How I Became Trixie!

Xinjiang Yurt (detail)  2009  oil on canvas         

I started out as Patty or Patty Anne, but when I got to high school I changed it to Pat.  At college I changed it to Patricia.  For years I was a stickler: Patricia please; Tricia okay, absolutely no Trisha; Trish were okay; no Pat or Patty though - except one exception for my best friend from college who always calls me Patty.  Patty Pitts?  

Anyway, by the time I joined the ASL (Art Students’ League of New York), I had adopted a new policy of just letting people call me whatever form of Patricia they wanted, but I was mulling over going by Trixie - it sounded so friendly and approachable and in Hong Kong where I had been living, the Chinese sometimes pronounced Tricia like Trixie (sort of).  But, I was spurred on to take action.  And yes, there was impetus from someone rather bitchy.  

Studio 14, where I paint at the league, is a ridiculously small room.  Considering how well over a dozen (sometimes up to 20) abstract artists all stake out a space there, many of us with sort of large canvases, it’s a wonder there haven’t been any all out brawls.  Periodically a few storm out in a huff, but that’s about it.  Our advisor, Larry Poons says that the league gives he and his group this small room on purpose because he is the main draw, so that then there is always a waiting list and people are forced to go to other studios, other advisors.  (Low self-esteem doesn’t seem to afflict Larry!)

Anyway, not long after I arrived in the studio in September of 2006, a woman burst on the scene.  You know the type - they leave a wake where ever they go and a lot of people act however they think they need to so the person will be nice to them.  Well, I didn’t know who this woman was.  I didn’t know any of the history.  And, I am not going to be fawning to anybody, no matter how good they think they are.  So, in the ongoing effort to be open and friendly, I went up to her and introduced myself, “Hello, my name is Patricia.”  

Instant change in posture to a stiff attention, cold stare in my eyes, and then, “But MY name is Patricia.”  It is hard to describe just how ridiculous her assertion was because there was so much body language, but clearly she felt there was only room for one Patricia in the room.  I am very pleased to report that I didn’t take any shit.  In fact, it was one of those too rare moments when you actually come back with just the right response.  Without missing a beat, I responded with a shrug of the shoulders, “Well just call me Trixie then.”  It felt so good.  This Trixie me - is nice and approachable, open and supportive - but she doesn’t take any shit.

I would like to say that this was the only confrontation I had with this fellow artist, this fellow Patricia, but it wasn’t.  Later that day she advised me that I must not know since I was new: each artist only gets one storage slot for canvases.  Oh, well, I didn’t know that. So, I removed a canvas from a second slot I had been using.  But, then I watched. Sure enough, it only took her an hour or two to take over the slot.  I went up to her and asked her why she had said and done this and she told me, basically that I had lived in China too long and was too polite and that you have to be smart around here.  WOW!  After that I just bided my time and waited for the moment when the slot was empty and I immediately filled it, never to relinquish it again until the end of the season.

Thankfully I have forgotten any other altercations I had with this woman because she is in my “Don’t play with swine because you get dirty and they enjoy it” category.  Not being my sister, I have no reason to have a relationship with someone where the only way to get along with them is to let them think they are the smartest, prettiest, wealthiest, best at everything.

Unfortunately she was not the only one in studio 14 that I had to contend with.  It was really rough at the beginning.  After my experience - where no one even introduced themselves to me, I make it a point of always doing so to any new entrant, and I have made some nice friends.  Also, I like to think the place is a bit of a kinder gentler place!   

Actually, I have a lot more to say about bitchy women - it seems like a bottomless well!  After recounting my early childhood indoctrination into living with bitches in Why I Painted Three Women, and writing about my experiences in London when I was a young woman in Bitches and Me, writing an entry on a bitchy experience last week in More About Bitches, and describing how I first called myself Trixie (today),  I realize there is still more!  (A bit yeti-like; a bit centered don’t you think? etc.) So I will be continuing my bitch series a bit longer. I may run into my fair share of them still.  The difference is, I am very pleased to report - I handle them very differently - and I don’t let them get under my skin! It took me a very long time to realize they are the ones with the problem.

I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea, so I would like to mention that I do run in to a lot of nice women too. In fact, The nice women far outnumber the sour apples.  In fact, I have come to a basic belief that if you are open and giving to people, most of the time you will get it back in spades.

originally published: September 2, 2009

© Trixie Pitts 2009