A Dedicated Follower of Fashion

Paris fashion updateFor a man (moi) writing about women is never a good idea; invariably, he’s going to piss somebody off.  The problem is, despite what every amateur sociologist with a pen will tell you, women do not speak with one voice.  Therefore, regardless of what you say, somebody is going to get mad at you and point out what an incredible handicap that Y chromosome really is.  However, since women are half the population of this planet, and I’d rather not publically admit my cowardice (again) I’m going to write about women and, more courageously, one of the strangest things they do.

Just as the worm follows the plow, here on earth summer is followed by Fashion Month.  All over the world supermodels are being dressed up like anorexic Barbie dolls in a hip-swinging, heel-to-toe, catwalkathon that dictates what women will be wearing when the snow melts again next year.  These masquerade balls might be centred in New York, London, Paris and Milano, but there isn’t a person alive, male or female, who will not feel their effects.  This kind of power is worthy of comment.

FYI:  Just so you know, I’m a big fan of the fashion industry.  I believe the way we adorn ourselves is central to our species and, more immediately, fashion, like trash, is virtually recession proof.  A good thing in these troubled times.  But I also have to admit I have absolutely no creds when it comes to fashion itself; I’m still wearing the Levis and sweatshirt uniform I wore when I was 20, allbeit in the new roomier, rumpstrung size.  Don’t get me wrong: I’d wear Armani if I could afford it, but the lapels would probably be circa 1975.

However, to continue, one doesn’t have to wear this year’s fashions to notice that they’re godawful hideous — the fashion3culmination of the four decades of godawful hideous that came before it.  In fact, women’s fashions have been off-and-on godawful hideous since Mrs. Grog the cave woman accidently tore her leopard skin and invented décolletage.  Historically speaking, women have dressed in some of the weirdest contraptions imaginable.  You don’t have to go much past panniers and bustles to figure that one out.  Nor have things changed that much.  After all, skinny jeans, a direct assault on the circulatory system, can’t be comfortable, and they must take upwards of an hour to get into.  This kind of time and trouble certainly explains why, centuries ago, fashionable women were sown into their clothes every morning and stitch-picked out of them every night.

It strikes me that, given the evidence, fashion designers may have seen women, even examined them closely, but they have no idea what women are about.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t harness them up like this.  However, the more important question is why do women put up with it?  Obviously, back in the day, they had to, but here we are in the oh-so-enlightened 21st century and the fashion industry still generates billions of dollars telling women what to wear, and most of it looks like crap.

Here’s the deal!  Women don’t dress for men, anymore.  They don’t have to.  If they did, the only retail outlet in the mall besides Starbucks would be Victoria’s Secret.  These days, women dress for other women.  Why else would somebody willingly pay money for a shapeless, strapless gown that straps her in like an L’Oreal cosmetic test bunny?  Respiratory problems?  It’s the female equivalent of the macho man, zero-to-sixty bum-numbing sports car or the bone-shattering mega-bass. I-can’t-hear-you stereo.  Women style and profile for other women mainly because other women style and profile for them.  And it all starts on the runways of Paris et al

Gucci Milan Fashion WeekTake a look at any Give-Me-An-Award Red Carpet TV program.  Who’s watching the show?  It ain’t Ben and Gary from lamps and lighting at Home Depot, even though Selma Hayek’s going to be there, falling out of most of her dress.  Nope, it’s Sara from plumbing who wants to know what dress Selma’s wearing, what Joan Rivers and her band of witchy critics are saying about it and where she, Sara, can get the knockoff so the girls back at HD will be green with… you get the idea.

Of course, there are some who would say this has always been the case, but I don’t think so.  In the old days, attracting a man was a necessity for women, and marrying well was an art.  Fashion played a huge part in this game of reveal and conceal.  These days, while sexual attraction is still part of our makeup, nobody really cares what we cover it with.  Witness Miley Cyrus’ recent VMA performance.  Would she have done better in Yves St. Laurent?  I doubt it.

I’m sure that the last thing any woman wants to hear is she’s a slave to the fashion industry.  Or that in the caring, sharing 21st century, she’s in direct competition with every other woman on the planet.  However, as the man said, “It is what it is.”

And let the emails begin.

Advertising: It’s All About Timing

adI’ve been watching TV off and on (I didn’t have a television machine for a decade or so in the middle) since the days when Lucy had “some ‘splaining to do” and father knew best.  However, recently I’ve discovered an interesting phenomenon – the ads know what you’re doing.  Somehow that wireless cable you’ve connected to, is connected to a modern day Mad Man, who, like Santa Claus and the NSA, is keeping track of what you’re up to.  It’s nothing sinister but you might want to keep you clothes on.  Let me demonstrate.

You’re watching the ball game (any ball game) and your team has just made a ___________ (fill in the blank) to tie the score with 2 minutes left in the bottom of the ninth.  You can literally taste the testosterone you’re percolating, and the next voice you hear is Denis Leary or Sam Elliott telling you to buy what looks like an armoured personnel carrier.  This machine eats regular trucks.  It tows ten story buildings.  It’s Knightrider black with a massive faux chrome grill that would make Katy Perry jealous.  It drives over mountains, through ecologically sensitive salmon spawning streams, up the sides of buildings.  It gets thirty yards to the gallon, uses liquid oxygen high octane fuel and needs two NASA technicians just to start it, but, who cares ‘cause you’re fist punching the living room and screaming, “Hell, yeah!  I need one of those.”  And the only thing that saves you from buying it right then and there is it costs 8 million dollars and Craig’s List rejects your Visa card.

The same thing happens late at night with sad movies.  You’re watching, They Came to Cry, the one about Eddie, the plucky non-profit vegetarian butcher who’s dying of E. Coli.  You just get to the part where his girlfriend Gwen is crawling out of the gutter after she’s been robbed by her no-good brother’s friends.  She pulls out her handkerchief to soak up the last of the antidote she spilled trying to protect herself, and suddenly there’s this dirty little kid looking at you.  A couple of flies land on his forehead, a voice says, “This is Lanzuca.  He’s eight years old.  He wants to go to school but his mother has Aids” and you burst into tears.  And you realize you’re not crying because Eddie might die or Gwen’s got a no-good brother or even because Lanzuca has to rob tourists to feed his family.  No, you’re sobbing away because it’s 1:30 in the morning, you had KFC for dinner — again, you’re going to be 36 next month and you’re watching They Came to Cry for the third time … ALONE.  So, you kinda blow your nose and, between Kleenexes, you call the 1-800 number and give them enough money to feed Manhattan because now it’s two o’clock and the only person who’s ever coming to your funeral is your high school football coach.

However, the best one, the very best one, is when you’re watching … whatever.  You get hungry and order the deep-dishad1 extra meat-lover’s Mucho Grande delivered in 30 minutes pizza.  You devour everything but the last slice like you’re a member of the Donner party, wash it down with the free two litre Pepsi, and now, surrounded by crumbs and crusts, you have to burp.  Unfortunately, it’s lying down there like a submerged bathysphere, and you’re scared to force it in case you pull a muscle.  At this point, regardless of whatever else is on TV, who shows up on every channel of the million channel universe? Mr. Bowflex and his pint-sized uber-wench girlfriend, Bicepual.  He smiles and says, “I used to look like this.” and, holy crap, it’s a black and white picture of you (with one less chin.)  “But, since I’ve got the Bowflex Semi-Pro Muscle Snapper II, I look like this.”  Then he pulls off his shirt and the guy looks like he was carved out of soap.  Seriously, if you’re that shiny you don’t need a Bowflex; you need a doctor.  “Just thirty minutes, three times a week and the girls’ll be on you like ugly on an ape.”  And out of nowhere, our boy’s surrounded by 72 virgin bikinis.  Not to be outdone, the camera pans back to Bicepual and she’s lifting weights like they’re stuff with marshmallows.  “I used to hate the beach” and the camera cuts to what is clearly a Shetland pony (bad hair and no eyes) in a black one piece bathing suit, “but now I don’t care if people are looking at me.”  And there she is in a thong, playing beach volleyball with one of the Meangirls’ heads.  She’s looking absolute fine but you’re not even thinking about it because you know, deep in your soul, in an unguarded moment of passion, a woman like that could kill a guy like you.  Meanwhile, soap sculpture is back on stage, striding around as if he were God’s gift to muscles, telling you just how easy everything is.  But, that doesn’t matter, because even though you know that there’s no way you and Bicepual are ever going to hook up, even in Fantasyland, you’ve already decided on the 72 bikini virgins.  So, you search through the cushions on the sofa, find your phone and your wallet and buy the thing, sight unseen, including another $199.95 for express shipping and a $99.00 service charge for convenient monthly payments.  The thing shows up a week and a half later, when you’ve already forgotten about it.  You and two friends haul it upstairs and, for the next four years, it sits, half assembled, in the corner of your bedroom until you finally move out of that apartment and just leave the bastard thing for the next guy.

Always be careful with advertising.  It can get you when you least expect it.

I’m Scared of the Mob

mobOne of the problems with observing our modern world is you spend half your life in fear and the other half with no friends.  Technically, I suppose, these are actually two problems, but they come from the same place: having an opinion and voicing it outside the comfy confines of your own head.  It’s a truism in the 21st century, that whenever you say anything about anything, you’re going to piss somebody off.  Most people get all free speech macho about this, but when push comes to shove, everybody knows that our society is unforgiving when it comes to unguarded opinion.  More importantly, when the mob turns against you, we punish it severely.  This is why we will never produce a contemporary Mark Twain or Stephen Leacock – the consequences of unedited thoughts, in today’s world, are just too dangerous.  Far better to be momentarily safe than monumentally sorry, so people with pens tend to stick to the road most travelled.  Unfortunately, that road is crowded with dumb-ass clichés.  Future anthropologists who attempt to piece together our social structure from the mountain of evidence we’re going to leave behind will naturally conclude we had an unholy obsession with lawyers, rednecks and upper middle class men.  They are the nominated villains for most of our commentators, so the record of our times will read like a bad John Grisham novel.   It’s a sorry state, but it beats the hell out of the world according to Suzanne Collins and E. L. James.

There’s no real problem with history recording our time as the shallow end of the intellectual swimming pool.  None of us is going to be around to be embarrassed by it anyway.  Nor do we have to worry about future chroniclers calling us cultural cowards.  They won’t be the slightest bit interested in our existence.  After all, you get historical ink from speaking up, not lying down.

The thing that burns my beans is that having set the table for a vigorous and dynamic dialogue, we’re now scared skinny of the food fight it might create.  Just look: we have a mostly educated public with the information of the ages at their fingertips (literally.)  We’ve cracked opened the old boys club and now have instant access to all manner of ideas from everywhere and everybody.  Furthermore, we live in a free society, where (for the most part) the rule of law gives free range to these ideas.  Plus our leaders (such as they are) fear public opinion and follow it relentlessly.  Life is good, right?  Wrong!  The first thing we did with this intellectual banquet was set dietary restrictions.  Not to beat the metaphor to death, we have populated our world with so many sacred cows that, in the land of intellectual plenty, we’re starving to death.

It used to be that the only thing that governed public discourse was civility.  There was decorum in our discussion.  For example, we didn’t call each other names – offensive or not.  Perhaps certain subjects were handled delicately, but there was never any thought that they should be avoided.  In fact, it was a matter of honour to shine light into the darker parts of our society – distasteful or not.

mob1These days, those days are over.  We have more social taboos than a tribe of Borneo headhunters.  A plethora of subjects in our world are no longer open for discussion.  Some of them I can’t even name in these pages without hollering up a verbal lynch mob.  In the past few years, this list has expanded exponentially.  Soon the only subjects anyone will feel comfortable commenting on will be the Kardashians’ breasts and the zombie apocalypse.

People like me, who know enough history to understand what the mob is capable of, are cowards at heart.  It’s one thing to go Vaclav Havel on the powers that be and strike out against censorship and oppression, for history shows us that eventually the pen is mightier than the sword.  However, it’s quite another to stand alone in front of a self-righteous mob of your neighbours and colleagues, demanding to be heard while they’re grabbing the torches and pitchforks.  In these troubled times, I do not fear the endless apparatus of the omnipotent state.  It’s the eagerly offended citizen, who created this mess that scares the crap out of me.