I was lucky enough to own my own business, not too bad for someone who was an art major in college.
It wasn't glamorous, it wouldn't land me in the Fortune Five Hundred, but it satisfied me and I made a pretty decent living. Enough, in fact, that my wife didn't have to work if she didn't want to.
That was exactly what she did for the first five years, but when I started talking about biological clocks, she decided she needed to do something outside the home, something to fill the empty space and give her a sense of fulfillment. I personally thought that was a pretty good description of motherhood, but wisely refrained from mentioning it.
To quote my father, Bree[I still have trouble keeping a straight face, I mean really, Bree? Isn't that some kind of cheese?] was and still is a 'babydoll'. Tall, willowy, with enough curves to not ever be mistaken for a male, long blonde hair, sparkling blue eyes, and lips that I can attest are very kissable. In short, she was the whole package.
Chiropractors should have put her on retainer, every time she walked down the street guys got whiplash watching her come and go. It took a little getting used to, being with her.
I like to think I was no slouch either. Six two, one ninety five, muscled thanks to my gym addiction. Women have told me I'm handsome. Not in the male model type handsome, but real world looks. One woman I dated said I had a face that looked lived in, but that particular life had been very kind to me. Black hair I kept a little longer than Bree liked, and grey eyes. When we met I had a goatee, but she wanted me to shave it off. I didn't really want to, but she offered a compromise. If I got rid of the facial hair, she would do the same with her pubic hair. I've been clean shaven ever since.
We didn't meet in a bar, or at college. Not at church, or a blind date, or at a party. We met when I needed a model, which she did part time. She was too healthy looking to be in the top tier, but made good money doing ads for upscale department stores. She had that glamorous yet real world look. Attainable, but just barely.
To speed things along, we dated after her commitment to me was over, discovered we fit really well. Seven months down the road I asked her to move in, eight months later we were standing in church, pledging lifelong love and fidelity.
She worked for about a year after we married, then decided to retire to help design and build our dream house. And by ours, I meant hers. I really didn't care, as long as there were enough bedrooms and the roof didn't leak. It cost quite a bit to get it exactly the way she wanted it, but her happiness was worth it. And she dangled the carrot of children out to me, saying it was why she wanted a four bedroom house.
My business had been well established by the time we got married, but I made sure the payments were affordable with a large amount down. We had a serious discussion about money before we married, making sure she knew that while I made good money, I had no desire to spend it all as fast it came in. In fact, my lawyer was firm in asking me to get a prenup excluding the business.
We discussed it, and while she wasn't wild about it, she understood. Except for the business, everything was included. She had her own prenupt, stating that all monies she got from modeling was exempt. My lawyer thought it was unfair, but I knew she wasn't going to model forever, so it didn't matter.
My business? Don't you dare laugh, but I printed tee shirts.
It started out as a lot of businesses do, as a hobby. And a bit of a joke.
As I stated, I was an art major. Not exactly a ticket to the fast track of business success, but I was never really motivated by money. I wanted to make it, of course, wanted to live well and provide for the family I hoped to have someday, but vacation homes and jetsetting around the world in private Lear jets was never on my agenda.
It was near graduation, and while my friends had sent resumes and interned, I painted. My work was to put it kindly, eccentric. I saw things most people never bothered to look for, and painted them. I never expected to make money at it, mostly it was for my own pleasure.
We were joking around one night the start of our senior year. Most of my friends were business majors or prelaw, oddly I found artistic types a little flighty. The women tended to be anorexic prima donnas, or earth mother wannabes who never owned a razor. The guys would try to pull off being brooding and enigmatic. Most of the time it came off as whiny and shallow. While they loved art, they lacked focus when it came to real world skills. Many were from wealthy families, where making a living wasn't exactly a pressing necessity.
Like I said, we were joking around, and it came around to clothes. I tended to wear sturdy clothes because who needed to paint in an Armani? I leaned towards Carrhart, Columbia, LL Bean, that sort of thing. My favorite shirts in the whole world were made by LL Bean, a tee with three buttons. They looked like the top of an old fashioned union suit, especially the gray ones. It caused me a lot of grief, especially among the 'pre' crowd, who were destined to live and die in a suit.
"So, Chris, what kind of a job you gonna land that lets you wear those clothes? Janitor, dock worker, landscaper? That'll make that college degree worthwhile, huh."
The speaker, J. Aston Brown IV[J. Ahole to us], was probably my best friend. Coming from money, running towards money, determined to knock down anything that gets in his way. He was focused to the point of obsession, determined to make Daddy Trey proud. I had met his dad, and could understand why.
J. liked to keep me around because I didn't take anything seriously, and wouldn't let him. I had talked him into a lot over the last three years, some things his Dad even approved of. Plus I took a lot of heat for things that were mostly his idea. We all knew one day we'd be reading about him in the paper, or watching him on television.
"I'll think of something," I said dismissively, wondering the whole time what it would be. I had angled towards something in graphic design, but there wasn't a lot out there.
Then J. said something that set the course of my life.
"Too bad there isn't jobs for a tee shirt designer. You'd make a fortune."
Just for fun, I'd hand painted a tee shirt for him.
"Shreagle" It proclaimed across the top. It was a shark head with bared teeth on top of the body of an eagle, talons extended, as it swooped down on the masses.
"Criminal? Cheater? Politician? When the time comes, and it will, call the Shreagles. We'll rip them to pieces and chew up what's left."
His dad liked it so much I had to paint one for him.
I thought about what he said for a week or so. I had been kicking around an idea modeled on the 'Big Johnson' tees that were so popular at the time.
Taking a chance, I bought a couple dozen tees and painted them as prototypes.
The first one showed a caricature of a doctor on the front of the shirt. He was short, bald, wearing an oversized lab coat and thick black frame glasses. He had jug ears and a goofy grin. He was holding an oversized toilet plunger.
"Dr. Knockers' Patented Breast Expander. Treatment Guaranteed or we'll give your small breasts back," read the logo.
The back showed a small breasted blond going into an exam room in one panel, the doctor straddling her with the plunger in silhouette in the middle, and the same blond with enormous breasts leaving the clinic in the last.
Another design showed the same doctor, holding a double headed, gigantic plunger.
"Dr. Knockers' Bubble Butt Treatment. Ghetto Quality Booty Guaranteed In One Easy Treatment."
You can imagine the images on the back.
I gave them out to my friends, calling them my focus group. Nothing funnier than seeing future lawyers, doctors, and business magnates wearing them to parties and around town.
While I had them together, I probed them for feedback. They were all positive. J. even got his dad involved. They had me out to their small[mansion]home on the cape for the weekend. Sunday found us in his study, presumably to watch football.
"These logos," J. Trey said, "Are they protected?"
I didn't understand and it showed on my face.
"Have you had them registered? Do you own them? If you don't, someone else could print them and you couldn't stop them. I have a friend in the office, he could fill out the paperwork and walk you through it, as a favor to me. For a private individual it's fairly inexpensive."
"Thanks," I grinned. "Inexpensive is exactly what I need. But I need to think about this. Even if I protect them, I have to come up with the money to have them printed."
"Why don't you print them yourself?"
I looked at J.
"Because I don't have the money or the expertise."
"Here," said his dad, handing me a card.
"It's a nonprofit organization designed to help small businesses get off the ground. They're patterned after the micro loan program for women in third world countries. You get a small amount, paid back over a long period of time. I volunteer my legal services from time to time. They're really particular, it's a source of pride than no loan they have given since they started ten years ago has ever defaulted."
I was amazed, and had a million questions. J.Trey held up his hand.
"Ask them, not me. I've spoken to them, you're expected, so call and set up an appointment. And make sure you have a damn good business plan before you meet. Now, let's drink some beer and watch New Orleans kick the shit out of the Giants."
.... There is more of this story ...