My mother and sister, Carla, fought frequently just before Carla moved away from home. Sister argued point by point at the beginning of hostilities but gave up frontal attack and defense maneuvers when Mom’s anger remained unyielding. Carla decided to play another game: she agreed with every insult my mother hurled at her.
“You’re so ungrateful!” said Mom.
“You’re absolutely right. I may be the most ungrateful daughter who’s ever lived,” replied Carla.
“You’ll come back the minute you run out of cash,” said Mom.
“My apartment’s rent will be less than what I’m paying here, but you’re right. I’ll probably blow my paychecks and go broke. I’ll leave a packed bag by my front door just in case things go bad really fast,” said Carla.
“All you’re going to do is shack up with your boyfriend!” said Mom.
“I’m a whore,” replied Carla.
Mom eventually gave up and helped Carla move into her new apartment.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
I get annoyed when I have a class that, in general, doesn’t want to learn how to draw. Some of these students resent learning skills even when they master them. Success brings them no pleasure. They say, “I can’t believe you made me draw one thing for the whole class,” after completing beautifully rendered drawings. Or they give me a dead-eyed stare after I help them improve a proportion or correct a mistake in perspective. I feel like a rowing master on a galley: the slaves don’t appreciate learning how to row faster.
I’ve decided to no longer take the ingratitude as an insult. I want to play a different game. I’ll keep a tally of the times Lorenzo sneaks out of class to take a call, of the scowls Maria gives me when I remind her to use the right materials for the assignment, of the bald-faced lies that Thai snarls at me in an outraged tone, of Brolin’s requests to “borrow” materials, of the times when a student ignores instructions and then requests a full review of the lesson, etc.
When I reach a total of ten or twenty misdemeanors, I’ll kick back for five or ten minutes. Or I’ll work on one of my drawings. For a short while, I’ll let them figure things out for themselves.
And if a student argues unrelentingly about perspective, measuring proportions, rendering tones, adding texture, handling paint or applying compressed charcoal, I’ll go FULL-CARLA and say, “You’re right. Your way of doing things is perfect, and you know much more about drawing than I do.”