the witch & the sprite, part ii: polka dots & trilliums

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The second batch from my recent shoot with Holly.

I like having friends who are dark where I am light. I am more a fairy, swathed in silks and gleeful scandal, than a witch. I need more trenchant forces to balance me.

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This weekend I celebrated what was probably the best birthday I’ve ever had!

On Saturday night, four hours before my actual birthday, I ran away to join the circus. Spielpalast Cabaret, that is. Oh, Spielpalast, my heart. The best possible way to describe this show would be “Ozian”. Have you read Wicked? Do you remember the Philosophy Club scene? Yeah, that’s what this was. I loved it deeply and truly and I would marry each and every troupe member if I could.

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And let’s talk about this dress.

My godmother sent me a pair of beautiful rosette gloves for my birthday, and I knew I had to build my outfit around it. So on Friday I took an emergency trip to Old Gold (my favorite vintage/costume store). Now, you are almost never walking out of Old Gold for under $50, and I was prepared to spend such a sum if I had to.

But.

On Friday they happened to have a bin of “slightly damaged” vintage for between $5 and $15. After hyperventilating, I tried on every single garment in it. The dress above was the only thing in the whole bin that fit, and fit it did. It fit like it was hewn on my very body. And due to the tiny side rip that took me five minutes to fix, it was only $15. I have never snapped up a garment so fast in my life.

Naturally I paired it with the corset. I felt like an utter bombshell and winner of the lucky fucker lottery, and it didn’t hurt that Josh said I looked better than he’d ever seen me.

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Post-show, we spent forty-five minutes dallying and wringing our hands until midnight, at which point it was time for the drunkening. Ten friends and I crowded into a bar, where my first legal drink was an absinthe martini. (Danica ordered one too. After one sip, she made a face and cried “absinthe is licorice?!” Yes, babe, it is.)

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Sunday afternoon was tattoo time! My biggest piece yet. We didn’t get to finish it – I started going into shock. Turns out one hour under the needle is the most my body can take. I started bleeding and shaking, and the employees brought me glass after glass of juice. “Chug it like a freshman,” said my artist, Anthony.

Then it was time for dumplings, cake, and, from my parents, a velvet purse containing twenty-one dollars in quarters. And a button.

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The novelty of legal booze will be a long, long time wearing off. I had breakfast with an out-of-town friend this morning and ordered two mimosas with my waffle. I am thoroughly unapologetic!trash.

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the witch & the sprite, part i

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My favorite thing about photography, I think, is making people look exactly the way they see themselves. Seeing them smile as their private fancies bleed into real-life color. My lady Holly, for instance, is a lab tech by day – read: not allowed to wear harem pants or flowy scarves or anything that might catch fire. And when you’re an aspiring Vodou priestess – true story, she is – that just won’t do.  At least her workplace allows her to keep her mermaid hair.

The obvious solution: hike deep into the woods and take witchy pictures, thoroughly confusing any and all hikers.

(We took 100+ really good photos, so they will, obviously, be posted in installments.)

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ash & me, part i

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Last month I spent a few hours shooting film with Ash LaRose, which was one of the most rewarding modeling experiences I’ve ever had. Ash is the kind of photographer who jumps up and down and tears her metaphorical hair out when she gets a good shot. I am the kind of model who does this as well, but I had never before worked with a photographer who shared my childish passion. Most of them like to maintain a veneer of professionalism, but I don’t think you can really make good art if you’re caught up in what’s “professional”. Ash and I ended up, like, talking about periods. Which made me a lot more comfortable with her than I have been with most others I’ve shot with.

Here’s my first batch. More to come.

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yellow polka dots & a touch of scandal

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This dress from Lady Jane Vintage is my birthday present to myself. I ordered it on a Thursday and it arrived two days later, cosseted in pink tissue paper. Since then I’ve been wearing it as often as I can get away with, because holy shit – LOVE. How much more perfect can one dress be? I’m really digging the modest silhouette + sheer fabric. “Slutty grandma” is pretty much my favorite aesthetic. Naturally I had to wear my black vintage bra & panties.

My other birthday present to myself, by the way, will be my first major tattoo. I’m talking armpit-to-hip. I’ll be inscribed with it as of this coming Sunday, and I can’t wait to show off its barest outline under my housewife dresses.

And now, have the first few paragraphs of a short story I started writing last night!

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She kept expecting someone else’s face.

Not every day. Not all the time. Not with parts of herself she cared for overmuch. But when the bashful sun crawled away, when dawn first cracked open, when she couldn’t sleep through her husband’s alarm, when the world was one big threshhold, Aurora remembered her.

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Philip kissed her goodbye at seven a.m. She pretended to doze: the better to savor the face she wished she saw, to soften the contrast between the clever one she expected and the blank, lusty one she got.

Not all the time. For most of the day, her mind and her marriage stayed in lockstep. She slapped away hands that pinched her bottom and fantasized about Philip rising up in the name of her honor. She pictured his smile in quiet moments and grew a sly, private smile of her own. She ducked into the bathroom just after dinner and stuffed her panties in her handbag: she loved his hands on her waist as she stood at the sink, roaming down until he found the absence of satin and the skin in its place. She loved that he still played surprised, every time. She loved him.
But she also loved something that lay just beyond her, something less than skin-on-skin but more than a dream. She loved the curious revenant that dogged her in the wee hours, until sleep snuffed her mind’s surface clean. She loved it even as Philip snored beside her: even as her five prosaic senses worked, some archaic sixth was waking up.

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Aurora was nineteen when they met, and Philip was twenty. He was too young for the finance job his uncle had finagled for him. He looked positively silly in shirtsleeves, a babe with a briefcase, and Aurora loved him for it. She poked fun at his white-collar accoutrements, but she was grateful when they bought her an apartment in the city, a kitchen set in the modern style. She worked her stenography job from ten to two and came home to fuss and nest in the afternoons. The rationing was finally over, and she made trays of roasts and butter sweets. She felt modern and loved and glowing with having proved wrong parents and doctors both: she was down to two pills a day, and here she still was! Every day she pinched her hips and felt giddy at their thickening. She curled her hair and marveled that the golden filaments held their own against the heat. With Philip, living in the city, clicking to work in heels she’d bought herself, she felt real.

She wasn’t supposed to bear children, not yet, not without Doctor Crowley’s signature, but she loved Philip and the life he’d given her too much not to try.

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And so she sat at their formica dining set at five o’clock, hair curled, suit pressed, curves curvier every day, and she fought to keep her mind off the liminal. Resisted finding the fabled face in the grain of her walls. This was a day for the flesh.

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petticoats, greenery, & things I’m digging

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My backlog of posts is so clogged it’s insane. I probably have 10-15 fully formed posts I’ve just been too damn lazy to hit “publish” on. I took these photos about two weeks ago, so rest assured that a) my hair is just that much longer and b) the greenery in my front yard is fully burgeoned, threatening to creep between the bricks and swallow me whole.

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Here are some things I’m enjoying right now:

  • Banished: Surviving My Years in the Westboro Baptist Church by Lauren Drain. I finished this book two days ago and I can’t stop thinking about it. Drain’s writing really mimics the experience of being seduced into, then cast out of, a cult: “Hey, maybe the WBC isn’t really so bad – OH GOD OH GOD NO FUCK THIS”
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot. I read this book for a class when it first came out, and I’m reading it now to savor it. It’s basically the epitome of why I’ve always preferred nonfiction to fiction: truth really is stranger. Presenting the story of Henrietta Lacks as a novel would have you laughed out of town or forever consigned to, like, supermarket checkout racks.
  • Lots and lots of Maleficent fanfiction.
  • Orange Is the New Black returning in less than a month!

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  • Homebrewing. I have dandelion and violet wines suppurating in barrels in my kitchen. I’m planning on rose, lilac, and peony before the season is out, but I’ll have to find a cheap source: dandelions and violets grow abundantly in my yard, as you can see, but non-wildflowers are harder to get hold of. If you live in the Burlington area and you’ve got a source, please let me know!
  • Cheesy pagan music. Oh man. Do not even get me started on this. If you do, I will spam you with Blackmore’s Night and Ayreon and Loreena McKennitt and Inkubus Sukkubus. I find dorky pagan music so endearing – picture, like, Christian rock, but with Jesus references subbed out for Mother Earth.
  • The fact that I would have graduated from college today, had I kept to my normal trajectory. And by “enjoying” I mean “having mixed feelings about”. I’ve officially missed my chance to catch up with my peers: any future classes I take will be peopled by strangers, and younger strangers at that. But I’m definitely in much less debt than I could be, and I’m still taking classes with an eye toward graduating someday!maybe.
  • Marie Southard Ospina’s blog. And her face generally. She is one of the most beautiful people I have ever seen.
  • My birthday on the 24th (eep!), and the fact that Josh is taking me to an authentic touring Weimar cabaret for the occasion.
  • Having beautiful friends and healthy relationships and a decent job and a lot of writing opportunities and a bag of cookies in the cabinet whose existence I’ve only just remembered.
  • Getting okCupid messages from dudes in their fifties who live in other countries. And by “enjoying” I mean >.<

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gingham, smoothies, & beauty labor

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There’s this post making the tumblr rounds positing that praising a woman’s makeup or clothes is just reinforcing patriarchal beauty standards. “[R]ather than praising beauty labor,” it claims, “we should be dismantling the system that requires it, to thus free up women for other pursuits.”*

And I could not disagree more.

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I think when people in the anti-beauty-labor camp think of makeup, they’re thinking of concealment. Of norms against displaying acne, scars, natural hair, etc. I agree that these are bad. But this argument completely ignores makeup-as-enhancement. It ignores this, and this, and this. It forgets that makeup, fashion, and costumery are art. Conflating the two modes isn’t striking a blow for women’s freedom in the workplace. It’s telling people who genuinely love makeup as a creative outlet that their devotion to a traditionally feminine art is worthless, that they need to be “free[d] up for other pursuits”. It’s hard for me not to find misogyny in that.

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Beauty labor is artistic labor, and vice versa. We could stop painting our houses and cultivating gardens and making beautiful food. This would maximize utility. If we stopped focusing on aesthetics completely, we would have more time for more practical endeavors.

But activist forces don’t encourage that, because most people recognize that we all need at least a little beauty in our lives. The only practices against which I hear this argument levied are fashion and makeup – i.e. traditionally feminine methods of beautification. To me, this says that it’s not beauty labor people are objecting to. It’s the perceived frivolity of feminine arts.

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There are certainly social norms around other forms of artistic presentation that could use dismantling – I’m thinking of neighborhoods that require painting one’s house a certain way, etc. I don’t think it’s inconsistent to oppose compulsory beauty while still affirming consensual beauty. I am hella against compulsory beauty. I’ve written screeds on it in the past. But I am also very much pro-beauty as a value in itself.

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*I am not sure whether this particular post is satire or not, which is why I did not link it. I do, however, think it makes the point well even if it is satire, and I have seen many other decidedly non-satire posts saying the same thing. This one was just most quotable.