Month: December 2009

The Decade That Was

The 2000s started and ended with Democratic presidents. The two Republican administrations sandwiched in between started and ended with massive recessions that put me and others out of work.

Nobody really knows what to call the 2000s. It’s not like the Nineties or the Eighties, and certainly not at all like the iconic Sixties (which were before my time. ) “The Zeroes” just doesn’t seem to have the same ring to it.

I think I will remember the 2000s as the Decade of Unemployment. I spent most of it either out of work or looking for a job, or working a job I hated as a temporary means of survival until I found something better. (As a professional writer/editor by trade, I am accustomed to being the last person hired and the first person laid off, as well as one of the lowest paid—-professional writers, especially female ones of childbearing age, are as disposable in the corporate world as used Kleenex). The one stable (and best-paying) position I had, as a health policy writer and analyst for a large nonprofit healthcare organization, I held down for a little over three years, only to be pushed out because I made the cardinal mistake of getting pregnant.

I also spent the better part of this decade pursuing my creative writing career, with mixed degrees of success. After ten years of plugging away, I got a couple of decent book deals (not living wage material, but publication and some money), two different literary agents (not at all easy to land, and I had to fire one of them), and scores of play productions, mostly in cities other than Chicago thanks to the totally fucked-up internal politics that control theater decisionmaking in this town (the Chicago theatre community is fucked up in the same way that Chicago politics is fucked up, but I digress.)

One thing I’m particularly proud of is the fact I’ve been included in the Applause Books’ annual BEST AMERICAN SHORT PLAYS anthology for three consecutive years now. (In fact, to my knowledge, I’m the only playwright that has had pieces included all three of those years.) In those three anthologies (available at bookstores everywhere) I’ve shared pages with such theater luminaries (and Pulitzer and/or Tony winners) as Neil LaBute, David Ives, David Lindsay-Abaire, and John Guare. I’m the only Chicago playwright appearing in these anthologies, and my productions for the plays that are included were mostly in New York. You would think that with this kind of accolades, I would be making some real headway in my playwriting career, but you’d be wrong. The big theaters won’t give me the time of day, I can’t land a theatrical agent, and the main playwriting organization in my hometown has long ago written me off as an untalented whore. Brutal? Yes. Typical? Yes? Fair? No. I have no other explanation for it other than the old adage, “Life is not fair.” And so, life goes on.

Last night I saw the wonderful film UP IN THE AIR, which was based on a novel that first appeared at the beginning of this decade. The main takeaway from this beautiful film is “Life is not fair.” It gets the message across a lot more beautifully and poignantly than that, but it’s still essentially the same message as the phrase we all heard from our mothers and fathers starting when we were five or six—you don’t always get what you want, and there’s often no good reason why. It’s just life.

Maybe I’ll call the 2000s The Unfairness Decade instead. That seems to fit, too. The Teens should be better. Maybe they’ll be unruly and temperamental, yet fresh and beautiful, just like real teenagers are.

Peace.