Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Occupation: House person

I wish I had some news to report about what my Next Big Thing is going to be.

I don't.

However, last night I got to experience the full force of my newly unemployed status. I was on the phone to the bank trying to set up a joint bank account with my husband (so that I can steal his money when I run out of my own). The lady on the phone was going through my personal details.

Bank Lady: "Occupation? It says here that you're self employed. Is that correct?"

Me: Mulls this over.... "Actually, technically I'm not. I did have a business and I sold it. And now I'm trying to figure out what to do next. I might get a job. Or I might start another business. Which would then make me self employed again. But I'm not too sure what that's going to be yet. It's really hard trying to figure it out you know. So no, I'm not really self employed any more. But I might get employed by someone else but I don't know in which career that is going to be yet. Which makes me sound a bit pathetic doesn't it? Gosh, I'm not really too sure how to answer that question."

Long suffering Bank Lady: "Shall we say 'House Person'?"

Me: "A what?"

Bank Lady: "A House Person. You know, someone who stays at home."

Me: "Er... yes, I guess that's exactly what I am."

How crushing. A House Person. Not even a House Wife or Mother. It would be politically incorrect to make either of those assumptions but they at least indicate that you might be helping to make the lives of some other people easier. Just a House Person. I guess that is better than being a Homeless Person. And I do like Houses. My pre-occupation with Right Move is testimony to that.

But House Person doesn't sound terrifically glamorous does it?

Luckily, as I've recently discovered in a marvellous book called Watching the English by Kate Fox, it is rude to ask what someone does for a living (unless you're a bank lady setting up a bank account). In a section titled The Guessing-Game Rule, Kate says: "It is not considered entirely polite, for example, to ask someone directly 'What do you do?'.....The guessing game, which is played at almost every middle-class social gathering where people are meeting each other for the first time, involves attempting to guess a person's occupation from 'clues' in remarks made about other matters." 

So in a dinner party situation where a high achieving individual is trying to winkle out what I do, I could quite legitimately say, "I'm a House Person". And according to Kate, "when two or three possible occupations are indicated, it is polite to name the highest-status one as a first guess". So their response would have to be something like: "A House Person. Fascinating - do you invest in property then? No. You're a property search consultant or an interior designer perhaps? Please don't tell me you're an estate agent?" (Kate has an entire chapter on why the English hate estate agents).

And I can just laugh and say, "Of course I'm not an estate agent!" and whisk off leaving them none the wiser that I actually spend my days loafing about trying to figure out what I want to be when I'm big.


Someonesmrs said...

Thing is if you tell someone at a dinner party that you are a house person or whatever other euphemism you can think of, you can guarantee that, unless they do the same thing, their eyes will glaze over and they will hastily try and find someone more interesting to talk to - welcome to statuslessness! (which is why I spend so much time telling people what I used to be/do...)

Muddling Along said...

I am going to have to find this book - love the whole estate agent thing...

Tara Cain said...

Don't you just make something up?
"I invented Post Its and live off the royalties"
"I'm an astronaut; between missions"
It can't just be me that does that surely?

nappy valley girl said...

In America they don't talk about house wives or even house people but 'Home makers'. I can't decide whether this sounds more, or less, patronizing than 'house person'.

I would just tell people you just sold your business, leave it at that - them they can just imagine how you might have made millions and be living off the proceeds.

Expat mum said...

I thought it was Stay at Home Mum, sorry SAHM?
I agree that you should either make something up or be very, very flaky - "Oh, I can't be bothered to work" and leave it at that.

Nicola said...

Ha ha! I hate this categorisation thing too. I used to say "I am currently focused on raising the next generation of emotionally intelligent men..."

Which is a lie.

I am contributing to raising the next generation of neurotic men. *sigh*

Someonesmrs said...

Expat Mum, I like that. I tend to say I drink coffee, wipe, and move things. Which is pretty much it actually.

hausfrau said...

I often remark that I am too busy to fit in any paid work... and I still feel the German sounds more business like!

Jo Beaufoix said...

Oh I like Tara's answer, and also nappy valley girl's. Let them think you've made a mint and leave it at that, or tell them you're a Horse Whisperer. You could have lots of fun with that.

This Mid 30s Life said...

That book is such a great read isn't it? And very handy for us foreigners.

But a "house person???" Who thought of that one?? But it sure beats all that "CEO of Domestic Premises" rubbish.

I love saying I'm a housewife. It's the first time in my life I can claim to be one. I don't know why I think it's such fun, I just do! Cheap thrills I guess.