What do you create?

The other evening I watched a video interview where this over-stuffed, over-privileged bloke tried to justify his gazillion dollar salary. He was part of the ‘executive branch’ of a gazillion dollar company that was stuffed to the gills with others of his ilk.

The interviewer was trying to pin down what he actually did to ‘earn’ his salary. He weasled around sprouting phrases like, ‘he was worth what he was being paid’, and ‘market value’ and other double-speak, but he never actually answered the question. (probably had politician genes)

Not that I expected him to, it was far too confronting for him to have to justify his existence to a mere reporter, and a woman at that.

Now, the arrogant execu-bloke and his ‘tude wasn’t a surprise, nor is he the point of this post, but as I watched I realised the interviewer was actually trying to get him to speak to what he created.

And that got me to thinking and remembering…

When I was a young thing and trying to figure out how the world worked and how it didn’t work and how it was supposed to work, I spent some time contemplating the nature of worth: self-worth, societal worth, what was wealth worth, how worth was tied into work, and what ‘work’ actually meant. Things of that nature.

So I did a little social experimenting with friends as accomplices. Every time the question of ‘what do you do’, was about to come up in a conversation, (usually in the getting-to-know-you phase)  we’d ask, “What do you create?” instead.

Answers like, ‘provide a safe haven for my self/kids/spouse/animal companions’, were common, as were vacant stares and ‘what?’s’, but most people got it after a bit of an explanation and interesting conversations ensued…

One in particular was a square blunt woman who had spent her life doing blue-collar jobs for minimum wages, living from paycheck to paycheck. Never waitressing though. (or any other ‘traditional’ women’s job) “Couldn’t stand being indoors.” Which had limited her choices even further.

Her answer was heartbreaking. “Look at me,” she said.

She meant her hands, rough, short nails with grit embedded under them, and her clothes, heavy fabric, loose because she was a ‘big’ woman, and her short gray hair that she ran her fingers through so that it stood out at all angles. (I looked, and I saw a powerful woman, but I didn’t say anything. I knew she wouldn’t hear me)

“I don’t create nothing.” she finished.

We chatted a bit more and just as she got up to leave, (we were, after all, just two women exchanging pleasantries in an outdoor cafe) I noticed that her clothes had patches and mends that were superb bits of sewing craftwomanship. (being a sewer myself I knew greatness when I saw it)

I commented on it and she sat back down. We spent the next couple of hours discussing all things sewing-ly. Over the course of the next few months we became friends and occasional lovers, but eventually drifted apart.

A few years later I received an invitation in the mail (a letter-with-a-stamp-on-it type of mail) to a bit of a fancy-dress ‘do’ with a ‘wear something you’ve created’ tagline. (I went as Bette Middler’s shoemaker – long story)

My sewing-and-occasional-lover-friend, had created her own line of clothing was about to head off for parts European.

She told me my zany ‘socially experimental question’ had saved her life. Not that she’d contemplated killing herself, but that she’d never really thought about the quality of being alive until then. Needless-to-say we both got a bit teary, had altogether too much champers, and … um … yeah.

Last I heard she was still going strong and happily married to the woman of her dreams … and earning squillions of dollars – from something she created.