No apology. No further explanation.
She wasn't some flaky kid, either. She was an experienced, professional photographer in her mid- thirties, with a great portfolio. A tall, striking, and confident brunette, she looked to me like an actress who would play a photographer in a movie.
I tried to go back and reconstruct the first shoot in my head. Had I said something weird? Done something wrong? But as far as I could remember everything had gone smoothly.
Thus, being a poised and self-confident young woman of 20 years, I arrived at the only logical conclusion: I AM SO HIDEOUSLY UNATTRACTIVE this woman can not, in good conscience, bring herself to take another dime of my hard-earned money.
It never occurred to me that it had something to do with her. That maybe she was having a personal crisis. Maybe she didn't want to do photography anymore. Maybe her mom died. Or her girlfriend dumped her. Maybe her dog had a stroke. It could have been any number of things, and yet I assumed it was because I LOOKED LIKE THE ELEPHANT WOMAN.
While I would go on to get an agent, and head shots, and even appear in a handful of really terrible TV commercials, for years I dreaded running into that photographer. I just didn't want to be reminded of a time when I was so insecure as to assume the absolute worst about myself just because some stranger was being squirrelly about taking my picture.
Nashville is a small town. I work with photographers all the time. In the almost-fifteen years since that woman took my picture, I never saw or heard her name again.
Cut to the present day.
Once a month, Larry plays with a group of musicians at a restaurant/club in East Nashville, and a big group of wives and friends go out to see them, with all of our kids in tow. The kids get to dance, the parents spend money, and the venue's management is happy to have us.
Last Saturday, Larry and friends were booked from 6-9:30 and they'd asked me if I would get up and play a couple of songs. The last time I played out in public was six years ago-when Gus was but a bitty bun in the oven, so I'll admit it felt like a semi-big deal for me to dust off my guitar and get out in front of an audience again. I was nervous. And my butt was twitching. I don't know why my butt has to twitch when I'm nervous but TWITCH IT DOES.
When we arrived at the venue at six o'clock, an Australian gentleman, whose performance I can only describe as Neil Diamond-meets-Luciano Pavarotti, was on stage crooning to a group of about 12 middle-aged women, all of them clad in black and watching him with rapt attention. We sat down at tables and started ordering food for the kids, who were chatting and giggling amongst themselves.
I quickly sensed that the clad-in-black women did not much care for the chatting and giggling, so I reminded the kids to be quiet until the man on stage was through. But even with them being as good as kids can possibly be, there were still about twenty-five of us there greeting each other and ordering food and just doing what families do in RESTAURANTS, and these clad-in-black women were growing noticeably impatient. They kept whispering and rolling their eyes and looking over their shoulders and shaking their heads in disgust. And because I was already nervous about singing in public for the first time in six years, the whole scene set me on edge.
Then during what would be Neil Diamond Pavarotti's second-to-last song, one woman got up from her table, strode over to Gus and Patrick, leaned in, SHUSHED them, and hissed, "SOMEONE IS TRYING TO SING. IT IS VERY, VERY, DISRESPECTFUL FOR YOU TO BE TALKING." Before I could think of a word to say in response, she stormed past us out of the restaurant, leaving a cloud of self-righteous indignation in her wake.
My kids---god bless 'em they are slow to take a hint---kept right on talking.
Then another woman from the black-clad table, a brunette in her late forties, swung around in her chair, glared at our group, THREW up her hands, and said, "WHAT THE HELL?"
THAT'S FUNNY, I thought, when I locked in on her face. Fifteen years ago, I would have liked to ask YOU the SAME QUESTION.
It was, of course, The Photographer.
Who else would it be?
Why WOULDN'T the woman who had once triggered in me such monumental insecurity reappear in my life after all these years, in this particular place, at this particular time, ten minutes before I was due to get on stage for the first time since my first child was born? AND WHY WOULDN'T MY BUTT STOP TWITCHING DAMMIT ALL TO HELL, STUPID NERVOUS BUTT TWITCH.
Since Saturday, I've been racking my brain for the moral of this story. And wondering why I even felt compelled to tell it.
I'd like to say that I felt confident and serene in The Photographer's presence. That as a grown woman, now a mother of two, I was able to rise above all my old feelings of insecurity, and her petty present-day glares, and her egregious "WHAT THE HELL". But in truth I wanted nothing more than to poke that bitch's eyes out with the stick from Gus's corn dog and issue her a hearty FUCK YOU.
*BIG WET RASPBERRY*
P.S. If it's any consolation to those who stuck this story through to its incredibly dull and unsatisfying conclusion, I feel much, much better and think I am finally ready to move on.