I’m sure you don’t know me and probably will never read this. I don’t follow you because I never bothered to learn your IG handle and I doubt we share the same social media circles. But we once shared space together attending the same Wine Spectator Grand Tour at the Mirage Hotel back in 2017.
You were gorgeous. Wavy brown hair falling below your shoulders and an emerald green top which matched your eyes. Slender tan legs peeking out from a modestly short dress skirt and heels. Dangly gold earrings that you would repeatedly hit as you brushed your hair back to bend down towards the spit bucket. I admit you were a sight to behold.
And I hated you for that.
I remember the first table that we “bumped” into each other. It was a Super Tuscan producer that I was eager to try and wanted to ask questions about the blend. But the charming Italian man at the table only wanted to speak to you, barely looking my way to give me a splash. It wasn’t long before I was butted out by other attendees–men, of course–who similarly wanted a taste and to ask the pretty lady next to them what she thought of the wine as well.
It was at a California Pinot producer’s table that I overheard you say that you were an influencer, prompting an eye roll behind your back.
Dear god, she’s actually using the term influencer!
The winery rep was eager to get your card and got out his phone to make sure that he followed you at that very moment. When I finally worked up the nerve to nudge my way towards the table for a pour, I didn’t bother staying to ask any questions. The rep wasn’t going to give me any time. After all, we were standing in the presence of an influencer!
Similar scenes would play out at other tables that we kept bumping into. There were over 200 exhibits but damn if it wasn’t my luck that we kept hitting the same ones. There were times that I would turn the corner towards a desired destination only to see green and then “noped” my way to another section of the floor. Trying to get away from the pretty Instagram influencer that was fouling my night.
I was sitting near the food table with my wife, when you paused to grab something yourself.
It didn’t take long for another man to approach you for a chat. Picking among the charcuterie and cheeses, I overheard you mention that you just started as a sommelier at one of the hotel restaurants in Vegas. I made a crack to my wife that we should mark that restaurant off our list of places to play the Somm Game at.
By that point, in my mind, you were a caricature of everything that was wrong in the wine industry. The influencer who takes more selfies than bottle shots. More tits than tasting notes. The ones who keep feeding into the mantras that “Sex Sells” and “Horses for Courses“–making it difficult for all the rest of us women in wine to be taken seriously.
Never mind that likely none of that was true. You were an easy target to funnel my internal anger and jealousy towards. Though I never approached you or spoke a word of snark your way, I still did you a grave injustice. And for that, I’m deeply sorry.
I thought about you when reading The New York Times yesterday.
Reading the words of the brave women featured in Julia Moskin’s piece, I couldn’t help but put you in there. As a young somm starting out in a place like Las Vegas, how much of their story is yours as well?
Thinking of that made me cry.
I cried because in the same breath that I ardently wish for things to be different and despair that they’re not, I know that in my own way I’m complicit. I may speak the right words and do the right things to build up other women, but I know in my heart that I’ve also torn them down.
While that makes me feel immense guilt, there’s also immense rage when I think of the perverse privilege at play. No, I’m not talking just about male privilege.
But rather my own as a “not pretty girl.”
Outside of one handsy customer during my retail days, I’ve been fortunate in my wine career to have not encountered anything close to the kind of harassment and compromising positions that other women have been put into.
The pain of being violated or having your entire career depend on whether or not you give in to a man’s advances is one that I’ve never had to deal with. While I’ve chafed and burned with jealousy at the access and attention that the “pretty girls” get, it was my own privilege of not having to deal with unwanted attention from men which kept it from dawning on me that there was a price to pay for that access. Sometimes a very terrible price.
And the mere fact that something like that is a privilege in this world is a whole other level of fucked up shit.
It’s fucked up that we live in a world that encourages this “Mean Girls” dynamic among women. Of the haves (Access & Harassment) and have nots.
It’s fucked up that we live in a world that still tries to tell us that sex sells. Or that we shouldn’t balk when our industry seeks to leverage that.
This should be the funnel for our anger. This fucked up dynamic that divides us and puts women of all shades in terrible positions. The pretty girl. The mean girl. The outgoing girl. The shy girl.
But really what we all are is just a tired of this fucking bullshit girl.