Even though I was tired, I kept my lunch plans with long-lost college pal Dan Albom the day after my social whirlwind with Harris. Dan kept laughing as I described the turgid conversations I'd had repeatedly with clients and colleagues of Harris.
"It sounds like a roomful of Al Gores," he said with a smirk.
"Oh no," I replied, "These people were definitely Republicans."
"You're dating a Republican, Jessica?" he gulped, eyes wide in mock-alarm. "You're going to get booted out of the alumni association."
I laughed. Our campus wasn't exactly known as a bastion of GOP strength. If I remembered correctly, Dan had been among the more politically moderate of our social circle.
His beeper went off and he looked at the screen.
"My afternoon meeting's been cancelled," he said. "I don't suppose you feel like ditching work and hanging out?"
I couldn't. I had to check on a segment that was being shot in a picturesque valley just south of the city. Impulsively, I decided to invite him along.
When we arrived, chaos reigned supreme. The assistant director was multitasking since a production assistant and grip hadn't shown up. One model had crawled up on a ledge as instructed and was now refusing to come back down, while an electrician wrestled with a light that had shorted out after an intimate encounter with the rain machine.
I had a hard time not laughing since the model was incongruously perched against a rock wall wearing platform shoes and a scowl. The director -- who'd been flown in from L.A. -- was too busy having some sort of ego spasm to deal with her.
The model was perched incongruously wearing platform shoes and a scowl.
"For this I left a very comfortable job in a place that actually has seasons," I snickered to Dan as I went over to calm the girl down.
It turns out she wasn't refusing to come down -- she was scared that she'd hurt herself climbing the steep rocks in high heels. Seemed reasonable enough to me.
We got her down and the shoot commenced, without the rain machine. Afterward, I called my bosses in New York to report that everything had gone well. Even the preening director's goatee had been riding underneath a smile.
"So, wasn't that tremendously glamorous?" I asked Dan as we got back into my car.
"Umm... is this what you do every day?" he asked. I was surprised. People always wanted to come to photo shoots with me, but he didn't seem impressed. I asked him what was wrong.
"I don't want to sound like Andrea Dworkin or something, but I found that whole thing really disturbing."
"Why?" I asked, musing that Dan fits into a very small segment of American society that actually could name arcane feminist theorists.
"Did you look at those models? They're like something out of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting, chain-smoking and looking like they hadn't eaten in weeks," he shook his head.
I was stunned.
The models looked like something out of a Toulouse-Lautrec painting.
"I'm really surprised at you, actually," he said. "I wouldn't think that you'd want to do this to other women."
He didn't sound angry, just confused. I was furious.
"What do you mean, do this to other women? Those models earned enough money today to pay for a semester of college -- well, at a state school. I don't think they're complaining." I didn't mention that one of them, at age 16, was too young for college.
He apologized. "I didn't mean to attack you. But don't you think this is exploitative? These girls are being turned into objects."
"It's their choice, though," I said, defensively. "And anyway, they're in control of their own bodies and decisions. Look at Madonna!"
"Yeah, look at her," he said, a little sadly. "What sort of woman is she teaching her daughter to be?
"Oh c'mon, you don't enjoy it?"
"I think it's sad that's how she chooses to portray herself to the world. And you're absolutely right it's her choice, just like these women today chose it. But is this the kind of feminine image you want to help project to the world?"
I started laughing. I had a flashback to a practice debate during my junior year. The topic was something like, "Is Madonna fundamentally empowering to women?"
We won the debate and I tried not to let on that I'd found the whole experience mortifying. Thinking I was repressed, I'd worn a see-through blouse to a party that weekend, hoping to reclaim this right Madonna had granted me. Instead, I felt like an idiot and went back home to put on a t-shirt like a normal person.
Oh well, I thought, happily switching mental gears, as I reminded myself of Friday night's date with Harris at the Shabbat dinner.
When I got home, there was a message from him reminding me of same. Kicking myself for predictability, I headed straight for the closet. It didn't seem likely that Harris had to spend much time rifling through his perfectly fitted suits. Sometimes nature is just unjust.