"You mean you make webpages?"
"No," I say. "I write ad and technology news for webpages that already exist."
"So if I am having trouble with my page, or if I want to put pictures on it, I call you?"
"No. I write and edit content. You know, like a magazine editor? Like that, except on the Internet."
"Oh." I can practically see the wheels turning: Magazine editor. Sounds successful. Dot com crash - not so much.
The cool thing about nobody understanding what you do is no one is ever really sure whether or not you can be counted among the successful. It's not like it's super obvious, like my cousin the doctor versus my cousin the car salesman.
So, reserving their surrogate proud-parent faces, my relatives just approach me with a look of polite perplexity. I can roll with perplexity.
But kids are trickier. They're not looking for bragging rights; they're looking for the meat of things. And it's their right: after all, this is the world they're about to acquire.
Last month before the move to Ithaca, I was sitting in my pyjamas at my parents' kitchen table, my ass welded there since five-to-the-AM and typing furiously. Around 8ish, which is when people chez Natividad start wandering out into the open, my 10-year-old sister Charysma appeared on the scene. She watched me tap, then dragged her little feet to the living room, where she typically waits for my father to wake up and make her garlic bread.
A break in the silence: "Angel?"
I stopped typing and turned to her. "Yes?"
"Why is blogging your job?"
Pause. Something in my brain was not clicking.
"What?" I said.
Charysma, patiently: "Why. Is it. Your job. To blog?"
This is one of those questions you should always be ready to answer. For some reason, I wasn't.
I faltered. She saw.
"I write about new things that happen in the world," I said stupidly.
Head-tilt. "Why?" she asked.
"Because people want to read them."
"Why?" she asked.
I didn't have a response prepared for that, either. Of course I know why, obliquely anyway. But point-blank like this, I need note cards or something. I just kept thinking, I don't want to be one of those adults who pushes a kid down a well for asking a valid question...
Any number of answers would have worked. Because it's useful to others' jobs. Because the material is interesting. Because even grown-ups need to hear stories.
"Because I want to," I said.
"Oh," she said. Then, thankfully, Pops appeared. "I want garlic bread," she commanded, changing tacks immediately.