When my mother Kay Huff was a teenager, she was a freedom rider and spent time in a Memphis prison for sitting at a counter with someone who had darker skin. A high-school dropout, she later went on to become the first elected female district attorney in Oklahoma. I learned from my mother (and father) that a good man stays out of the way.
When I met Jessie, she was a twenty-five year old who had lost her father the previous year and was floating around the world with a degree in dance to her name. Light on her feet and light on direction. I was twelve years older than her and in the process of figuring out what to do after my career in showbiz crashed—living at the house of one friend and teaching myself web programming on the advice of another.
Based only on the phrase “server side include” and an essay about Moby Dick, an online games company hired me for a ridiculous amount of money (this was just as the first dot com boom was ending). Jessie and I took the leap and rented a place to live.
Overlooking her choice of me as a partner, I knew that Jessie was smart. Way smarter than me as she had no desire to pursue a career as a performer. Really, really smart, but because of her gender and her size (“I’m not short, I’m far away”) people didn’t take her seriously. She tried directing a play at the theater company where we met and won sold out houses, great reviews and awards.
In my showbiz past, one of my favorite projects had been an HBO movie directed by a woman who had been a dancer and choreographer. She said that directing was like dance in that one was simply moving objects through space in an interesting way.
One evening over mac and cheese, Jessie and I got to talking about careers. She said she liked directing but didn’t want to fight the gender and “altitude bias” that our writer/director friend Nell was fighting. Plus, she said she liked being inside where she could control the elements.
Showbiz. Moving objects through space. Controlled environment. It sounded so familiar.
When I showed her the iMac that I bought for editing, she sort of grunted at it. I was pissed. Here I was, supporting her desire to be an editor. I called our friend Colin to vent.
“Did you tell her the iMac was for her?” he asked.
Cut to: Ten years later. Jessie and I now have a three year old son, Duncan. I’ve discovered that I’m not much of a web programmer. Jessie, on the other hand, has leaned in and been editor on several projects, including the Showtime series The Green Room. She now earns enough to support us so I don’t have to pretend to be a web programmer and can work on resurrecting a career in showbiz. I can also stay at home and play Transformers and evil robots with our son until Jessie comes home and does it better.