Last Thursday, I wore a truly terrible outfit to work (see photo). While the impact of this faux pas is slightly obscured by the wonderful vintage effects of my iphone (and this of course, is deliberate; I’m not going to completely incriminate myself, am I now), be assured: this combination of items really didn’t work. Ironic for someone who has spent most of their adult life working in fashion retail.
It was one of those sweltering London days – exciting, yet at the same time uncomfortable. Bare legs were unavoidable, even though the cameo appearance of mine is always an unwelcome sight. My dress, complicated to wear at the best of times, made me fidgety and cross. And on top of all of this, I felt psychologically uncomfortable: vulnerability and paranoia is often a side effect of knowing you look shit.
So I moaned and I whined and my colleagues no doubt, wanted to tape up my mouth and lock me in the stockroom. In return, I wanted to yank my outfit off and set fire to it because frankly, selling shoes naked would have been infinitely preferable to spending one more second in my hideously put together trappings.
But I endured until the end of the day – just. And when I got home, I rebuked the Doctor for having let me leave the house dressed so erroneously.
Style has never been my forte, nor putting “things” together. I have never had an “eye” so to speak. I’ve never even been particularly good at knowing what I like. A great lover of all aesthetic explorations, I struggle to translate that love and appreciation into any of my own practices.
Let me be clear, this is not an attempt to fish for compliments.
Thursday was an instance of rock-bottomness. A bad outfit is a trifling matter in the grand scheme of things, clearly, but it was indicative of a more concerning mental and emotional calamity. It’s not just the wardrobe that confuses me at the moment, but all aesthetic phenomena. Music. Art. Design. I have fallen into some sort of rut where life has stagnated, in cultural terms, which in turn effects everything. There is little absorption of beauty and little motivation to go out and seek it from its source. Instead, there is a tendency to copy others who have more inherent imagination than myself, whether in relation to outfits or home decor, and the result is a rather unsuccessful pastiche.
I had always assumed that curiosity was an innate impulse. But recent events have led me to the conclusion that it is perhaps not. One becomes lazy, tired, whatever. The impulse for stimulation gives way to excessive television watching and a generally predictable ennui. As if the mind and body are no longer inquisitive sensual beings, but instead lifeless automatons.
When I was alone, writing my thesis, it was such an isolating experience. After waking in the morning alone, I made toast and tea and then planted myself in front of the computer screen. Piles of academic papers and news articles loomed over each side of me, as I tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tip-tipped away, casting ominous shadows over the credibility of my ultimately tenuous argument. In order to stave off depression, stress and anxiety (or perhaps more accurately, provide damaging forms of procrastination), I counteracted my physical isolation by ensuring there was intense cultural engagement. I listened to copious amounts of music, searching for the most obscure sources I could find. I watched films constantly – mainly foreign, tried to learn Urdu (only managing key phrases, like “I love you,” “I’m hungry” and “fuck off”), and searched for new and interested places to eat. I watched the news rigorously, read and went to galleries, keeping myself as informed as I knew how.
Then, as if waking up one morning after aliens had removed my personality in my sleep, I suddenly became totally ignorant. As if I stopped paying attention for a few minutes and before I knew it, everything in the world had changed and I was the old fart in the back saying “Who are these people? What’s this music? What’s this nonsense on television? Is that what the kids are wearing these days.”
To say this was entirely accidental might be distorting the truth somewhat. Things started to annoy me and I began to switch off. I told myself it was because I wanted to be less of a consumer. That it was a moral choice. But really, I think I went through a period of being seriously strapped for cash and a little bit down. Not being able to afford the things I wanted, like new music, new clothes, going to art exhibitions and eating out, encouraged me to withdraw into my own anti pop culture malaise. And as this predicament deepened, it wasn’t just popular culture being rejected, but even current affairs. I ended up not knowing about anything “cool” or anything political or academic – an arena I was particular eager to pledge. Instead, I began to lose myself to hours of online gaming because it cost nothing but provided me with an entire universe to conquer without leaving my chair (I wasn’t very good at this either).
And then, I had a child and they absorb so much of one’s energy it’s almost impossible to keep on top of anything else. And even if one did, the information is impossible to retain.
As Charlie Brooker stated, when you lose touch with popular culture, it’s difficult to get back in. But, I must. If for no other reason than to save myself the embarrassment of wearing really, really bad clothes.