The New Jersey Finishing School for Would-Be Glamour Girls & Boys
“Waiting to get my nails did and a lady just walked in wearing a floor length mink coat over a track suit. Also: SO MUCH JEWELRY. ALL THE (YELLOW) GOLD JEWELRY. New Jersey, I love you. Never change.” – a text received by me from Ms. K, the ex-opera singer at 4:14p yesterday.
I can never sleep this close to the Winter Solstice. I run in my sleep like a dog, turning fitfully and dreaming about missing teeth.
Our bedroom has just enough space for our bed, two bedside tables and my vanity table crammed in the corner. There are piles and piles of clothes around the bed. In our bed: A package that needs to be returned, a clean fleece pajama top acting as a a mini extra blanket, a stuffed lambie, sheets crumpled at the foot of our bed and a book Jow fell asleep reading. I’m wearing old flannel zebra striped pajama bottoms from Target and a BMO t shirt from Hot Topic with wool socks that the elderly wear. I insisted on painting our bedroom in nighmarish purple and violet stripes that look more like a Pinterest Fail than anything else but we have been too tired to repaint it. I don’t even know what we’d repaint it in anyway. I don’t know what got into me, it was only three years ago. I don’t know why I thought it would be glamorous but I did. The stripes kind of bleed into each other in blotches and the top of the stripes were painted haphazardly by a former roommate with more enthusiasm than skill . My uncle saw the stripes as a testament to Jow’s love for me. His only comment was, “Stripes are a bitch to do, huh?”
Still. I have my wrought iron vanity table with its little stool with the violet flannel covered seat, an Erzulie sigil sketched onto the mirror by me. I can use it as a tiny sanctuary. It’s where I carefully paint my face and select the perfume I’ll wear and etch sigils onto myself, absently jamming magical curios into my bra. Battle plans are carefully decided there for the night, occasionally for the day. Everything is ephemeral and nothing has been decided yet. The first song has not yet been played, the first drink has not yet been drank and offenses have not yet been made. There is still time for the night to be so great that I’ll whisper, I never want this moment to end.
Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
Every time I have to look up a word in the dictionary, I’m delighted. – Vivienne Westwood
glam·our noun \ˈgla-mər\
The Thin Line Between Imagination and a Damn Lie
“A truth that’s told with bad intent/ Beats all the lies you can invent.” ― William Blake, Auguries of Innocence
We love to gloss over hardship. Hardship in and of itself isn’t exciting and it’s notoriously hard to put into words. Writing about the thousand small worries never do it justice anyway. Will Mom’s dog die this year too? Why does my car idle high when I’m in reverse or parked or braked? I still need to pay for my bloodwork. Will working more hours in my day job help me or hinder me? When will I simply be offered a book deal? When can I have clean hair regularly?
J.K Rowling is perhaps the most famous rags to riches story for writers. Here’s a spoiler: You aren’t going to write children’s books about a charming young wizard that’s going to make you worth £560 million. But that doesn’t mean you can’t make a comfortable living from your art. And it doesn’t mean you can’t learn something her fight as an artist, because she sure did struggle. Her mom died of MS before Joanne even wrote enough to tell her about Harry. She had a short, tumultuous marriage that ended in divorce and she was working little jobs where she could to feed her daughter. She wasn’t a success (until she was), she was a cautionary tale for her friends and family to cluck over. Rowlings said, Failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy to finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one area where I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realized, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter, and a big idea. And so rock bottom became a solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.
What does hardship have to do with glamour? Well, hardship is part of what makes you exciting and attractive to others. And if there’s anything occultists and witches know how to do is to make something out of nearly nothing. More than that, to make it pretty. Even my mom recognized that when trying to describe what a witch is.
We may be eating kale casserole for dinner but godsdamn if we can’t tell you what a great superfood kale is. There will be chocolate quick bread for dessert (chocolate is an antioxidant, dontcha know?) and a cordial if the fresh berries were cheap enough at the market and someone gave us a bottle of vodka at party. We’ll give it a ridiculous name like Lucrezia’s Lament. It will all be served it on a creaky table that never got put together quite right, no matter how many allen wrenches we used. But the table will be laden with tealights in jelly jars tied with yarn and served on plates with maps on them we found on clearance at the Pottery Barn for $3 each (dishwasher and microwave safe!). We’ll always sparkle with enough glittering jewelry for four and twenty magpies that we picked up in unlikely sale and we will always show a bit too much skin and be swathed in a bit too much sumptuous sensual fabric. There will always be music that we sing and play for each other on instruments and computers. There will always be stories we have to tell each other of far away lands we managed to see, traveling on mostly empty stomachs. Stories about local spirits who play rough when the moon is right.
The line between a lie and a good story has been as thin as a cobweb ever since our ancestors started telling each other their “this-one-time-in-band-camp” stories. Sometimes it’s all we have for each other. A well told story that makes us remember that the difference between “the curves that hugged her husband’s favorite shirt, soft from many wearings” and “an old ratty black t shirt with spills from eating chips before bed on it that never fit her boobs correctly”. Start working on this in your personal narrative. It’s everything.
Once Young and Beautiful, Now What?
Enjoy the power and beauty of your youth; oh nevermind; you will not understand the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded. But trust me, in 20 years you’ll look back at photos of yourself and recall in a way you can’t grasp now how much possibility lay before you and how fabulous you really looked….– Baz Luhrmann
Glamour is easy when you’re in that halcyon age between 16 and 25. The world wants to believe that everything is beautiful and talented about you, so it’s easy enough to go along with it. Your hair is shiny so skin blemishes are overlooked, your figure is likely the best it will ever be so no one cares about your small imperfections and your fashion sense seems gamine and charming no matter how much eyeliner and glitter you smear onto yourself (I’m looking at you too, boys. You know who you are.) You are filled with unfulfilled potential. You could be a singer, a writer, a dancer, an artist, whatever you want to be. You don’t care about living conditions much anyway, as long as there’s booze and/or drugs and friends. Living off of ramen and popcorn is chic as long as there’s chopsticks. As long as you’re young, you’ll be beautiful. As long as there’s a tomorrow, you’ll always have time to fulfill all of that potential your family and high school teachers saw in you. Today for you, tomorrow for me, right? Dead wrong, bitches. Welcome to your existential quarter-life crisis.