Finding Love on the Picket Lines
What's an unemployed TV comedy scribe to do but to try to date fellow writers?
I’m a TV comedy writer who writes for The Ankler under a pseudonym for obvious reasons. Previously, I wrote a Valentines’s Day Dating Manifesto, a PSA advising against being a TV writer, a story about Getting Fired the Hollywood Way, The Misery of Writer Twitter, Hollywood’s Zoloft Blow-Off and How to Age Gracefully in Hollywood.
My decision to downgrade my Twitter presence from poster to occasional lurker has turned out to be a good one. Now, instead of wasting hours shit-talking acquaintances in DMs, I do it in person. The only problem with being online less is that I sometimes miss a discourse or two.
A couple weeks ago, someone started a Twitter account called @WGAStrikeBaes to help writers connect with picket-line crushes. Within 24 hours, the account was shut down after posting racist and transphobic content. (This is a great strategy if you’re a guy with a Roman statue avatar who subscribes to Twitter Blue, but it didn’t fly with Guild members.)
The “Missed Connections” experiment was such a disaster that some users joked that the account was an AMPTP psy-op. Others simply decried it as cringe. Still, others questioned whether trying to fuck during a labor action was good praxis. This is what frustrates me about today’s young Leftists. Of course trying to fuck during a labor action is good praxis. Vladimir Lenin, architect of the October Revolution, met his future wife at a Marxist study group. See how happy they look?
A few months ago, I warned you against dating other people in the industry. I’ve since had a major change of needing something to write about. Also, we’re living in a new reality. Making small talk with a radiologist over Asian-fusion tapas after spending the week picketing is a big ask. Walking in a circle eating pizza is harder than it looks, especially when you have poor depth perception. Plus, dating is expensive, and we’re all broke except for the 10 people whose asses we have to kiss because they might read us for the Joey reboot.
PROS AND CONS
Obviously there are pros and cons to looking for sex/love/a third on the picket line. Here are a few:
PRO: Shared Values
Chances are, the people you’ll meet while striking share many of your values (labor rights) and interests (avoiding writing). This gives the picket line a clear advantage over dating apps like Raya where everyone spends their time cross-country skiing/shark-cage diving/carving their own knives by hand, or Hinge, where I never finished setting up my profile because it involved a lot of writing, and I don’t work for free.
CON: Internecine Strife
The only problem with sharing interests and values is that you’ll probably end up arguing about them. Maybe she’s a DSA type and you’re more of a normie Dem. Or maybe you’re both in the DSA, but you’re a purist and she’s a closet Neo-lib YIMBY shill for Big Real Estate. And even if your political views are perfectly in sync, your taste in entertainment may not be. Maybe one of you likes improv and the other doesn’t. Or one of you is a big What We Do in the Shadows fan and the other is a gutter-dwelling, shit-eating moron with no taste.
PRO: There Are So Many Writers!
Writers rooms, if you’re lucky enough to get into one, are small, and if our adversaries have their way, soon they’ll be even smaller. One of the few advantages of a strike is that you’ll have the chance to meet people you might never meet otherwise, and a certain percentage of them will be single. Unlike most “networking” functions, the picket line is a place to form organic connections with fellow professionals — or at least it will be until enthusiasm fades and we start having to bus people in like that cult from Wild Wild Country.
CON: There Are So. Many. Writers
While there’s something to be said for a place where you can wave at someone whose name you can’t remember, yell “Josh!” and have a 50/50 chance of being right, being around writers can get old. You know the expression “houseguests are like fish, they start to stink after three days”? Usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, the aphorism was actually coined by John Lyly. Have you ever heard of John Lyly? Me neither. (He must have lost the arbitration.) This is one of the many reasons writers are hard to be around. They take your jokes.
PRO: Being Around Other Writers Will Boost Your Morale
A union is more than a means to an end. It’s a built-in emotional support system. It’s nice to have someone who empathizes with what you’re going through.
CON: Being Around Other Writers Will Grind Your Ego and What’s Left of Your Will to Live to Dust
I tried to get this going as a chant the other day at the Sony picket, but no takers.
A FEW WORDS OF ADVICE
Okay, enough joking around. The truth is, this could be a once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet your soulmate. I know multiple couples who met during the last strike and are still together. Don’t be like me during the ’07 strike. I was surrounded by eligible men but chose to waste my youth and beauty on a man in the one profession worse than TV writer: novelist. (Substack hadn’t been invented yet.)
This advice applies regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation, except where noted. I’m a big believer in equality except when it comes to men wearing sandals:
The most important thing you can do when looking for romance is to be yourself. Don't try to be someone you're not or pretend to be interested in things you're not. Be honest about who you are and what you're looking for, and you'll attract the right person.
Those last three sentences were written by ChatGPT. Now do you see why we’re so worried? Those sentences sound like something I could have written, except for the fact that they’re totally inaccurate. No, not just inaccurate — downright evil. Under no circumstances should you be yourself. If you were Amal Clooney I’d say sure, go ahead, roll the dice. But you’re not Amal Clooney. You’re a writer, or you want to be. You’re compelled by a darkness within. Time to use those creative gifts for something positive: lying and obfuscation.
The most important thing you need to lie about are your emotions. You’re on a picket line carrying a sign telling Ted Sarandos to suck your dick. People know you’re angry. You don’t have to lead with that.
Be a Good Conversationalist
Exchanging pleasantries about the mini room you just wrapped for a show no one’s heard of gets old fast. The same goes for talking about your favorite shows that no one’s heard of. Casual conversation has become yet another casualty of the Streaming Wars. If you don’t want your crush politely excusing themselves to pretend to go eat trail mix and soggy carrots at the snack table, you need to have some interesting stuff to say. There’s an incredibly successful guy I know — we’ll call him Josh. Josh is a middling writer and known dick, but do you know what sets him apart from the crowd? He tells great stories. He’s the kind of person you’re always glad to run into at a party because he just read a weird story that hasn’t already been featured on 10 podcasts or had something funny and completely bizarre happen to him.
Be a Josh, and not just any Josh. Be the Josh people want to talk to at parties. You’re a writer. It’s your job to tell stories. Nothing interesting going on in your life right now? Make something up. Don’t be afraid to steal. As I mentioned earlier, it worked for Benjamin Franklin. It also worked for Picasso, Stravinsky and T.S. Eliot, all of whom have been blamed for stealing the line “great artists steal.”
This one is more for the men. Yes we know you’re a writer and you’re used to sitting on your couch yelling into your laptop, but people can see you. You don’t need to overdo it, but a little style goes a long way. You don’t have to be traditionally handsome. You’ll get a lot of mileage out of just not wearing flip-flops. Also, wear pants, not shorts. You need to be comfortable pacing back and forth for hours in the sun, just don’t be too comfortable. If those striking textile workers from the 1920s can look good, so can you. Even the hungry urchins looked put together:
Don’t Forget Our Allies
Other unions aren’t just vital to our strike effort, they’re your best chance at not ending up in a relationship with a writer. I’d also suggest that younger readers who haven’t been to Netflix already to head on over. There’s a very fetching security guard there. He won’t last long.
Trick Your Hotter Friend into Picketing Somewhere Else
Solidarity doesn’t have to mean being a masochist.
Have a Good Attitude
This is a scary, difficult time, but the only choice is to stay positive. If you’re looking for love, there’s no better time to go for it. Most of all, try to have fun. Based on the way things are going, we’re only a few years from robots doing all the fucking for us.
Speaking from experience, dating/living with/marrying another writer has the problem that your individual success waves will never be synchronized. No matter how empathetic one is, it is hard to celebrate my success while I see you beating your head against the wall. And vice-versa. Stick with the concept of friends when it comes to other writers; you might even meet a writing partner and set out on the road to success.