Saturday, February 27, 2021
Thursday, February 25, 2021
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
I've always wanted to read Nick Hornby's novel High Fidelity, and last week I finally did. Although I saw the movie first, I ended up preferring the book. Truth be told, I couldn't get through the movie, which is rare for me. I fell asleep and woke up thinking, oh, John Cusack's still whining. Time to switch to Curb Your Enthusiasm! You know. For an entirely different kind of, albeit more entertaining, whining.
High Fidelity, for those who don't know, is the first-person account of a newly-dumped, music-obsessed, thirty-five-year-old manchild named Rob who owns a struggling record store in the '90s. Rob spends most of his time with his two Championship Vinyl employees, dudes who are even more hopeless than he is, making fun of people who like bubblegum pop and creating top five lists of their favorite songs, albums, and Cheers episodes. So in an effort to pinpoint how and when his love life went wrong, Rob describes his top five failed relationships in excruciating detail, casting his exes as the villains. If this whole commitmentphobe-guy-in-his-thirties-who-loves-music-more-than-he-loves-love thing sounds like Tom Perrotta's The Wishbones, then that's because it is. Only British and broodier -- and, to be fair, published three years earlier.
As the story unravels, Hornby hints that Rob is an unreliable narrator, slowly acquainting us with all the reasons why these breakups may actually be his fault. Getting to know Rob and his problems requires going on a journey with not only this one very specific and very self-absorbed man, but with men in general. According to Rob, men don't expect women to look perfect or even to deliver mind-blowing sex. It's just that they can't shake the thrill of meeting (and yes, sleeping with) a new woman every so often. In other words, Rob is exasperating -- but he's also human. And through Hornby's satiric yet sensitive eyes, he sometimes becomes sympathetic.
It should come as no surprise, then, that despite my distaste for Rob's misogynistic behavior, there's a part of me that still kind of gets him. Not the thing about wanting to play the field, but the thing about not wanting to lose his independence. Because for him, independence is music. It's the language that helps him understand the world, and I respect what it means to him:
" . . . sentimental music has this great way of taking you back somewhere at the same time that it takes you forward, so you feel nostalgic and hopeful all at the same time." 63
So true, Rob/Hornby, so true. The best songs defy space and time, transporting us to a place where everything's possible. And that, in a nutshell, describes Rob's dilemma: he's a guy who, like most of us, wants it all. So he gives up what he's got for what he might get. But it doesn't make him happy. Will he ever be able to sacrifice the possibility of the polygamous past for the certainty of a monogamous future?
Probably (no spoiler here; you know how these stories go). Because music will always sound sweeter coming from a record player than a computer -- but you're never too old to grow up.
Sunday, February 21, 2021
You exhale as you enter the ski lodge. The scent of cinnamon, the low lights, and the hum of hellos are a lullaby as you sink into a couch upholstered in pine trees. Sleepy after an afternoon on the slopes, your eyes begin to close. Then a barista appears. Soon you're sipping hot chocolate and devouring a double fudge brownie because, hey, you've earned it. Content and sated, you settle into the embrace of your brand-new sweater. Maybe it's an alpine-appropriate fair isle, a preppy argyle, or even that old classic, cable knit. But the main thing is that it thaws you from the inside out, just like the snowman-turned-boy in that Campbell Soup commercial, suffusing you with a warm, happy glow. This time you let your eyes close, the cozy-soft cotton cradling you to sleep as you dream of whipped cream-topped chocolate mountains.
I've never been to a ski lodge. But I imagine that this is how I'd feel if I went -- minus, of course, the actual skiing -- especially the part about the sweater. Because new clothes aren't just about trends and looking good. They're also about those seemingly divergent but intertwined entities of adventure and security. You know. That feeling that if you buy a cocktail dress, then you just might be invited somewhere fab to wear it. And that this will give you something to look forward to (that's the adventure) as well as something to make you feel that all's right with the world (that's the security). And even if that golden invitation never arrives, which, let's face it, is often the case in these quarantine times, then you can always take the dress or suit or stilettos for a spin in your living room. Which is its own kind of adventure.
That's how I feel about today's sweaters. Well, to be accurate, one sweater dress and two sweaters, none of which looks as though it belongs in a ski lodge. They arrived in the mail and I hung them up, accessorizing them a million times in my mind before settling on what you see here, namely the themes of '80s heartbreak, western glam, and an eclectic mix (mess?) featuring a bag that looks like a bottle of bubbly. The bag's funny because I'm a teetotaler. But then, a partygoer who doesn't drink is a lot like a lodge lounger who doesn't ski.
Which is another way of saying that quarantine or not, I'd take my living room over the lodge any day.
Still, I wouldn't say no to a black diamond-grade sweater.
Or to a double fudge brownie.
Friday, February 19, 2021
If books were ballgowns, then Sophie Kinsella's latest, Love Your Life, would be a ruffly pink number spangled with polka dots and topped with an appropriately British fruit tart fascinator. Which is, of course, a fun way of saying that I gobbled it up like a crumpet. Love Your Life begins when Londoners Aria and Dutch (not their real names) meet and fall in love at a writing retreat in Italy. Per the rules of the program, everyone goes by a pseudonym, and no one is allowed to talk about real life (apparently, it interferes with the writing process). Aria and Dutch share a magical, cocoon-like two weeks. They're so besotted that when the retreat is over, they plan to continue seeing each other. The catch? In an effort to keep a good thing going, they decide not to divulge their pasts.
But as everyone knows, no one comes home from a trip without baggage.
Soon Italy is a mere memory, revealing the mysterious Aria and Dutch to be plain old Ava and Matt. Ava is a bohemian, vegetarian freelance writer extremely attached to her destructive dog, and Matt is a by-the-book, burger-loving CEO who thinks that pets require boundaries. Matt feels honor-bound to do things he hates, whereas Ava has dozens of dreams but never sees a single one to fruition. It's a classic Dharma & Greg situation, and the surprise of it puts a strain on their fairy tale romance. As Ava and Matt's conflicts escalate, they can't help but wonder if their vacation fling has what it takes to become the real thing.
Love Your Life isn't about loving your own life, but about loving the life of your -- not to put too fine a point on it -- lover. Which is an interesting premise, because sometimes it's hard to forget that love's not built to be perfect. That said, I could relate to some of Ava and Matt's struggles. For example, the husband is an early bird and I'm a night owl. He loves animals; I want critters to keep their distance. He digs documentaries; I fancy fiction. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Yet at the end of the day, none of those things really matter. What matters is that we laugh at the same stupid things and, as the husband says, "care about each other's fiber." That last bit is an inside joke about an old cereal commercial that's probably not funny if uttered outside our bubble. But it means that we look out for each other and are each other's person, which is something that everyone understands. I think that this is the essence of Love Your Life and what makes it special. Sure, it's a rom com, but one that gently pokes at the genre in a way that's wise and whimsical and delivers the truth.
Maybe Love Your Life is about loving your own life after all. Because, to repeat something that might appear on a pillow on Aunt Gert's La-Z-Boy, you have to love your life and yourself before you can love someone else's.
So, the only way to come home without baggage is if the airport loses it.
In which case, maybe Aunt Gert will lend you her pillow.
Tuesday, February 16, 2021
If you were around in the '80s, then you know all about the super squad quad of nighttime soaps that included Dynasty, Falcon Crest, Dallas, and Knots Landing. My parents were fans of all four, so their theme songs, along with the ones for Sesame Street and Mister Rogers, are firmly lodged in my mind. To me, that music always meant drama, glamour, and, above all else, big shoulder pads and much bigger hair. And what better way to tamp down or amp up a bitchin' bouffant than with a happenin' headband?
Ah, headbands, those timeless comrades of the cranium. In the early '90s, I remember soft headwraps accented with knots as being a thing. I had one in mustard that anchored my teased bangs during many a mall crawl and math class. So when knot-topped hard headbands recently came into style, I thought, hey, I know you. More sculptural than their pliable predecessors, these twisty finishing touches add the kind of oomph that can come from only a tiny yet towering turban. I quickly acquired a trio (above), two striped and one rainbow metallic. Wearing them makes me feel happy, nostalgic and trendsetting all at once.
So the next time I'm watching The Undoing or A Million Little Things, I'll reminisce about how my love of stories and accessories started.
To paraphrase one of my favorite songs from the '80s:
"Ooh, baby, do you know what that's worth? Ooh, Heaven is a place on earth."
You know. If heaven were a hair doodad that didn't feel like it was squeezing your skull.
Sunday, February 14, 2021
Whenever I hear that Vampire Weekend song, I always think of Step Brothers. Which is fitting on this Valentine's Day because it may just be the best bromance ever (I can never decide between it and I Love You, Man.)
Speaking of vampires, the choker I'm wearing in the first pic kind of reminds me of one. Well, a fancy, fashiony type who'd rather have red beads trickling down its neck than blood.
Anyway, I love dressing up for Valentine's Day. Many of you already know this, but it's my favorite style holiday. With red and pink and hearts and lace, it has just the right gleefully girly décor to make for the Barbie best in over-the-top outfits. Even the desserts are dressed up! To that point, here's my collection of heart-shaped candy boxes: