Over the weekend, a Canadian actor named Jonathan Crombie passed away suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. He was 48. Though certainly not a household name, millions of women mourned the loss of the man who played Gilbert Blythe in the television adaptation of the Anne of Green Gables books.
As a young girl, I was obsessed with Anne of Green Gables. I read all of the books (there are 8!). I was an introverted girl who loved to read and kept myself entertained with elaborate stories in my head, just like Anne. I loved the flowery descriptions of Prince Edward Island, the wild Canadian island where Anne lived. Though the book was written in 1908 and described a way of life completely foreign to a girl growing up in the American suburbs in the 1990s, Anne of Green Gables was beloved by nearly every girl friend I know. Perhaps like the Little House on the Prairie books (which I also loved), the books were appealing precisely because of the alien lives they described, lives punctuated by hardships and the romance of simpler bygone times.
Even so, I was a little bit surprised at the outpouring of emotion surrounding Crombie’s death. There was even an article in the New Yorker, titled aptly enough, Why We Loved Gilbert Blythe. Writer Sarah Larson sums it up beautifully–the way Gilbert was so many young girls’ first love, a sweet and funny and charming boy who won all our hearts, even though he had to work for Anne’s (which probably just made us love him more). I suppose it makes sense that the loss of the actor who physically embodied the character (because we ALL watched the movies…A LOT) would mean so much to people. In a way, his death made us look back at our childhoods, maybe even remembering our own first loves and relationships.
Gilbert Blythe was like a human version of the fairy tale Prince Charming we’d been told we should love since before we could speak. He was mischievous and flawed and our age. He wasn’t a cartoon. He wasn’t perfect–he had personality. And even though many of us probably weren’t lucky enough to have the real equivalent of Gilbert Blythe in our lives, it was nice to know he could exist, out there somewhere. Even I still believe in him, deep down.
Maybe you’ve heard of Marie Kondo, the Japanese lifestyle guru who’s changing the way we think about our stuff. Or, maybe you haven’t. Her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, is a global best-seller and is gaining renown everywhere you look. Even if you haven’t heard of her yet, if you start listening to conversations around you or looking at lifestyle blogs, you’ll see her influence. I haven’t read her book (yet), but from having read several articles and reviews, I know the main tenant of her philosophy is that you should only keep items that bring you joy.
It makes sense. Why would you keep anything that doesn’t make you happy? But when you stop and look at your possessions and really see them for what they are, you realize just how much junk we hold on to for the sake of just HAVING it.
Because I haven’t read the book, I haven’t embarked on any kind of involved purging project. However, I did host a clothing swap (my fourth!) at my apartment yesterday, which led me to go through my closet (and bookshelves) with a critical eye. In the past, I’ve often held on to items of clothing for sentimental value or because I’d paid a lot of money for them or I would probably fit into it again someday. This time, I did my best to ask myself if I was holding on to things for the wrong reasons and if that item of clothing really brought me joy.
So, into the bag went the green dress I’d worn to my rehearsal dinner. The pretty pink dress I’d bought in Brooklyn the morning of my wedding shower (and then worn again for dinner on the beach on my honeymoon) had to go too. And, perhaps most upsettingly, one of my favorite skirts of all time (immortalized in my blog header). Truthfully, a few of these items don’t fit me as well as they once did, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think of Joe every time I wore them (in fact, I haven’t worn the green dress or pink dress since the break up) also. So, much as I loved the items of clothing themselves, they didn’t make me happy anymore, and so it was undeniably time to let them go. Thankfully, the swap was the perfect venue to make sure these well-loved items went to a good home–not just left in a garbage bag in a Goodwill bin.
I wish I could get rid of everything that reminds me of him, but, annoyingly, he gave some really good gifts, and I can’t see giving up my Frye boots or DVF scarf any time soon…though I’m sure their time will come (probably when I’ve worn them threadbare).
Has anyone else struggled with what to do with gifts from an ex, or items that are tainted by painful memories? Have any of you read Marie Kondo’s book?
My friend Kelli recently shared one of her shopping secrets on her blog and because I greatly respect Kelli’s shopping acumen and covet her closet, I decided to pay attention. The secret? Create a wishlist.
Many online retailers allow you to create a list of items you’re interested in, as long as you sign up for an account on that website. This often entails giving them your email address, but who doesn’t have a special junk mail address for all of that stuff? We’re not amateurs. Once you’ve created an account and logged in, you can skip merrily around the site, adding $300 dresses and $200 pairs of shoes to your wishlist with reckless abandon, much like a deranged contestant from Supermarket Sweep.
But the true magic of the wishlist, as Kelli points out, is that once your item is safely saved, you can then visit it whenever you want, checking to see if it’s gone on sale so that you can actually afford to buy it. Legend has it, this actually happens fairly frequently if you’re good about checking. There’s little that I enjoy more than getting something I love on sale. It’s a real thrill. (This is what my life has come to–shopping is now my main source of thrills and adventure).
So, I created a wishlist on several of my most aspirational shopping sites: Anthropologie, J. Crew, J. Crew Factory, and Madewell. And I then proceeded to do my best Supermarket Sweep and gleefully scoop up all manners of pretty dresses, jackets, shoes, and jewelry into my imaginary shopping cart. I have to tell you–it was really fun. There’s something almost therapeutic about it–like real shopping, but without having to spend money or try anything on. There’s also the hope that MAYBE, one day not too far in the future, that gorgeous dress you love will go on sale and they’ll have your size and you will be able to place it in a real shopping cart (or, at least, the virtual manifestation of one).
In case you’re curious, here are a few items that are currently on my wishlists:
Do you shop this way? What’s on your wishlist?
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been mainlining old episodes of Mad Men like it’s my job. If you watch the show, you know the last (half) season of the show is premiering on Sunday night. There are only 7 episodes left, and I have to say, I’m both really sad to see the show end and excited to see how it all goes down.
I started watching the show just after season 1, renting the DVDs from Netflix. By the time season 2 premiered, I was watching every week on tv. I tell anyone who’ll listen that it’s the best show on television. It’s beautiful to watch–the attention to detail, the fashion (oh man, the fashion), the characters–they’re all stunning. And because the show has now spanned an entire decade (the 1960s), each of the characters has undergone dramatic transformations–peaks and valleys of tragedy and joy (though usually more tragedy than joy, honestly), showing a range of emotions not usually seen or explored on network television (until recently, anyway).
It’s been strange to go back and rewatch the older episodes, since I haven’t really done so since I first watched them more than five years ago. I’ve seen an old episode here and there, but I’ve never consciously sat down to watch them all in a row. Binge-watching tv, something Netflix has made prevalent and easy, is a guilty pleasure that I honestly don’t much partake in. It’s not that I have discipline or am too busy, it’s just that I get restless and bored pretty easily. But I’ve actually made binge-watching Mad Men a priority in life over the past couple of weeks, meaning I’m watching 2-3 episodes a night sometimes. I’m still only in the beginning of season 3, though, so I’m not going to make it all the way through before Sunday night, but it’s still been fun to try, and to remember everything that came before where the show is now.
Last week I was also reading Tender is the Night, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s last completed novel. It’s the story of Dick Diver, a charismatic and handsome psychiatrist living on the French Riviera in the 1920s with his wife Nicole and two children. The beginning of the novel starts much like The Great Gatsby in that it seems like it’s going to be a portrait of a certain class and group of people–in this case, American expats living in France and throwing parties on the beach. But as the novel rolls forward, it becomes the story of Dick’s rise and ultimate fall.
As I read, I was struck by the similarities between Dick Diver and Don Draper (aka Dick Whitman). Don Draper is, of course, living a complete lie–he’s assumed another man’s identity and professes to be a family man while he’s sleeping with just about every woman who lays eyes on him. Dick Diver’s duplicity is more subtle, but no less self-destructive. He marries Nicole Warren, a rich and beautiful young schizophrenic he meets at a clinic he’s visiting in Switzerland. He believes he can help her become well again, but in the meanwhile, the two hide her illness from everyone around them, and Dick pushes aside his work and his happiness in order to preserve Nicole’s health and the appearances that they’re a happy, healthy family. While he pushes forward in this delusion, Dick becomes more and more disillusioned and angry, lashing out with drinking and violence and long trips. The story, unsurprisingly, does not end happily.
I don’t know what’s in store for Don Draper. I have very complicated feelings for him. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that he’s played by Jon Hamm, one of the most good-looking men on this planet, but I’ve found myself rooting for him despite his many affairs and lies and chauvinism and gross abuses of power. He’s a bad father, a terrible husband, and really, just not a great human being. He’s cowardly and doesn’t understand how to share his emotions, instead drowning them in alcohol and sex (mostly with women who are not his wife). But he’s alarmingly human and when he has good moments, I hold my breath and hope for the best. He almost always lets me down, but I haven’t given up on him completely yet.
What is the draw of duplicity for these men? What about leading a double life, wearing a constant mask, hiding from the truth and any real emotion, appeals to them, causes them to think that everything will be okay in the end? If anything, they prove that running away and hiding only makes life worse, but I’m still so interested to see what happens to Don and Betty and Joan and Peggy and Pete and the rest.
You may have seen the Fran Lebowitz interview that was in Elle earlier this week because, even if you have no idea who Fran Lebowitz is, the interview is undeniably hilarious. It is also, for those of us who live in the real world, ridiculous.
In the interview, Lebowitz, an outspoken writer and “style icon,” blasts off on her distaste for everything from yoga pants to bike helmets. And don’t even get her started on men wearing shorts. I get it–she’s got a certain persona, that feisty New Yorker who believes we’d all be better off if we’d only wear tailored clothing and brush our hair. She’s brash and honest and funny. But, at a certain point, her comments stopped being funny and just rang as…well, as sort of offensive to people like me, who do care, deeply, about my appearance and the way I dress, but who cannot afford bespoke tailoring and the most expensive dry cleaner and customized glasses frames. And it’s not just me–I think I speak for the majority of the population here.
Here are some choice quotes from the interview:
“What people don’t know is: Clothes don’t really fit you unless they’re made for you. Especially when you wear men’s clothes, like I do. American women think that clothes fit them if they can fit into them. But that’s not at all what fit means.”
Fran is known for her “style”–she wears, without variation, custom-made jackets, men’s white shirts, Levi’s 501 jeans, and custom-made cowboy boots. Here, she expands on her wardrobe a little bit:
I feel very strongly that almost the entire city has copied my glasses. I went to a fashion show during fashion week, and everyone there had on my eyeglasses. Warby Parker has also copied my eyeglasses.The ones I’m wearing right now, I had them made. Now, for someone who didn’t grow up in the depression, but who basically behaves as if I did (because I was raised by people who did) it’s crazy to me that I didn’t ask up front how much it would cost. They cost so much that I never did it again. I was traumatized by it.
Would you say how much they cost?
I wouldn’t. I’m mortified.
But like, maybe in comparison to something? Like, “My eyeglass frames were about as much as…”
So I had my cowboy boots made. It’s very hard to find this man who makes them. (And I’m not going to give out his name because I don’t want you to know what they cost.)
So, there seems to be a pattern here. And, look, if you have the means to have your entire wardrobe made for you, go for it. I’m happy for you. But don’t then say you behave as though you were brought up in the depression. No. That’s completely bonkers. You don’t get to cry poverty when you’re talking about how ashamed you are to pay as much as a CAR for your GLASSES. Also, I’m not copying your glasses, Fran. Get over yourself.
I wish that real estate were cheaper and clothes were more expensive. But that’s what young people want: $2 T shirts that fall apart in the wash.
No, that’s not what “young people want.” We WANT quality clothing, but most of us can’t afford to pay $100 for a t-shirt, so yeah, I’ll take the $2 shirt in the meantime, thanks.When we were young, we knew things. We knew basic history, even as it related to fashion. Now, when something reappears, an 18 year old has no clue that it’s a revival. Despite the fact that they’re almost always online they don’t get references.
Right, I’m sure everyone in the 1960s knew everything there was to know about fashion always. Kids these days, amiright? It’s just such a lazy argument and viewpoint. She then goes on to say that young designers are completely derivative and boring, and also it’s because people have better relationships with their parents now. What?
More people should be dressing like we dress in New York anyway. Not everyone in New York looks great, but you have a higher chance.
Do you? Is there magic fairy dust they sprinkle around New York City that automatically bestows style on the citizens? It’s true that New Yorkers tend to be more trendy and dress more formally than other places, but to be fair, I live in Boston…not exactly a bastion of style. But I don’t buy the argument that New Yorkers look good because they’re in New York. That’s just…no.
Now people need special costumes to ride bicycles. I mean, a helmet, what, are you an astronaut??
Has Fran Lebowitz looked at bike accident statistics in New York? Nearly everyone I knew who rode a bike regularly in that city was involved in an accident where they were seriously hurt. So, yeah, helmets are necessary, even if they make you look slightly silly.
Of course, more people should wear overcoats than those damned down jackets. Please. Are you skiing, or are you walking across the street? If you’re not an arctic explorer, dress like a human being.
Oh THIS. This just takes the cake. You know Fran Lebowitz isn’t walking around the city because she can’t afford a taxi and she’s certainly not waiting for the bus or the subway in frigid temperatures. This winter was BRUTAL–freezing and snowy and awful all the way through. I’m not going to freeze just so I can look more chic and take the advice of some rich lady who is probably shuttled around wherever she needs to go.
Because look, we have an appearance. Not all of us are beautiful. But we can appear fine looking. So we should. Feeling good about an outfit is the point at which that outfit finally becomes good.
But here’s one point that Fran and I agree on: style and what we wear can help us feel better about ourselves. I really and truly do believe that. But I don’t believe that we have to suffer freezing temperatures, brain injuries, or bankruptcy in order to look good.
In closing, please enjoy this amazing video as a tribute to Fran: