Monday, 11 June 2012

The End Game

From the Summer 2012 issue of King West Magazine

Our Single Gal gets caught off guard
By Marilisa Racco

The American author, humourist and radio personality Garrison Keillor once said: "Nothing bad ever happens to a writer—it's all material." In a not entirely dissimilar vein, a friend and fellow scribe recently shared with me the number one rule of revenge journalism: Never fuck with a writer.

Sometime around the end of last summer, I took up with a plucky fella—let's call him "S"—who embodied none of the traits that usually draw me in. He was employed, responsible, gentlemanly and genuinely interested in me. Naturally my first instinct was to run in the opposite direction. It didn't help that on our fourth date he suggested we take a trip together and asked me to accompany him to a wedding where his parents would be among the guests. I politely declined on both counts. It's not that I wasn't interested in him; it's just that I like to take things slow. Like, date for 10 or 12 years and then talk about investing in a cactus together.

Eventually, between his dogged determination and my biological clock, I gave in. What ensued was an exhilarating whirlwind of meeting family and friends, celebrating birthdays and holidays, exchanging mots doux and making plans for the future. It went against my every instinct but, I reasoned, I had clearly found The One and this is what normal, sane people do.

Christmas came and we were sucked into a vortex of familial obligations, shuttling ourselves between his family, who live outside of Toronto, and mine, who couldn't be more thrilled that despite all evidence to the contrary, I was in fact the marrying kind. We exchanged extravagant gifts, the subtext seemingly reading: Let's be frivolous now before we have a mortgage and a kid. An overnight stay at his parents' house yielded a very generous gift from them that only solidified my impending official status within his family, which pleased me to no end. As far as I could tell, they would make marvelous in-laws, at once genial and gracious without a hint of intrusive. His sister and her husband were well on their way to being our Best Couple Friends, while their criminally cute two-year-old with her marked resemblance to S served as a blueprint for our future offspring. The die had been cast.

What I quickly learned, however, is that in this modern dating landscape, there's no accounting for a change of heart. Shortly after ringing in the New Year together and with no warning whatsoever, S ended things. As I drove him home one evening, in an episode that lasted less than 10 minutes, he coolly said that he didn't see a future with me and would I mind stepping inside to collect my things. Stunned and speechless, I watched as he feverishly packed up the few belongings I had scattered around his house and escorted me to the door. He simply couldn't get rid of me fast enough. By the time I got home he had unfriended me on Facebook, unfollowed me on Twitter and had squared a minor debt with an email money transfer. One can only imagine that he has since had his house fumigated in an effort to rid it of any lingering DNA.

In the days that followed, I fluctuated between anguish and rage. I came to term what had happened as "emotional carpet bombing" and blamed the sneak attack for my inability to react on the spot. I toyed with the idea of reaching out to him, working out old hurtful standards like: "I'm too good for you" and "You were lousy in bed" and "I hate your Crocs!" (Only one of those statements is true...OK, maybe two.) But after a week of discussing the breakup ad nauseam with my closest friends, I concluded that confronting him would only serve to reopen wounds.

That epiphany helped me to heal, though of course I still have questions, the biggest being: What changed? Maybe there was someone else or maybe it was a garden-variety freak-out or maybe he's just a little boy pretending to be a grownup. Regardless, he was right about one thing: There was no future with me. My future contains and man who can see past his fears and shortcomings, as well as my own. A man who treats the woman he claims to love with dignity, kindness and respect, even if he is about to break her heart. But, most importantly, my future sure as hell doesn't contain a man who wears Crocs.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Men in Tights

 Emilio Cavallini unisex tights

As I'm sure you've surmised by now, I'm a pretty progressive gal. Cynical, a little angry and totally judgmental, but progressive nonetheless. I thought it was cute when J.Crew creative director Jenna Lyons was photographed painting her young son's toenails pink, I say bravo to Chaz Bono who had the courage and conviction to embrace his true self, and yes, I believe everyone has the right to free speech, even if they are knuckle-dragging whackjobs whose fatuous right wing beliefs stem from the Old Boy teachings of Rich White America. (When the fascists rule the world after a Hunger Games type apocalypse, this blog is totally gonna land me on a watchlist.)

Despite my general Live and Let Live attitude (barring leather shorts, PajamaJeans, yoga, bridal diapers, The Jersey Shore, and Sex and the City, of course) I do draw the line somewhere. And that place is at mantyhose. Earlier this week, revolutionary Italian legwear brand Emilio Cavallini disclosed to Women's Wear Daily that approximately 3 percent of their hosiery business consists of men. They launched a unisex collection of tights in 2009 and it is going over well with dudes in Europe and North America who wear them mostly as an extra layer for warmth in the winter, but have also been known to rock them under shorts as a fashion statement. Prints include skulls, stars, checks and stripes. Which sounds totally cute! On me.

Emilio Cavallini has been on my radar since the late 80s/early 90s when my father was the national distributor for the avant garde clothing and accessories brand noted for seamless construction and outrageous tights. The designer was probably best known for providing outfits for the seminal twin pop sensation Milli Vanilli, which is, you know, prescient. Much as I always thought Cavallini was so super cool and oh-my-god-how-rad-are-these-tights-with-big-holes-in-them-they-will-look-so-awesome-under-my-plaid-school-uniform, sadly the Canadian public was not ready for him. (Thankfully, my father had an arsenal of other Italian labels that sold like hotcackes.) Although the brand has since ditched ready-to-wear and focused solely on that region below the belt that either makes you love genetics or want to strangle its evil, sinewy neck, clearly they haven't kicked their ol' subversive tendencies.

Allow me to say, with utter sincerity, I totally dig a dude who wears pink. It's brave, it's sexy and it tells me that he doesn't subscribe to antiquated societal norms. That's a guy I would like to befriend, and depending on what he looks like, maybe even go down on. But a man in tights reminds me of Louis XIV, whom I admire for nurturing the arts during a rather prolific literary time in France and who is responsible for turning Versailles into what is a rather nice little maison, but who also probably didn't shower that often (I mean the French did invent perfume for a reason) which means pink or no pink, I wouldn't tap that for anything.

Also, I'm all for gender equality, but I kinda want to see that happen in places like, oh I don't know, the workplace and maybe Iran, before blurring the lines of fashion and beauty. It's hard enough to find a guy who wears decent shoes — OH MY GOD, why can't dudes in North America wear decent shoes?! — let's not start telling them to wear pantyhose. Or as Essie Weingarten, founder of global nail polish brand Essie, suggested to me earlier this week, wear nail polish. In fact, she strongly advises us to share our nail polish with the men in our lives. What Essie doesn't know, though, and what my kindergarten classmates can wholeheartedly attest, is that I don't share. Not toys, crayons, clothing or nail polish. Nor the belief that the world is ready for men in tights.          

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Happy Women's Day

Just a quickie post on this International Women's Day 2012 to give a shout-out to all the women who have inspired me in life:

My dear departed nonnina, Angelica Pepe, who demonstrated strength, resilience and a remarkable ability to keep her shit together in the face of much adversity over her 98 years. And who is undoubtedly looking down on me today and asking herself, "What the f*ck is that kid doing with her life?" Except, you know, in Italian.

My mother, who unlike her (aforementioned) mother, charges through life with a gladiatorial nature that has allowed her to accomplish a helluva lot more than I ever will.

My best friend who, let's face it, is a saint just for putting up with me these last 25 years. But also because she's never let her misfortunes taint her world view or her ability to kick ass. Plus, she *always* pays for dinner.

And this list of women who I've never met, but whose brilliance has awed me in some way. In no particular order: Tina Fey, Flannery O'Connor, Margaret Atwood, Oriana Fallaci, Marie Colvin, Murphy Brown, Stephanie Nolan, Kristen Wiig, George Eliot, Marcia Kilgore, Miuccia Prada, Coco Chanel, Stella McCartney, Meg White, Sofia Vergara, Stevie Nicks, Lisa Simpson, Emma Thompson, Kate Winslet, Gloria Steinem, Zadie Smith, Sylvia Plath, Elizabeth Wurtzel, Jennifer Egan, Lee Krasner, Veronica Tennant, Georgia O'Keefe, Frida Kahlo, Lara Logan, Liz Tilberis, Grace Coddington, Leslie Stahl, Grace Mirabella, Tina Brown, Joan Didion, Diane Keaton, Karen Kain, Janis Joplin, Marianne Faithful, Aretha Franklin, Sofia Coppola, Isabella Blow, Gertrude Stein, Katherine Hepburn, Judy Blume. And believe me, the list could go on.

To all of you I say, thanks.      

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

On this day like every other one (2012 redux)

Because my views on the topic haven't really changed in the last decade, I thought I'd post a slightly edited version of a piece I wrote in 2010 on the topic of Valentine's Day. Hope you enjoy it the second time around...just like you did the second time you got back together with your sociopathic ex-boyfriend. I genuinely hope this brings you more joy than he did, and maybe even a better orgasm.

My sentiments on Valentine's Day can be summed up in one elegant, monosyllabic word — meh. I feel no resentment whatsoever towards happy couples who use this day to reaffirm their love for one another. Please, go forth and splurge on dinner, flowers, jewellery, lingerie, sex toys. Lord knows our retail economy needs the shot in the arm. Stare deeply into your love's eyes, gesture as grandly as your wallet will allow, kiss with tongue! Just don't expect me to look longingly at you as tears well up in my eyes. Nor should you expect to find me slumped at the bar, slurring lonely-cat-lady clichés like, "José Cuervo is all the man I need!" while flashing the bartender some skin. I just don't care that much. Besides, I don't need an excuse to drink tequila.

I've certainly celebrated my fair share of Valentine's days. I've cooked special dinners, lit scented candles, worn kinky panties, waxed, polished, buffed and disrobed. And you know what? Save for the uncomfortable underwear, it always felt like just another day. In fact, the last time I celebrated Valentine's Day with a boyfriend, everything we were required to do was done by 10pm and we started calling around to see what everyone else was up to. If memory serves, I cozied up to both my boyfriend and José that night.

To be perfectly honest, I completely forgot it was Valentine's Day today until I received an old standby message from my dear friend Lindsay. It read: "I choo-choo-choose you!" as it does every Valentine's Day. And it beats any flowers or candy I've ever received. I may not be spending today with one special someone, but I do have a whole bunch of them in my life, not the least of whom is my dog. I want to apologize to my sisters out there, both single and spoken for, who think I should feel sad or lonely, elated or entranced by this day. In truth, all I feel is ambivalent. And maybe a little hungry.

But if it makes you feel any better: I love you. Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Damnit, Karl!

 Fat Karl

To paraphrase Sinatra: disappointments, I've had a few. There was the Michelin-starred restaurant in France that gave me heartburn, the limited-edition sneakers that I trekked all over LA to locate that gave me blisters, the luxury moisturizer that gave me a rash, Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York, chocolate-covered bacon, high school, rollerblades, Atkins, the push-up bra, Berlin, magic mushrooms, Victorian literature, YSL Tribute heels, and muffins. But no one disappointed me more this week than Karl Lagerfeld.

In an interview that ran in Paris Metro, Lagerfeld is quoted as calling singing sensation Adele "a little too fat" but with a "beautiful face." Which is just the kind of backhanded compliment all girls love to receive. Now, the thing with Kaiser Karl is that he used to be fat, so I kind of get that his subtext is probably all, "eef I deed eet, you can too," but he doesn't have to be such an asshole about it.

The problem with Lagerfeld isn't just that he's a former fat guy who looks down his reconstructed nose at anyone who has an affinity for carbs, but he also has an industry full of backup. He's been spewing offensive rhetoric about anyone larger than a size -2 for years yet has never really come under fire for it. It's like he's the Roman Polanski of the fashion world. But in case you're worried that he might be a one-trick-pony of insults, in the same interview he also called Russian men ugly, and said Greeks and Italians have disgusting habits — one can only imagine he was referring to the regular consumption of food. As an Italian, all I can say to that is: touché, M. Lagerfeld.

Thankfully, Adele doesn't seem too fussed about it. She hit back with the requisite, "I represent the real woman" blah blah blah. A response that really doesn't need to be spoken aloud. Least of all in response to something an emaciated artifact said. I don't know if you, dear reader, can possibly comprehend how much it hurts me to say negative things about Lagerfeld. I respect him so deeply as a designer, an artist, a visionary; he helms the house of Chanel, which is nothing short of a religion for me! But I'd be lying if I didn't say I think he's slipping. His spring/summer 2011 cruise collection bordered on predictable and cliched, and his recent couture collection largely fell flat, in my opinion. I think he's lost sight of who his customer is and remains stuck in the early noughties notion that the young customer controls consumer spending. Is it any surprise that he's still dropping bombs about someone being "a little too fat"? He belongs to a bygone era of corporate omnipotence and cigarettes-and-coffee diets. Perhaps it's time he bid adieu.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Gray matters

Just when I thought celebrity culture and hair trends couldn't confuse me further (disclaimer: I'm not that bright), out come a bunch of starlets, ingenues and Olsens rocking gray hair well before their time. I think it's meant to be ironic, but I can't tell because I'm one pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarers and a denim vest short of being able to decipher pop cultural "irony." Besides, I might be getting too old for any irony that doesn't directly derive from the Socratic method, national politics or my food intake-to-thigh girth ratio. 

On the one hand, I suppose I should be applauding these Pretty Young Things for attempting to destigmatize gray hair. I'd love to walk around with a photo of them in my wallet to show to those people who think it's appropriate to point out my roots when I've gone too long between visits to my colourist. "As far as Mary-Kate Olsen and Kelly Osbourne are concerned, gray is the new ombré!" I'd yell at anyone who glanced at my roots askew. Then I'd follow it up with a sharp, "my eyes are down here."

Unfortunately, not even the earning power of an Olsen can sway public opinion on graying ladies. It has been suggested to me in the past that I allow my gray to run free, that it would, in fact, act as an avant garde contrast to my youthful face. (Which is just a nice way of saying: you might as well go gray since you've always got those hideous roots showing and who do you think you're kidding anyway?) But succumbing to gray is like the follicular equivalent of sweatpants. The message is so clearly, I give up. And while I may have given up on the youth peddling power of mini skirts, five-inch stilettos, 3AM pizza binges and bottle tokes, I will not give up on my hair.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Oh, just read it

Like Betty White and that pesky STI you contracted in your early 20s, I'm back. Let's do away with the mea culpas regarding my long absence and the litany of fictional excuses, shall we? Suffice to say, I got busy and lazy, but mostly bazy. What matters is that I've whipped up enough irrational ire and rapidly dwindling motivation to put fingers to keyboard in an attempt to resuscitate The Chic Storm's dubious reputation for being anyone's (other than my mom's, maybe) go-to destination for cranky perspectives on inane topics. I'm very niche, dontcha know.

Initially I was going to write a post on that French ELLE piece about how black folks are finally chic now because the Obamas are clean-cut and employed and don't wear baggy jeans or Lady Enyce jackets. Aside from writer Nathalie Dolivo's offensive suggestion that African Americans couldn't possibly aspire to elegance before the Obamas' arrival because they had no standard to look up to, she also invents staggering malapropisms like "black-geoisie" and the less imaginative "black style." As a style aficionada, I take offense to Dolivo's comments because the fashion world is nothing if not colour blind. In fashion, prejudice doesn't stem from colour or creed — not since Beverly Johnson broke down barriers in 1974 as US Vogue's first African American cover model and then (ironically?) appeared on French ELLE the following year, anyway — but from genetics and socioeconomic status. Make no mistake, friends, the fashion world will judge you for eating a doughnut or buying a knockoff, but it doesn't give a shit about the colour of your skin.

What's worse, though, is that Dolivo discredits all the style icons who came before Michelle Obama, like Josephine Baker, Grace Jones, Dorothy Dandridge, Iman, Naomi Sims, Diana Ross to name a few. Don't get me wrong, I love me some Obama style, but the First Lady did no more for the collective fashion consciousness of the African American community than Princess Beatrice did for fascinators. Simply put, it's already been done.

But this post isn't about Dolivo's skewed ideas on "ethnic" fashion — I sure fooled you into thinking it was though, didn't I? Ha! The French ELLE piece comes on the heels of a shocking review of Rihanna's style that ran in Dutch fashion magazine Jackie. Incendiary comments on the singer's aesthetic include a reference to her "ghetto ass" and a summation of her overall nose-thumbing attitude as being that of a "ni**abitch." Now, I don't know what constitutes acceptable street slang in Amsterdam (I don't speak freaky deaky Dutch, man), but in North America we don't drop N-bombs, ironically or any other way. It doesn't matter how benign you think that word is in the context of fashion or music copy, it's not cool. Nor is calling a woman "bitch". [Not to get all tangent-y on you, but "bitch" or "beeyotch" are not acceptable words to describe any woman, I don't care if she's an international pop sensation or your BFF. Stop doing it.]

On a not entirely unrelated note, earlier this month Andrew Adler, the publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, ran an editorial about the US and Israel's opposing views on dealing with Iran and suggested that the Mossad assassinate President Obama as a way to alleviate the problem. Um, yeah. He recently announced he would be stepping down from the paper.

Finally, dear reader, I'm coming to the conclusion of this rant. It's not necessarily about racism in European fashion circles or reactionary political ideas, but rather the state of journalism today. How can three seemingly upstanding publications (ok, I know nothing about the Atlanta Jewish Times, but apparently it's been around since the 1920s, so it must have some cred) run such obviously dicey content to only turn around and issue emphatic yet bemused apologies? I've been working in the field of journalism since the turn of this century and I remember a time when spelling Rihanna's name incorrectly would've been received with wrath from a curmudgeonly editor, never mind dropping the N-bomb in copy. The print world is already losing readers to online outposts and blogs (don't look at me — I haven't posted in months!) let's not get all shock-jock-y about it and just say crazy shit to get attention. Go back to the roots of print journalism and write intelligently, thoughtfully and yes, provocatively. But not offensively. Because we all suffer for it in the end.