other peoples’ labor. They list jobs that would not allow a potential worker to pay their bills, but would also prevent them from working a second job to make ends meet. They then play the victim when people are not lined up around the block begging to work for them. Someone who has two months of living expenses in their savings account and no paying work is going to need to spend those two months treating finding work that will pay their bills as their full time job. If they took a job that required them to work full time, but only brought in a small portion of that amount, they wouldn’t have time to continue searching for a job they could actually afford to keep.
Myth: Poor people could solve all their money problems if they just learned to budget better.
Reality: Budgeting is important, but you can only budget the money you have. When someone’s income runs out before their most basic needs are met, no skill in budeting is going solve that problem. If you have $1,000 to live on every month, you can’t budget your way out of your landlord raising the rent to $1,200.
Myth: Financial freedom is available to everyone. The poor can just sign up to work in the gig economy and solve all their money problems.
Reality: People who work in the gig economy are selling their services. In order to make money, there has to be a market for those services. A poor person certainly could sign up to drive for Uber or Lyft, shop for Instacart, or deliver for DoorDash, if they had the means to own and maintain a car. But they would still have to get customers in order to make money. Gig work is an option for some people, but it is not a sure path out of financial difficulty.
These myths can make excellent material for our art work. Protagonists can struggle against them. Antagonists can perpetuate them. They can serve as the building blocks for an excellent short story, novel, play, or film. But they can only do damage when applied to real people who struggle to get by in the world.
In an article titled, Painful Internet Truths, Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy was briefly mentioned. Today, we take a deeper look at this issue, and the way it is often portrayed in the arts.
Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome (MSBP) is a form of domestic and/or child abuse in which the perpetrator/abuser creates, invents, or exaggerates the target/victim’s health problems for personal gain. MSBP is not a single isolated incident, but a pattern that is carried on for as long as the perpetrator can get away with it.
In MSBP, the primary goal of the perpetrator is to establish an identity for themselves as a devoted and loving caretaker for a disabled or sick person, and gain the attention and admiration that identity typically brings. The perpetrator may also have secondary goals, such as getting money, gifts, or benefits, or using a child to control a spouse or former spouse in divorce proceedings or other breakup.
Because the disorder is most often seen with a parent or other steady caregiver as the perpetrator and the child as the target/victim, parent and child relationship red flags are the most common. However, MSBP can exist between people in other relationships, such as spouses, adults living with elderly or infirm parents to provide care, or live-in personal care aides and clients.
While art almost always illuminates issues, provides a voice for those with a legitimate complaint, generates compassion by providing a glimpse into lives we have not led, inspires research and solutions to real problems, and/or provides pure entertainment, MSBP is one of those issues where film, novels, and other art forms tend to rely on over-dramatization and shock value. Most recently, the movie “Run” featured a victim doing things like scurrying across her roof on disabled legs, making a scene in a drug store as she raced away from her knife wielding mother in the wheelchair she didn’t truly need, and screaming for help in the middle of the road. In real MSBP, nobody is going to be pulling themselves across the roof by their arms or getting into a high speed chase in their wheelchair.
Here are ten real warning signs:
1.The parent (or other caregiver) takes the target to multiple health professionals, or makes regular visits to professionals with a reputation for selling diagnoses.
Munchausen by Proxy perpetrators work to create and maintain a medical record stating that their victim has the health issues the perpetrator has decided they have. They may accomplish this by “doctor shopping,” or taking their victim to a series of doctors until they are able to convince a doctor to make the diagnosis they want, or knowingly taking the victim to doctors with a reputation for falsifying medical forms in exchange for their fee.
2.The target/victim’s medical issues lessen or disappear when they’re separated from the abuser, or the diagnosis changes when the caregiver is no longer able to join them at the doctor’s office.
In many cases, the perpetrator is making the victim sick. The victim will then get better when the perpetrator is not around to sicken them. Even if the perpetrator is faking or exagerating the illness rather than poisoning, injuring, or otherwise directly creating medical issues for the victim, they will almost always hover and intimidate them into saying what they want, or will talk over them to manipulate the information the doctor receives. The diagnosis changes when the victim sees the doctor alone, because the doctor is able to examine the person without interference or inaccurate reports.
3.The caregiver’s knowledge of the victim’s alleged illnesses and/or disabilities seems extensive given their educational and professional background, but skewed or incomplete.
Learning every test, symptom, and treatment for a disorder and attempting to ingratiate themselves with medical staff by talking “as fellow experts” is common MSBP perpetrator behavior. At the same time, the person may deny information about the disorder that would fail to serve their purpose. For example, a parent with no medical training may know every medical procedure someone with the disability could possibly have, but brush off material that suggests children with this disorder benefit by being allowed to socialize with peers separate from the parent. Or they might not be able to provide basic information a doctor who actually did diagnose someone with the disability or illness would tell a caregiver, but be able to provide a startling amount of other information.
4.The target is observed doing things the perpetrator claims they cannot do, to the extent that a parent or other caregiver would not simply fail to realize the target had a specific skill or knew a specific fact.
It’s not at all uncommon for a parent to realize their child knows how to navigate the internet much better than they thought, or for the child to learn a few words in another language at school, or pick up another skill the parent does not know about. But if the parent or other caregiver is insisting the child, teen, or adult still living at home lacks significant insight, interests, abilities or skills the person clearly has, that is a warning sign. The perpetrator may insist the child cannot eat, even though they’re seen eating meals at school. Or they may behave as though their teen does not understand what dating and intimate relationships are, while the person talks at length about crushes and dream dates whenever the parent is out of earshot.
5. Behaviors that are normal or even expected for the target’s culture are treated as “problems” that need to be “corrected,” but only in their own dependent.
In the most common form of MSBP, where the child is the target and the parent is the perpetrator, this appears as a refusal to allow the child to grow up and/or grow attached to other people. The child may be punished for normal childhood behaviors, such as laughing loudly when playing with neighborhood kids, shamed and punished for getting their first crush, or humiliated and restricted when they express the desire to hang out with a peer group instead of their parents as they grow into their preteen and teen years. This is done to both perpetuate the image of the child being delayed and dependent in others’ eyes, and to keep control over the child as he or she grows up.
The same parent will have a completely different set of standards for everyone else. They may insist their nineteen-year-old daughter “can’t date,” but berate another parent for being too strict when they set the dating age at sixteen instead of fifteen. Or they might mock a forty year-old for moving back in with his parents after a divorce or job loss, insisting a grownup should be out on his own, but behave as though it’s perfectly natural that their forty-three year old has never lived outside of the family home.
6.The target/victim always seems to be “trying too hard” or afraid to be themselves.
Children and teens experiment with different identities and interests during the course of a completely healthy life. Most kids will pretend to like a band just because their friends like them, or not dare admit they don’t really care for sports when their friends are all obsessed with making the school team. But the kid who always seems to be looking for a new crowd to join, or who appears to go out of his or her way to be outrageous, funny, shocking, quirky, or just plain strange may be trying to distract from something serious going on at home, or hoping someone will “rescue” them.
They may also simply be afraid to be themselves. When you grow up with MSBP, you grow up conditioned to believe that people will only care for you if you present and perform the way they want you to all of the time, in every way. When they meet new people, and those people are kind to them, or they happen upon a group of people they think might be kind to them, they’re conditioned to immediately start dressing, acting, and pretending to think like those people in order to gain acceptance.
7.Treatment for the target’s illnesses or disabilities is sporadic.
The perpetrator may insist their child needs to go to physical therapy every week, behavioral counseling twice a week, and occupational therapy once a week, stick to that for weeks, months, or even years. They may then stop one or all of those suddenly, despite acting like it was vital just a week before.
This is likely due to professionals getting too close to the truth, or the perpetrator becoming paranoid they will be discovered to be faking the target’s issues.
8.The perpetrator talks at length about sacrificing for the target, and often uses the person’s care as an excuse to get out of things they do not wish to do, but rarely if ever gives up something they want.
MSBP perpetrators promote a narrative that they have given up their hopes, dreams, wants, and even basic needs to devote to the care of their child or other person in their home.
On the surface, this often appears to be true. A parent may insist the reason they don’t have a paying job is because caring for the child is their full time job. A spouse who victimizes his partner in this way may claim he cannot clean the house or go back to school because his partner’s care takes up all his time. But the perpetrator will rarely, if ever, make a true sacrifice for the target. They may move the person away from resources they would need if the condition were genuine upon finding their own dream home, spend money on themselves before investing in improved care, or use funds, benefits, or other support the target has received for their illness or disability on their own wants.
9.The perpetrator has an extreme love/hate relationship with clinics, hospitals, or other medical settings.
When things are going according to the perpetrator’s wants and needs, they will often behave as though the doctor’s office, clinic, or hospital is their absolute favorite place on earth. They may greet the doctors and other hospital staff as though they’re old friends, make themselves at home in the hospital room or exam room right away, and light up when describing the target’s supposed medical issues, basking in the attention.
Should someone on staff begin to ask too many uncomfortable questions or challenge them, the hospital staff who was a second family to them a minute before will suddenly turn into their worst enemy. The perpetrator will flee, vowing never to return, with nothing nice to say about the place they used to treat as a second home.
10. The target seems inappropriately controlled by the perpetrator.
Extreme and/or inappropriate levels of control over another person is a red flag for any form of domestic abuse, and is certainly present in MSBP cases. The target may need to ask their parent if they are allowed to eat a piece of candy, even though they’re sixteen years old and plenty old enough to make that decision on their own, or they may be an adult living at home, but still be expected to ask their parents if they can go to the mall with a friend.
The target may seem strangely afraid of punishment should they displease the perpetrator. A victimized spouse might beg friends not to tell their partner they were out of their wheelchair, or an adult son or daughter might behave as though they were going to be grounded for arriving home too late.
Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy is a relatively rare, but serious disorder. Because we are often led to look for dramatic signs, it can also be easy to miss. Its targets/victims may not need a valiant, Hollywood movie style rescue….or the treatment they’ve grown to believe they need, but they do need understanding, support, and respect as they heal from this very serious form of abuse.