A post appeared in my Twitter feed a few days ago from Lorraine Candy, Elle UK's editor, telling us tantalisingly of a shocking piece in the upcoming issue about the secret sexism that we take for granted. We, she assures us, need to read it.
Once again, a high-end magazine has tapped into the psyche's love of the tantalising headline, something lesser publications are fond of and lambasted for doing by more esteemed blogs than this on a daily basis. The allure of a headline that just cries out for a furtive glance and whispered exchange while expecting to be read by women sitting side by side on the Tube (you can tell I'm a Londoner) is just too much for most of us.
My esteemed colleagues at Wannabe Hacks have just finished a series of articles for Magazine Week, featuring, among other things, a debate between two magazine journalists on the merits and pitfalls of the sphere. While the 'for' article safely asserts the addictive nature of the magazines, their quick fix of lite content and fresh celebrity gossip (often gleaned from a gossip blog several days earlier) and their glossy, glossy fashion spreads, the 'against' article highlighted the way that said magazines are training women up to have massively conflicting views about how to treat eachother, suggesting we celebrate our beauty in the same breath as feverishly telling us how Kate Bosworth lost all that weight, as well as making the vapid seem like a viable path through life. My Twitterfeed was, today, awash with comments and retweets about the crisis in Libya, except for my old friend Grazia, who took the opportunity to tell us that Jennifer Aniston has had a haircut.
Repetitive headlines are commonplace, but the most alluring of all the features in today's common or garden womens' magazine is one that includes the phrase 'the last taboo'. Over the last year, there have been more of these last taboos than you can shake a stick at. Possibly the best one was from Vogue's March 2010 edition, a fascinating piece on poo. Of course, the topic of this piece was kept off the front cover, leaving merely the compelling headline 'The last taboo: we need to talk' next to an artfully posing Alexa Chung. But cast your eyes around and you'll find that our world is littered with less-than-just last taboos, from the retro (abortion) to the obvious (larger women in fashion). The end result is that, given the right spin, anything we could possibly talk about is taboo.
I'm currently rewatching a fantastic US drama called Angels in America, a multi-award-winning miniseries that, in it, encapsulates many everyday taboos set against the backdrop of the insurgance of AIDS in the 1980s. Among the taboos discussed are, of course, sex and sexuality, but also identity, ethics, religion and politics, to name but a few. Hence the need for a rewatch. Because although all these things are massively commonplace, their popularity in the popular sphere fluctuates, meaning that, at any time, there is the potential for them to become taboo. All that it would take is for someone to declare it taboo, and the rabid hunger surrounding it would start.
There are two types of awkward topic - the one that you would rather not think about, and the one that is too complicated to answer. Vogue's piece on poo falls into the former category, which is what made it so excellent, but the majority of other issues declared taboo over the years will remain largely taboo for the second reason, in the same way that one does not discuss politics, religion or ethics. Therefore, I have to declare that the only taboo that will truly always remain, is ignorance. Cast out into the cold by these hostile fashionista sisters, be we ignorant of the taboo of abortion, the size zero debate, motherhood, class, race, or whatever else has been daubed 'downbeat cause of the month', we are at a total loss. Clue up, or bow out.
I didn't buy this month's Elle. I haven't actually bought a magazine yet this year, as part of my mission to save money and to stop getting wound up by some of the idiotic thought that is permitted to enter the public sphere (and here, I know Ms Candy will disagree, having made a snide comment via Twitter earlier about how much 'twaddle' there is on blogs and how they need editing as much as magazines do). But, yes, I am intrigued to see the secret sexism that has the Twittersphere so hooked. I'd hate to remain ignorant of that. But, of course, like all the other tabooed topics, I imagine I already know what's going to be said.
It was one of those bright days where, very rarely and if you're lucky, you can actually smell spring on the wind. I went and sat by the river in my lunchbreak and watched it rise (tidal, thankfully, not some disaster film). A boat caused some waves that caught me unawares so I have one Converse more battered than the other. But it tested the waterproofing of my leather satchel nicely.
If I had a familiar, it would be this guy.
I took lots of photos of the birds down by the river but I think I'll do the cool thing and save them for a post interspersed with outfit shots, like all the cool kids do.
See, I'm learning! I loved this dress when I saw it but decided it wasn't worth full price. 50% off rail, however, is a total go zone. It's the perfect fusion of Peggy and Joan. Though neither would really approve of the skirt length. There was a time when I'd never have considered wearing something that short.
It's getting to that time of year where we can't move for pictures of beautiful people in beautiful dresses. Yep, awards season is well and truly upon us. The Oscars, as good as any fashion week, are only weeks away, but first we had the creme de la creme doing their test run at the BAFTAs.
It seems that a memo went out this year that dresses had to be long, long, long, and there were more maxi-skirts (can I say that, if they're on ballgowns? Hell, it's my blog) than you can shake one of The King's Speech's awards at. Here's my pick of the best looks.
Thandie Newton can always be relied upon to wear something a) pretty and b) flattering. She delivers here; a few unfortunate floor-length gowns ended up leaving the wearers looking shapeless. Not Thandie. I do love a diagonal wrap effect on the bodice.
Fashionistas are frothing at the mouth over Jessica Alba's dress. Aside from making her look pregnant (oh wait, she is? Oh well) and it being a divine colour, it does nothing for her.
*picks jaw up off the floor*
Phwoar. Jennifer Lawrence giving a masterclass in pulling off a corset. And ramping up the Victoriana sex factor with a velvet choker.
Another walking definition of sex on legs. Gemma Arterton may not have the perfect polishing that she's shown at previous events, but the colour, the fabric and the 'yes I've just spent an hour recreating something from a Jilly Cooper novel' hair and cheeky smile pulls the whole look together. Sass, velvet, and sexiness. It gets you everywhere.
Someone needs to tell that to Emma Watson, who has all the goods - cute hair, sweet face, lovely dress - to make it work but I've trawled a few image galleries and I'm yet to find a picture of her looking anything but uncomfortable. Posing is everything.
Tracey Emin was elsewhere on the red carpet, but Tallulah Riley seems to have been copying her facial expressions. Unfortunate timing this shot may have, but I'm too distracted from what's essentially a nice dress with some escaped tinfoil by Tallulah's 'hot mess' from the neck up.
She made have made a mess of her role as a presenter, but Rosamund Pike looks amazing, as always. Damn her.
Recovering nicely from her fake tan accident at the Golden Globes, Emma Stone goes back to a natural skintone and looks all the better for it in her Grecian-inspired gown. I'm guessing Lanvin, as it looks suspiciously like one Blake Lively has been seen wearing. But the colour of this is far better, especially for Emma's ethereal colouring.
And Bellatrix Lestrange looks...well, more normal than usual. Helena is well-known among us Brits as being a bit of an eclectic dresser, but compared to the Golden Globes she's relatively restrained here. Still with the right amount of winning, magisterial kook though.
And then we have the youth troop. Hailee Steinfeld, star of True Grit, is reminiscent of Carey Mulligan's Prada Oscars outfit with the simplicity and the black, and while a tad frumpy, it's far superior to Emma Watson's youthful red carpet efforts. But then again, Emma Watson was never an Oscar nominee for her first role...
And finally, my pick of the bunch.
Bonnie Wright, the other girl in Harry Potter (for those who don't recognise her out of cords and dodgy jumpers), and fast emerging as a major style player. I just can't fault it.
So, as I said, I'll be channeling two good ol' fashioned role models for my spring/summer wardrobe, and while it's still chilly outside there are sneaky hints of spring in the air.
As I said, I wore my defiant red dress on Valentine's Day.
This dress may look familiar - I have it in mustard yellow too. When you find something you love, buy it in every colour.
So, Peggy kind of won out on Monday, with a tiny hint of Joan in the colour. Flared A-line skirt and waist-belt are right up my favourite Mad...woman's street, but the in-your-face shade of crimson is far more Joan. Both Joans, in fact - I found myself watching the Valentine's ep of Mad Men from Series 2 the other day, and Ms Holloway cuts a fabulous figure in fitted scarlett.
But today, well, it's alllllll the Jettster.
Bright red skinny jeans? Converse, in need of a good battering? Spiked, messy hair and silver jewellery?
So, it's only minutes until the day that strikes fear into the hearts of the masses almost as much as New Year's Eve does - just as you are judged by how you spend New Year's, the world has already pre-packaged you into your Valentine stereotype.
You could be the sweetly simpering lovebirds toasting eachother over dinner in some cosy bistro or your candlelit kitchen, or the jubilant, upbeat and noisy bunch of singles drowning out the date with laughter. Whoever you are, you'll find yourself, for this day only, defined totally by who you are or are not with. Especially if you're lucky, or unlucky depending on your view, enough to need no other company on this fateful day than your own.
I stopped buying in to the whole notion of a day mandatory for grand gestures of lack thereof when I sent a heartfelt love note to an ex only to have his classmates quote it to me for the rest of the day. Ceremony is trite. Gifts lose their sanctity. Spontaneity is dead. As is romance, when you are given a 20% off cards voucher when buying some gum in WHSmith.
This is my first year without someone who'll send me a card in four years. It became a formality in the end, the love having faded away long before the end actually came, and a piece of non-recyclable card with vague representations of love on it weren't going to change that. The date is not cement for anything. The first time, however, back when the honeymoon period was still going, there are photos, flowers, cards to mark the occasion. Now, lucky for him, he has photos with someone else. There will be cards, there will be flowers.
Because that's the saddest thing about the day, and that's who loses out in the big game of commercially inforced affectionate gestures. For those lucky enough to have a name to proudly shout from the rooftops, get tagged in pictures with and smile when their name appears on a new message, the day is about the mutual celebration of feelings. Even if you can happily share with friends in being free.
The saddest ones are those who have to hide, to keep those names in the shadows, to cover their tracks and watch their trails for fear of revealing something that was supposed to stay hidden. The last few people I've dated have been kept secret from most, and will probably stay that way. And that's the sad part, because while some of us have merrily gone about replacing gaps in our hearts with new names to smile at the mention of, I haven't found a name to shout from the rooftops just yet.
So instead, I'll be shouting mine. And I'll be shouting yours. Because the Valentine myth arose out of love between strangers, and friendship, and a listening ear and trust. And while some of us have been lucky enough to find just one person that we want for all that, the luckiest ones of us have a whole network.
So I send out all my love (because, like memories, I'm still full up with the stuff) to you all. Be you single, in a relationship, in several, cheating, keeping secrets, happy or sadly alone. Be you people I know or people I've never met, people whom I've upset, hated, or have hated me, or people whom I adore. There is so much love to be had, and if you're lucky enough to have just a little bit of that for yourself, then you don't need a plastic rose, a card, or a fancy dinner. You are very fortunate indeed.
And because I love you all so much, I'm going to give you a perfectly fitting Valetine's gift - inapproriate, godawful and euphorically annoying. I give you Bono.
Now, I'm going to bed, and tomorrow I'm going to wear my reddest dress, my sternest Peggy Olson expression, and go to my first day at my new job. Which is, in my opinion, the very best Valentine's Day I will ever have.
I remember an interview I had about a year ago where the interviewer asked me to list my five favourite places in London. It's worth mentioning it was for an internship-to-job working for a conceirge travel website, and that I didn't get it, unsurprisingly. They wanted me to list luxury spas and unique boutiques.
I listed places I genuinely loved. Architectural delights. Peaceful parks. The heady, horrible rush of Harrods. Places like that. Places that are London to me.
I came to the city ready to give it love. When you finish a relationship with someone you stop loving, the love has to go somewhere. It goes inwards, and it most likely destroys you, or you can open yourself up and let it flow through you.
Walking along the South Bank, with the lights and the noise of the city all around me, I become that channel. All what was pain and sorrow emerges into nothing but euphoria, the great unbounded joy that finally, I got what I think I really want.
I know people hate London. I know people are in love with New York. And I myself know that I won't stay here forever, and that I miss the countryside and simplicity and where it's cheaper to take public transport. I know that it's grim to watch identical people looking angrily down at the Metro to avoid the bright lights that hurt your eyes in the morning. I know it's grim to see the sunrise in the morning obscured by a tower block. I know full well that there's not much beauty to be had here.
And that to call the city lights inspiring, majestic and the greatest site I'll see is hopelessly naive and no doubt embarassing.
But this city has probably helped save my life. It gave me something to aim for, something to love again and something to lose myself in. London holds up a mirror to everyone who passes through it. And I think now that I can look myself full in the face and like it.
I know I'll resent it soon enough and one day it'll break me, like it breaks everyone. And that it's full of corruption and the darkness of humanity. But it's full of goodness. Hidden beneath the grime on the tubes and mashed copies of Stylist.
We're still lonely. It's still quiet. But we're not alone in that here.
No time like the present to channel your inner '90s hooker.
This skirt has been seen on a whole bunch of bloggers, namely Vanessa of The Haute Pursuit and Karen of WhereDidUGetThat. Tall, rake-thin girls. I got it in the Urban Outfitters sale. The only size left was Large. It's too big.
I'm watching the award-winning HBO drama Angels in America. I don't know what to make of it. But I feel like I'm learning something. If only that Thomas Newman is a genius.
I took this last night during a wander through Chinatown. Not to toot my own horn, but I think it's beautiful.
Thanks to a bunch of indignant journalist-types in my Twitter feed I found myself on the Daily Mail website. It did have a small blessing in the form of this image from the upcoming Vanity Fair Oscars-special photospread.
Anne Hathaway. Noomi Rapace. Mila Kunis.
Jesse Eisenberg and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. In suits.
This might just be the best thing ever to come off the Daily Mail website.
Though I promised that I'd let it go a few posts back, I find myself thinking about it a lot. The thing that happened. Being alone again, by choice, but being made more alone than ever by lighting a match and watching, without control, as everything going up in flames.
The two serious relationships I've ever had have ended badly in their own ways, mostly by my design. I don't think I could ever stop caring for or move on from those people if I hadn't made it impossible for them to ever care for me again, so that's probably why I set fire to the bridges. Doesn't mean I don't look back over the wreckage to try and see how they're doing on the other side. To see who 'won'. That twisted logic that because now we aren't together, we're against each other, and I have to win.
Though, all things considered, I think I'm doing pretty well..
(Inspired by Lily of Bleed for Fashion, who has no fear of putting her feelings out there)
This was basically just an excuse to post some nice music. I'm doing pretty darn well, since you ask.