I used to buy myself flowers. Just a small bouquet of supermarket carnations, because I find them ruffly and pretty and they come in a billion different colors. It’s pleasant to have a bouquet of such on my desk or by my bed in a pretty vase — usually an old ink well, or a vase that my great grandmother painted. I used to do this every week. I haven’t done this for years.
It’s hard to stand up for yourself. It’s hard to stand up and speak the truth when the truth is unpleasant.
It’s easy to stay quiet, because if you’re quiet, you aren’t raising a fuss, you aren’t a problem, even if the fuss you mean to raise is valid and logical.
No one should have to ask for money they are legally owed. It’s humiliating. It’s nauseating. When you enter into a professional contract with someone, you expect the other person will uphold their end of the bargain — here are the terms, are we agreed? If you are offering me the terms, I presume you already agree to them, being that you have created them. One expects deadlines will be met and payments will be paid. This is my first time discovering it’s not always so — perhaps naive of me, that oh I never thought it would happen to me, but now it has.
If you are a professional, offering to pay other professionals for their work in a timely manner, you just do it. You don’t say “oh, I am waiting on X before I can pay you,” when that was never a facet of the agreed-to contract. When I hear this or — worse — when I receive no direct reply to queries as to payment, what I hear is “if I valued you as a professional, I would have paid you according to our contract.”
I hear “If you mattered as a working writer, if you were a legitimate professional, I would have paid you according to our contract.”
I hear “Your story was good enough to take and publish, but not good enough to actually pay you for.”
When I was in elementary school, I loved field day. This struck me as highly weird because I was the girl most likely to have her nose buried in a book during recess and lunch. But field day arrived and I signed up for all the things — I was running all the dashes and throwing all the shot puts and hey, archery!
I loved running. I loved it so much I won a bunch of paper ribbons for my efforts. Blue first places, red second places, white third places. I pinned the ribbons together on my shirt and wore them the whole day, beaming. “She runs like a girl,” I overheard one person say.
Next field day, I had my nose in a book. I wasn’t going to run if people were going to tell me I ran like a girl. No matter that I enjoyed it. No matter that I was awesome at it. It’s easy to shut down and not raise a fuss. It’s easy to not run — because if you run, someone might say something about how you run. If you raise a fuss, you might be seen as a problem, and not a professional asking that a contract be upheld.
I still have those paper ribbons; they remain pinned together, in an old box of school things.
What would Nick Mamatas do? Beth asked me.
Well. Yeah. That. What would he do?
It’s hard to stand up for yourself. It’s hard to look someone in the eye and say “this is not what we agreed to, and I deserve better treatment.” It’s hard to stand up and say “yeah, I run like a girl — let me show you how awesome I am at it.”
It’s harder when you finally do say the words — I deserve better treatment, I deserve to be paid as you would pay any other professional you are dealing with — and they have no direct response to you. If there had not been another person in the mix, someone who advocated for me when my query received no reply, I am not certain I would have received a response at all.
It’s hard to remember you are worth flowers, and that you can run like a fierce and magnificent fucking girl.