This week our beloved Emily is off on a richly deserved vacation. That’s awesome for two reasons: Emily gets to relax for like thirty seconds, and I’M IN CHARGE OF XOJANE [Not so fast there, sister! Kidding ].
OK, so it’s not really a whole week, as there’s a random holiday in the middle of it. And OK, I’ve actually been In Charge before, although I didn’t really bring it up, mostly because I am a giant control freak who is deeply invested in managing expectations.
Not this time, though! This time I am BRINGING IT UP. Last week I even solicited Twitter for suggestions as to shenangians I can perpetrate or other creative methods for destroying the hard work of the past year. Responses included changing the site name to xoLesley (which I liked better than xoFatass, my original idea) and instituting mandatory office teatime and Doctor Who marathons.
These are great ideas, except then I remembered I work from home so I’d really only be doing these things by myself, and I already have mandatory teatimes (as well as dance breaks). Well, I could try to force the office staff in NY to do them but they could just lie and my authority would be challenged and then I’d try to fire everyone and Jane would probably stop me and things would just get interminably awkward after that.
And truly, I like this job too much to let that happen.
I first heard about xoJane when Emily emailed me in March of 2011 to find out if I’d be interested in coming on as a contributor. The reason she gave, and I quote, was: “I like your blog a lot.” [I love hearing your take on this. I recall it like this: Christina Kelly (you mention her later) told me about three times how much she loved your writing and that I should check out your blog. It was as great as she said and so Emily got in touch with you about contributing. Then you were an amazing contributor. Then we launched this whole search where I was looking for the "Catherine Gysin" (only really old die-hard Sassy readers will get that reference) of xoJane and then we realized that we already had her in you, so we hired you full-time. I also asked you on the phone if you would be my editor when I needed one. You said yes. The happy ending of Part One of this love story, from my perspective. Back to yours, lovely Lesley. And thank you in advance for all your smart work this week. ]
I had been working in admissions at a smallish Boston university since 2001, going to full-time in 2003 when I finished my second Master’s degree in a seriously impractical field and with virtually no prospects for employment. AllI I really knew was higher education, and so I stayed.
I also had the aforementioned blog, a regularly-updated collection of ruminations and outrage on what I call “body politics,” specifically weight-related (okay, fat-related) stuff and with a focus on popular culture. I’d done tiny bits of writing elsewhere, but in general I blogged because I had fun with it, and not because I really ever thought I could write full time.
(Weirdly, as a kid that was my answer whenever anyone asked me what I planned to be when I grew up -- from as early as the first grade I was telling people I wanted to be a writer, and I got some curious looks for it too. Of course, if you asked me the same question now, I’d say “astronaut ballerina,” so things do change as the years go by.)
I’d find out later that I was recommended to Jane and Emily by Christina Kelly, who’d been reading my blog (and occasionally commenting and giving my inner twelve-year-old a HUGE thrill) for some time.
So I freelanced for awhile, and then one day Emily asked what it would take to get me writing for xoJane full-time. Because I am kind of thick, I was all, “Uh, I have a job...” until I realized she was trying to give me a new one.
If you understand nothing else about me, you should know that I am above all a horrifically practical person, wildly disciplined, prone to perfectionism, and resistant to impulsive whims. Frankly I’m pretty dull. My old job was boring as hell and in danger of being made redundant in the immediate future owing to changes in admissions procedure at my previous employer, and yet still I clung to it like a rapidly deflating life raft. It didn’t make me happy, but it was familiar, and it was safe, and safety is a thing that I will chase relentlessly over the horizon given the chance, even at the expense of my own growth.
I was also still unsure as to whether this place really “got” me. Until I talked to Jane directly -- on a stealth phone call I snuck into an empty classroom to take one day at work -- and I felt so completely and unexpectedly understood that I probably would have walked off a cliff to work here.
Based on those conversations, and the freelancing work I’d done so far, I got hired. With basically no editorial experience! I still feel strange about this given that I know bazillions of would-be writers fight for positions like this one, and I just had it appear as if by magic. I still don’t feel as if I’ve properly earned it.
I still wonder what the hell they were thinking. A huge portion of what I blogged about was heavily and viciously critical of so-called “women’s media” -- I loved to tear it apart even as I was a total junkie for it. An even larger portion was specifically about being obnoxiously and unapologetically fat, which, I’ll be honest, I never in a million years would have thought had any real market value in a daily publication. I’m happy to have been wrong about that.
I also wonder what the hell I was thinking, as for a person committed to security and practicality, throwing in with a brand-new website was awfully out of character -- I hesitate to say brave. I continue to be proud of myself for doing it, for leaving my dull little comfort zone which had really become as oppressive as it ever was reassuring.
Now here I am. Being all In Charge.
And because I’m kind of pants as an editor, I’m going to open the floor to your suggestions for this week, with the understanding that I may subvert, take credit for, or ignore all of them. THIS IS YOUR CHANCE, valued commenters! I am crowdsourcing the xoJane editing. What do you want to see? Help me not fuck up, or encourage me to go mad with power. I’m open to all possibilities.