132 posts tagged writing
see also: TEN YEARS OF LISTENING TO: rainer maria
It’s the last day of August and it’s like summer in New York is making one last effort to remind us how fucking miserable she can be: overcast but still too bright, air thick and hazy and nearly one hundred degrees. It’s mid-afternoon and I’m hungover as all hell walking down Grand Street alone listening to LCD Soundsystem which somehow feels appropriate, somehow seems to encapsulate all the things I’m thinking right now.
New York I love you but you’re bringing me down. If I could see all my friends tonight. Wasted and complacent. We set controls for the heart of the sun, one of the ways that we show our age.
LCD Soundsystem’s 2005 album, that double disc one in the white paper sleeve, was one of the first albums I ever worked on, when I interned at Capitol Records my freshman year of college. I messengered posters of it to Bowery Ballroom, handed out stickers at Siren Fest. I listened to the CD on my clunky Discman on the bus ride to and from New Jersey.
It’s a funny thing, writing about music: the reviews are easy, pointless, and lord knows there’s dozens of them I’ve written in years past floating around the internet. But music reviews are never anything you care about, and maybe that’s why I gave it up, and why I gave up being paid to ask other people to write them too. Bag of adjectives and a word limit and an arbitrary rating; who gives? None of that sticks with you.
Other things do. You hear a song, you buy an album, and then eight, ten years later, there you are walking around the same city with the same song in your ears, with millions of memories since you first heard it.
Underground at the old Annex, that smoke-filled long-forgotten little hole, where was it, Orchard or Ludlow? I’m maybe 19 or 20, we’re all bad electroclash mullets and skinny jeans, vodka Red Bulls and Camel Lights, those first beats of “Daft Punk” whaaa whaaamp whaaamp whampp and everyone starts dancing again. 23 and laying in the bath in that terrible railroad apartment on Bedford Ave, bottle of wine melodramatically in hand, closing my eyes, and it feels like i’m in love again but not with you, i’ll just tell myself it’s you. Drumming my hands on the steering wheel of my mom’s Jeep driving to the beach with Jonas, yeah yeah yeah, yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah.
And here I am now, 28, hungover, on the worst possible day of the year, listening to “All My Friends” for the something-thousandth time and wandering downtown on streets I’ve wandered for ten years. That joy and nostalgia and sadness and shame and shamelessness and wonder all at the same time: i wouldn’t trade one stupid decision for another five years of life.
I flail through life: here I am, me and my little fists at the ends of my spaghetti arms whacking on every door I can, eating up every last thing and every last experience I can manage, more, more, more. And somehow it’s all still keeping itself together, somehow here I am, full speed ahead, marveling at everything that’s been and happened, all the apartments and jobs and homes and lives, all the friends and all the love I’ve had and lost and gained again.
It’s the last day of 2007, and I’ve had to take Jonas back to our Greenpoint apartment because he was disastrously drunk at the party before 9 pm, largely off the bottle of liquor he’d bought me for Christmas, of which I’ve had none. I am staying here for a bit, sleeping on a couch in the windowless two-bedroom basement apartment he shares with three Pratt students and about four thousand roaches. The couch is nicknamed Typhoid Mary for unknown reasons, and I don’t intend to ask. Jonas sleeps on a twin mattress on the living room floor, and this is where he is passed out now, snoring contentedly, still wearing his boots and leather jacket. I pour some bourbon into a chipped floral teacup and sit looking at him, waiting for the year to end. The apartment is eerily quiet except for the banging of the radiator pipes.
A few moments before midnight I let myself into the backyard, one of the few perks of this apartment, though it’s not much - a row of now-barren forsythia bushes and a stunted tree, a weed-studded patch of concrete, an old wooden picnic table, and a rusted broken washing machine. I sit cross-legged on top of the table and look at the houses around me, their backyards, their dark or lighted windows, their clotheslines strung from tall metal poles in each yard.
Greenpoint lies silent. The flick of my lighter seems to echo as I light a cigarette. I inhale, listen to the paper crackle. The sky is peppered with more stars than usual as the night is unusually cold and clear. I watch my breath and the smoke drift up towards the sky, blur and slowly dissolve. My fingers are cold — my sweater is flimsy and I haven’t got any gloves — but I don’t care.
I know it must be midnight when I hear cheering. Back doors open, pans are clanged, I hear shouting in Polish, people are hugging in the lighted windows. The next door neighbors emerge on their porch, banging pans and shouting. The motion-sensitive light above me flicks on, and the backyard is flooded with light. I remain frozen there, spotlit. One of the neighbors notices me as he heads inside.
"Happy new year!" he shouts.
"You too, dude," I say, and the door slams behind him, and I flick my cigarette away, and then it is silent again.
It’s maybe seven or eight years ago and I’m at a diner with this kid. The lighting in the diner is yellow and the walls are mirrored and we are reflected endlessly against the mauve vinyl seats. Four years prior to this moment, so eleven or twelve years prior to my typing this, here, he was my second kiss. (The first, a sycophantic Rivers-Cuomo-type I met on makeoutclub.com, didn’t count: I just knew I had to get the whole kissing-someone thing out of the way to get on with my life.) So he was my second kiss but my first “real” one, but I can’t remember anything about the exact moment. Maybe there was no kiss. Maybe I made it up. Maybe this is fiction.
We are two of the only ones home for the summer and have found each other again, in his parents’ basement with pea soup green carpet and cheap vodka. Two years ago, my best friend lost her virginity to him, and here I am doing this now, even though he was my first kiss two years before that. Of the three of us I seem to be the only one bothered by this, and that’s what I’m doing in this diner, having some sort of meltdown over it. I don’t even know what I’m saying, I can’t keep time straight and I’m biting my nails, I might be crying. He interrupts me.
"There’s a difference between history and past, you know," he says. "Past is just what’s happened. History is what part of it you carry around."
He is this sort of person, prone to this sort of interjection.
I don’t know why he’s saying this but I nod and probably light another cigarette. Or maybe I don’t: I forget what year they banned smoking indoors where I grew up. Even after they banned it we always sat in the smoking section anyway.
It’s not actually seven or eight years ago, of course: it’s right now and I’m typing this on my phone on a bus in the dark. I am feeling laughably nostalgic and listening to music to encourage that: walk around this town like we own the streets, stay awake through summer like we own the heat.
There is a specific humidity to the air here which triggered this, a specific heat and a sound of crickets. Specific heat, I think. A chemistry thing, if I recall: the amount of energy to raise the temperature of one gram one degree, right? The specific heat of memory.
I have specific and very beautiful memories of this summer seven or eight years ago: Speeding north on an empty highway after a closing shift at the café where I worked, windows down and New Order’s “Ceremony” as loud as it goes, wind in my hair, sixty seventy eighty five north. Watching fireworks in some nearby town with kids I met on MySpace, their friends and their house party, the same tattoos and septum piercings as kids in my hometown, warm vodka in a Poland Spring bottle. Sitting on the dock of a lake in our damp underwear surrounded by fireflies glinting orange off the near-black water. The Pixies blasting while I sat in the back of someone’s car behind giant knockoff Chanel sunglasses, trailing my fingertips out the window to feel the heat rising off the pavement. Things so ordinary. Things so specific.
But what about that is even interesting? Is this compelling to other people? How can you tell the difference between actually interesting and personal? What’s a good story and what’s just reality and what is a better story than reality? Because this isn’t reality.
I press one hand flat against the window and the other hand flat against my chest. Whatever, I think, watching the still-familiar landscape slide by. It’s okay. It must just be history.
So I’m on this plane to Toronto, a glorified puddle jumper, a polite but bumpy and noisy hour-long affair. I gulp down a glass of wine, gnaw on some almonds. We head north and west over Albany, Buffalo, Rochester. I think of the train station in Rochester: bright colors in a grey city, a photo I took there or maybe just a memory of orange light glinting sideways off the snow, piled head-high on all edges of the parking lot.
There’s no question that I am profoundly self-involved but it’s not like I ever stop criticizing myself for it. I have hundreds of unfinished things on my phone and my computer, abandoned in the final stages because I decide it isn’t worth it.
The rippled expanse of Lake Ontario lies like a solid thing below me, and something about the light reminds me of a winter morning maybe eight years ago, waking up in a college dorm for the first time next to a boy who I would date on and off again for the next few years. The light weak through the blinds on the painted cinder block walls as he slept beside me. The light on the water will remind me of this for some reason and then of the half-argument I always had with him, the one where I would end up defending myself against his pre-med, the one where I would try to explain how what I wanted wasn’t all about myself, how what I wanted was some terrible E.M. Forster ideal of only connect! Of some way that words could create. Of the simultaneous narcissism and selflessness - some kind of communal narcissism? - that it always felt like. How I wanted to talk about myself to get out of myself and to give something to other people and how I wanted to read everything to be part of them. How I feels like we. How that felt important.
The man I’ve been dating lately is irritated more than anything by irresponsible journalism, by narcissistic bloggers, by entitlement and insularity. I don’t even disagree with him but I do this irritating thing where I take those barbs as my own: he isn’t even talking about me, not even remotely, and still I hear the ghosts of my own expected criticisms of whatever I’m writing or ever will write, that it’s self involved, that it’s pointless, that it doesn’t do anything. That it is a waste that does more harm than good.
I try to explain to someone: I guess I write because I read but I’m not very good at talking.
When I leave another ex she tells me: I’ll make sure everybody knows everything terrible about you, I know how afraid you are of people not liking you so I’ll make good and sure they don’t. Don’t you dare show your face around here ever again. You should be institutionalized you stupid whore nobody will ever read anything you ever write you are a failure you shallow cunt. It’s almost a relief, hearing that internal monologue externalized, because still, nothing happens. Because I realise even if it’s true I don’t think I know how to stop and maybe that’s bad and maybe that’s good but it still is.
On the plane back I try to read the first story in a book by an Esteemed White Dude Novelist who taught at the college I went to. It’s well written but I can’t stomach it, his self-satisfaction bleeding through the pages. A friend tweeted the other day “brb changing my name to Henry Miller so I can navelgaze in peace” and I mean, for real, this first short story is about the Existential Despair of An Ordinary Well-Off White Guy which relates to the Human Condition and is supposed to leave us Heartbroken. Which sometimes does leave me heartbroken but also sometimes bored to tears and filled with some kind of rage, that it’s only the mundane feelings of this Default Human that can be profound. This writer, he was really nice, he used to bring cookies to class and this girl I was friends with thought she was in love with him and he made her mix CDs and she would call me to tell me about it. I read the women in the rest of his book and I see her, nineteen and five feet tall, pulling her knees into her chest asking me if I think he’ll ever leave his wife and I can’t read anymore.
Sometimes I feel like I have nothing and sometimes I feel like I have everything. I just don’t always know what the lens is and how and when it shifts.
I think of another older writer man who took me out to dinner after I finished that abysmal novel I wrote for my thesis in college. He looked me in the eye and told me in a different voice than usual that my book was very sexy. He poured me another glass of wine, twisting the bottle with his hand to so as not to spill the last few drops. I had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom to not scream, to stay polite, to compose myself (recollect myself, re-collect my self.) It haunts me still, that singular moment when my twenty two year old self realized that no matter what somebody somewhere is going to take it back to my looks, my availability, my place in the world as something for some fucking old jackass mentor-type to think about while he tugs one out. Did he really think it was good? Did he really think I was talented? Or did he just let me get away with all that and tell me it was good because I was young, and pretty, and interesting, always with the fucking interesting, interesting being of course synonymous with unconquered. Undiscovered, uncharted, unowned. To be disposed of once finally possessed. My cheeks burn with embarrassment every time I think of it, hot with shame all over again. Years later.
And on the train back to the city from the airport I stare out into the rain, lights haloed by fog on the glass, each car a self-contained bubble of light, each street lamp a glowing sphere. And I’m sitting here pointlessly typing all this away into my phone and I think: fuck it, I’m still here.
SARAH: Both of us took some serious umbrage with Emily Keeler’s review of Kate Zambreno’s most recent book Heroines in the Los Angeles Review of Books, and our frustrations with that piece tie rather nicely together with a lot of other conversations we’ve been having lately about public performances of femininity (and the Perils Thereof). I’m not even sure where to start unpacking the review, but I think one point of entry is the idea—which is certainly not limited to a single reviewer—that women’s attention to, and interest in, fashion and presentation is inherently problematic, shallow, and invalidating of our intellectual capacities. That “a glittery silver toenail polish from OPI’s Swiss collection” has no value as a signifier (as opposed to, I guess, a byline in the LARB). (To be clear: I haven’t yet read Heroines, though I’m a fan of Zambreno’s earlier novel Green Girl and her blog, Frances Farmer is My Sister.)
MEG: Clearly there’s about five hundred directions in which we could take this, and I’m not sure where to start either.
As for your not having read the book yet, it seems that Keeler’s criticism is about a lot of ideas beyond the text. I think this was part of our “WTF, LARB" response. It was partially a defense of Kate, whom I know we both think is brilliant and like As A Person too, but also a reaction to what we both find to be a familiar and tired critique of the ladies at large. Emily Keeler is talking a lot about women and fashion and hysteria, more so than about Kate’s book. I find it interesting that she liked Green Girl (which is rife with such “shallow” obsessions like clothes, makeup, sex, etc) but disliked Heroines for these same motifs? I have a lot to say but am still trying to get to the root of what upset me so much.
Keeler writes: "What does it mean to reject the psychopathology offered by Zambreno—as a reader, as a writer, as a woman? To disinvest myself of disorder in my response to this text? To reject hysteria and mania, to refuse the glamor of the broken woman writer?"
Which is not something I entirely disagree with. It would certainly be nice—or at least more productive—to disinvest myself of disorder, to “fix” everything, per se. I don’t think being a broken woman is particularly glamorous; I would like for eating disorders to not exist and I would like if we weren’t fascinated by coked-out tragic starlets in the tabloids. It would be real nice if nothing about being a lady related to the aforementioned psychopathologies. But this simply isn’t how it is, and to ignore (and scorn) the messy neurasthenic (and her wardrobe and makeup) doesn’t make any of us better. We don’t need to refuse or reject the hysteria — but not-refusing isn’t necessarily praise, either. It just is, and it’s worth thinking about.
Keeler also reacts against the rigid gender binaries set up in Heroines (“HIM” and “HER”) which is of course something I’m also down with. But I don’t read anything Kate’s ever written, or any l’écriture féminine for that matter, as an endorsement of those binaries as much as an indictment of that system, a testimonial to how shitty and confusing it can be living in a world that’s set up like that.
Two months before I graduated college I sat in a cafe at Astor Place with a notebook. I was still at school upstate, staying alone in a friend’s basement-level one-bedroom on my spring break while she was at SXSW. I wrote four angst-filled pages about the uncertainty of my rapidly advancing future, about the paralysis of my anxiety, about fear, and about those mornings when the air is just cold enough and the sunlight on Broadway just angled enough and it seems the whole world opens up before you as you walk to work, coffee in hand.
I drew a messy sketch of the corner and wrote something about the geography of our paths, a record of our movements, a historical topography of the city and our lives. The building where I sat is no longer there - though, certainly, there are greater losses than that of the Starbucks across the street from the other Starbucks at Astor Place. But it’s still a place on this map, this time lapse map of my life, six years of my life in this city, traced out in all the places I’ve walked and lived and loved. A history winding out behind me, my life in New York, my life that I’ve been living.
The last few pages of the notebook are lists of songs: an ongoing ledger which I updated religiously, from when I started the notebook sometime in 2005 to when it finished in 2008, as much of a history as the hopelessly solipsistic journal entries, magazine clippings, and concert tickets that fill the rest of pages. New Order, Depeche Mode, My Bloody Valentine, Songs: Ohia, Cat Power, Nina Nastasia, Low, Ida, Sparklehorse, Radiohead, The Magnetic Fields, Phoenix, Mirah, Four Tet, Pulp.
Living in New York infects you with a sort of deluded narcissism, something utterly false but utterly engrossing, an overblown sense of self importance thanks to the romance of the backdrop — especially when you are young and naive and already prone to things like “making lists of the songs you’ve been listening to.” The narrative fallacy: me and my music video life, forever and always wind-blown in a leather jacket walking down the Bowery or whatever. Always getting out of a cab — the leg first, black tights, a high heel — when it’s just beginning to snow. Always a little bit drunk and a little bit sad on the corner of Houston and C just after midnight, midsummer. Always alone in the park, just after sunrise, my breath before me and the frost crisp on the patchy grass, while the rest of Brooklyn still sleeps.
There is something about New York that does that to you. I try to line them up, that map and that soundtrack. How many songs have I listened to here, on this train. How many people have I known. How many times have I looked up at these buildings and felt the rush of possibility run through me, and how many times have I felt my stomach sink and cried behind my glasses.
Rainer Maria on a CD player in the Broadway-Lafayette station, a humid June afternoon in 2002, cutting class from high school. Velvet Underground on a record player in Greenpoint. Arthur playing Satie on the piano in the loft in Hell’s Kitchen sometime after dark the summer I finished college, in his underwear and a velvet blazer. Ryan Adams as I walk alone down Avenue A in mid-October, that song by that band Fredrik who I know nothing else about as I walk up First Ave in the quiet dark after a blizzard, early December, past the Christmas tree vendors near St Marks Church. The lanky boy I dated for a few months playing guitar softly, some almost-familiar melody, in the next room while I half-slept, early morning light.
Late night on East Third near Second Ave, cold, raining a bit. There’s a boy further down the street, a silver trumpet in his hand. He doesn’t see me and I pause as he lifts it to play. A bit faltering, the first few notes sour brass, and then suddenly clear, ringing out over and above the rush of tires against the wet asphalt.
He took me to Momofuku last night but he has texted me again, asking to meet this evening, he has friends in town, they’ll adore me, please come.
"He’s fucking clingy," Jonas says, skeptically, ashing his cigarette into an empty beer can. We are on the floor of Fallon’s East Village apartment, tenth-between-a-and-first, which I’m house-sitting for the Christmas break. "You met him what, four days ago? Who goes on three dates in four days?"
I had plans to go to the movies with Jonas, can u do this weekend instead, I text him back.
bring him too then, bisous
I show Jonas and he shrugs. “As long as he’s paying.”
just because it’s been a hot minute since i posted this here somewhere other than my bio and IT’S SO PERFECT and always bears repeating
His fist meets my face with strangely silent force. There is a pause between the impact of his hand in my face and the impact of my body against the wall behind me, and another pause, it seems, before I hear the sound of my body hitting that wall: the pause between lightning and thunder, the seconds you count as a child. How bad is the storm, mother, how far?
There is no pause between the crash of the wall and the shattering of my glass, in the other room I must have followed him what did I do, his forehead is bleeding now did I do that, I did that, I threw that glass at him, that is blood not wine that is blood. My body and my hands have moved before my brain: the lightning of rage before the lumbering sound waves of logic. I am crying, I think, hysterically now, and his boyfriend is shouting what the fuck you hit her you never hit a girl you little shit what is wrong with you and he is screaming get out, get out, fuck you, get out, but my mind is elsewhere, calmly studying something from anatomy class in high school, neat labels and arrows, words of undetermined relevance but definitively Latin or Greek origin, hovering over a cutaway drawing of the skin and muscles: contusion, periorbital hematoma, sphenoid bone. An explanation, a science. A logic for what has just occurred.
It is his twenty-second birthday, late in September, my last year of college, and he arrives at my house in his pickup truck just before sunset. I am wearing a green floral dress. He is blasting a Breeders EP, the good one, the one before Tanya what’s-her-face left for Throwing Muses. The air is cool but the ground holds the residual heat of day.
Half an hour later we sit on the bank of the river in a park near an old house, on an old picnic bench, smoking Nat Shermans, the pink and red ones, in silence, something I have always appreciated about him, the comfort with silence. There is a barge on the water, and he tells me about a French movie with a man who works on a barge. The light is soft and yellow and the air hums with cicadas.
When we met three years before, he and I were in love right away. We’ll get married, we promised each other, and I could date girls and he could date boys. We’ll never have to come out to our parents, and we will always have each other, forever and ever in sickness and in health. We are smart in the same way: quick-smart, word-smart, we read each other’s minds. At the time we are exactly the same height and weight. We wear each other’s clothes, eat off each other’s plates. The word is “codependency” but it still feels like a good thing.
My brother, my twin brother, my other half, my rock, my soil, my roots, my blood. We were fierce about each other: we were violent in each other’s defense, until we were violent about each other. I almost called him Judas here but that would have been too obvious. Besides, who does that make me? Mary Magdalene? Hooker with a heart of gold, at best.
There are other moments, too: Satie on the piano in the heat of summer, a dusty orange triangle of sunlight on the floor and me in a faded blue linen dress. Night on the balcony of the apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, the grid of the fire escapes and the shadows on the white-painted brick. The garden with the purple flowers where I photographed him in a purple shirt.
There was a time when I told him, with the covers over our heads and our bodies curled in towards each other, that he shouldn’t care about me so much because I couldn’t bear to betray him. He whispered: You’re assuming I believe in betrayal.
I am sitting on the bottom step now, outside his apartment. In my skull is there is a dull bulb of pain, a growing one, blossoming now, the confusion coagulating into calm rage, into understanding his betrayal, the eye of the storm: he hit me.
For some reason I go back upstairs and knock timidly. Can I have an ice pack, I say. I think I am trying to make him feel bad, or maybe I want him to hit me again. He is in another room, so his boyfriend wordlessly puts ice cubes in a Ziploc bag, wraps it in paper towels. We are both crying, silently.
Still shaking, I hail a cab. The driver sees my ice pack and asks: What happened? I got hit, I say. By a man? he asks, and I nod. Boyfriend? No, no, just a friend, and I start crying and the cabbie slams his fist into the steering wheel. Why did you not call the police?! he shouts. Call the cops. The way I was raised men who hit women are the scum of the earth. No, please, I am whispering. Just take me home. I will go back there and kill him myself, he is saying. With only my hands. There is no excuse for that. No excuse. I will kill this man for you.
Hi friends and people who also write things and who also write things about music sometimes!
Is there an album or song or band that you were really into during your Youth that you now objectively understand to be basically terrible and embarassing, but that you still really like or have a lot of Feelings about or just have a funny story or commentary now or something? Yes? Right, thought so.
Do you want to talk about yourself and send me an essay, or a story, or retrospective album review or what have you? 500-1500 words, whatever just feels right to you, man. (Here, like this thing I wrote about Rainer Maria last year, but your own steeze obviously.) Photos of you with stupid hair and acne, scans of mix tape covers, photos of ticket stubs etc all highly encouraged, regardless of what music it is.
Starting this out as a “series/feature” on my blahg, but if a lot of people are into it, we might make it into its own Tumblr or just an Ongoing Thing. In return I can buy you a whiskey or can write for your shit too or can totally make you a really awful mix or whatever. KEWL!
Let me know if you’re into it either here or shoot me an email - megpclark at gmail y’all.
I told you I was up to other things! Like weeping alone with salad, and then writing about it for The Hairpin. Wow!
So I stumbled across this photo in my dash:
which kicked off a solid twenty minute Googlefest of image search magic and compulsive search term tweaking to find out WHAT THE HELL THIS IS FROM SINCE I OBVIOUSLY REALLY, REALLY, REALLY NEEDED TO KNOW. Turns out it’s from Rio Fashion Week SS2013 and is some rando Brazilian swimwear line called The Blue Man, and now all I can think about is THOSE BACKPACKS and THOSE CLEAR VINYL ACCESSORIES and THE LUCITE SHOES and did i say THOSE BACKPACKS?
I know I keep going back to Baz Luhrman’s Romeo + Juliet as major aesthetic inspiration lately, but it’s so dead-on: lurid and hypersaturated but totally goth, a little futuristic but a little bit backwards, overstyled and tacky cultural pastiche but still gritty, too much but therefore just enough. (And we all know how I like anything that overdoes it.) And this - and that Meadham Kirchoff men’s collection, oh my god, I didn’t post it because what would I have done, posted the whole collection captioned with EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!? - fits right in with that.
More photos after the jump, since I’ve scoured the Portuguese-language internet in search of them just for you, because I love you that much.
You know those posts where some cute Fashion Lady dumps out her Birkin or whatever and it’s full of a carefully curated variety of expensive, perfectly clean and organized items, with one little quirky book or some crystal they carry around for luck or whatever?
Right, this isn’t one of those. This is one of those “what’s ACTUALLY in my bag” posts, as if those are so much better.
First of all, I hate purses: we’ve discussed my preference for totes before, and this crappy backpack from H+M is about as close as I can bring myself to a grown-up bag. I just hate them! They get dirty! They get lost! They’re never big enough for all the things I need! But for real. Here’s what’s actually in there.
Clockwise from top left:
- Sunglasses case (Ray-Bans I’ve had for years)
- wallet (faux-snakeskin, from an H+M in Prague five years ago)
- iPod touch with cracked screen, purple headphones
- "Altoid smalls" (review: gross)
- Keys on Vodaphone lanyard, also from Prague five or six years ago. The pill keychain is actually for earplugs, not drugs. (Seriously. YOUR HEARING IS IMPORTANT.)
- Clinique makeup bag (free with some purchase years ago)
- sticker from the iO Tillet Wright opening at The Hole
- Face blotting papers ‘cuz I am SLIMY
- Pile of loose change, crumbs, misc gross little papers, orphaned film canister cap, and a hairpin
- Mystery paperclip
- Sparkly barrettes
And continuing, also clockwise from top left:
- Misc crumpled papers (MoMA floor plan, receipts, junk, tampons.) I’m actually sort of surprised by how small this pile is? Feel like I usually have like 4 granola/protein bar wrappers and a dirty tissue and 14 other crumpled receipts in there as well.
- Sunglasses, headphones, keys, iPod, Altoids, and wallet as above
- UnSmart phone
- Mysterious mini thing of Bonne Mama blueberry jam? No idea.
And for that makeup bag — mostly drugstore, y’all:
Clockwise from top left:
- MAC Film Noir lipstick
- Covergirl 14 hour hot pink lipstick in some silly name like “Eternal Rose”
- L’oreal “Lash Out” mascara in blackest black
- Diorshow Iconic mascara in black
- MAC Fluidline eyeliner
- Dusty MAC quad, containing Woodwinked, a very worn Trax, Quarry, and Smut
- More hairpins and barrettes
- Revlon lipliner in red
- MAC #263 Brush, plus two more brushes I accidentally cropped out oops. One drugstore, one MAC #275
- Misc orphaned eyeliner caps?
From left, again:
- Tweezerman angled tweezers
- Chanel makeup sample - they discontinued my Mat Lumiere!! This is the Perfection Lumiere which I’m not super in love with, but we’ll see.
- Neutrogena Glow Sheers BB/Tinted Moisturizer
- Revlon Colourstay liquid lipstick in Top Tomato
- Some rando wristband from a show or club or something?
- Revlon lipstick in Magenta
- L’oreal Colour Riche in Sunset Red
- the MAC and Maybelline colours and mascaras and lipliner you saw above
- Almay eyeliner in Amethyst
- MINI FLOSS, VERY IMPORTANT.
What are YOU actually hauling around?
It’s been true of you since you were an infant: you’ve always been terrified to do anything in public until you know you’re good enough at it.
You learned to talk in private. You were supposed to be napping, and your mother, downstairs, heard an eerie voice through the baby monitor: Jack spat eeee no fat why eeee no lean? She ran upstairs to find you sitting upright in your crib, where you flashed her a devilish grin, dove under the blankets, and began speaking in full grown-up sentences a week later.
More than a quarter century later you still proofread every email you send six times, practice everything you need to say in the mirror five times, refuse to let anyone read a draft of anything you write until it’s ready. You didn’t openly come out as queer until you’d been involved with half a dozen girls and felt you had, like, a good handle on how the whole being-a-homo thing worked. It’s good, sometimes — people have always thought you unusually precocious, unaware that in private you are always rehearsing, rehearsing everything. And it’s screwed you over — people find you cold and aloof, because you can’t make small talk until you understand the situation and have analyzed the right things to say.
But it’s made you seem like you’re the smart one your whole life, always studying, always practicing the right things to do, the right things to say, the right way to do it. You go from average middle-class suburbs of New Jersey to a fancy liberal arts school full of kids with yachts, and you learn rapidly that rich, content, utterly vanilla people find you — tall, blonde, whiskey-swilling, temperamental, some sort of queer, foul-mouthed, awkward, sarcastic, dressed funny, from a quaint suburban middle-class background, shy-but-brash — somehow interesting. You capitalize on it. You imagine yourself the enfant terrible of the English department: you break all the rules, and your professors tell you time and again that you’re brilliant, that they’re impressed by your attitude, your dedication, your everything. At graduation, fueled by champagne, you confess to a friend: I love my internships and my jobs but someday I’m gonna write a book that’s what I wanna do and they laugh, and then you laugh too because god, what a stupid thing to say.
You graduate, and you flounder between a bunch of jobs, jobs you like, sometimes even love, mostly in music, entertainment, fashion. One you love but only pays 26 grand a year. One pays twice that but the agency rapidly loses a number of clients (The Recession) and you are among the layoffs. You feel sad: you were good at that, you liked it. You bounce between internships and assistantships before landing an admin receptionist job where you like the office but rankle at ordering toilet paper, at cleaning up other people’s spills.
You write the whole time: your stupid fashion blaaahhhhg, a few magazines, a few secret blogs, that awful novel you wrote as your college thesis. Midwinter, three sazeracs in (the absinthe has seemed romantic of late, combined with your usual bourbon), you lose it in front of your friends, babbling. Babe, they sigh, eternally patient. You’re never going to get paid for it unless you ask people about it, they say. Stop writing for free. You’re never going to have a career you’re too afraid to admit you want.
You shrug and fiddle with your cell phone. Whatever, you say. You make an excuse: I don’t want people to associate anything I wrote with me personally, I don’t even know where I should be trying to publish, I don’t even know who would care, I’ve already devalued my name by posting too many photos of myself or whatever, and I do honestly genuinely like the other work, I like having a dayjob. And you do, genuinely.
Then you lose your dayjob, for the second time in five years. Amicably, and over time - something about the role changing, something about social capital - but you will panic. What do you do? What the fuck are you going to tell people? What does it mean?
You get paranoid about your friends who wrote amazing “I quit my job and I sold a book” blog posts. You get paranoid about everyone younger and more successful already. Who the fuck are you? You have some goofy-ass fashion blog and a dozen half-finished unpitched essays and a really awful novel you wrote in college and a bunch of secret blogs of your other writing, and you have other jobs you can do and that you like, besides. Who the hell are you? What do you do? How dare you?
You start writing a blog post about it and think: oh fuck, Meg, second person, really? You sound like some third-rate internet Lorrie Moore. Give me a break.
Then you’ll be at a party, or an opening, or a reading, or whatever. A friend of a friend, an almost aggressively boring brunette, will shake your hand, introduce herself, ask what it is that you do.
Your mind will race as you think up a hundred replies. I’m an ex-beleaguered secretary, you’ll joke. Well I’ve worked in music and in fashion, I know both pretty well actually and I have a few part-time and freelance gigs lined up, I mean yeah it’s kind of all over the place, it works though ha, ha. I’m a freelance creative and marketing professional with a lot of technical and strategic skills which I am desperate to put to use for anyone who will have me and I think I have enough experience to freelance full time now but I don’t know how I’m ever going to do that. I’m a creative strategist. I’m an English major. I’m halfway through my twenties. I can waitress I can make a cappuccino I can answer phones. I’m basically just really good at getting by. I can do all kinds of things, is there anything I can do for you, please, I can do it.
You take too long to answer and the brunette raises her eyebrows. You exhale and say, “Oh,” and your voice will sound a little stronger than you expected, and you’ll think, fuck it, I don’t have to do it right. Is there a right way to do it? And you’ll push your shoulders back a little (you’ve always had bad posture) and say, surprised at your own flippant tone, “I’m a writer.”
More in fantastically belated NYFW photos from mystery film found at the bottom of my backpack: Tanya Taylor!