I’m in a business coaching program, have been for years. My daughter calls it “the cult”, but it’s not. I mean, cult-lite at the most. There’s a little jargon involved, but we don’t get branded. I was talking with another member last month. She’s a beautiful “woman of a certain age” like myself, charismatic and accomplished, world traveller, owns two companies, holds a double M.A. from Stanford, has homes in Hawaii and Silicon Valley, and possesses a smashingly ‘fittable’ figure (as we say in-house). About a 34F to my eye.
She asked if we had survived the pandemic by selling bras online, and I said definitely not, you’ve got to be personally fitted. She said, in effect, “You’re crazy! Nobody wants to drive to a shop and take their clothes off! You’ve got to make it effortless. Send them a picture on their phone that links to a page where they can buy it in four clicks. Any more than that is too much friction.”
I asked her if she had ever had a bra fitting or been to a specialist bra fitting boutique? She shook her head no and flashed me a plain beige bra strap. “I ordered this from that Third Thing, you know it?” I nodded and asked, “and how’d that go?” “I took that quiz,” she answered, and bought the size they recommended, but it didn’t fit, so I had to return it a couple of times for a better size, and now it works, I think. And when it wears out I can just order the same thing again!”
My business model is in conflict with the frictionless life, and maybe so am I (cut away to husband nodding in vigorous agreement). When I think of the moments of forward movement in my life, many of them are connected with decisions to do things that seemed embarrassing or uncomfortable. I once studied with an interesting rabbi: ex-Marine, Jiu Jitsu black belt, and fellow single parent. He spoke about the hidden relation between knowledge and shame. He said you must let yourself feel the shame: of needing help; of not being smart; of having failed, of being broken–and only then can a deeper knowledge seep in.
In the early nineties I was dropped by my powerful Hollywood agent and I felt the feelings that you feel in that circumstance, which includes, but is not limited to, mortal terror. A conversation with a wise old character actor made me aware that I had abdicated my responsibility for my own career. I had been a pure artist, too fine to engage in vulgar careerism. I had people to do that for me, until I didn’t. With the rabbi’s words in mind, I signed up for a UCLA extension course with a name that made me nauseous: Networking 101. Just to ensure that I jumped all the way off the cliff, I promised myself that when anyone asked what I was “working on”, I would tell them. Not just that I was taking a class. I would have to say the name.
This humbling work led me to another embarrassing place: a sort of EST-y Human Potential type group, from which I followed a distinctly non-EST-y career coach named Barbara Deutsch, who supported me through several scary enterprises like making a short film and doing a one-woman show.
In 2003, with three kids, my nanny leaving, and my father dying, a friend’s comment provoked me to admit that I needed a life partner. There was a new scary thing: online dating. As before, I promised myself I would talk openly about it to anyone who asked. I met a number of decent, interesting guys, and eventually I met my husband. We started Jenette Bras together, and by the time we opened the third store I could feel that we were out of our depth. I told him about this business coaching cult I had found, and he said “Absolutely not, that is the most hideously embarrassing idea I’ve ever heard.”
And I said “That’s how I know it’s gonna be good.” And it was.