Confessions of a haggis smuggler


When I tell people I’m an artist, they always ask me the same question.

Can you actually make a living doing your art?”

The assumption being, of course, that I can’t.

No one in any other profession gets routinely asked whether they actually make enough money to survive.

If I said, “rocket scientist” or “petrol station attendant” when people ask me what I do, there would not follow the utterly rude assumption that I’m not good enough at what I do to make an actual living at it.

If I tell them flat out how offensive their question is and how sick I am of answering it, they sulk, and the rest of the conversation is strained.

If I take the high road and try to answer, I end up revealing a lot more about the state of my health and finances than I feel comfortable disclosing to strangers. Inevitably more rude questions follow, about my disability, about how much money I make, about how I live: questions that none of my interrogators would want asked of them, were they in my shoes.  Even if it’s true that I can’t support myself entirely by my art, I don’t need the condescension or the pity that comes after I am forced to admit it.

So I’m not introducing myself to people as an artist any more. When people ask me what I do for a living, I’ll tell them I smuggle haggis.

(Fun fact: U.S. laws don’t allow the import of Scottish haggis, because it contains sheep lungs which the U.S. doesn’t feel are safe for people to eat. Getting caught haggis smuggling risks a fine of $1000. Not that it stops people from trying, over and over again.)

As a haggis smuggler, my place in respectable society will be assured.  No one will ask me “But can you make a living doing that?” ever again.

7 thoughts on “Confessions of a haggis smuggler

  1. When introduced to a governor at a school where I was doing a project, she said ‘Oh you’re an artist, are you professional or is it just a hobby?’ !

  2. As with all rude questions, a terse close-lipped smile while patting their arm (condescendingly because how sad is it that they just don’t know any better) and not saying anything because it’s none of their business can be quite effective.

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