Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Shoe for a Shoe

There used to be a rule in my house, imposed by my fella: If I bring home a pair of shoes, I have to get rid of a pair I already have. This has been a point of controversy among my friends, all of whom shudder with fear at the thought of throwing out shoes. I defend my man, like any good girl--his reasoning was sound, being that I have so many pairs of shoes I never wear or that he dislikes. And if he doesn't like them, it's not worth his bellyaching for me to put them on, and those shoes tend not to be my favorites either.

It was quite an upheaval, then, when he came home the other day to discover that I had brought home two new pairs of shoes from an unbelievable sale at the Steven store near my workplace. First he insisted that I didn't tell him about the purchases, which I insisted with equal vehemence that I did (I did!), and when I reminded him that he can't even remember what movie we watched two nights ago he kind of gave that one up. But next he pulled out all of my shoes from my closet, and asked which ones I was going to kick to the curb outside our building for someone else to take.

We went back and forth on this for a while, and the gist was ultimately that I felt that I shouldn't have to throw out any more shoes because both of us like all the shoes I currently own in addition to the ones I just purchased, I wear all of them with some degree of regularity, I pay for them with money that I earn, and they reside in my closet instead of his. He came back with a moving monologue about how much he hates accumulating random things into ever-expanding piles of stuff, and I got so frustrated I almost started crying. "But why does it have to be the shoes?" I pleaded. "Can't I get rid of something else instead? And what about your five kinds of mustard and salsa in the refrigerator?"

In the end, the argument was resolved when I said that I would clear out all of my spring dresses I don't really like, all of my underwear that expired ages ago, and all of the t-shirts that haven't seen the light of day since the college bar crawl for which they were created. For his part, he agreed to lay off the shoes and that, before going grocery shopping, he would seriously evaluate whether another condiment was needed.

I bore you with my relationship details only because there is moral to this story, which is: Keep your closet fresh. Often times, we hold onto things because we have attached some sentimental value to them, or because we hate throwing things out, or because we don't want to spend the money to replace things, or because we delude ourselves into believing that all things last forever. To all of those thoughts I say: It's only a t-shirt, get over it, sell your old clothes, and they don't. If you have things you don't wear anymore, give them to someone else who will wear them as lovingly as if they if they were brand new. Get crafty and use the material to make something new, anything as long as it means you're re-evaluating your look and your own sense of style. Vintage, classic pieces are always in fashion, but not if they don't keep up with you as a person.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Leave the fear, take the compliment.

As usual, I was way overdressed. Casual by my standards is what most other people call cocktail attire, and cocktail attire for me is black tie to anyone else. That evening I was wearing a tea-length dress, corseted and wearing my crinoline with contrast-seam stockings and five-inch cherry red heels. I was getting a lot looks, but only one made me uncomfortable enough to prompt a glare that read, "Seriously?" After all, it was a charity event for one of my non-profits, and the sad truth is that we need money so we have to be nice to everyone.

As people were leaving and we were cleaning up, one guy found himself standing next to me and was kinda looking at me while I shuffled some papers. Caught in his cross-hairs but not knowing what to say, I resorted to the old stand-by of every polite hostess.

ME. Thanks for coming, have a good night.
HIM. Oh yeah, we had fun.
ME. Oh good, glad to hear it.
HIM. You know, you have a whole delicious thing going on.
ME. Oh--thank you.
HIM. Yeah, I kinda wanna steal you and carry you off.
ME. Well, I think my fiance might have a problem with that.
HIM. Oh no, nothing by it--girlfriend's right here. I'm just saying you look nice.

At which point my face turned as red as my shoes. Here I was, dressed up and prepared for people to look at me, and then I feel threatened when someone actually says something. What's up with that? What is so hard about just taking a compliment?

The thing is that I've been deep-conditioned to put up a big red stop sign whenever someone says something to me that might have even the slightest potential to escalate to harassment. In that way I suppose I'm not so different from lots of other women who grew up with sex ed classes as part of Girl Scouts or who were taught basic self-defense moves in high school gym class. Instead of being taught that I have the power to decide what's okay, I've been taught to anticipate the attack with such zeal that I don't even recognize when the situation isn't dangerous. Of course I have to take responsibility for my own anxieties, and it isn't fair to just blame what I was taught. I haven't really taken the initiative to un-learn what I don't want to know anymore, and that's nobody's fault but mine.

Walking to a bar later, I caught a man's eye in a restaurant. I did nothing but hold eye contact for perhaps a few seconds. My man picked up on him looking at me, but not on the fact that I may have provoked it a little, and threw up his hands at the guy as if to say, "I'm right here, man."

ME. What are you doing? What happened?
MY MAN. That guy was looking at you like he was going to lick your thighs off.
ME. Really?
MY MAN. Yeah, with me right next to you.
ME. Ohhh...I may have done that on purpose.
MY MAN. Why? Why would you do that?
ME. Because it's fun, and I can.
MY MAN. ...Awesome.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Nude and Tattooed

One thing I've noticed about the modern pinup girl is that she is often tattooed. And I'm not talking about some little butterfly on her inner ankle, I mean large and colorful art from her shoulder to her elbow. This is in stark contrast to what I've seen of pinups in the fifties, whose skin was left blank but for its natural beauty.

I view tattooing as a form of tagging. It's one of the many ways a person can make their body truly unique. I myself have a couple of tattoos, and I love seeing someone else's back and thinking how in that same spot on my own body, I chose to mark myself with symbols that mean something to me. Tattoos (and piercings, for that matter, of which I also have several) are a way of expressing your individuality. In the case of a pinup, you're quite literally branding yourself--for example, Peekaboo Pointe could put on whatever wig or mask she wanted, and I would know it was her from twenty feet away because of her gorgeous tattoos. Whereas with Dita Von Teese, part of her image is 1940s glamor, which just doesn't include body art.

I love the new burlesque movement in part because of the way it clashes the old with the new. At the Crazy Horse in Paris, the women couldn't have anything that distinguished them from any other girl on stage. The vision of a line of identical and beautiful naked women dancing before you was part of the magic, and fostered the aesthetic distance that remains necessary for people to be whisked away into fantasy. Burlesque has always been a form of expression, but watching how it has grown and developed somewhat signals a change in what we now perceive as attractive. Even Crazy Horse evolved, allowing Dita the privilege of being their first showcased performer since they opened their doors in 1951.

Masuimi Max's tattoos are hot. Every time I see Angie Pontani perform, I want to run off to the tattoo parlor and have my arm done. Maybe some of the change has to do with the way tattoos in general are viewed now--they're not just for sailors anymore!--but to me it seems they have been reappropriated by burlesque dancers as part of the act.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008


Over the break, I had some fun with a couple of friends back home. My best friend from high school and I got dressed up in our best knickers and took a series of racy pictures in her apartment with the help of her former roommate as photographer. I tied my pal up in Christmas lights, used her as a step stool while I hung some decorations, and watched as she blew significantly sexier smoke rings than I could ever hope to produce. There were many ironies to our little photo shoot, one of the best being that I'd rather submit than dominate any day of the week, but more to the point was that we spent an entire day playing around and being ourselves--but we can't share the results.

In my real life, I work in a totally lame corporate office that does nothing to stimulate me in any way. It's not great, but it pays the bills and means I can go to the doctor without having to promise my firstborn child to pay for the visit. The situation is miserable, sure, but what would be even more miserable would be if I were unemployed. I've worked harder and been paid less, so what I have now is downright luxurious in many ways.

One of the many downsides to the day job is that I have to remain anonymous as a wannabe pin-up. I can't use my real name when I write here, and I can't post any of the pictures I took with my friend. There is a meetup group called New York Pin-Up Photography that I'd love to take part in, but how fair is it to the photographers to tell them that they couldn't do anything with their shots of me, lest the racy photos be discovered by the corporate titans?

I love being in front of a camera--it's the exhibitionist in me, and I get enough encouragement to wonder sometimes if I could make a living at modeling. At an S&M play party many years ago, a fellow party-goer wanted to set me up as a model with a photographer friend of hers, but at the time I was too shy to take her up on it. I went to a wedding last November, and one of the guests who works for Ralph Lauren singled me out from the crowd and commented to the groom that I had just the kind of classic beauty they look for in a Ralph Lauren model. My face is being used as the basis for the main character in an upcoming graphic novel. This I'm okay with, since I can't figure how that would be offensive to the corporation--as opposed to sultry and teasing pinup-style photos.

I'm not sure I could really commit to a full career as a model. I just wish I could do it sometimes, for fun. It would be great to lift the veil I have to wear for the sake of propriety and do all the things I want to do, if only it wouldn't come at such a cost.
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Pinup Tales by Kitty du Vert is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.