Updated Dec, 13th 2012
Dear Mr. Schuman,
I love your work. I, myself, am thinking of starting my own street style blog here in Philadelphia. I was wondering if you have any advice you could share with me. May I call you Scott?
I've gone out to Center City to scout for subjects a few times now. I keep running into different versions of the same problem. It is making me doubt the whole project, and I'm beginning to think I should just give up. I'm hoping you can speak to this issue and offer any tips on what you might do in these types of situations:
1) A redheaded boy in his late teens or early twenties, perhaps homeless, it's hard to say, approaches you and says, "You look like you go to art school! Where's the closest art school?"
"Um, which one? University of the Arts?"
"Uh, sure. The closest one."
"Well, there are a few buildings--"
"Actually, I don't care about art school. I just wanted to talk to you. What are you doing now?"
Looking for people to take pictures of, I thought. "I'm going to read my book in the park."
"Oh! What are you reading?"
"Is that some of that chick-flick stuff?"
"No. He's a Quaker."
Scott, then I felt obligated to go sit in the park and take out a book for at least 20 minutes in case he's still lurking around the area. So I did. But it was late fall and the light is just right and the weather is nice and I just want to find some people to photograph. I'm sure you know the feeling. But then I sat on a park bench pretending to read a book by a Quaker so some strange adolescent who creeped me out doesn't call me out on my lie. Would you have told him a lie, the truth, or just to leave you alone?
2) A man in his late twenties approaches you after you both smile at the same large dog. When he speaks, it's clear that he is originally from South Asia. You chit-chat for awhile, and then he says,"I'm going to get coffee at La Colombe. Would you like to go with me?"
"Um, I'm married. I just -- I just thought that I should tell you that."
"Oh, you are? Prove it! I didn't notice a ring!"
I pull my left hand out of my pocket.
"Is that real?"
"Do you just keep that in your pocket so you can slip it on when guys talk to you?"
"No, it's been on there the whole time. For over three years now, actually."
"Well, would you like to get coffee just as friends?"
He asks for my phone number, "as friends," and I give it to him. I know I never want to hang out with him and I'll never text him back, but I feel bad for him and I can't say no. Scott, does anyone ever ask for your number? What do you say? Do you lie and tell them you're happily dating a model? My husband isn't a model, but maybe I could say he is.
While this is happening, I see about three people wearing blog-worthy outfits and I'm sure if that if Mr. "Is that real?" weren't talking to me I would magically have the courage to walk up to each of them and take their photo. That would be a week and a half of content. This poor, lonely, doubtful, under-caffeinated man just wasted a week and a half of my blog time. I'll never see those particular combinations of colors, skirts, tights, and boots again. They have disappeared into the ether, and I am still trying to rid myself of this man who asked me to prove to him that I was married. Would you have answered his text to invoice him for the potential ad revenue of a week and a half of content?
3) And then there was the man on Camac Street. We were the only two on the narrow street. He practically offered me a magazine job, told me about the turnover at his company and his anxiety disorder, and shook his bottle of "alprazolam" at me, then invited me to get a glass of wine with him. We shook hands. He told me my mine were sweaty, and he asked me if I was nervous. The job thing piqued my curiosity, so I Googled him later. He gave me the wrong first initial, but his surname and company name were enough to yield results proving that he was arrested for kidnap and rape about a year ago. The mug shots accompanying the very many articles were undeniably him. Something tells me it may not have been Xanax in that bottle. Would you dial him back if he called you at 9:30 on a Tuesday night while you're lying in bed with Garance? Do you think he really wants to hire me to work for Limo Digest?
Maybe I'm just being a bit of a wilting daisy here, Scott, but I genuinely feel somewhat threatened in these situations. Does this ever happen to you? Do you find yourself needing to carry pepper spray or pack heat on the streets of Paris and Milan? Would you recommend obtaining a permit to carry? Do you have a self-defense instructor you could recommend? What am I doing wrong?