Dear Captain Awkward,
What do you do if your significant other thinks that you will go no where with your dream?
My boyfriend is a well known, local photographer. He does mainly fashion photo-shoots and is honestly, very talented at what he does.
I’m newly, discovering modeling. I had tried it before when I was younger; but, it didn’t workout since I had acne. I didn’t get my face cleared until I was almost 30 (ancient in modeling years). But I enjoy my hobby. I have discovered this new passion of mine. Walking on the runway feels great and I get a lot of compliments on my walk! People want to book me for shows, work with me in photos and I even try their new designs! Its very exciting.
I even came up with a concept for a photo-shoot. I made a head-piece, found a makeup artist, made sure to communicate how I want the lighting and am going to see my idea come into fruition. I would have never believed, I could bring that many people together to make an image. But, I can!
It all sounds great… but, my boyfriend doesn’t believe I’ll go anywhere. He’s made so many comments about the photos we’ve done together. He’s literally told me, “You’re not Naomi Campbell,” and he’s even tried to hide a photo-shoot he was doing with a couple of models from California… saying, “You would only be jealous of their careers.” And then invited me to hold the lights.
I have no idea what to do. I told him, I’m not jealous of anyone, but the fact that he got nervous about telling me was odd. I honestly, thought it was because he was going to flirt with them; not because “You’ll be jealous of their careers.”
I’m not sure where he would get a comment like that in the first place? And I’m tired of him trying to put me down with his harsh criticism. He told me, he would say things like that, because he works in a an industry where its normal for people to say those things… However, he’s had a TON of other photo-shoots and has never told anyone else these things? I guess, I don’t understand.
I know, he doesn’t believe I will walk in New York Fashion Week. He’s reminded me that I’m 5’7″, on a daily basis, saying he’s just giving me a “Realistic perspective.” But I never asked him. I also, didn’t even have that as a goal… I just, honestly like what I’m doing. Its inspired me to create things, to try new adventures and meet new people.
My heart is kind of broken because he’s the one person, I thought, would believe in me. Or at least, be proud of me…. instead, all I get is “You’re not Naomi Campbell.”
I told him he could no longer take my photos. We can no longer work together. And I have no time to doubt myself. I work a full-time day job. I have shows booked until November and I want to plan more things! There should be no time wasted on being self-conscious.
We have talked about this issue a lot over the last few days and we worked out some resolutions we are both happy with; along with boundaries of not working together anymore…
But there is still this pain, knowing that he doesn’t believe I can do this. I tell myself, I never needed anyone before, why would I still want his approval?
What should I do?
Half of me, thinks that we can still be together despite this. Because I am quite old, it’s too late to walk the New York runways. I wouldn’t even qualify for them at my height. He has a point…
But there is that other part of me, that still wants to continue. That never wants to place a ceiling on my passion… And that part, is extremely hurt, the love of my life wants to give me a “reality check.”
Thanks in Advance,
The Independent Model
Dear Independent Model,
You’re already a model. You are creating photo shoots. You are walking runways. You are being booked for work. You are already doing it. You have a gorgeous attitude about the work and the adventure of meeting new people and making beautiful images. You have me kind of dying to see your photos because you sound so positive and cool and I want to see the face of the person who makes me feel this excited reading about her work! Just from your letter I can tell that you are stunning and striking and that people want to be around you.
Your boyfriend is right about what people sometimes say about and to models in the fashion industry. In a student film I made long ago there is a scene where two women pick apart the appearance of a third (the scene starts around 5:40). The actresses who play the stylists both worked as models a lot and their dialogue was improvised out of things people have said to them in real life. They were expected to stand there and not react because “professionalism.” It’s shitty and hurtful and objectifying, and just because it happens in real life doesn’t mean you have to internalize and live it like it’s the truest thing about you. And it doesn’t mean that your boyfriend has to contribute to it, to participate in it. Is this how he talks to all the models he knows? Or does he save it all for you, the woman he supposedly loves? Either way, misogyny and cruelty are not a good look, dude.
It’s okay to not collaborate with your romantic parter even if you are in the same field. It’s actually smart to put boundaries around that sometimes. I need my husband and I to to love each other even if we never make another movie or write another word, or even if we make stuff that’s terrible. If the relationship only goes well when the work goes well, then there’s a fear that if the work goes badly it will make the relationship go badly. So, it’s okay to decide not to cross the streams of work and also smart for you to seek out other photographers. That’s not even the problem here.
The problem is that I think his comments about you being jealous of other people’s careers are him projecting all over the place. He’s jealous of other photographers and their careers. He’s jealous of you, for launching into the space he thought was his alone, the space where he has authority and gets to pretend he’s a gatekeeper of some sort, the space where he thought his giant lens gave him power to decide what’s beautiful enough. He’s jealous of you for blowing the doors off the illusion that he’s some sort of tastemaker. He’s jealous of you for not accepting what he thought were the rules of your industry. He’s jealous of you because you’ve already surpassed his expectations and he can tell that you are about to surpass him. He’s jealous of you because you’re not jealous when he works with other models, and it would be cool if that made you sort of jealous, because it would make him feel powerful. He’s jealous of you for being braver than he is, and instead of sitting with that discomfort and deciding, whoa, my girlfriend is AWESOME, he’s chosen the path of “Well, don’t get your hopes up, babe.”
Go ahead and get your hopes up, lovely Letter Writer. Get your hopes up about creating new work and expressing yourself and enjoying what you do for as long as you want to do it. And get your hopes all the way up about finding a partner who will celebrate you and believe in you. Your boyfriend is not that guy. He is a small man with a limited vision and a smaller heart. You, on the other hand, are a g.d. Valkyrie. It’s never going to work, I’m sorry. You’ll never be able to make yourself small enough to fit into the box he thinks is marked “girlfriend.” You’ve already outgrown it, and him.
Break up. Be sad for a while. Keep going with your dream. The world holds all the “reality checks” and rejection and doubt and failure any of us will ever need. We don’t actually need any of that from people who say they love us.