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My Stint as a Concierge – Part 2

The beautiful young woman with long, dark hair stood with her large breasts resting on the counter of the concierge desk. When I looked up, her plunging neckline and erect nipples were staring me in the face. No, I haven’t started writing erotica. If so, that would have been a terrible stab at it. She handed me an earring and a large gemstone and said, “Can you fix this?” She reached up and put her hair behind the ear that was wearing the match to the broken one. “Can I have the one on your ear so I can look at it?” I asked. She took it off and handed it to me. I studied them both. I wasn’t a jeweler, but it appeared to be costume jewelry so I wasn’t too worried about saying, “I can crazy glue it.” She smiled and said she’d be back for it in an hour.

She was a prostitute hired by the Los Angeles Bond Club (bail bondsmen) to accompany a group of about 30 men to the hotel for the weekend. It was just she and one other girl. The men were there for their annual convention (golf/drinking/sex with hookers), and what was left in their wake were stories the staff would talk about for months, especially the Housekeeping Department.

Being a concierge was an interesting job. If you got the right gig, it could be very lucrative and you could be dialed in to everything going on, especially in a big city. The perks can be phenomenal. Later on in my husband’s career, he was managing a hotel in Los Angeles where we benefited greatly from the relationships the hotel concierge had fostered. But that was a little different from the job at Spanish Bay. A posh golf resort wasn’t the same as a big city hotel because of all the things a big city has to offer. Still, you never knew what would be thrown at you. For the most part, it’s talking about where to go and what to do and what to eat and scheduling dinner reservations and massages and babysitters and tee times, etc., etc., but occasionally you are hit a little sideways with requests that leave you slightly speechless while you process how best to accommodate.

Like the time a 40-something year old woman, who was very plain and soft-spoken walked up to the desk and stated that she had forgotten her compact at home. First I said, “Did you check the gift shop? We have some cosmetics there.” She said, “Yes, but you don’t carry Clinique.” I thought, So what the hell do you expect me to do about it, run to Macy’s for you? I hesitated, then said, “If you can tell me the shade, I can send a porter to Macy’s.” A month or so later, I found out this woman was a “secret shopper” hired by hotel management and in her report she described our interaction to the letter. It went something like this, “Jodee was very pleasant and helpful with getting the compact I told her I forgot at home, though there was a slight initial hesitation.”

On very busy days, the concierge staff would have to jump in and do some of the porter duties. Occasionally I parked cars. I once drove a Bentley to a parking spot. I also drove a 20-something passenger bus more than once. The first time the doorman came in and said, “Jodee, I need to you shuttle a group to The Lodge,” I said, “No way. I can’t drive that big bus.” Yes, you can,” he said. So I did. It was full of a group of golfers from Japan who spoke very little English, but tried to ask me questions while I held their lives in my hands and in that bus. It went okay, and truth be told, I often volunteered to drive the bus even though I don’t think I was legally supposed to. I seem to recall a special license (?), but maybe not.

On another busy day, the doorman walked in holding the elbow of a man holding an ice pack to the side of his head. “Jodee, I need you to take Mr. White to the ER.” He had been hit in the head with a golf ball and was actually knocked out briefly. He refused an ambulance, but the hotel insisted he get checked out. As I was getting in the driver’s seat of the hotel Town Car, the doorman whispered, “Don’t let him fall asleep.” That poor man. I talked his ear off and asked him questions the entire drive to the hospital. I could tell he was annoyed. I finally said, “I’m not supposed to let you fall asleep.” He said, “I know.”

I mentioned in the first part of the story that my immediate supervisor, David, would become my second husband in less than a year. So yeah, that was going on; his trying to “court” me, and me resisting (initially). He made it pretty clear from the beginning that he was interested, though he was always professional. I recall him saying, “There’s something I really want to ask you, but I’m not sure I should.” I said, “You want to ask me out?” He said, “No, I want to ask you to marry me and have my children.” I laughed and walked away. I had a crush on the bartender in the Lobby Lounge. I was once hiding behind the bar having a coke or something when I heard David walk up and ask the bartender if he had seen me. He said, “no.” That was my cue to go out the back door of the bar and run as quickly as I could through the back hallways to the employee lounge and act like nothing.

Eventually he won me over so we went to Tahoe and got married. Within two weeks, the General Manager of the hotel called David in and said, “I don’t think Jodee should be working here now that she is your wife.” And that was end of my stint as a concierge.

My Stint as a Concierge


My friend Renee called me one day and asked if I would be interested in working as a concierge at The Inn at Spanish Bay. “I don’t think so,” I said. I was working as the daytime bartender at the Monterey Plaza Hotel at the time and I liked my job. Renee and I did some part-time modeling together and in the relatively short time I had lived on the Monterey Peninsula, I considered her my closest friend. I was recently separated from my first husband and things weren’t easy, but my little boy and I were settling into life in a one bedroom apartment a few blocks from the beach. “John is recruiting,” Renee said. John was Renee’s husband. He was in the hotel business and if I took the job as concierge, he would be my boss. He was a great guy, but the thought of changing jobs during such an unsettling time in my life sounded like more than I wanted to deal with.

A month or so later, John called me himself. “Come on, Jodee, just come down to the hotel and let me show you around and tell you about the job.” I agreed. The Inn at Spanish Bay hadn’t been open too long and was part of the Pebble Beach Resorts family. The historical Lodge at Pebble Beach was (is) its sister property. Both are located on the world famous 17-Mile Drive and both have world class golf courses. It was beautiful. The resort itself wooed me. When John and I finished walking the property and talking about the job, I was smitten. It didn’t hurt that he timed my visit with sunset, and the bagpiper who plays and pairs beautifully with that time of day.

A concierge takes care of a hotel guest’s every need, though you aren’t required to break the law, and you can refuse to help a guest if they ask you to cross the line, though that line is never actually spelled out. Of course you aren’t allowed inside of a guest’s room, other than the short time you are pointing out the workings of their room after you have escorted them to it. You see, that was how Spanish Bay had this position structured. You were either one of two employees behind the concierge desk, or you were posted in the lobby awaiting arrivals. If that happened to be you, the front desk clerk would introduce you by name, “Mr. Jones, this is Jodee. She is going to escort you to your room, tell you about the hotel, and answer any questions you may have.” But I’m jumping ahead.

We didn’t have bellmen. We had porters. Porters would be posted outside as hotel guests pulled up to the porte-cochère. The hotel was set back from the road. There was a guard gate at the entrance. The person working in the guard gate would inquire whether the person entering the property was checking into the hotel and if they were, the gate person would call the doorman and let them know that Mr. Jones was on his way up in a blue Mercedes. Mr. Jones would then be greeted by name by the doorman and then whisked to the front desk clerk and introduced where he would promptly get checked in before being handed off to (a concierge) me. Mr. Jones would always inquire about the car and his bags, but he would be told not to worry about that. While one porter was parking his car, another porter was already on his way to the room to drop off the luggage before we arrived, and when he is surprised to see his luggage and inquires about tipping, he is told that a 15% gratuity is added onto his folio so he is not to tip anywhere in the hotel other than the restaurants and lounges. Sometimes guests would push cash into your hands and not take “no” for an answer, but you would never know if they were a spy so you tried to resist as best you could. Not taking “no” for an answer was a pretty good clue that they weren’t hired by management to “secret shop” on your ass.

My second husband, David, was my immediate supervisor. He was John’s assistant manager. I didn’t know he was going to be my second husband when I met him, but he would become that in less than a year’s time. My first day on the job was shadowing David as he told (and showed) me everything about the hotel. It was crucial to the job that I know everything about the hotel, the restaurants, the company, etc. We also drove over to The Lodge at Pebble Beach because I had to be familiar with that property as well. My one standout memory of that day was when we were driving to The Lodge and I told David about my son Jarrod, who was five at the time, wanting to change his name to Arnold. David laughed to tears.

To be continued…

Honeymoons

I haven’t had very good luck with honeymoons. Or marriages, come to think of it. Though I would actually call both of my marriage successful despite their ultimate demises. My son was a product of the first, and I would hardly call a 20-year marriage a failure. We succeeded for a long time, but I’m actually writing about honeymoons today. Specifically, the first one because there’s not a lot to tell about the second one as you will discover at the end of my story.

Two marriages equal two honeymoons with two different husbands and both to Hawaii, though they were on different islands so I didn’t have to suffer the fate of remembering being in the same place with Husband #1 when I was with Husband #2.

Husband #1 was only interested in buying weed. We spent a week on the island of Oahu, and he spent six days trying to score weed. Of course I knew before I married the guy that he liked his weed, but I didn’t think his smoking habit would infiltrate our honeymoon.

There was a casual mention of him wanting to buy some “good shit” in Hawaii a few weeks before our wedding, but I didn’t give it too much thought. I envisioned him asking the bellman at our hotel about it when we arrived, and then perhaps the bellman coming to our room that night with enough to last him the week and that would be the end of it.

I also envisioned us sitting on our hotel balcony overlooking the ocean drinking Mai Tais or some other exotic tropical drink and then walking hand in hand along the surf as the sun set, but that never happened.

The bellman did come to our room that first night, but only with one joint. The next morning Husband was on a quest to find more weed. I found myself running along behind him on the streets of Honolulu while he looked into the eyes of locals hoping they could read each other’s minds. “Got weed?” his eyes would say, “Yes,” the stranger’s eyes would say, and then they would duck behind a building or dumpster and exchange money and drugs. As the lookout, I became an accessory to these crimes.

For whatever reason, he could only get a small amount at a time so these were our daily excursions. I took to wearing a disguise. We did have a few nice dinners in between our hunts for illegal drugs, and the Luau that the hotel put on was a memorable experience. But what I remember most is following Husband and a local dude into a rundown apartment complex where we entered the unit with an upside down “B” on the door, and while Husband was conducting his final transaction with four strange men lurking, I envisioned them taking what was left of our money and slitting our throats.

Obviously that didn’t happen, because nine years later I was on the island of Maui with Husband #2, who didn’t like marijuana due to the paranoia that would envelop him each time he’d tried it.

We had a wonderful time sitting on our hotel balcony overlooking the ocean sipping exotic tropical drinks and taking nightly walks along the surf at sunset. We dined at wonderful restaurants, went on a snorkeling excursion to Molokini, swam in the ocean, read books on the beach, and even tried parasailing. We did all the touristy stuff.

What we didn’t do was have good old-fashioned sex. Instead, we asked the concierge at our hotel where the nearest pharmacy was so I could stock up on Monistat because I was hit with a raging yeast infection on Day #2 of Honeymoon #2.

Alone Time

Oh, the neglected blog. To borrow from an overused phrase, the struggle is real. The struggle to write. There has been very little blogging and a bit of writing outside of the blog, but mostly I have found 2016 to be the year I stopped writing. So I will end the year with something. Anything. Boring or mundane, or whatever, I will write.

I will write about the visit to see my grandson cancelled due to stormy weather. I can go on about that. About the need to squeeze the little guy and plant kisses on his chubby cheeks and on the top of his sweet smelling head. FaceTime is awesome, but it doesn’t replace the feel of his soft little arms. So much is happening with him right now. The words and funniness are flying out of his mouth. He can tell you his name, he can point to just about anything you ask him to, and he can release his dog Frank from the crate.

So instead of the trip to see Larkin, I drove 50 minutes outside of town to Valley Ford, a blink and you miss it sort of place not far from Bodega Bay, to stay at a little hotel in the wall. Actually, it’s quite lovely in an understated sort of way. It’s clean, has very nice linens, and EO amenities in the shower. Also, the coffee is good and there was a basket of snacks at the top of the stairway landing when I arrived. When I peered in I saw individually wrapped homemade brownies. I’m sold.

I came to pout. I brought books, a puzzle, my new 2017 planner, my computer, my running shoes, and wine.

I finished one book and started another.
I completed the puzzle, start to finish.
I planned my triathlon training.
I worked on my budget.
I ran 4.5 miles this morning and I’m planning to run again tomorrow morning.
I discovered the Estero Cafe across the street for breakfast and Rocker Oysterfeller’s here in the hotel for dinner. Both delicious.
I didn’t finish the wine I brought.
I wrote!

All in all, this was time well spent with myself.

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Kids First

Mike told me a funny little story the other day. This past Friday afternoon there was a meeting at our house regarding at-home therapy for the boys. Not the type of therapy for kids going through a difficult time or anything like that, but the kind of therapy designed to help kids with autism. Since Erin (the boys’ mom) had them on Friday, she let herself into our house and was waiting for Mike to get home so they could wait for the entourage of two therapists and the person in charge to arrive to meet the boys and then discuss with us what to expect, etc. I say “us” even though I wasn’t there. I would have been there, but I didn’t know about it until that day and thought it was a quick meeting in an office somewhere. Had I known it was a three hour thing at our house, I would have changed my plans and been there. As a result, the next day Erin and I discussed her including me in group texts about what is going on with the boys because, well, we both know Mike.

Anyway, the funny story was that when Mike got home and found Erin there with the boys, Liam said to Mike, “Hey Daddy, this is Mommy!” He said it more than once. He thought this strange enough to point out. In his world, Mommy and Daddy are in two separate houses and though there are pick-ups and drop-offs and instances where we are all together in the same place, Liam isn’t used to his mom hanging out at the house where his dad lives.

That story made me think of my own son, Jarrod, who was also a child of divorced parents at a very young age, but for many reasons (that some of you know because you know my story or you follow this blog), there was nothing civil or friendly about my break-up with Jarrod’s father, Joe. We communicated only when absolutely necessary. In fact, early on, he didn’t even know where we lived.

I had hoped that we would one day get beyond that animosity. I envisioned time healing all of our open wounds. As ridiculous as it sounds given our history, I thought we could let the past go and be friendly one day. I attempted to when Jarrod got older by inviting Joe to his high school graduation party at my parents’ house, but he declined.

What brought us together was Jarrod’s cancer diagnosis at the age of 20. Why does it take something so catastrophic to get two people to set aside their grievances and breath the same air inside the same tiny room? We didn’t drive together to Stanford University Medical Center to discuss the next steps after the diagnosis, but we met there, and the three of us huddled together waiting for Dr. Ronald Levy to walk in and tell us something that would allow us all to sleep that night. It was a two hour wait. This doctor was the leading authority on Lymphoma and as a favor to my brother-in-law’s roommate whose girlfriend was a colleague on the fundraising for research side of things, (I think I got that right), we were gratefully squeezed in for a consultation. I would have waited all night for a sit-down with that doctor.

I don’t remember all that much about the wait because my state of mind during that time was one that only allowed me to go through the motions of living. I had one mission. And that was to find the right person for the job of making my son healthy again. But I do remember that Joe and I were both calm, united together by the same feelings we had for Jarrod. We were the only two people in the entire world who knew how the other felt during that time, and if that was all we had left of what was once “us,” then at least we had that.

Despite the circumstances we were able to share a few laughs with Jarrod. That I remember. And like Liam, though it was a different kid, a different time, and a different place, I remember something Jarrod said when Joe left the room to go to the cafeteria to get us something to eat. He said, “This is so weird.” I asked, “What’s weird?” He said, “You and dad in the same room with me.”

Incidentally, we all slept better that night.

Jarrod and Liam

Jarrod and Liam

 

 

The Uneventful Eventful Weekend

Our kid weekend started out normal enough. I took off work early Friday and picked up the boys from school because Mike had a thing, their mom had a thing, and grandma had a thing. We hung out and played with a new train set until Mike got home. I took an electric engine apart looking for a battery after Liam handed it to me and said, “Fix it.” I took four screws out of the bottom, which is not where the battery is housed. The battery is easily attainable by taking one screw off the top of the train, though I didn’t know that yet. When the last screw came out, the guts of the train fell out. I had three little axles in my hand. They each had three to four wheels on them with teeth. There was only one way to make them fit so they would all work together to make the actual train wheels move. I couldn’t figure it out. All the while, a distressed little boy is hovering over me as I worked on the tiny engine. I kept repeating, “I’m sorry, Daddy will have to fix it,” knowing Daddy wouldn’t be able to fix it. I gave up, put all the parts in a little dish and set it on top of the fridge. I distracted Liam by turning on the TV then went online to Amazon and ordered a new electric train engine exactly like the one I just dismantled. These are the moments I’m thankful for Prime and overnight shipping.

As soon as Mike got home he took the boys to a fair at school so they could jump in bouncy houses. I stayed home and started dinner. I made fresh pesto for pasta and when the guys arrived home, we ate. Liam devoured two platefuls and Finn took his usual two bites. After dinner, baths, and mani-pedis for the boys, we all sat down to watch Curious George 2. Finn seemed tired, but that isn’t unusual for him at the end of a long day. Liam was his usual bouncy self.

Toward the end of the movie, and during an upsetting scene where the mama Elephant is captured, Finn, who was laying on top of Mike, sat up and let out a scream. Just as I was about to say, “the mama elephant will be fine,” the entire contents of his stomach upchucked all over his father and our new couch. And so began the weekend of thirty loads of laundry, diligent sanitation, and managing one healthy kid and one sick kid. (Sidenote to parents whose kids were in the bouncy houses with Finn: So sorry, we didn’t know he was sick).

At 9:24pm I received a message from an old friend’s son-in-law via Facebook. He told me my friend had cancer and wasn’t doing well and that she qualified for Hospice this week. This was a dear friend who for many years was a big part of my life. We met when I was in my early 30s and she was in her 50s. We worked together for several years and despite our difference in age, had an immediate connection. We had always stayed in touch, but the past few years had been more sporadic and when I received his message I immediately felt awful about that. I should have known. I told him I would call her on Saturday.

Only Liam slept much that first night. Finn was up a lot. I will spare you the details of what the stomach bug did to the poor little guy because we’ve all been there either with ourselves or our kids. There’s no need for explanations. In the morning I ran to the store for Gatorade, Pedialyte, and Jello. We had planned to take the boys to see The Angry Birds Movie on Saturday, but that turned into me taking Liam and leaving Mike and Finn at home. Finn being sick had already made an impression on Liam because on the way home from the movie he said, “Let’s go see Daddy and Finn be quiet.”

Off to the movies.

Off to the movies.

My friend and the phone call I had to make weighed heavy on my mind. I was afraid to call. What would I say? How would she sound? Would she forgive me for not calling to check in with her sooner? I thought it might be a long phone call, though I didn’t know if her health would allow that. I just knew that in the past our phone calls were often very long as we caught each other up on our lives and I wanted to be sure I had a good stretch of uninterrupted time to talk.

Liam’s new train arrived and when I handed it to him he thought it was the broken one and by the end of the weekend we realized that he thinks I can fix anything. Actually, I did end up fixing the broken train on Saturday evening because of my dogged determination.

Part of me was procrastinating, part of me was having a hard time finding a good time to make the call with all that was going on in the house. I messaged my friend in the early evening not knowing if she would answer. I asked her if Sunday afternoon would be a good time for me to call since Mike and I had already discussed him taking Liam out of the house and me staying home with Finn. I figured Finn would either be asleep or I could put a movie on for him. She responded shortly after with a “Yes.”

On Sunday morning I scooted Mike out the door for a run after breakfast. He’d been housebound since Friday. Finn was still green. He sat and stared at a plate of pancakes, but didn’t attempt one bite. He slept most of the day on Saturday and it looked like Sunday was going to be a repeat. When I returned from a trip to the laundromat to wash the boys’ comforters, Mike took Liam for a walk and lunch downtown. Finn was still lethargic and not eating at all. Knowing kids usually bounce back pretty quickly with these bugs, we were getting a little concerned.

Nope.

Nope.

My fear about calling my friend went out the window when I heard her voice. We picked up where we left off like we always had. Knowing the kind of person she was, I wasn’t surprised by her acceptance of her situation and her matter-of-fact demeanor. She had been a rock for me during difficult times in my life. She was the first friend I called when my son was diagnosed with cancer. She had a daughter who had survived cancer so she knew exactly what I was going through and she let me lean on her. I leaned hard.

Around 5pm Sunday evening, Mike and I talked about calling the doctor on Monday morning if Finn still hadn’t eaten and at the end of that conversation, Mike went in to take a shower. I stripped Finn to join Mike and we were both taken aback by how skinny he looked. He’s a skinny kid to begin with, but he didn’t look healthy. It was a little scary. After a good scrub, I took Finn from the shower so Mike could finish up and got him dressed in clean pajamas. Then he sat down at the dining room table. I started asking him about food. Quesadilla? Peanut butter and jelly? Cereal? I held up the box. “Okay,” he said. I gave him a bowl of cereal and he took two big bites. Then he said, “All done.” It was a start. He crawled up on the couch and pulled a blanket over himself. I wanted to keep his interest in food going so I put a small bowl of cantaloupe in his lap that Mike had cut up the night before. He said, “Thank you,” and started eating it, and thus began the bouncing back.

Can I forgive myself for forgetting my friend’s 80th birthday this past March? She told me there was nothing to forgive. She told me that she knows how life is and how busy I am now and how lucky those two little boys are to have me in their lives because she knows the kind of person I am. I don’t feel worthy of her saying those things to me because I feel like I have failed her as a friend. What an amazing and wonderful woman she is.

Just as Mike and I were settling in to watch Game of Thrones, my phone rang and I saw it was my mom. We talk fairly often and it’s usually pretty quick check-ins so I told Mike I wanted to take the call. He paused the TV. A few weeks back my mother had told me that she and my dad had wanted to go to Anaheim for an Elks Lodge event this past weekend. My dad doesn’t drive any longer because of his vision and my mom said she wasn’t sure she wanted to make that drive herself. They were hoping some other friends would be going so they could tag along. I suggested looking into Amtrak too, but she discovered the timing wouldn’t work for the train. I had forgotten about the Anaheim weekend until we started talking last night. She told me that she and my dad had gone after all and it was just the two of them and they had a nice, relaxing time. My mom is 82 and my dad is 86 and they just took a mini roadtrip together.

Hug your parents, hug your kids, and then pick up the phone and call that old friend that you haven’t talked to in awhile.

Pat

My beautiful friend.

 

I grew a tree

Actually, I grew more than one tree. Ten years ago or so, I opened up a few pods from a Mesquite tree and put the seeds in the ground in the backyard of my house in Southern Arizona. Today the trees are massive, and knowing these beautiful trees are there because of me makes me feel like I did something good. This was different than going down to your neighborhood nursery and buying a tree in a pot. This was me helping nature by scattering seeds and growing something that will still be standing in 100 years.

My husband, David, had made a somewhat impulsive decision to buy a house in Tubac, Arizona after visiting his parents one winter. They had retired to Southern Arizona and the town of Tubac was about an hour away from them. He bought a completely staged (furnished) brand new home in a development that was within walking distance to town, which wasn’t much more than four square blocks of art galleries, a coffeehouse, a few restaurants, a saloon, and one gas station. I had never been there. He returned to our home in Palm Springs with the news.

We then impulsively rented our house in Palm Springs completely furnished, put a few things in a storage unit, loaded our two vehicles with personal belongings and three dogs and then drove to the state next door where we would live for the next two years, which brings me to the day the Mesquite pods came into my possession.

We had gone to visit my in-laws and after a lazy afternoon and early dinner, we stood in their front yard chatting before saying goodbye. They had a very large Mesquite tree next to their driveway that was shedding pods. My father-in-law (who I also must give credit too) picked up a handful and gave them to me. He said, “Take these home, open them up, and put the seeds in the ground. You might get a tree.”

Mesquite pods

Mesquite pods

Our backyard was all rock, very sparse, and with only a few desert cactuses and shrubs. It wasn’t pretty. In addition, the development had a rule about the height of your fence or enclosure. We had a four foot wall that overlooked a park to the back and an adjacent neighbor on one side. There wasn’t much privacy. I told David that I would try to grow four trees. Three on the back wall and one on the side closer to the house.

Before trees

Before trees

The seeds sprouted very quickly. I was ecstatic. When our desert dwelling days came to an end, the trees were about as tall as me, but still wispy. We visited Arizona when we could and it was always joyful to see their growth, but as the story goes there came a time when that house was no longer my house and the ex-husband got custody of the trees.

Happily, the story doesn’t end there. Knowing what those trees meant to me, David sends me pictures every time he visits Tubac.

View from the back wall of one of my trees.

Look at that tree!

 

Finally Telling: A Girl’s Guide to Speaking Up

A couple of nights ago I told my boyfriend Mike a story of something that happened to me many years ago. His response was, “I have no idea what that kind of fear feels like.” Of course he doesn’t. Because these types of stories almost exclusively belong to women.

Telling the story was prompted by reading a blog earlier in the day that had gone viral and shown up on my Facebook newsfeed. The blog could have been written by ANY woman. Not because the woman who wrote it isn’t a good writer, quite the contrary, but because I don’t think there is a woman in this country who couldn’t put herself on that page. She wrote of what we women are subjected to on a daily basis, because we are women, and how we choose to handle it, which is to minimize and de-escalate.

The title of the blog is The Thing All Women Do That You Don’t Know About and it’s worth reading. In fact, you should click on the link and read that blog before you continue reading here.

The part where she says, They don’t know struck a chord with me because I had a story I’d never told until the other night. Actually, I have many stories I’ve never told, and a few I have. The dodged bullet story has been told, but why do we minimize and de-escalate? We do it for a variety of reasons, partly because, “It happens all the time. And it’s not always clear if the situation is dangerous or benign,” says the author of the blog. And she’s right.

I’m not sure if I was in danger, though at the time, I honestly felt I was. The man I’m going to write about crossed the line and made me extremely uncomfortable. I should have told someone, but in my youth and naivete, I began to question my judgement after the fact. Maybe I was letting my imagination get the best of me. Maybe it was an accident when he brushed the front of himself against my shoulder when he was fixing my hair. Maybe he was just going to get his mail when he got in the elevator with me. I can’t ruin this guy’s reputation without being sure that something was going to happen.

But something did happen. He was wildly inappropriate and I was too afraid NOT to pretend he wasn’t being wildly inappropriate. I chose to act as if it was not a big deal to keep the situation from escalating. Perhaps that was the right thing to do to protect myself, but not telling someone about it was bullshit. I was a young girl without the confidence to tell the story when it should have been told.

So here it is. Sadly, it’s not a special story. I imagine most of us women have these kinds of stories; some not quite as scary, and some much more terrifying. Maybe it’s time we all start telling our stories. Like the author of the blog said, “Just listen.”

I was 19-years old and still fairly new to the modeling world. When you are new and don’t have a lot of work experience behind you to fill your portfolio with “tear sheets,” your agent will suggest you “test” shoot with photographers. This can be expensive so there is often a list available of wannabe fashion photographers trying to break into the business who are willing to test for only the cost of the developing and prints. I chose one such photographer.

When I made the date with him over the phone, he said we would be shooting at his apartment in San Francisco and that there would be one other model there. That was fine with me.

When I arrived, I met his wife who was on her way out the door. They seemed like a nice young couple, probably in their late 20s to early 30s. There were no red flags whatsoever at that point.

The other model and I took turns shooting against a white wall in his kitchen that was next to a big window that had nice natural light. While she changed outfits, he would shoot me, and vice versa. The apartment was small, but there was enough room in the bathroom for her and I to cram all our stuff in there where we could refresh make-up, change our hair, and change outfits.

The photographer seemed okay, though he had a nervous energy about him. He appeared to know what he was doing and had the right equipment. Back before the digital age, there was always a Polaroid camera used first to check lighting, etc., before the photographer would use actual film. The Polaroids looked good and he was secure enough with his abilities to suggest minor movements for the best shots.

After a few hours of the other model and I taking turns, I was getting tired and hungry and was ready to call it a day. Things seemed to be winding down when he told the other girl that she could leave. He said he had enough shots for her and that he just wanted to do a few more with me. He told me to put on the white top that I had previously shown him; the one that when I first had shown him he said, “white won’t really work.” When I said, “I thought white won’t work,” he told me the lighting had changed and it should be okay for one last series of photos.

This was my first moment of uneasiness. I didn’t really like that I would be alone there with him. While he seemed nice, our rapport wasn’t easy. I’d shot with quite a few photographers at that point and I had never felt uneasy around any of them, even when I was alone with them.

I shook it off, said my goodbyes to the other girl, and went to the bathroom to change my outfit. When I came out he had me sit on a stool. This is when things started to get weird. He became much more touchy. It was common for photographers without an assistant to fix out-of-place hair, or adjust your clothing during a shoot, but he had only done that to a bare minimum. Now he kept touching me; fixing my hair, lifting my chin, moving my head…

There was a very definable shift in his behavior with this shoot compared to the others that day, but I was minimizing everything he was doing. I was having an internal battle with myself. I told myself he was married. I told myself I was blowing things out of proportion. I actually let him unbutton the top button of my blouse and pull it open more. He said, “We have enough wholesome shots, how about some sexy ones?”

I didn’t respond, but I did exactly as I was told, including “lean forward and purse your lips.” Ugh. The original duck lips. I was afraid to not comply. I was afraid things could turn ugly. My instincts were telling me that as long as he didn’t sense my fear or see that I was uncomfortable, then I could control the situation, but I was also thinking very clearly on how I was going to get myself out of there. I’d had enough. I said, “Can we stop for a minute, I need to use the restroom?”

I walked into the bathroom and quickly gathered up all of my things and shoved them in my bag. I made a mental note of where my coat was, which was on a chair by the door, and then, with my keys in my hand, I took a deep breath, walked out, and said, “Actually, I think we have enough today. I need to leave now if I’m going to beat rush hour traffic.” I could see that he was stunned as I walked toward the door with all of my stuff. His eyes were wide. He said, “I’ll go down with you.”

My heart leapt to my throat. Why, I thought. Why does he want to go down with me? He lived on an upper floor in an old building with an elevator that had a gate. The hallway was dark and dank. I had no idea where the stairs were and in my attempt to act as normal as possible, I couldn’t see a way out of not getting on the elevator with him. So I did. I pressed the button for the ground floor as he closed that gate on us and then stood there on high alert. Almost immediately the elevator stopped and the door opened one floor below his. An elderly man opened the gate and stepped on, and with him, the biggest sense of relief washed over me. I said hello to him with probably a little too much enthusiasm, but at that moment, I felt like that old guy was my savior.

I drove home.

I didn’t tell my parents.

I didn’t tell my boyfriend.

I didn’t tell my agent.

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Strides

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This morning as I was walking the boys to school I was reflecting on the progress they have made this past year, though really I think the shift has been in just the last few months. I was forced to reflect upon this because Liam wouldn’t stop talking. When we came to the crosswalk he said, “Wait!” And he was yelling at the cars to stop. I said, “That’s right, we have to wait for all the cars to stop.” This made me smile because I’m the one that usually tells them to wait each and every time we approach the corner. I often talk to the boys the entire walk to school even though I may be the only one talking. I know that this is one of the best things you can do to help children learn language and communications skills and with their delays in this area, well, I just keep talking.

This morning Liam took over. It seems that all of a sudden he is bursting with vocabulary that had previously been held in some part of his brain that he didn’t have access to. Sure, he had a lot of words, but now he has phrases, questions, comments, and answers. It’s wonderful. He basically had a commentary going about everything on our walk. After we crossed the street, he looked straight up and said, “What’s that?” I said, “That’s the sky, and clouds,” and he said, “and birds, there are birds flying.” I said, “That’s right! They are waaaay up high. I didn’t see them until you told me!” At the same time, the first drops of rain started to fall. He said, “That’s rain, that’s water from the sky.” Then a woman passed us with a stroller. He said, “Hi baby.” Then we walked up the hill and he said, “There’s a baseball game.” I explained the difference between a baseball game and a baseball field. He was already onto, “There’s a gate. It opens.”

You get the idea. Last night he had a commentary with his dad in the kitchen as the pizza was cooking in the oven. There’s a lot to be said while you are hungry and waiting for your favorite pizza. I could tell Mike was loving it and what I’m realizing is that these are the first real conversations taking hold. With that, I’m noticing that he is finding his voice. For the most part, he is an easy going kid and very compliant, but the other night he yelled at his dad, “Get out of my room!” Mike said, “Okay.”

Finn is making good progress with talking too, but I can probably save his story for another blog. Suffice it to say he has a very strong will and prefers things to go his way. For example, he won’t walk to school without his stuffed kitty. He’s fine to hand it over when we get to his class so I can take it back home though. I’m not sure what people think when they see a grown woman walking with a stuffed kitty in her arms.

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Lies

Beep…
I don’t pick up. I’m standing by the machine listening to my mother’s voice tell me that she wants to stop by and see the baby. She can’t. I don’t pick up because I don’t know what to tell her. My baby is fine. He’s warm and loved and fed. I’m not fine, but she won’t be ignored. I know this about her. An hour passes and she rings again. This time I pick up as soon as I hear her voice. Sorry mom, I just got home, I lied. No, today won’t work. I’m heading out again. She wants to know where I’m going. Not enough time has passed between childhood and adulthood. She is still the mother telling me what to do. She tells me it’s too cold to take the baby out and she’s right. I’m actually not taking the baby out. I’ve been hiding in my house all day. I will hide in my house the remainder of the week. Maybe tomorrow, I say. Then what? What will I say tomorrow? I will say I’m sick. I must put her off. She doesn’t believe me. You don’t sound sick. It’s a stomach thing. Let’s plan for Friday. Friday I will appear to be fine, I tell myself. I open the door on Friday. She is snuggling the baby as I sit watching, waiting, hoping. She looks up with a smile that begins to fade. She is studying my face. What’s wrong with your eye? Nothing. You have a faded bruise under your eye. Oh that. The dog jumped up as I bent down, I lied.

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