OK, so I have a story to tell.
When I was in 6th grade, I had a really really good friend named Rebecca. We bonded over a love of all things crafty and girly – especially a share obsession with unicorns. For Christmas, we decided to exchange gifts. And to make it extra special, we would make each other gifts. We were both crafty, right? Clearly, these gifts would be awesome.
I poured my little heart into this gift. I made her a ten inch tall stuffed unicorn with a spiraled horn. The hair was silky rainbow yarn (remembering not only the mane and tail, but oh yes, those little tufts behind each hoof). I embroidered on eyes and nostrils and horsey smile. I even made fully articulated joints for the top of each leg, to recreate full galloping action…. And in exchange? She gave me a legless ball of colored cloth with a sharpie drawn-on face, unfinished arms, and a dress made of the exact same flowered print as the doll’s face. I was so sad to give up my unicorn to her, but way too nice to complain.
Cut to February, 2010. I am talking to a co-worker about my bird-a-day project, when another co-worker guy interrupts to demand I give him one of my drawings. Um… why exactly do you deserve a drawing – for free?
I put my foot down. I am absolutely NOT giving him a bird from my bird-a-day project. I have lofty dreams of getting them shown together in a gallery or made into a book or… you know, SOLD to people, for actual money.
This guy pleads with me. He wants to do an exchange, “C’mon a quick drawing, drawing for a drawing, a one-minute bird.” First of all, my birds usually take anywhere from 20 minutes to ONE HOUR, so no, you’re not getting any of those. But I hate whining, and I am too god-damned nice to say “You don’t deserve one” to his face.
Plus, there’s something you need to know about this guy: he is so infectuously upbeat, so brimming with positive energy that it is impossible for me to say “no” to him without feeling like a complete asshole. I know, this is my problem, not his… But I cave anyways, and feel the first traces of bitterness seep in: I will draw a three minute bird, in exchange for one of his drawings…
Here are the results. My three minute Great Indian Hornbill…
For his drawing:
Ok, I know that I am to blame for my own bitterness here. I should have said “no” up front. I should have made it clear that my birds were too precious to me. And yet, I feel pretty justified in feeling cheated in this exchange.
Yes, that is an envelope: torn, stapled, taped back together and then scribbled on with pen and marker. The final clincher? When I came to do the exchange, he said, “Oh, I uh, just have to get it out of my bag… I’ll come get you at your desk.” I am guessing after all that earnest cajoling he completely forgot.
For Christmas, this same guy gave me a hand-drawn card with Santa stuck in a chimney. It was cute, and funny, and obviously took time and forethought. And I love it. I treasure it. It’s going to make me a mint when he becomes a famous artist (or children’s book illustrator) one day. Why couldn’t the drawing exchange item be of the same caliber? And why was I too chicken shit to mention it to him? sigh.