slut (plaid dress, plaid coat, & clashing shades of red)

I

“You always dress so classy,” she said to me as we passed on the street. “I really like how you manage to look sexy without being, you know” – she lowered her voice – “slutty.”

If anything has ever made me want to unbutton my blouse and rip a few inches off my skirt, it was that.

V VI

That girl was just one person, sure. But I wish that attitude weren’t so endemic to the vintage community. I’ve unfollowed a couple of tumblr rockabilly blogs for continually posting stuff like “reblog if you wish women still acted like ladies”. It’s funny to me how people don’t see that ideals of modesty are constantly evolving. Many of the styles these vintage girls fetishize were downright scandalous by, say, Victorian standards. Exposed ankles? What a slut! Who’s to say today’s iterations won’t look positively dowdy in fifty years?

I hate that the way I dress comes with embedded implications of how I think or what values I hold. I, personally, prefer a more understated sex appeal in my daily life. (My burlesque life is a whole other beast.) I’m not comfortable in short skirts or tight dresses, but don’t think for a second that I’m okay with shaming people who are. My fifties dresses don’t come with fifties values. Perish the thought – you can value modesty for yourself without hurling epithets at those who aren’t just like you!

III VIIIXI II

I feel caught between worlds sometimes. I want to present Prim as Fuck and still be loyal to my poly folks and my burlesque dancers and my sex workers. I don’t want my personal style to negate my commitment to My People, and I definitely don’t want it to imply, ever, that I’m complicit in shaming others’ sexuality.

VII X

on modernity (vintage florals, pink coat, red hat, & yellow tights)

I

I don’t understand this emphasis on “vintage with a modern twist”. I don’t want a modern twist. I want to wear my circle skirts and corsets the way God (or Dior) intended. I want to look like a walking anachronism. A ghost in petticoats. (And then I want to open my mouth and shatter the daintiness, because fuck yeah contradictions.)

VI III

 

It disturbs me, this obsession with looking “modern”. Living in 2015, I have thousands of years of fashion to inform me. Why would I want to confine myself to what’s trendy right now? Why would I want to telegraph “my mind is so small that I only care about what’s right in front of me”?

VIII II VII

I bristle when I hear “outdated” as an insult. God forbid I don’t reinvent myself every time something new comes down the runway. God forbid I know who I am and dress like it. Why is it a bad thing to know what you like? Why should I retire my attachments because someone else has decided it’s time to replace them?

XIV XI XIII

If modern styles are your thing, then wear them to death. From an artistic standpoint, I have nothing against innovation. But I question any ethos that praises modernity just because. Growth for the sake of itself. Wearing new things to fit in with the hordes of other people also wearing new things, to signal…what, exactly? That you’ll wear that dress or those shoes for a season and then leave them to collect dust? That’s not really something to brag about.

Vintage girls, they say, live in the past. We yearn, secretly or not so, for a time when men opened doors and women didn’t leave the house. Maybe some of us do. I can’t speak for everyone. But I know I’d rather fetishize the past than forget it.

 

housewife (’50s dress, dollar-store pearls, & oxford pumps)

blue IIblue I

The milkman’s wares were spoiled this morning

but I didn’t say anything because what can he do?

blue III

I try not to shoot the messenger,

but my whole life is messengers, it seems –

the sticky webs of secretaries I’m put through just to reach Richard;

the doctor who phoned to say my father was dead.

blue VIII

Each of us only a medium,

a cog oiling itself against umpteen brothers.

With that slant, life seems less disappointing.

blue VII blue V

The girls who sassed me in high school are only pockets of meanness,

channels for some mighty practical joke.

The man at the bank who pats my behind

is mere victim to the lusty ego men can’t help.

blue IV

The whore splayed out on Robert’s desk

when he thought I was at home with the linens

is only a puppet, a pornographic mannequin,

and the blankness on Robert’s face

just an emissary of an indifferent God.

blue IX

luna

moon VIII

moon IV

Holly and I are kittening at the Vermont Burlesque Festival in T minus two days. Eep! We get red carpet photos and invitations to the performers’ brunch, which makes me die a little – I get to munch waffles and mimosas with real live performers? People who do this for a living, not a lark? I can’t wait.

The kittens’ colors are navy, purple, gold, and orange. I’m more than a little frustrated that I can’t default to red polka dots, but I do appreciate the opportunity to branch out. Here’s a preview of my Thursday night costume: moon goddess.

moon XII

moon X moon IX moon III

moon VII

moon I

moon VI

moon XIII

jpop as fuck, plus some pointless stories (& a green square-dance dress)

IIII

On Friday night Josh and I both got an intense sugar craving with no cake in the house. Naturally, we drove to Shaw’s in our pajamas in search of snacks, and Josh decided he wanted some marzipan. (Because what embodies hedonism more than lying in bed with your lover and a tube of marzipan each?) And we COULD NOT find it. There were only a few people in the store at that hour, and most of them ended up involved in our search as well. If I worked the night shift at Shaw’s, I’d be desperate for entertainment too.

We finally found it after 20 minutes, and left triumphant with it, a German chocolate cake, and two cans of whipped cream.

Once home, Josh turned to me and said, “you realize everyone in that store thought you were pregnant and had some weird-ass craving, right?”

IXVIX

Today Holly and I went shopping for lingerie and trinkets, preparing for our upcoming stage kitten gig in the Vermont Burlesque Festival. Josh stayed home to work on some art, and I decided to bring him some candy. Party City sells 15 chocolate coins for a dollar. They had every color under the rainbow – EXCEPT gold.

VVII

I have a personal tumblr, on which I post things too controversial/personal/just plain weird for Facebook. I write so many thoughtful polemics on things that bug me, and I get almost no notes. I make a stupid late-night shitpost about rolling around in butter pretending to be a loaf of bread, and get reblogged all over the place.

I hate that fucking site.

XI

 

why i don’t write about body image (yellow novelty print & red leopard)

I

I’ve always found the mainstream media fairly easy to ignore. I never internalized images of women smoother and slimmer than I. They weren’t personal, you know? I understood implicitly that they were just doing their thing, or trying to sell me something. That they weren’t targeting me from on high. What did needle at me was their counterpoint. “Love your body” rhetoric was much more pointed. “Hey you. You with the body. Did you know everyone hates it? Did you know that our entire society wants you to fail?”

II IV

Until then, it had never occurred to me to construe slender women in advertisements as an attack on my self-image. Without such well-meaning but accidentally damning reminders, I might never have learned insecurity. Without Upworthy, without Dove, without “love yourself” plastered on mirrors and across sidewalks, I might not have figured out that women were supposed to hate ourselves.

I know they mean well. I really, really do. I know there are many young women need help ascending from self-hatred. But I’m not sure maintaining their bodies as public property is the best way to do that. To a shy girl convinced everyone is gawking at her, there’s not much of a line between “everyone thinks you’re ugly” and “everyone thinks you’re beautiful”. The subtext remains: “everyone has an opinion about your body and feels entitled to share it with you.” How about “it doesn’t matter what everyone thinks, because it’s your body, not theirs”?

VII

Fixation on beauty is no different, really, from fixation on ugliness. It still turns you inward. It still narrows your world to the scope of your own body. It bothers me, deeply, that such cloying affirmations pass for “women’s news” (seriously, go to any woman-centric news source), while men’s news wins the dignity of being just news. A man’s world is endless, but a woman’s must be narrowed to the breadth of her form. A woman must know how beautiful she is, how choice and rare, before she can hope to function in the world. A woman is nothing unless she is beautiful. I realize I’m building quite a tinfoil hat here, but I can’t be the only one to notice that so much mainstream feminist rhetoric replicates the exact structures it’s trying to tear down.

VI V

It’s not that I don’t believe in beauty. If you’re reading this blog, that should be self-evident. I want to paint my face, lace my corsets, and light the fuck up. I WANT to be beautiful. Not everybody does. For every woman who needs the boost of Upworthy or “All About That Bass”, there’s another who prefers to conceal. Who would rather escape public scrutiny. A gaze is a gaze, no matter how complimentary. Running body commentary sticks with you, no matter its angle. When I was ten, I didn’t make the distinction. I internalized, instead, that everyone was staring at me whether I wanted it or not. I grew up to be someone who does want it, but that’s beside the point.

X

XI IX

I don’t like hearing “everyone is beautiful” because beauty isn’t mandatory. Because whether or not I feel beautiful is no one’s business but mine and those from whom I choose to seek affirmation. Neither beauty nor ugliness is a public commodity. I don’t want to move through the world, through the culture, through the blogosphere constantly reminded that my body is under scrutiny.

We don’t say “everyone can run a 4-minute mile” or “everyone has a rich, harmonious singing voice.” We acknowledge that virtues are distributed differently, that it’s not a value judgment on those who lack them, and move on. Beauty is no different. It’s one asset of many, not something inherent to womanhood. It’s part of you, but it isn’t you, and I think those who equate body image with self image would do well to remember that.

XII XIII

let down your hair (vintage florals & competing shades)

III

II

Let down your hair to me,

I asked,

and watched the sly uncurling.

Silk-bound secrets shook their shackles

and I learned what morning meant.

IV I VII

Let down your hair,

I asked, a tease –

golden secrets winking back.

I climbed her form and kissed her face.

I paused and watched

her bloom stretch on forever.

IX

Let down your hair

“I can’t tonight: the babe is wailing

something fierce, the floor’s unswept,

and don’t forget the winter’s on its way.”

Her face was drawn – not a challenge

but a law.

I shut my mouth and watched

the morning turn to noon.

X

Let down your hair – “it’s too late for that now,

don’t you see these wrinkles,

these sags,

this much-too-softness,

these hollows where once I was firm.

Don’t you know evening

when it strokes your ragged face?”

XIII

Let down your hair,

I whispered,

as though she could hear,

as though her hollows and softness and sags

hadn’t deafened her lovely ears.

As though midnight weren’t on our trail.

XI XII

My darling, my darling, let down your hair

That I might climb that (silver) stair.

 

mori girl

I

I am lashed to a gypsy boy

by one colossal sky.

III

when this universe shrinks to a cage,

I’ll remember that his eyes were

black holes;

dripping, magnetic wounds;

and through them

we could probably tunnel our way free.

VIII VI

I will miss you, gypsy brother,

in the not-so-far-off fore when

your pain is no longer a false alarm.

XI IX

If nothing else,

remember the morning

when the sun filled our eyelids

and, for a moment,

opened those sleek black

holes to light.

IV

X

If nothing else,

remember the morning.

philosophy (is the talk on a cereal box)

IX

I have been thinking a lot about rationality and utilitarianism, as well as where I, as someone who craves beauty, fit into those intellectual sectors. Let me tell you a secret: I used to be deeply ascetic. When I was 14 and fancied myself the World’s Youngest Buddhist, I wore giveaway t-shirts and practical shoes and tried to see how long I could go without eating. Finding the proportions of starvation vs. pure fuel was my utilitarian fetish drawn to its (possibly il)logical conclusion. Because I was 14 and therefore Practically an Adult, I decided sensory pursuits were best left to the plebes.

III II

 

XV

Now I’m actually an adult, and I’ve grown into an unapologetic hedonist. I am polyamorous. I never turn down a cocktail. I love a pretty dress, a thick burger, and a lushly textured painting. I am also a rationalist whose love of logic borders fetishistic at times. I read Less Wrong and Slate Star Codex. And I still sometimes find myself informed by guilt: perhaps my love of frippery is, ultimately, jamming the metaphorical cogs. Perhaps it makes me less rational than I could be.

I’ve written before on the misogyny in deeming only feminine-coded things frivolous or demeaning, and I still believe that. To claim minimalism or utilitarianism to justify such a bias – well, let’s call a bigoted spade a spade. But I’m not talking about specifically feminine things here. I’m talking food and sex and art and heady, hoppy booze: things experienced mostly, or entirely, in the realm of subjectivity. I’m talking about what it means to be human with your whole body, not just your brain.

IV

V

It used to bother me constantly, simmering beneath any pleasure I mustered: how can I justify giving in to arbitrary chemical cravings? How can I, for instance, spend money on a bombshell dress when Walmart sweatpants accomplish the same objective (covering my ass) for less fiscal cost? Why should I cook an elaborate meal when bread and water will do? I ruminate this way much less than I used to, but I’ve always felt guilty indulging in silly pleasures while attempting to maximize rationality. I felt like the worst kind of hypocrite, and I’m not even Catholic. I felt powerless ceding even one mote of logic to something that made me happy: if I’m so irrational on the surface, imagine all the subconscious biases I can’t control for!

VI

There it is, though. I’ve grown up and learned to placate my neuroses, and I no longer wish to deny the necessity of happiness in the rationality movement. The urgent need to balance nonsensical joys with more balance pursuits. We forget – or at least I did – that even the most refined logic doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Refusing to balance human needs and desires with colder pursuits isn’t only lacking empathy – it’s also, dare I say, illogical. How can any version of utilitarianism possibly flourish when we ignore the elements, psychological or not, that help us reach full utility?

 

VIII XII

Wearing pretty dresses and having lots of partners doesn’t further my pursuit of reason. But it furthers me. It puts some beauty on my back and some fire in my belly, without which I could not hope to pursue, well, anything.

XIII XIV

This is the kind of stuff I want to be writing about. These are the implications of fashion that I wish to explore. As I mentioned in my last post, it’s easy to fall into the groove of what gets you hits. But I’ve never been drawn to body-image affirmations and shallow, platitudinal feminism. Other women can do it justice, I’m sure. But in me it feels hollow. I’m a devil’s advocate in a pinup’s body, and I think I’ve always known that.

XVII

winterbilly

r I

 

I had a weird half-asleep epiphany last night, and I want to see if it still holds water conscious.

I’m a writer. I’ve always been a writer. I dictated my first stories to my mother before I could hold a pen. From first through eighth grade I spent lunch and recess buried in a notebook, because who needs friends anyway. I wrote two novels and dozens of short stories before I graduated from high school. I have been freelancing since I was fifteen, and I even served as copy editor for my hometown’s (shitty little) newspaper.  I am more confident in my ability to turn a convincing phrase than in anything else I have to offer.

And yet so much of my writing on this blog veritably (as we in the industry say) sucks.

r VI

I look through my archives, and the posts are full of all the conventions I redacted mercilessly in my copy-editing days. A ham-handed pretension. A too-cheerful pomp. In short, blog tone. I’m watching my own voice peter out and all fashion blogging’s clumsy conventions filter in.

r V r VII

I write very well when I sit down with a notebook and a shot of absinthe or curl up with my laptop and a mug of tea. I find a groove and carve it smoothly. Somehow, though, when I open wordpress and click “add new post”, something shrivels. Somehow the act of blogging has divorced itself from the idea of Writing.

r III

Writing, for me, is as organic as it gets. I had words before I knew how to have them. Blogging, though, is something I’ve learned. I did not sail into this world knowing how to talk about fashion in a resonant way. I learned, adapted, internalized. And there’s a sad uniformity in a lot of the examples out there. Blog tone is one of those terms that barely needs explaining, that will immediately ring true with anyone on even the fringes of blogging culture. It’s unadulterated pep. It’s pomp and circumstance. And even though I’m loath to blame anyone else for my bad writing, you gotta admit there’s a certain insidiousness to all of it.

Artists pick up conventions from the media they work in. There’s really no disputing that. Genre is symbiotic. I wrote ad copy for a while in 2011, and it took me months to shake the “wonderful! fabulous! BUY NOW!” shtick out of my prose. The longer I blog about fashion, the more I sound like a Fashion Blogger. And I’m really not so into that.

r IV

2015 will be the Year of No More Blog Voice. No more pretense, no more inflation, no more addressing readers as “lovelies” or “bloglings”. In some, it rings true. In me it does not.

I’ve always been about blogging fashion on my own terms. I already subvert quite a bit. This is just my latest hurdle.

r VIII r II