I’ve now met him five times and he’s been unnecessarily caustic on three of them. Snarky.
On the first occasion, someone asked my opinion about the foot traffic in a particular area. I said it seemed like there was a lull. He sneered. ‘Did you get that from crystals?’
I was startled. Crystals? You mean, instead of watching traffic flow patterns? Gosh, I never thought of that. Pretty clever for a dick.
Last week I was shooting footage for a marketing video for the organization we both belong to. I approached. ‘No,’ he snapped to the delight of his coterie of beta boys. ‘I don’t want you filming me.’
Plenty of people declined to be filmed – it was no big deal; still, some changed their minds when they learned I’m only looking for 2 seconds maximum and I’m not recording audio. So I said, ‘Are you sure? You’d be so good,’ because that’s just the sort of thing you say at times like those.
‘You don’t even know me,’ he sneered. Again.
I sighed and started replacing the lens cap and adjusting tripod legs. He kept talking. For 15, 20 seconds, he went on and on and on, detailing his objections to being photographed or filmed, until I looked him directly in the face. ‘I got it. Right away.’ I enunciated all the syllables. Slowly, I mean.
So, that’s the episode and these are the steps I took to get a painting out of it, a painting that turned it all into something happy:
1. At first I’m nonchalant. It’s a fun thing to be. I’m even amused.
2. I realize that I’m nonchalant because I’ve already gone into sarcasm-mode, which means I’m already prepared to smack him down in the future. This is a highly effective technique. To the casual observer, I don’t look or act like someone who’d snap back. I’m easy to underestimate. He’s easy to prepare for: a handsome man, pushing 60, accustomed to alpha male privileges, to that rush the grade school bully gets when his friends roar at his snark. He does not seeing retaliation coming from a woman.
3. I stop myself.
I’m not interested in sarcasm that’s always poised to pounce. I’ve tried it. Didn’t like it. It feels too much like sharpening weapons. In fact, I think that’s a requirement.
I have no problem with whipping out a wordy weapon if it’s really and truly needed, but it’ll have to have a dull edge.
I have better things to be doing and by better, I mean better for my mind and better for the world. It’s very hard to jump into fun, secret, mysterious and magic parts of our imaginations when we’re also standing sentry. I’d rather be trying to spin stories that make us feel safe and welcome than taking a swipe at any perceived insult.
4. So. I’ve made up my mind. It’s not enough to ignore it, to just hold my head up and pretend it didn’t happen. I need to know where I’m really standing on it. I’m ready to sketch and when I do, it will NOT be an act of revenge. It will be an illustration of what’s possible at any moment.
I know I’ll want to get her right when she’s winking, teasing someone.
I want to show her, right after someone’s tried to belittle, reduce, ridicule her and instead of flaring up, she’s reminding them with a laugh that we’re in this together. We’re all vulnerable.
So, up above is what I get into my sketchbook. It makes me chuckle. I’m going to take out the words, though, and hope I can capture her very gentle censure.
Sometimes the paint complies. Sometimes it doesn’t. Either way, I want to be happy with what I’m going for. I went.