Who is she for you?
This post popped up on my instagram and made me pause on the spot for a good 10 seconds - that’s a long time in an insta-browsing-minute! It triggered something.
Last weekend my boyfriend and I went to Joshua Tree (that highly instagrammable nature reserve a few hours outside of LA) with another couple, a husband and wife duo that are everything that can be cool about a New York couple. They both have their own businesses and a lot of crossovers into one another’s, which also make them business partners of sorts, leading their own projects but consulting back and forth and bouncing ideas off one another. They are 'that couple' that can both be wearing statement hats, distinctive sunglasses, he a necktie and she a kimono with pearls, and both quite genuinely look like they just threw it on, with no deliberation, and it not be in anyway out of the ordinary. They make it all look as comfortable as pajamas - whilst snapping away creatively on their Leica camera.
(I for the record look adorbable with a Leica slung around my neck, but haven't got the foggiest of ideas how to use it!)
I know you want to dislike them, but I promise you, you just can’t because they ARE the real deal - the ones that set the trends that Urban Outfitters will have every teen+ wearing/ doing in 3 years time.
They are good friends of my man but relatively new to me, so it was a good opportunity to get to know them better, sharing an airbnb for a couple of nights as well as the long car ride to Joshua Tree and back, where I was quite literally a backseat overseer of their banter, business discussions and overall dynamic.
He is undeniably cool as shit. Laid back but driven, easy going but motivated, cool as a cucumber, but quick witted and observant. V cool dude.
Very quickly I was in utter awe of HER. Her confidence, her self-assertion, how she manages to be very present, very personable, thoughtful and an open listener, whilst also managing to speak up for her needs, wants and opinions, absolutely certain of her worth and rights, and generally completely un-fuck-withable! She goes after exactly what she wants, be it the days plans or a business collaboration, without a moments hesitation that she is overstepping any “marks”, asking too much or with any fear of rebuttal or rejection. I think she is sincerely one of those people who on getting a “no” would think “idiots, they’ll come round when they realize what they were missing”. And she’d be right!
Needless to say I was spellbound.
I brought it up with my man a few days later when we were back in LALA Land and driving just the two of us. I was curled up with my feet on the dashboard, braiding tiny braids into my hair (a habit I see no reason to kick) and relaying my observations. My voice was full of admiration, and he laughed and acknowledged that he knew exactly what I meant. She wasn’t bossy, or demanding or selfish in any way, she just knows what she wants, doesn't question her worth and go gets it.
I, am not this girl.
I said to him:
“that’s a super power. If I had even 25% of her confidence I’d be unstoppable”
and we both sat in that thought for the next mile of highway.
You see, I am VERY English, sometimes painfully so. I am very aware of eggshells and the fact that the world is paved with them. I constantly feel I am in the wrong place and therefore in someones way/ blocking an entrance or somebody’s view etc, and will guarantee-ably be sorry for you treading on my foot or spilling my drink as it was certainly me being in your way that did it. I’m not even being sarcastic here, it’s an awkwardness.
I was raised with my Mum reminding me to “not overstay your welcome” on any visit to a friend, and when we were round someone else’s as a family, my Mum would wrap things up with a “well we better be getting out of your way”, so for all her amazing motherliness (she is truly the kindest most selfless human alive) she still managed to ingrain in me an absolute terror of being a bother, to anyone, ever.
When I first moved to the US at the plucky age of 20, I was quite bowled over by the efficiency and directness - bordering on rudeness - in how people spoke to one another, and yet just how few seemed offended by it. I would be on a fashion shoot, and the hair stylist would have spent two hours working on what his interpretation of the brief was, a test shot would be taken, and after a minutes musing the art director would say “I don't like the hair, lets fix it” and continue to debate how she/ he wanted it.
That whole episode working back in the UK would take all morning. The test shots would be done, and usually all of us could see that the problem was the hair or too much make up etc, but no one would come out and just say it. There would be humming, and ahhing’s and suggestions made that beat around the bush, it would literally sound like this:
Art Director: “I like it… yeah I really like it, but… hmmm…. I don’t know… what do you think?”
Client: “Yeah… I like it, but… yeah, something… I don't know, what are you thinking?”
AD: “Not sure really, we’re almost there, but… maybe we can take another shot”
New shot taken.
Client: “Yeah…. getting there… What do you think Paula?”
Paula (hair stylist): “I think it’s great”
AD: Yeah it is! It is great… Maybe… the hair needs to be pushed back a bit… maybe on one side”
Client: “Oh yeah lets try that”
Hair moves but is still not right.
AD: “Definitely getting there….”
Photographer: “Shall we try moving light?”
AD: “Oh, ok sure…”
This goes on until some way some how the hair stylist themselves decides to change the hair. I’ve seen entire lighting sets deconstructed and outfits changed, just to avoid the offending of a hairstylist that misunderstood the brief. And sometimes briefs change! That's creating.
A few months in to my New York life, I was having brunch with some new friends and a potential suitor, and I snagged the attention of my waiter with a wave, and said
“Hi, I’m so sorry, is there any chance I could get some water? Whenever you get chance, no rush, and if there is any chance of a little bit of ice and maybe some lemon, if you have it, that would be great, sorry to trouble you, thank you!”
This poor flustered man stood there looking completely bamboozled, and my “date du jour” turned and said
“She means water, ice and lemon, thanks”
and turned back to his food. The waiter nodded with relief and hurried away and I was horrified, “this man is so rude” I thought in horror!
It took me some time, and many confusing conversations with waitstaff, ordering take out on the phone (pre-seamless) and in taxi cabs, to learn that honest to God no-one knew what I was talking about, and I was doing everyone a favor to get to the point.
- you are at this point probably wishing for the same!
I was not raised with an abundance of confidence, or a single grain of entitlement towards anything in adult life. It took me ten years to dare tell my company’s travel agent that I preferred certain airlines to others for the points... in fact I lie. They got a new agent and she asked me, and said I was the only one for who it wasn’t on file for. I mean come on?? But I would never have dared! I have gone to friends restaurants and not told them, and waited to be seated and paid my check only for them to be horrified and even offended later that I hadn’t told them I was coming. - But I would never dare! I wouldn’t want them to feel like I expected anything!
And I’m the same in business, I talk to MY staff and MY contractors as though I am burdening them by asking them to work, and I am apologetic when the work load is higher or more complicated - and when they F up, I am sorry for it. It’s truly ridiculous and absolutely my MO. I don’t call on any favors or thing people offer up, as I feel uncomfortable or like I will be in some way indebted, or I worry they have a hidden agenda… That’s my fathers drumming in of “nothings for free” and “why is he doing that for you?” during my up bringing. What can ya do?
So. To be the woman you needed as a little girl.
Who is that woman for you? What is it you could wish to have programmed into your adult being? For me it is confidence, the confidence to speak up for my wants and my needs, to stand my ground and own it. It is to be kind, but firm and respectable in that. And it is to genuinely believe, that every man should treat me with respect, every employee should do as I have asked and within the time frame we agreed on, and that I am a whole lot less sorry for being extraordinary, and utterly human.
Now, when I am wavering on British uncertainty and awkwardness, I try imaging that the 5, 6, 7 year old me is by my side, holding my hand and looking up at me, and it’s my time to set an example for her, to stand my ground on her behalf, so she will have a damned clue how to do it later!
Who would you be for that little girl of you? (Or guy??!!! I love you boys too!!) I’d love to hear from you and hear how this perspective helps you think about and reframe some of the ways you are, and step up to the ways you wish you were. Write me, I’d love to share your stories!
xxx Jayne Moore