February 5, 2004


The last painting took some time. I've been pretty single minded about it, and Stephanie has been very patient as I tunnel into the zone here in the Dallas studio/loft. Back in Los Angeles, the home and studio were in separate locations. In those days, Stephanie didn't have to watch me burn the candle at both ends as I worked. And over here in Teas,what is nice is that she doesn't actively watch me work. She does her own thing, and I was thankful that she was considerate enough to not pop my bubble of concentration that I need to paint a painting.

There was this artworld guy who once wanted to watch me paint, and he wasn't the type to take no for an answer easily. Watch me paint? ...but that's a story for another time.

What's more is that Stephanie needed my help in sorting out our stuff: boxes to go to Spain, boxes to go in storage in Los Angeles, 4 suitcases and bags to pack for the monthlong travel that will take us from Dallas to L.A. to Barcelona, stuff that we will sell before we go. And she's going to California next week to begin work in her new renewed career, so there's little time left for sorting through our stuff. I could tell she was getting frustrated. Sorry honey, I've gotta make hay, the paint's drying.

So today, I am at her service. She works best when she has someone to bounce ideas off of, and I'm happy to be her sounding board. First thing that we tackle is her wardrobe. Now, her closet is a fashion designers' closet. And she's not a fashion victim. She's controlled her impulse buying over the years. I married a very smart woman... lucky man that I am. But she still has a ton of stuff. Before today, she would ask me if she should keep this or that garment. "It looks nice, baby." But that method was too wacked. She needed a dispassionate eye, and her eye was too passionate to sort her fashion stuff.

Today, we took on her wardrobe by category: pajamas, House togs, sweat pants, t-shirts, socks, shoes, jeans, skirts, shirts, sweaters, cardigans, dresses, dress pants, suits... omigod did I forget anything here? And we had open boxes bound for Tossa, open boxes bound for L.A., open suitcases bound for airport check-in, and the travel bags for when we go to Sacramento later this month.

Now, this is where a husband has to practice good Mars/Venus discipline. Listen patiently, figure out when you must listen and restrain yourself from offering an analytic solution so she can think aloud... and conversely, listen for when she is actively soliciting your analytical advice. The two modes may seem identical and they must be discerned with active attention, lest we grind our gears all day long.

I notice that she has a deep and complicated relationship with each garment. This one was bought in Paris when she was shopping Europe. This one is too big on her now that she's lost weight. This is Mui Mui, that one is Patrick Cox. These shoes have heels that are too tall, and they are best for LA, for when you go out to a nice event and you arrive by car and thusly will be standing on those sexy/uncomfortable shoes for only a couple of hours...as opposed to all the walking we might do in Europe. These shoes are too missy (alert, husband! all missy garments- to the trash!). How many jeans do you really need?

And what's cool, is that I get to sit there as she's trying on different clothes while I apply my listening skills/analytic powers. My job: be ruthless for her. "How many jeans do you really need?" "Off to the thrift store pile!" "Oooh yea, that makes your butt look real good, honey." (!) "Put that in the Tossa pile."

As I sat there, I had to resist the peculiar authoritarian impulse to be bossy. I could feel it rising in me, as if I were transforming into the overbearing husband, the controlling kind who determines what the wife wears. It was mixed with the sexy, watch your wife changing and modeling clothes. Yum. "Spin around!" "No, you don't need a bra with that." I had to choke the bossy impulse with empathy. "What do you think?" "If you like it, that's enough to keep it!" Oh!, the hazards of manhood.

This was a watershed event for her. She is (...we are) in a transition in her career. She was a fashion designer in LA since we got out of college in the mid 80's. She grew fast. She would take on vast amounts of responsibility until she became a design director. Like architecture, fashion is the kind of profession that there will be a point where you cannot grow any more professionally unless you establish your own company or you get groomed into another one within the upper management. I remember working in the architecture office, and looking around me, noticing that there are no other older people, other than the principles... kinda like a chicken farm: all the old chickens are absent for some mysterious reason.

Stephanie took a job here in Dallas because it let her cross to the other side of the table from manufacturing to retail, a new universe for her professionally. Now, my mother is going to retire and thus, hand over her business to my wife (...the wonder of it all still has me stunned). The business is still the schmata (sp?) business, Mom imports antique fabrics from Europe to the States. And this will be Stephanie's future vocation, an amazing transition that will require us to learn Spanish, for Stephanie to learn the intricate social mores of old Europe, and for her to build out her new market into a thriving business. We don't know what the future will bring, we don't know how big this market is, we don't know the extents of the difficulties we will face in trying to live both in the States and in Europe (we will have to live in both places eventually, to buy and sell in each continent). I will enjoy getting closer to my galleries in Europe, and form a closer community witht the artworld there. I've traveled so much in my time that forming roots to a place is problematic for me, and I hope we will now be able to root both in the Costa Brava and in Southern California.

We may fail (I knock on wood as I write this), but we won't know until we try. And in our short lives on earth, at least we will know that when the time came, that we had held hands together as we leaped for the brass ring... and we wouldn't have to spend our waining days wondering what would have happened if we did.

Posted by Dennis at February 5, 2004 5:26 PM


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