The Joy of Editing
copyright 1997 by Pat Powers
Those first few months at Professional Publications were among the happiest of my life. The hours were long and the work was challenging -- but it was intellectually challenging, and that was what really counted. And I could do it -- in fact, I was good at it.
I did a lot of the sort of grunt work that new employees in any organization get -- filing, typing, and photocopying were regular daily routines for me. But I also got to proofread, edit copy, and lay out articles. Oh, they started me out on the simplest sorts of layout and editing tasks, nothing too difficult, but I soon showed that I could easily handle such tasks. In a few weeks, the typing and filing was handled more by the administrative assistants, while I was given tougher editing, proofreading and layout jobs, and even got to do some writing.
I was working out in my new job. I knew it, and the people who worked with me knew it, too. I had noticed while waitressing that new waiters and waitresses were treated with a certain distance when they first started with a restaurant. I think the feeling was, why extend friendship when the person might be fired inside two weeks, or quit, as often happened with waiters and waitresses? Then when it became clear that they were going to work out, or sometimes that they wouldn't, people relaxed and became friendlier.
I noticed that my co-workers relaxed around me after a couple of weeks. I think they were all afraid that I had been hired because of my looks, and that I wouldn't be able to pull my weight. When it became clear that I could pull my weight and then some, there was a noticeably heightened relaxation and sense of respect.
I loved it. I had been very rigid, very formal, those first few weeks, but as I relaxed and allowed my personality to unfold, I soon discovered that the same friendliness that allowed me to get along with my co-workers at the restaurant and get big tips worked on my co-workers on the Latex Blue Book. Only more so.
They were not a physically attractive bunch, these editorial types. They bathed regularly and wore the sort of clothing you'd expect to see in an office, but they wore them terribly. None of them had any future in broadcast journalism -- not in front of the camera, anyway.
I, on the other hand, was by far the most attractive woman on the editorial staff, although a couple of the advertising saleswomen were almost a match for me. The ad salesmen in the office were quick to inform me that I was definitely qualified for sales, and if I ever wanted to make some real money in publishing, to let them know -- they'd be happy to show me the ropes -- and the handcuffs, and the ball gags ...
Fortunately, my experience as a waitress had already alerted me to the fact that there were a few nice salespeople out there -- surrounded by lots and lots and lots of sleazebags.
The male editors, on the other hand, were intimidated by my looks. They were a nice bunch, witty and fun, although they tended towards being, well ... weenies.
They were so weenie that it was almost a month before any of them hit on me. Very different from salesmen, who generally set land-speed records in coming after me once they'd seen me.
I wasn't immediately attracted to any of the editors at Professional Publications, which employed about 20 editors, mainly because I was so focused on my work. In addition to the Latex Blue Book, they also put out the Underwater Construction Magazine, Day Care Monthly, Semiconductor Manufacturing and Distribution Magazine, and Brass Instrument Manufacturing Monthly. Their specialty was finding an industry which was big enough to support a trade magazine with advertising, which didn't already have a trade magazine -- or had a weak, failing one. They provided the trade magazine, or bought out or ran the existing publication out of business.
All of the publications, so far as I could see, had plenty of ads and were bringing in plenty of money, but it was hard to say exactly how much, since publishers almost instinctively played all sorts of games with the numbers. It was very much in their interest to do so, because it was very evident that the publishers were making plenty of money, and most of the ad salespeople were making plenty of money, but the editorial staff was making very little money.
I mean, I had expected to take some sort of pay cut in going from a skilled waitress at an upscale restaurant to a novice assistant editor at a modest trade magazine, but I hadn't expected to find my new wages so very close to a dishwasher's salary.
Still, I enjoyed my work so much I didn't care. My only problem was that the pool of available men was so ... bifurcated. I could have an intelligent, witty, weenie of an editor, or I could have a handsome, confident but shallow salesman. And believe me when I say, I could have had any of them, including the married ones, except for the several gay editors. Frankly, I could have had any of the several gay female editors and salespeople. Apparently, there's something about publishing that makes people sexually licentious.
Problem was, I wanted a man who was as handsome and confident as an ad salesman, and as witty and intelligent as an editor. The only men who approached that description were the two male publishers -- Abernathy and Gregory (who published Semiconductor). And they were both older than me -- if not old enough to be my father, old enough to be friends of my father's.
Well, there was one editor. He was probably well on his way to becoming a publisher, because he had a salesman's knack for getting along with all sorts of people, and he was a very sharp editor as well. And he wasn't married, and he wasn't gay.
What he was, was tall. I was accustomed to dating men who towered over me -- most men do. But this editor, Larry Culpepper, towered over most men. Six feet six inches.
He was, of course, thin. That didn't bother me, I wasn't all that concerned about having a man with bulging muscles. He was in good shape -- he bicycled to and from work every day, but he had those long, stringy muscles that tall people get, instead of those round, bunched-up muscles you see on weight lifters.
To tell the truth, I've always been attracted to tall men, in a vaguely kinky way. Having a relationship with a very tall man was just so ... out there ... that it appealed to me. Besides, we had something in common -- we were both at the far end of the "size" scale, albeit opposite ends. And when you're at the far end of the size scale, that's the first thing that people notice about you -- sometimes it seems like the only thing they notice.
So, I was attracted to him, all right? I knew that. But I also knew what a picture we'd make. Most couples can kiss each other without having one stand on a chair. Let's face it, when I stood facing him, his navel was at my eye level. And just a few inches below that, at about the level of my mouth ...
Oh, I knew what a sight we would make, all right.
Besides, he showed no interest in me. He showed no interest in anyone. He liked his bicycle. He liked his computer. Everything else, including me, he sort of put up with, in a very friendly way, of course.
I was also reluctant to date anyone I worked with for fear of getting involved in a relationship that would screw up things at work. I was under no illusions about my general disposability as a journalist. In fact, I found that every member of the editorial staff had a lively feel for how disposable they were, especially the ones who had been around for a while. Perhaps it was the hundreds of resumes that poured in every time there was a job opening.
One of the job benefits of being a waitress that I hadn't even known about was the job security of knowing that finding work as a waitress wasn't hard -- that you could count a finding another job in a few weeks of moderate effort, and that's if your standards were high. A couple of days of looking would suffice for the low-end waitressing jobs, especially if you had experience.
A journalist, even one with experience, might look months or even years for a job in her field. And good luck in finding a starting salary that matched the one you were currently making.
Oh, those publishers knew what the market was, and they took full advantage of it. Considering all the kids like me that were flushed out of the journalism schools every year, it was hard to even blame them for taking advantage of the situation.
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