When you work, you are somebody.
I can already foresee the problem. Say we're at a party, we meet some new people. They ask me "what do you do, Sydney?" I tell them I'm a CFO at a venture capital firm", translation: I am somebody. Then they ask my husband, "Doug, what do you do?" He tells them "I take care of Sydney." Not only does he get points for being somebody, but also points for being a really cool guy, a stay at home husband, what a novelty. (Not to mention, he becomes more attractive to other women--"you mean he does ALL the cooking?" Nothing sexier than that, I know.) A real conversation starter.
Now imagine the same party but I'm retired too. What does Sydney do, nothing. What does Doug do, nothing. (He can no longer take credit for taking care of me, now I have the time to do that myself.) Perhaps they ask us what we do all day, gardening, cooking, home-improvement projects, perhaps a bike ride. "How nice," they say, and having lost total interest in us, move on to go meet somebody with a job.
I imagine this is much the same as some women experience who have quit their jobs to stay at home and raise children. I've heard that conversation at a party, heck, I've been on the other side of that conversation. "Jane, what do you do," I ask. Jane tells me she stays home now to take care of her kids; perhaps she feels compelled to tell me what she used to do, you know, when she was somebody. I have no kids so not really sure where to go conversationally. Perhaps I ask how old the kids are, how many, what grade they are in. "How nice," I say as I leave to go meet somebody with a job.
So it appears, if I am going to retire and be somebody, I'm going to have to get busy skydiving, climbing Mt. Everest, or helping to solve world hunger. Something like that.
Hi there. I just found your site and have been reading all your old entries. I am thoroughly enjoying them! As a recently 'retired' 35 year old ex-lawyer I had to laugh at the idea of being a 'somebody'. I often laugh with hubby about the difficulty of socialising without a 'label', that is without a one sentence answer to the "what do you do" question.
I am thinking that I will just start a generic one liner like " I am CEO of a personal finance company" - which I guess is the truth!
Posted by: BusyWoman | August 18, 2008 at 05:57 PM
Wow, congratulations--at 35!!!! My latest line is, when asked what I "do" I will say, "well I have two jobs, one is I'm retired, and the other is I'm an aspiring writer" (in my circle that's better than blogger--a lot of my friends are new to the idea of blogging.) Thanks for your comments!
Posted by: Retired Syd | August 18, 2008 at 06:11 PM
The best answer I've heard to the "what do you do?" question is "About what?"
Posted by: Meg | February 16, 2010 at 04:48 AM
I retired a year ago at 52. When I'm asked what I do, I say "anything I want".
Posted by: Annette | February 22, 2010 at 09:56 PM
Oh yes..try living in southern Calif. Its ALL about what you do. You can escape it usually in certain circles.
But in the general population its always the first question. Im going with the answer " With What?". Thats funny. I dont have kids or a job. My job is managing my husbands and his 5 kids. Very fulltime. So people just think Im lazy since I dont raise kids.
Posted by: Suzy | July 13, 2010 at 12:41 PM