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.