Who’s your cutman?

English: American boxer Jack Dempsey posing in...
English: American boxer Jack Dempsey posing in ring in boxing position (Boyle’s Thirty Acres, Jersey City, N.J.). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I love that word.

Technically, it’s the person who is — literally — in your corner of the boxing ring, whose job it is to deal with the cuts and bleeding a boxer endures in a match. To send them back in, ready to keep fighting.

I’m not a boxer, but sometimes life just feels like you’re getting socked in the jaw, really hard, and you stagger back and wonder…now what? Can anyone help me fix any of this?

Mine is a soft-spoken woman a decade younger who lives in a different time zone. Like me, she had a lousy first marriage and a happy second chance. Like me, she works in the publishing industry, albeit on the inside of a major publishing house. We’re both idealists, a little goofy, from families we can’t turn to for help.

I called her the other day, and, in reply to a soft: “How are you?” it all spilled out.

Some people can ask you that question and just start reading the emails on their phone as you begin to answer. It’s a stock phrase and they’re not really very interested, especially if you’re in the middle of a rough patch.

Your cutman cares. More importantly, s/he is, as they say, solutions-oriented, not only able to listen sympathetically, but someone who knows how to bandage you up and get you back into the ring.

I’ve faced a really rough patch recently and, tangled in the thorny vines I only make worse by thrashing, I really needed someone kind and loving and smart to help me cut through them, (a cutman of a different order, if you will.)

In a 45-minute phone call, (yes, during our workdays), I laid out my various issues — a work problem, an exciting new project with some dangerous elements, a family drama of extreme nastiness and my annoyance with an agent who can’t seem to return emails or phone calls.

I hung up, encouraged enough to take some remedial action, grateful as hell for her friendship.

Who’s yours?

30 thoughts on “Who’s your cutman?

  1. A friend made in childhood who called me out of the blue after 25 years and led me through a very anxious medical situation not too long ago – my cutman, since I was nine and she was ten.
    Hope all is improving and the tangle is diminished, V

      1. Ah, I have a friend who was an AP reporter based in Kenya. She came back to the States when her child was an infant and she’s now a professor… And, she talks a lot about the shift to digital and a dying industry. I hope it’s a malleable industry, real journalism is what keeps society sane.

      2. Glad she was able to find a new niche. For those of who would like to continue writing and reporting, it is very difficult — unless you’re 23 and want to do SEO/digital stuff. Very few veterans I know do.

      3. I had to look up the definition of SEO, which lets you know what kind of dinosaur I am. Hang in there (not the best advice, I know) if it’s a matter of adaptation to new working methods I hope you weather it. You’re reporting, tempered by experience and deep knowledge, is what is going to anchor the new developments in journalism – anchors being very important in an industry that’s trying to define huge changes as they happen. (I had one friend describe the state of publishing as, “a lot of old chickens with their heads cut off.”) Oh my…

  2. My college roommate. Even if a year goes by and we don’t speak, it never feels as though more than a week has passed between us. I hope whatever you have been going through has passed and am glad you have a cutman!

      1. It doesn’t always work out – there have been some seriously bizarre situations I’ve had with roomies. Think along the lines of two people in a twin bed 3 feet away while you try to sleep πŸ˜‰

  3. I am apparently deeply troubled. I have a whole team of cut men and women! My husband is great for when I hit a wall. He’s just damned kind. I have a friend who boosts me as a writer. Friends who talk me through parental crises. A friend who helps me get through workout challenges. I hope that I do the same for them, but my gratitude is unending for these connections.

    I hope you feel some lightness of heart, soon, Caitlin. Sometimes, too, it’s good to take a break from the struggle and do something that lifts your spirits.

    1. You’re lucky! She is not my only moral support — my husband and other friends are as well — but this woman has a special knack for seeing the best in me when I can’t seem to see much of it.

      The struggle is insane — mostly the usual chasing of payments from people who lie and deceive and play games after they have commissioned and used my material. The basic lack of respect is appalling and demoralizing, whatever else is happening as well. Thanks for the kind words…

  4. I have a surrogate older sister who sounds a lot like your friend. We have similar family situations, similar career goals, and similar tastes. We’re each other’s sounding boards and there’s seldom a situation that one of us needs to talk through that the other hasn’t already experienced and got some insight to share. She’s human shelter.

    I’ve also turned out to be a cutman for two of my friends over the past few years. Having a circle where you can both give and get advice, help, encouragement and (if required) a kick in the pants is absolutely both wonderful and necessary I think. I don’t know how people make in on their own.

    1. For me, the key is also that someone comes from a similar emotional matrix — i.e. family background. Lots of people can be kind and helpful, but they have no clue what other demons drive those of us with wacky families, much of which we never disclose in the first place because no one can identify with it, which isolates you even more.

  5. Ah this is a post close to my heart, especially in this situation. I’m lucky in that I have 2 “cutmen”, one of my sisters and a very good friend, mi amigo de corazon (friend of the heart – i am presently learning Spanish and I love so many of their expressions). I have gotten by, and am getting by, with a lot of help from my friends. Thank goodness for our nearest and dearest!

  6. Reblogged this on gillybirds and commented:
    this is a great short post on friendship, those friends who will pick you up, dust you down, and send you back out to fight another battle. We all have friends like this. Thank you to mine, you know who you are!

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