I shot downtown with a photographer the other day. We arranged for to shoot TFP -- Time (in exchange) For Prints, technically, but most often nowadays it's Time (in exchange) For Print Resolution Files That Will Be Emailed To You Later -- but at the end of it he insisted on "covering travel".

Photographers do this sometimes. They don't actually mean they want to cover the cost of travel; if they were going to cover travel in exchange for the shoot, then I'd know that in advance, because we would have hashed that out long before either one of us showed up. What they actually mean is, "I feel like this went well and I want to pay you for this shoot, but it's an unimaginably large pain in the ass to renegotiate a commercial contract when you've already signed a TFP release, and I probably couldn't afford your actual hourly rate anyway." Then they hand you an unpredictable amount of cash that bears absolutely no resemblance to the minor cost of physically getting yourself wherever you are, but usually errs on the side of being far too much.

It's not all that unusual, but it takes me by surprise every time. I always end up feeling like Holly Golightly, living off of "change for the powder room". I don't know if this is how other models feel -- I know with me, it has a lot to do with the crazy and conflicting things I learned from my immature and narcissistic mother, although she was aided and abetted by a lot of other people in my life.

When I was a child, the people close to me told me I was beautiful, brilliant, and talented. And they were some of the most insidiously backhanded compliments I ever got.

I learned that, since I was a beautiful, talented genius, there were a lot of things I did that, while they would have been a big deal from other people, were no big whoop from me. I learned that I had a duty to do these things anyway, for no reason, no remuneration, and no recompense, because if I didn't, I would be disappointing and betraying all the people who ever said encouraging things to me. I learned that no matter how well I did it would just be status quo, but if I did poorly I was lazy and recalcitrant and the authorities in my life would have every right to yell at me.

I learned that displaying beauty, talent, or genius in public made other people feel bad about themselves. I learned that avoiding giving other people these feelings was entirely my responsibility, and that I was a bad person if I did any of these things in front of someone else on purpose, knowing that they would walk away feeling inferior. I learned that it was not my place to upstage other people, and that only infantile drama whores did it anyway.

I learned that it was wrong, and rude, and intrusive to ever ask for attention. I learned that attention was just supposed to flow to you naturally if you deserved it, and that if you didn't, you were supposed to just keep quiet and fade into the background to make room for people who did. I learned that strong people didn't need friends. I learned that I am lucky people tolerate me, and that this could change at any moment.

I learned that my time had no value, and that my interests were ridiculous. I learned that I was supposed to keep my thoughts to myself, because they annoyed other people. I learned I had to be on high alert, to spot the moment 'oh, no, I like you fine' turned into a polite lie, so I didn't overstay my welcome.

I have spent the past decade unlearning the shit out of basically everything my parents ever taught me about social interactions. As of the past few years, I've unlearned enough of it to recognize the irony of my mother's diatribes about repressed conservative Christian communities and their multitude of rules. She thinks that because she's vehemently in favor of things like women working and legal abortions and people being allowed to have sex with any other consenting adult(s) of their choice that she's nothing like them at all.

Comments

  1. All I can say is *hugs*. And that I am enjoying the hell out of reading your blog -- thank you for your voice!

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