Learned helplessness

I mentioned having to deal with a lot of tax idiocy this year, and by that I don't mean the normal filling out of the 1040-EZ. The thing that makes this (and many!) tax season so stressful is dealing with a certain individual who has absolutely no concept that processes matter. This person is an older woman, and she waits around for some big swinging dick to come along and tell her what to do, and then she obediently does it, whatever the hell it is. Seriously--the tax advice could be "dose your home in lighter fluid and set it on fire," and as long as a man told her to do it, she'd be sloshing the Kingsford about and trying to find a match without even thinking about it.

I am by no means the only person to find parallels between this kind of behavior that is both encouraged in most women and very much indulged by some, and the way authors often are encouraged to behave and sometimes actually do behave.

Here are some myths common to both:

Don't worry baby, I'll take care of you. Never true. No matter how fancy and powerful someone seems, it's not necessarily in their interest to take care of you--and so they won't. If you are being told not to worry your pretty little head about something because Big Daddy has taken care of everything, beware! You may be getting advice from a cat!

We inhabit separate spheres. Don't you love this one? Girls wear pink. Boys wear blue. Women love babies. Men love trucks. Women drink wine. Men drink beer. There is nothing that cannot be parceled off into separate gender spheres.

I notice this a lot because I am both handy and, you know, a dame, which is kind of mind-blowing for some people. I once was stopped at a KMart by a woman who saw that I was buying a replacement toilet seat, and she wanted to know...well, basically she wanted to know if it was possible for a woman to replace a toilet seat. I am not talking about an actual toilet (although I replace those, too), I am talking about a toilet seat--two screws and you're done. I'm pretty sure a monkey could replace a toilet seat. Blindfolded. A friend of mine was buying furniture at Ikea, and another woman told her that she couldn't buy furniture there because she didn't have a boyfriend. Dead serious--there was no connection between those two thoughts, just the automatic assumption that you can't use an Allen wrench if you don't have testicles. (Helpful hint: When assembling furniture, even men use their hands.)

So, yeah, without question I'm better at writing than at doing cover art, but you know something? I'm not afraid to try. I'm not afraid (or too good, or whatever) to poke around in that sphere. At some point I may hire people to do certain production tasks for me, but when I do that I'll have a decent idea of the amount of work required and whether it's worth the price.

You can't make it without me. Wow, seeing a lot of this lately. Change is always stressful, but when your only game plan has been to latch onto someone like a remora, it becomes devastating when that someone moves on. If you identify as a BigPub House author rather than as an author who happens to be published by BigPub House, then it becomes very easy to put BigPub House's interests before your own.

What does this all boil down to? Dependency. People get used to being dependent, and some people just love it to death! But when you turn yourself into a dependent, you aren't simply making yourself vulnerable--you are choosing not to grow. That relative I was talking about in the beginning of this post? She has been 15 years old her entire life--I use tactics gleaned from advice for negotiating with teenagers to deal with her, and she's a senior citizen. Be afraid, be very afraid.