Saturday, February 21, 2009

Will Work for Free ... but Not for Long

I thought of my favorite magazine while I was cleaning my toilet this afternoon. Let me explain.

I’m finishing the last year of my undergrad career – pursuing a journalism degree with a concentration in magazine publishing. Internships are encouraged; however, most of us know that interns, aka office baristas, often feel awkward, inadequate and work for free.

When I discovered my favorite magazine’s main office was minutes from my house, I inquired about an intern position. I went to storefront events, chatted with the publisher, and applied. Days later, I was hired.

The first day I shipped and posted back issues. The second day I removed subscription cards (a foreshadowing event). The third day I cleaned the bathrooms. Yes, there was more than one. (I did not reveal my cleaning skills on my resume, but thanks to childhood chores, Mr. Clean and I are acquaintances.)

So, there I was. In the bathroom and away from the hustle and bustle of magazine layout. As I scrubbed stale piss off the toilet seats, feelings of resentment surfaced. Careful to keep my fingers on the soaked sponge and off the foul surface, I played out the absurdity of the situation in my head. I looked at my reflection in the cleanly Windexed mirror and it happened: I had lost respect for my favorite magazine.

The articles, interviews, and photography will always glean on the glossy pages, but every time I scrub a porcelain throne, I will always remember the belittlement I felt that day. Needless to say, I am no longer with them and they are no longer with us.

I now intern at a publication that allows me to write, which is milestones away from wiping urine off of strange places.

One day for a blog post I wrote, “As much as we love Barbie, we think it’s best that she stay off the runway and at the Dream House,” in reference to Barbie making an appearance at NY’s Fashion Week. The editor jogged out of her office. “We. Don’t. Love. Barbie,” she barked. “But I like that you used the word “Stepford” so I kept some of it,” she said, walking away. I swallowed my self-worth and hit the ‘delete’ button. Note to self: Be ultra-fem. Hate Barbie.

As much as I’m looking forward to leaving school and entering the “real” world, I so much want to stay in school’s safe haven where I can love Barbie and use the toilet, not clean it. Who knew internships would bring back such painful childhood memories?

1 comment:

Jill said...

They made you clean the bathroom at your internship?! I've had some pretty bad internships, but man...I never had to clean the bathroom. I'm glad you found something better!