I just read a comic strip about how offensive it is to ask people what they do, so I stopped to wonder whether or not it’s offensive, and I can only say it’s boring.

It’s not nearly as polite, and seldom as interesting, as asking what their hobbies are.
In my parents’ house, talking about work was prohibited on the grounds that it was boring.
Unless you’re at a party to network with others in your field, chances are your job is not a fascinating topic of conversation.

Having said that, some people’s jobs are interesting to me.


Some people have jobs that aren’t easily defined. For almost forty years, my father-in-law worked in jobs that had to do with computers. I’ve no idea what the hell he did.
My son is going to graduate with a degree in a series of words that basically mean something about computers. My nephew will, too, but he was able to tell me specifics about his future line of work, and it sorta made him sound like a superhero, like Simon, The Anti-Hacker!

File illustration of a projection of binary code around the shadow of a man holding a laptop computer in an office in Warsaw

I’ve made friends with Project Manager, Director of Operations, Chief Systems Analyst and several Consultants. Despite having known them for years, I have no idea what the hell they do at work. I understand what Nurse, Editor, and Designer do all day, but we still never talk about it. I admit to sometimes discussing ethics and practices with Lawyer, Teacher, and Banker, but not at great length, and never at parties.

Last winter, I was deeply curious about why an acquaintance was traveling so often in such poor weather, so I finally asked, “What line of work are you in?”
“Sales,” he said.
This did nothing in particular to help me understand the travel. In the hopes of further chatting, I asked how New York was, but he had worked too much to enjoy it, so the conversation ended with a thud.

This also happens when you tell someone the name of the company you work for instead of what you do.

I despise being asked what I do. I don’t mind filling out the occupation blank on forms. I always wonder why the dentist asks. I don’t think it’s any more relevant than my sexual history. I suppose if I wrote down, “Tobacco Spitting Champion,” my occupation might be crucial to my oral hygiene, but seriously, whose job affects his dental health?


No, it’s in a social environment that I hate to be asked what I do. I actually don’t think I control my eye roll anymore.

Answers I’ve given:

I decorate cookies.
I peddle cookies.
I work at a card shop.
I’m a student.
I’m a tutor.
I’m a cashier.
I’m a head cashier.
I’m an office assistant.
I work in quality control.
I work in accounts.
I’m a hardware ho.
I work retail.
I’m in sales.
I sell candles in one of those awful pyramid schemes.
I’m a bank teller.
I’m a legal secretary.
I write settlement brochures.
I edit the law review.
I work three jobs.
I’m a sub.
I deliver pizza.
I’m a teacher.
I teach kindergarten.
I’m a long-term sub.
I stay home with my kids.
I’m a babysitter.
I don’t work.
I’m a teacher.
I’m a barista.
I take care of the house and the kids.
I’m a volunteer counselor.
I’m a freelance writer.
I’m a dependapotamus.
I do volunteer work.
I have 56 jobs. Which one would you like to hear about?
I’m a housewife.
I work for free.
Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of gardening.
I try to make just enough money to avoid filing taxes.
Oh, I just siphon from my husband’s income.

I’ve reached a point where I can’t even.
And it’s not that I don’t enjoy my life, or that I’m ashamed of my work. I don’t think it’s rude to be asked what I do, but the reactions I get ARE offensive. I can actually see the interest disappear from their eyes. Even when they’re polite enough to feign interest I can see them scanning the rest of the room, ready to move on.

Utter Dismissal.

“I wish I could stay home all day, but I have bills to pay.”

“Don’t you get bored?”

“Well done. What does your husband do?”

“I could never do what you do. I don’t know how you do it.”

“Do you ever think about getting an education?”

“Oh I could never do that. I could never allow myself to be dependent on a man.”

Overall, I would say No, asking what someone does for a living isn’t offensive. Immediately labeling them and pigeon-holing them after their answer is offensive. I always want to lie and say, “I’m really not at liberty to talk about my job.” Then they could imagine I’m a prostitute or a spy or somethin — somethin that proves my value — prostitutes and spies make a lot more money than I do, you know.

What do you think? Do you regret not growing up to do something party-fascinating like royalty, celebrity, or assassin?


About joey

Neurotic Bitch, Mother, Wife, Writer, Word Whore, Foodie and General Go-To-Girl
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48 Responses to Party-Worthy

  1. meANXIETYme says:

    Yeah, I also hate the conversation of, “So what are you doing now?” like what I was doing before was so horrendous that it needed to change. I don’t work a full-time job outside of the house. GET. OVER. IT.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. menomama3 says:

    yah. No. Well. I guess. Sure. Which is to say, I’ve had a couple of jobs other people thought were interesting but you know what? The grass is always greener where the cows pee.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dan Antion says:

    I do the computer thing. I liked it better when I made furniture but that didn’t last long. My wife was a stay-at- home mom. She worked. I will never suggest that she didn’t or that she didn’t have the more important job. Questions aren’t rude, people are. Some people could ask you the time and be rude doing it. There is an entire set of questions and answers that your husband gets too. I’ve answered all of them.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. cardamone5 says:

    This post is me too. I feel like such a heel when I say i am a stay at home mom, like I’m not smart or motivated or something. Maybe those things are true, maybe they’re not, but my choice to stay at home has nothing to do with these things. It has everything to do with being there for my kids, and myself, because I have been an adult my whole life, and it feels really good to focus on my family and home, and on me, something which I didn’t have much opportunity through choice and circumstance to do before. Here’s what I know: who you are, your worth if you want to call it that, has zilch to do with what you do, how much money you have, how you look, even your accomplishments. It has everything to do with your choices and how you treat people, including yourself. Ok, I’m going to step down from my soap box now, and go eat some bon bons while watching soaps so I can enjoy the stereotype I seem to embody.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Well you know, we often identify with one another when it seems so few people can relate. While I agree with everything you wrote, I don’t encounter many people who share that opinion. Orrr, perhaps they talk the talk but don’t walk the walk. I think there’s a lot of that. Thank you, Elizabeth.


  5. hollie says:

    I hate being asked that question because I never know with which job to answer, and I feel like they aren’t asking because they are genuinely interested. I’ve seen all kinds of answers on patient history forms when asked questions of this nature but yours are quite spectacular. “Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of gardening” is my favorite. It for whatever reason reminded me of an answer on a patient history form that asked about different medically related troubles. Under “difficulty swallowing?” this little old lady wrote “Yes, dry turkey.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Honestly I sometimes don’t know what the best answer is. I don’t define people by their work because I expect them to be well-rounded — lol! “Jane Doe, lover of pugs, not a fan of dry turkey,” is a much better conversational tidbit.

      Liked by 1 person

      • hollie says:

        Very true. I think I will work on throwing in conversational tidbits when people who don’t give a rat’s ass anyway ask “what do you do?” My sister and I have taken to writing strange things on memos of checks. I’m sure my bank wonders why she paid me $82 for “bush removal” and why I spent $15 on radishes.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Lol, you know me and my job selections and dreams, from what I do now to the get rich, live in Scotland dream of being a madam with expensive clientele coming to spend time with me and my ladies…it’s not a question I usually ask of people, and always answer politely, but as a way of engaging conversation, it’s low on my totem pole…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes you have some all-consuming job which I do not understand and cannot classify but other than how hard you’re working, we don’t chat about it.
      “Tell me about your client meeting and then I’ll tell you how I cleaned the toilets this mornin.”
      SO Not Good! lol


  7. Alanna says:

    I agree 100000%. I’m not currently working, so if I’m ever sitting on my porch or doing something relaxing or drinking or anything like that, people get all pissy. Even kids I go to school with who work like 4 hours a week look at me like I’m a loser. Then I end up making a joke about waiting on family to die for inheritance and they get all offended lol

    Liked by 1 person

  8. orbthefirst says:

    I have found that people who ask you what you do for a living are either trying to trying to figure out where you are in the class system, or are just straight up trying to judge you. I prefer to judge people by their answers when I use the follow up question: Do you enjoy your work? No? Then what do you enjoy doing?

    On the other hand, I get asked what I do all the time.

    “Whatever I want.” Has been my favorite answer to that so far.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. mummyluvs says:

    I love telling people what I do…because it tends to shut them up, lol.
    “Where are you working now?”
    “I work for a church.”
    “Umm…okay. And what about your spare time?”
    “I work with another church and several church ministries.”
    I especially love it when they dare ask about money.
    “So…that pays well?”
    “Actually I’m not paid for any of it.”

    I’m telling you, telling people you work 80+ hours a week for free makes them change the subject really fast. LOL

    Liked by 1 person

  10. life_of_tine says:

    I might just steal the alien-hunter next time anyone asks me 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Not that I am often in a social setting with people who don’t know me, but when I am, I ask, “So, what keeps you occupied these days?” and they can ask however they like.

    Now, to be on the receiving end of the question “What do you do?” my answer now… yeah, that’s a ticking time bomb, that one.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like that. “What have you been up to lately?” is an excellent question. I think I’ll use that one. I’ll be hoping for stories of potty training kittens or making snowshoe patterns, but I bet any answer is more interesting than a job, lol!

      Liked by 1 person

  12. My new occupation shall be “Alien Hunter”! I never really thought about it, but you are so right….it has to be the most boring conversation out there. This is why work trips are so exhausting; we’re all trying to make boring conversation. I swear to never ask about a job again, and will change my question to “what are your hobbies?”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I adore your hobby. It makes me wish I had a bigger house, and that’s why it’s a joy to look at your posts. “I’m beholding it. I don’t need to own it,” I tell myself 😉


  13. Sherry says:

    I used to say, Lawyer, then writer. Now I just say, that I point out to stupid people that they are stupid…that’s a conversation stopper…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. As some-one who was a stay at home for many years I get it. And I so long for those days again. I honestly hate working out of the home. Not that I hate working, but I often feel there are so many more productive things I could be doing with my time. And I miss having a clean organized home, with regular meals and home baking etc… Maybe if I was some great humanitarian or a spy or Alien hunter I’d enjoy working outside of the home a bit more?

    And you are right it is not the question that is rude, it is the response afterward. I too always felt it coming, the *eyeroll*, and the sarcasm. (which started as their responses and eventually became my own at the pompousness of some people).

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad and sad that you get it. Since I’ve been doin the at-home thing off and on for 15 years, I think that’s exactly why I can’t control the eye roll anymore.

      It’s funny you mention the organization. I had a friend (working mommy) make comment about how tidy my clothes drawers were, and I looked at her, saying, “I don’t work.” I don’t think that’s what goes for me, but the laundry and dishes pile up somethin fierce when I work! And who has time to cook special or bake on workdays? That’s crazy talk!

      Liked by 1 person

  15. cara says:

    Oh my, we are cut from the same cloth. This has long been a pet peeve of mine. Plus, I don’t think anyone really cares what another does as a job, they are just trying to make conversation and since there are a million more interesting ways to find out about a person…asking about a job is sorta lazy. I also work vaguely “in computers” or “on websites” and my favorite answer to the job question when I worked for a pet company was that I sold dog food on the internet. People generally dropped it after that. I still work in same digital capacity now for a non-profit and my son tells people I save babies. Sounds so much more important 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Matt Roberts says:

    It was easier for me when I worked in radio. When I deliver pizza, not so much. I just tell people I’m a writer and leave it at that. They don’t have to know. You can tell them you’re a chef. I mean, you DO cook at your house, so technically it’s not lying. You could also say landscaper, wildlife expert (Chubby Squirrel) or whatever. I do like the response, as seriously as you can say it, “I’m not allowed to say.” Just stare at them after you say it. Freaks people out. I think hobby talk is much better. Let’s just stick with that.

    Liked by 2 people

  17. I loved this! I answer “as little as possible” with a big smile nowadays. Back when I was gainfully employed selling real estate, I would reply to the question with “I sell real estate.” They would either recoil in horror with visions of prior ghastly experiences tainting their view of me, or pounce on me for opinions as to what I thought of the market, their house value, their neighbor’s house value, etc. All Very tedious. I should have been brave enough to develop an alter-ego too!

    Liked by 2 people

  18. meandcoffeefairy says:

    I think for the most part, I wear rose colored glasses and fail to see all the negative responses most seem to get. Most people I run into have no problem talking small chit chat about work, goes one of two ways, gives them an opening to bitch, or a chance to talk about the job they really want. Either way, I seldom get the cold eye stare of “what”, again must people see me as harmless and non judgmental, if you stay at home or dig ditches, its ok with me, just be willing to talk.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Jewels says:

    Oh gosh Joey do I ever relate to this one. Thank you. I’m passing this one along to a few people.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. hrh7 says:

    It really shouldn’t, dare I say, it doesn’t matter how people react to your job/profession or even lack of. Just as long as you like it.


  21. jetgirlcos says:

    Awesome post! If I tell someone what I do, they usually just want to regale me with every negative experience they’ve ever had with my industry. In fact, I’ve had people I haven’t even been introduced to seek me out just to tell me how awful the industry I work has treated them, as if it were my personal fault! Nobody ever has anything positive or nice to say. It’s really insulting. So I’ve pared my job down to its essentials and I say that I “look out the window and push buttons.” It usually makes them stop talking so I can leave.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. suzjones says:

    I get (usually when I meet ex-workmates) “So where are you working now”?
    Me: I’m not working at all.
    Them: So you’re living a life of luxury.
    Well you have a fair idea of the life I’m living and it ain’t luxurious.

    I feel your pain.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. Great point! I never ask what people do, because it’s totally a boring question. If you’re having fun…why bring up work? If you just met someone…why are you grilling them like it’s an interview?

    I often ask people what kind of exercise or hobbies they like to do. It’s more interesting and people get into it. Unless they don’t do either, because they’re workaholics. That’s always an awkward moment.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. Whenever I am around my family, and their Hispanic friends, they never ask about what I do for a living. To this day many have no clue what I do. At first,I as taken back by what I thought was their lack of interest in me. Its just for them the job does not define who yo are as a person. I’m cool with that now. 🙂

    Wishing you and your family a great holiday season and a wonderful 2015!

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I spent a few years being a stay-at-home-NOT-mom. Try telling THAT to someone at a party. Fact of the matter is that husband #1 and I both worked and agreed to split the housework, except that he didn’t do HIS part of the housework so I didn’t see any reason why I should keep going to work. I can’t say that I ever met anyone who understood that situation.

    Liked by 1 person

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