Aging Sex Bloggers and the Art of Career Reinvention
Somehow, I have fallen into the role of resident True/Slant Cassandra on all issues relating to the dreaded electronic overshare. So, it was no surprise when Maura Johnston’s piece for The Gloss on the evolution of dating/sex bloggers into mommy bloggers recently fluttered across my desk.
The”trendlet” (as she refers to it) is not much to talk about in and of itself – women who once chronicled their personal lives and dating woes have shifted their attention to writing about their burgeoning families. Nor is it new territory. The likes of Dooce’s Heather Armstrong and Greek Tragedy’s Stephanie Klein successfully navigated the pre/post-kids blogging threshold years ago.
But there is a substantive issue worth pondering here and one Johnston only gets around to hinting at in her final paragraph. Is it once an oversharer, always an oversharer? Is it possible, say, to segue from peddling tales of personal peccadilloes to pounding out political commentary or establishing yourself as an expert on subject matter other than hearth and home? Or is that on par with one of the Jersey Shore boys thinking he can grow up to be the next Leonardo DiCaprio?
It comes down to branding, a concept for which I have no lack of personal antipathy. In this sense, I’m referring to our preference to slot people into particular niches and think about them only in their prescribed context. Reinventions and course corrections in American life (as opposed to career resurrections, for which the rules are slightly more lax) take resources. And even having clout or money behind you doesn’t guarantee that your decision to switch lanes will be taken seriously by the public. For every American Idol reject turned Oscar winner (that would be Jennifer Hudson), there are ten thousand unsold cds of Tom Waits’ covers recorded by one Scarlett Johansson.
And making major life transitions is even harder for Joe and Jane Average American. Putting aside the resources (financial, time-based, etc.) necessary to go back to pick up the road not taken and the level of privilege this entails, our existing legacies (both electronic and in print in the form of CVs) still trail us around like a piece of toilet paper stuck to a shoe. These bodies of work are often taken as a proxy for who we are and what we’re capable of by those who need to make a snap judgment call. There’s a little wiggle room for extrapolation (sex blogging to mommy blogging isn’t that much of a stretch), but what employer wants to spend time figuring out if your skills and experience in Industry A would equip you to perform equally well in Industry B, when she has a stack of 150 resumes on her desk from folks who’ve lived, slept and breathed Industry B for the last 10 years? You might be a better fit than any given one of them, but your unrelated at-a-glance history says otherwise and likely rules you out of the running. We’re judged on past performance and not potential.
Not to mention that changing your mind and changing your focus still has a whiff of wishy-washy dilettantism about it in our culture. We’re much more of a make your bed and then damn well lie in it people. If you originally chose a futon and would now prefer a murphy bed, well, that’s too bad isn’t it? If you poured all of that money into dental school and now decide that your real passion lies in graphic design, folks aren’t going to applaud you for the epiphany and the courage to pursue your true dream as much as they’re going to wonder A) why you didn’t figure that out before the $100 000 debtload? and B) who you think you are to prioritize passion over practicality and job stability if the rest of us don’t get that luxury?
There may still be second acts in American lives, but that doesn’t mean you get to re-write the script during intermission. The show must go on – both for aging sex bloggers and for those of us who unwittingly set the course of our lives on not much more than a whim while filling out college applications at 17.