Good things come in threes, yes? My use of triads continues. Lately I’ve been calling on it to figure out how to proceed with partnerships, both business and personal. After three meetings or interactions I usually have enough information to figure out if I want to continue with a person. These posts highlight my decision-making processes as I attempt to navigate a world that is completely foreign to me.
I’m using this mini-series of posts to tell the stories the surround my announcement to start my own business, to trust my instincts, and to give my readers a look into what it’s been like for me to begin to explore the world of San Francisco fashion. I am an outsider to these things, a newbie, and what some might call ” a poor kid (although I have riches you can’t even fathom).” A man recently looked at me and my designs and after asking me if my dad had money, told me that “poor kids don’t make it in fashion.” Another burgeoning designer told me the same, and then qualified it, “Well, Chanel was an orphan, but she slept her way to the top.” WTF! So my option as a woman and a “poor kid” is to prostitute myself? I reject these ideas. While I truly trust and believe in the power of the erotic, there would be little to use it for without vision, talent, drive, and commitment. To say that Chanel built her brand through vaginal interactions discredits these necessary components of success. And besides, what wrong with having a little sex sometimes. I reject again and again.
Back in September it started to become painfully clear that we would not be able to stay at Million Fishes and I realized that my time in San Francisco might be ending. After spending the better part of two years creating this blog, working at the fabric store, and designing/making clothes I took a step back and noticed that I hadn’t given any attention to my relationships, especially my friendships. Also, I hadn’t gotten drunk enough. I’d actively avoided all fun. It was the only way to get any work done, but when the walls of my life started falling down I realized that I needed people. Not art, not jobs, not even this blog could bring we what I wanted to feel – I needed people. So I started going out, to try and forget myself…no, change that. I went out so I could remember something I’d forgotten.
I decided to use facebook to find one of my first social gatherings. I went with an art happening at a club close to the museum district. Not really my scene, but so what? I convinced my friend TQ (pictured below) who I affectionately call Big Black (as he’s half Boricua whether or not you can see it), to drop me off at the club while he was out doing deliveries on his motorcycle.
He agreed and Jay, my housemate and TQ’s girlfriend, fitted me up in her jacket, helmet, gloves, and a scarf. I’ve never felt like such a badass. TQ said he’d be back to get me when his shift ended. That meant I had a couple of hours to kill at the club. I walked into the club with a helmet under my arm and bought myself a drink. Clubs are weird. Especially when you’re an unattended female and you have no interest in grinding you ass against some dude’s chub. I’d forgotten this.
Two hours and quite a bit of small talk with a shy-ish dude who eventually asked me for my number but never called (men do this a lot, what’s the deal?), I made my way to the bathroom. On my way back to the bar a man got my attention and handed me his card. He informed me that he was a businessman. TQ came to retrieve me moments later, which was good cause I was ready to get the hell outta that club. I left as quickly as I’d appeared.
I called the businessman the next day. He’d requested I do so as I ran out the door the night before. He told me he wanted to show me the product he was selling, and I made my way to his workspace. My dream is both my strength and my weakness. It makes me fearless, even when I should know better. Any other person would have been able to see straight through this. Not me, I’m blinded by pure optimism and unchecked ambition at times.
It all started out pretty innocent. The businessman, a reporter, who he said was documenting a day in the life of him, and his lawyer were among the company that afternoon. He asked that I bring a sharpie to the meeting. I have a decent sized collection and brought a few with me. When I arrived he, knowing that I considered myself an artist, asked that I make up a design and draw it out, something to make his product look more original. I agreed. I asked him if he’d even looked at my art (I’m not really a sketcher, more of an erotic photographer at the moment) and pulled up my website. I instantly regretted showing my work to him. I am still new to this (erotic) art thing, and I’m guessing the pictures of my ass had the same affect as dancing at a night club might. Whoopsies.
At some point I finished drawing and he asked if he could take some photos of me in the product I’d just made. I have no problem with photos. I take them everyday. The pictures that I initially posed for were very G-rated, but he started pushing, asking me to take my pants off for a photo. I wouldn’t. I explained that all the photos on my website were self-portraits and that I certainly wouldn’t pose for him like that.
He pushed more. I pushed back more. He got angry because I refused to cooperate. ”This must work on some girls,” was all I could think. At one point during all of this he got in my face and said, “Don’t you know who I fucking am? I can make you famous. You must not really want this!” I was on the defensive at this point, and responded to every absurd statement with my own ego driven maxims. I definitely remember saying “I can make myself famous! Who needs you?” Yuck.
I’ve never in my life seen a person behave the way he had from a few glasses of wine, which is all that I’d seen anyone have. I could have left at anytime during this whole experience, and at times I wanted to, but I actually had a certain curiosity about the life of this person, about the rabbit hole that I’d somehow tripped and fallen into. You see, I’ve spent the last year living in a dark, semi-dank artists collective, and somehow, that afternoon, found myself doodling in a light-filled workshop being asked to do things I wouldn’t even consider doing font of my own camera, let alone the lens of a complete stranger.
He informed us that we’d be going to a promotional event sponsored by his company. I got a ride to the club with the lawyer, enjoyed a bit of bottle service, watched a fashion show, danced by myself, met a few folks, hitched a ride with the lawyer again, ate tacos, and returned home safely. I wish the story ended there. You would think that after that I would have never contacted him again, but I am no stranger to sexual aggressiveness, have even possibly been conditioned to accept it, so while I saw his behavior as strange, it was not outside of the realm of my experiences with men. Reconditioning myself, learning to reject this kind of behavior, has taken lots of time and energy. I still have my weak moments. This experience falls under this category. I momentary lapse in judgement, a slip, a reminder of what I no longer have to accept. But I still pressed forward…
What I’d wanted when I met him that first time was business advice, so I texed him a week or two later and asked if he would be willing to meet me for an hour or so to share his thoughts. I made sure to mention that I would not be accepting any sexual advances. He seemed to agree to these conditions, and we met one night at an Irish pub with an Indian restaurant in the middle of it. This second meeting was an altogether different experience from our first encounter. He gave me some good pointers about what steps to take next. I agreed to a work exchange with him. I would help him with a new project he was starting and he agreed to give me occasional business advice.
San Francisco Fashion Week approached, and I thought it would be a good idea to attend some of the events as they could provide good guidelines for the work I need to do. The Businessman suggested I attend a talk about local manufacturing, which featured Janet Lees of SF Made (who I’ve seen speak before) and Sean Peng of Inspirare (who I applied for a job with a few months ago. I introduced myself to him after the event. Awkward.).
This was my first major networking event since moving to San Francisco. In my past life I was a notorious networker. Eager, hungry, down to attend almost any event that offered free food. I’ve been tempering this part of myself in an attempt to make better decisions/not get ahead of myself.
After the event ended we had a few drinks at a nearby hotel. We spoke about his business, about the trouble he’d had recruiting and keeping creative talent (apparently we’re hard to manage), about a friend that he’d competed with. I saw some parallels in his stories to the struggles I’ve had as creative force while trying to establish partnerships. I appreciated hearing his perspective. The conversation was pretty neutral, and then towards the end of our time at the hotel he flipped. I can’t remember his exact words, but he basically started speaking down to me for asking that he temper his sexual advances. ”Don’t fucking flatter yourself. You’re not shit,” was the gist of his statements. I wasn’t really offended or frightened by his words, in fact, there was something I appreciated about his raw showing of insecurity. I’ll argue that it’s better to see a person’s bad side early, so you know exactly what you’re getting into and whether or not you can deal with it. His bad sides show clearly.
I had hesitations from our first meeting. San Francisco acts like a big city, but it only took a tiny scratching of the surface to learn that I was dealing with a person who had a specific kind of reputation. And while I don’t like to base my actions off of hearsay, I appreciated the feedback I got from the community as my judgment faculties had gone haywire under the stress of pending eviction.
That being said, he had his good qualities. He expressed his desires clearly, something I admired. I sometimes struggle with expressing my true desires, and sometimes I superstitiously believe that if I hang around the right people things will rub off on me. That was not what he wanted to rub off on me.
Also, he seemed to have a sort of unbridled confidence that was impossible to sway, also an acknowledged weakness of mine. I’ve inhibited my talents to calm peoples insecurities, which is stupid. It’s important to keep the bright light shining no matter what people think, something I learned from this businessman. And perhaps this was just the erotic tension that he aroused, but there was a certain highly generative creative forcefield that he carried around. He seemed to understand what I was trying to create, my brand, my concept, my target market, and I noticed that our minds worked in creatively harmonic ways.
In the end I made my decision to part with him based on the disrespectful words he said to me in those moments of insecurity, and the overall way I felt he regarded women. Also, once as we walked down the street a man told me I looked like Angela Davis, and the businessman claimed to not know who she was. That’s a deal breaker.
How was I supposed to carry out my task, live my life peacefully and and artfully, while associating with a puffed up fellow like him? Also, I wasn’t sure exactly what I’d be expected to do for him in the long run. Am I willing to go down that road to get what I want? Do I want to be remembered and regarded for vision, talent, drive, and commitment, or for impressive vaginal acrobatics? Do I even have any say in if or how I will be remembered? As a woman who is not afraid to express aspects of my sexuality is there any way to avoid being thought of as promiscuous (whether or not that’s the truth) at this point? Does that really matter? Maybe I should embrace it without fear. Probably that’s what I should do.
At the end of all this, I found a business class to take. And that’s how I got the information that I needed, not through some dude in exchange for a series of favors. Long live education.
Love and enjoy.