Last year at this time, I was a broken hearted little bird that desperately needed resuscitation. Julia brought me back to life and taught me that I could make a career for myself just as fulfilling as any previous love affair.
The “Julia” in question is, of course, Julia Allison. And in a working world in which emotional strength is an absolute necessity, “broken hearted little bird” is a phrase that could only be dropped by a woman not particularly concerned with the source of her next paycheck. But leaving both of THOSE connotations aside, I’m always troubled by the idea that Thing X can be a substitute for Thing Y.
Usually when I bitch about this, it’s because someone is suggesting that food is like sex, or vice versa. They’re not––they’re different types of pleasures, and if we’re really being honest with ourselves, one does not ever really satisfy the desire for the other. But as someone whose default mode is to prioritize her very fulfilling career over ALL personal relations, particularly romantic ones, I know that even during the busiest spells (I’m in one now, and have been since Sundance), work is never “just as fulfilling” as love…or an affair (not mutually exclusive). It’s a different type of fulfillment, and it might be just as (or, at times, even more) consuming, but that doesn’t mean it’s a direct replacement for the nagging want to have someone to want.
But I think this is a common fiction that women in New York (especially in media industries) buy into, because there’s this idea that if you’re young, attractive and reasonably intelligent and you’re not in a relationship, it’s a sign that you’ve made the choice to play professionally like a boy. Free agents are attractive. It’s all about preserving your demand.
Certainly, there’s no room in this professional culture for a girl who can’t get a date. But it’s not even really about the date––it’s nice to have the arm candy that proves that you’re in demand, but on some level, it’s better to be a self-contained unit, giving off the illusion of being permanently available, and thus always an object of desire. This is, obviously, stupid, but most of what happens in New York social life is even stupider.
The illusions that girls like Julia Allison traffic in aside (and that’s not an insult––she spends an awful lot of time on her blog talking about how her blog itself is an illusion), it’s ridiculously hard to balance work and relationships. It’s way easier to pick one over the other. But I’ve gone both ways, I can tell you that the one you pick never absolves the need for the one you wilfully deny.