Tuesday, 4 December 2012

A Sensitive Subject - Self Employment

Someone has made me cry today.  And it is their fault that I am now eating Ferrero Rocher in quick succession and snivelling over my laptop.  I wasn’t bullied in the playground and my boyfriend didn’t forget our anniversary; instead I have been judged and discarded by someone I don’t even know.

I should be used to that; as an actress I am not given jobs all the time because of my look, height or dodgy soprano notes and I have made my peace with that.  I have been building my armour against such personal affronts for over a decade but I have left a chink in it.  I forgot to create a thick skin against attacks on my finances.  I have been too busy hardening myself to comments about my weight, cast-ability and talent that I didn’t realise that people are also eager to judge me on what money I have.

Money is a sensitive subject to us all as we dip up and down in recessions and worry about being able to afford to put the heating on this winter.  But to a self-employed person talking money is like eating ice-cream when your teeth have never experienced Sensodyne toothpaste; discomfort verging on pain.

A finance company used by an estate agent were asked to get references about me when I applied to rent a new property.  Pretty standard - I have been renting since I was 18 and think that I have successfully managed to be a grown up, pay bills and rent each month despite my choice to be a self employed person.  This company didn’t want to take the word of my accountant who gave submitted my quite acceptable yearly earnings (probably on par with or more than the average admin staff at this firm) because my accountant didn’t belong to a cool accountant’s club.  So I was asked to scan every bank statement I have received since April and send it to them.  I know I am a sensitive soul who leans towards the dramatic sometimes but it felt like they were rooting about in my knickers drawer.  What right do they have to see how much I spend on groceries or petrol?

So today I get a call saying they deem me not to have sufficient funds to be able to pay rent.  I’m sorry?  There’s no hanging out in the red and I have regular income.  I have looked up the average national annual salary and I earn more than that, so how much should somebody earn to pay £450 rent a month?  I feel like they’ve picked up my oldest, grey-ist knickers from my private drawer and waved them about in public judging them not to be good enough.
 Self-employed people may be on a different tax code than “Ms Normal” but we still earn money.  It is just sporadic and we quickly learn how to do self-assessment, organise our wages and survive on baked beans for 3 days.  We may get thousands one month and less another but it all still works out to be the same as anyone else so I’ll be damned if some assistant is going to make me feel unworthy because the way I earn money looks different on paper.  I suspect that many people’s bank account aren’t ‘desirable’ at the moment but they still manage to stay afloat.

Sorry to rant but I find it upsetting; don’t judge something unless you fully understand it.  I don’t scrutinise where Ms Office Clerk spends her regular monthly income or whether she runs up credit card bills on Amazon as she sits at a desk from 9-5.  So why should she question my choice, to be in an admittedly unstable career, because to be honest I have managed much larger bills in the past and don’t intend to stop now.
I currently look like this - although with a mouthful of Ferrero Rocher!

Money clearly is my button pusher ‘du jour!’  I normally smile and let criticism wash over me by allowing myself to reason with it.  So why the tears and the soap box rant?  Why do I feel so personally attacked?  Tell me I can’t play Elphaba in Wicked because green isn’t my colour or I sing like a fornicating fox and I’ll accept that gracefully but tell me I can’t move into a house with boyfriend because you’ve raked through one current account of mine and my inner lioness is ready to fight.  Or at least ready to weep tears of frustration.

I guess my point it that sometimes you need to look at the bigger picture and not just be seen to tick a box.  Things are never just black or white and you can be a more tolerant and nicer person if you just accept the grey.

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