Friday, 27 October 2006

Wedding Countdown

Text from my normally reserved British boss yesterday: All best 4 your sis’s wedding. There is something v spesh abt seeing a sib wed. To have a twin must be extra so. Have a great time. b thinking of u.

I hate textspeak, but this reduced me to emotional goo. I’ve spent a month teasing my sister about the bride-and-groom-imprinted tissues she ordered, and suddenly I fear I’m going to need about half of them.

I can’t believe she’s getting married. It probably doesn’t help that I haven’t slept in about four days – damn those McCartneys – and that I’m so tired I practically can watch my own cognitive dysfunction from outside my body. Partly because of lack of sleep – and partly because of a couple of glasses of wine – my life seems surreal.

Returning to college for my final semester senior year, I was sure I’d die in a plane crash. I couldn’t visualize my life past graduation, and so I was sure I just wouldn’t live to see it. I feel the same way about my sister’s wedding. I’ve known about it for months, but it is only today, really, that I have considered the physical idea of one foot in front of the other up the aisle, and the fact that after it, my sister is married.


I can’t get my head around that. Or around the fact that my old friends-with-benefits from DC is now engaged. Or the fact that – as I learned tonight – my friend O. has gotten has ex-girlfriend pregnant and is running and hiding in the U.S. and maybe South America. I've been joking for the past couple of years that I've been living like a college student (only with slightly more expensive shoes) while my friends have grown up and fulfilled their contracts with adulthood. Suddenly, it doesn't seem so funny.

Monday, 23 October 2006


A quick stroll through downtown Reykjavik is all you need to understand why the birth rate is so high in Iceland (at 2.4 kids, it’s the highest in Europe) and why the music scene is so absurdly prodigious: There’s absolutely nothing else to do.

I got back last night from three days at Iceland Airwaves, a music festival that was the most fun I’ve had in a while. I attended the festival with two friends and came back with at least four new ones. We hopped from venue to venue – including a church, an art museum, a basement, and one hideous ski chalet-ish bar where the floor was higher in the front than in the back – seeing bands until past two in the morning. Then we hit the after parties until four or five.

For me, what was so unusual about this festival was the mixing between the artists and the press – so much so that one of the buses to the Blue Lagoon party (more on that in a minute) was for “Artists and Press.” Probably because I deal with artists who are much more famous than the ones who played in Iceland, I’m used to attempts to keep me as far away as possible from artists unless I’m doing an interview or a specific piece. But here the artists weren’t only on our bus – they were on the streets and they were at the after parties (in the case of the Kaiser Chiefs, DJ’ing the parties), and there was no VIP room. By the end of the festival I was on hugging terms with more than a few of my favorites.

And the Blue Lagoon party: This is the festival’s infamous hangover party, held about 1 p.m. Saturday in a geothermal pool. Much as I dreaded putting on a bathing suit – especially in front of skinny indie rockers and their equally tiny hangers on – I knew I’d be missing out if I skipped it. And I would have -- it was hilarious: Aforesaid skinny indie rockers cavorting in the water with white silica mud masks on their faces, drinking (blue) vodka drinks. (Indie rockers are hardly known for their well-scrubbed appearances, so a running joke among my friends was that we were safe in the knowledge that the musicians had had a bath at least once this weekend. Maybe you had to be there.) For the record, the time we were allotted in the water – about 90 minutes, max – thankfully was not enough for the party to degenerate into a frat party in the water. But the artist and press bus smelled like puke on the way home, not that that stopped one Swedish reporter and his friend from drinking seven cans of Viking on the 45 minute trip back to downtown Reykjavik. Ugh.

I was sad to see the festival end, but not that sad – frankly, I’m too old to stay up that late for more than three nights, and I actually used earplugs once or twice because it was that loud. (Lest I sound that old, I should point out that earplugs were bought for me by 23-year-old Canadian reporter. Then again, I should point out that 23-year-old Canadian reporter decided not to meet up on the last night with an Icelandic girl he’d met the day before because “then I’ll be up until eight in the morning.” Hello, isn’t that what you’re supposed to do at 23 – and then promptly brag to all your friends about it?)

Other people clearly had no problem carrying on drinking – I have a picture of a group at the airport who had at least 20 empty bottles of beer at their table. And on the plane on the way home, someone started doing somersaults in the aisle.

It was great to go, but it’s good to be home.

Thursday, 12 October 2006

Material Girl

In one of the worst-timed, most tasteless pitches I’ve ever seen – and yet another sign this celebrity/fashion collusion has gone too far -- a fashion PR e-mailed to tell us Madonna was wearing her client’s clothing while in Africa. Much as I might wish we would, I don’t think we’re going to run a story about the clothes Madonna wears while she buys a child in Africa. The dress is from the designer’s spring/summer ’05 line, according to PR, and I couldn’t help wondering if that is supposed to make it better: Madonna wears old designer clothes to Africa?

Tuesday, 10 October 2006


For 45 minutes – until just past midnight -- I tugged, I pulled, I pleaded, I cursed myself for not having a (snickering) boyfriend to help out, and I tried pulling the dress over my head. I threw myself on my bed, envisioning myself stuck sleeping in this black satin floor-length number, trying again in the morning, and eventually having to call in, um, stuck zipper to work.

Yes, it’s my bridesmaid dress. Not even the correct bridesmaid dress, which has just arrived in DC and which I’m fearing will not fit because I oh-so-cleverly ordered a size too small, hoping I’d get my act together. Oh, no – this is the bridesmaid dress from my friend Erica’s wedding in May ’04, which I thought I’d gotten rid of but luckily was still stuffed in a Selfridges bag at the top of my closet.

All this from a backup bridesmaid dress.

Is this a sign?

Oh dear. What kind of sign? I can’t even think about it.

Just after midnight I did what any desperate person does when standing around past midnight in a floor-length evening gown that she cannot get over her head nor tug down over her hips: I Googled “stuck zipper” (10,100 results in .14 seconds).

Hit 11 was a web site that suggested candle wax. Umm, OK… but how exactly does one get candle wax on the zipper without burning the dress? I considered. Trying to drip wax from a burning candle would be too inexact – I’d then have to worry about how to get the wax off the dress. Eventually I broke off a bit of candle, held it above the flame, then rubbed the warmed bit of candle on the zipper. At first it didn’t work, just like I was sure it wouldn’t (but of course had to try). Then I repeated the process. And voila. The satisfying zzzzip sound of, well, a zipper unzipping.

Sometimes I love the Internet.

If only I could say the same of the bridesmaid dress.

Saturday, 7 October 2006

Warning -- Shallow Post Below

So I headed to Paris Fashion Week Wednesday with only enough outfits for the shows I planned to attend. For once I decided not to schlep extra pairs of fabulous shoes and vintage handbags and jewelry and the little black dress, because frankly, my feet practically still hurt from standing around for hours in heels in London and Milan. And because I got home at 2 a.m. Wednesday morning from what last year was an incredibly boring music industry dinner I left early but this year was let’s-stay-‘till-the-end-and-even-move-on-for-another-drink fun. And because I had no post-show parties I had to attend in Paris – and because the fashion pack isn’t exactly welcoming or spontaneous (if you are not Anna Wintour or similar, you start requesting invitations to shows three months beforehand, though of course they tell you about a week before if you’ve gotten them), there was no reason to expect the unexpected.

Clearly the crazy peach drink I had at Trader Vic’s sometime in the early hours of Wednesday had made me crazy. If ever there were an excuse not to pack light, it is Paris Fashion Week.

And of course several hours after I arrived in Paris I was invited to a Scary Fashion Party commencing at one ridiculously trendy locale and then moving on to several others. A fashion nightmare, frankly. And I was facing it without a black dress and with only two pairs of shoes: ballet flats (unacceptable to fashionistas in evening unless worn with skinny jeans, which, um, In My Dreams) and black patent Via Spiga stacked heel loafers (no. Just… no).

At my current size, it is hard enough to find the perfect outfit (or really, a passable outfit) in a city whose shops you know well – and whose scene you know well enough to calibrate the exact amount of dressed up or dressed down you need to be to feel as inconspicuous as possible. Finding something in just a couple of hours in Paris was hopeless – I knew. I debated not going to the party. I debated heading to Galeries Lafayette and spending whatever it took.

I wandered around Galeries Lafayette, seeing nothing appealing. I hunted for black trousers, a difficult enough task when you're not under pressure. I prowled the shoe department, struggling to buy going out shoes – yes, me, practically forced to buy shoes and yet unable to do it. There were beautiful ones, of course, but they didn’t go with any of the clothing I had. And then there were ones so similar to ones I had at home that I couldn’t justify the three hundred euro pricetag. On my walk from Galeries Lafayette toward the Rue St Honore, I spied a Zara -- but they had no shoes in my size at all.

Then I gave up. I bought the tiniest Louis Vuitton handbag there is – cost: not much more than your average night out in London, actually – practiced my “there’s nothing wrong with my outfit” face (well, not really), reminded myself that patent leather actually is in this season (well, it is!), and decided what the heck. I was going to feel uncomfortable no matter what I wore. It was surprisingly freeing to admit that.

As for the party, like many of the ones I dread the most it was not worth the dread. It was fine – fun, even. I spent much of the evening chatting with an American girl and her British boyfriend of three weeks who was still wearing a wedding ring from the marriage (not to American Girl) he is apparently not even close to out of. Yes, she knows about it.

Later we ended up at the VIP Room, a branch of the same tacky Paris-Hilton-loves-it club I'd been in in St. Tropez earlier this summer (in fact, at a party Paris herself was throwing there). As the journalist I'd worked with in St. Tropez put it when I blackberried her the Paris tale: "If you ended up at the VIP Room where did you START?"


Monday, 2 October 2006

Shock and Awe

Today, as I was sipping my diet Coke and thinking about how hungry I was (diet – not of the liquid variety – begun today), an e-mail arrived from my father. Last week I’d reminded him that Yom Kippur was coming up, and that he should buy Yahrzeit candles – candles that burn for 24 hours, lit in memory of immediate family members who have died.

He wrote that he’d bought some candles and planned to meet his girlfriend later to break the fast, except he’d already cheated, so he wouldn’t technically be breaking the fast.

I stopped in mid-cherry-flavored-diet-Coke gulp. I’d thought Yom Kippur -- the Day of Atonement, and one of the Days of Awe -- started tonight and went until sundown tomorrow, as opposed to starting Sunday night and going through sundown tonight. Which meant at the point that I should have begun fasting last night, I was eating a cheeseburger. Yes, mixing milk and meat, which is against Jewish dietary laws. On an evening I was supposed to be fasting. Urgh.

Never mind that I eat pork and I often mix milk and meat (though never, ever have I had a glass of milk with meat – ugh). And never mind that a few years ago – the first time I got treatment for binge eating – I was told not to fast, and haven’t since. And that I didn’t plan to go to synagogue – only not to go to work (my mother always used to say she didn’t care if my sister and I didn’t go to synagogue, but we shouldn’t be at work either) and to light the Yahrzeit candle my grandmother gave me earlier this year (the candles are incredibly difficult to find here, unlike in the U.S., where any supermarket in a major metropolitan area will have them).

I still felt – and feel – horribly guilty.

I also felt – and feel – homesick. In the U.S., this never would have – or even could have – happened. The date is on all the calendars there. And – at least in the cities where I’ve lived – the concentration of Jews (and ones who observe the High Holy Days) is significant enough that I imagine my colleagues would have been surprised if I’d turned up at work. Which of course I wouldn’t have because chances are I’d be going to synagogue – an option I don’t feel is open to me here because there are only two types of Jews in England: Those who have never been to a Passover seder, let alone to synagogue, and those who are there every weekend and whose entire life revolves around being Jewish. The services I went to here a couple of years ago were for Jews far more observant than I am, and I felt worse than ever for not understanding a word of them. The few prayers I recognized were chanted in unfamiliar cadences. I left the synagogue yearning for Alexy, my official Jewish holiday friend back in DC, and to be home, where taking the day off from work for a Jewish holiday would not require an explanation. I put away the special prayerbook I'd had to buy and went and met a (totally non-observant) English Jewish friend for a drink. How non-observant was he? He didn’t know it was Yom Kippur.

Wanting to make sure I was home before sundown, I left work shortly after five today, something I have only done when sick. I looked up the words to the mourner’s kaddish on the Internet and lit the candle. I made myself wait until after sundown to eat again.

I don't feel any better, but it will have to do.

Sunday, 1 October 2006

The Rich are Different...

Yesterday I decided to stop being so self-involved and go volunteer to paint a nursery for low-income children near Westbourne Grove.

And I thought I was self-involved. Most of the women on the project were the (American) wives of (American) bankers. Their painting outfits consisted of either Seven jeans or sleep suits given out in Virgin Atlantic upper class (“So we got a great deal on our Christmas tickets this year – only $10,000 for the four of us to fly to Montana.”) Their engagement rings contained diamonds as big as the Ritz.

The conversation revolved around whether it was just too indulgent to have household help if one were a stay-at-home mom, the varying levels of ineptness of their husbands when it came to looking after their children alone, and how explicit were the childcare instructions they’d left their husbands.

I think I added five words to the conversation all day.