This was actually the second time I’d gotten such an email, and in case you’ve never gotten one, here are the distinguishing characteristics: it is sent around 11:30 in the morning by the editor-in-chief’s assistant; it reads something cryptic like “All-staff meeting in the conference room NOW; there is often a red exclamation point attached to it. This is probably the only email you’ll ever receive that actually warrants that plaintive little symbol of distress.

Then there is the meeting itself, in which the editor-in-chief rushes in near tears (if you work at a women’s magazine anyway, I wonder how the male EICs do it? They probably act more grumpy than sad, if I may make a totally unqualified guess) and makes her announcement. “X Magazine is over!” or else, “Z Magazine has ceased to exist,” making it sound almost like a biological process that simply couldn’t be helped, as if the glossy publication had just turned over and sighed and stopped breathing and no one could resuscitate it.

If you are 34 weeks pregnant, don’t get your health insurance from said job, and were ready for a change anyway, I have to admit, being laid-off isn’t all that bad (besides the whole paycheck situation). A neighbor told me that the German company she worked for didn’t even let her work in the last two months of her pregnancy, insisting on beginning their generous and humane maternity leave package then. Germany, people, thus proves itself to be a thousand times more civilized than we are. Because I have to say, these last two months of pregnancy are a terrific time to not work. I can now safely admit that I wouldn’t have been terribly productive in an office right now anyway (but a very productive freelancer please send leads), spending most of my time futilely seeking elusive comfort from that torture device known as an office chair, getting up to pee every twenty minutes or so, distractedly looking at car seats online.

Now that I’m home all day, my day goes a little something like this:

1) Visit the Y, where the swimming lanes teem with whomever else doesn’t work on a weekday — Fellow fireds? Nightshift waiters? –, where the prenatal yoga classes overflow with out-of-work freelancers who congregate afterwards to bemoan the sudden dearth of clients, where the elliptical machines swish soothingly behind the dire news bleated out by mini-screens of CNN. Pregnant ladies: swimming and yoga really help those lower back pains!

2) Nap.

3) Look for work, which means sending out pitches (here was last week’s winner – an idea for a story about the city’s newly unemployed, which was answered with the news that the pitched publication was going out of business and that the editor whom I had contacted would soon be among us), trolling the strange terrain of Craig’s List gigs, getting distracted by some increasingly bizarre idea for a career change — Maybe I’ll research Library Science School, I’ll think, or else, NYC Police retire at 55? Hm! – and finally finding myself on a site about cloth diapers, blinking and confused and missing chunks of time like an alien abductee.

4) Nap.

5) Meet another unemployed person for lunch or coffee, share complaints, panic over having spent $6 on soup and water.

6) Start to feel guilty and unproductive, work on novel. Or else, start to work on novel and then realize that the kitchen floor is disgusting and must be mopped THIS SECOND or that a certain cabinet NEEDS to be cleaned out, etc.

7) Greet gainfully employed husband when he comes home with the unbridled enthusiasm of a puppy who needs badly to pee. Which I do.

Employed people, I’m not trying to brag.

Also, please send money.


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AMY SHEARN is the author of the novel How Far Is the Ocean from Here. She lives in Brooklyn with a husband, a baby, and a dog. Visit her online at amyshearn.com.

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