Oh, sure. Somebody like me gets a lot of questions.
Paper or plastic? Credit or debit? Tap or bottled?
You see what I mean. But hey, I’m used to it. It’s part of being a semi-public persona (i.e., someone well-known to at least a dozen people) who’s too lazy to do much of anything for herself.
However, this most recent query stopped me in my low-heeled tracks. “Who,” a woman asked me recently, “is your fashion icon?”
My fashion icon? I could feel my skull crashing in, my breath growing short, my balance teetering. Just look at me, I thought, panicking. Do I look like I have a fashion icon?
Unfortunately, it was a perfectly earnest question asked me by a style consultant. We were traipsing in and out of stores in Soho so I could learn some insider shopping tips. In theory, it had sounded like fun. In practice, it reminded me of how much I dislike shopping. All the styles start whirling together like a deranged merry-go-round and pretty soon, I’m working on a migraine or recalling how I’ve just left a novel I’ve been reading at a particularly critical point and really should get home immediately.
There is a reason I dress the way I do, which might be charitably described as desperately hoping to look classic. As my husband has very unhelpfully pointed out, even when I buy new clothes, they look very much like my old ones. This is because, I tell him, I have a certain style, a certain je ne sais quoi. I possess a signature look the same way I have a signature fragrance. Neutral colors on my body and Quelques Fleurs on my pulse points and I am hereby set for the rest of my life. Why mess with a rut if it’s comfortable? After all, it took me a good decade for me to be pried out of maternity clothes (so comfortable! so forgiving!); if it hadn’t been for my daughter’s insistence, I’d still be wandering around looking like one of these older women going for the oldest pregnancy record in Guinness.
In the meantime, the fashion icon question was ignored, then it reared its head again on a Soho street. God, what now? Who’s a fashion icon, anyway — and why don’t I have one? Madonna, no way; Carla Bruni, I can’t stand; Michelle Obama, too young; Anna Wintour, too cold and unsympathetic — and I can’t afford the Prada. Jackie O? Too dead.
“Oh, I don’t know,” I mumbled. “I guess I’ve never thought about it.”
This appeared to be shocking news. No fashion icon! No style focus in life! Hopeless!
“You probably just need to think about it a little longer,” the style consultant said.
I trailed her in and out of a few stores, thinking about the matter. It finally occurred to me that not only do I not have a fashion icon in my life — but I am also a little sick and tired of the whole word icon, along with derivatives like iconic. Enough with it, enough with diva, too, as long as I’m at it. (Diva used to be an interesting, expressive term. Now, it’s just any fairly ordinary woman with a bad disposition, no talent required.)
I have no icons, fashion or otherwise, in my life. Now and then, I stumble across a diva, then keep stumbling in the opposite direction as fast as I can. Life’s too short for ill-tempered people and I’m too old and set in my ways to dredge up a fashion icon. I headed home as quickly as I could. My book was there, waiting for me.
(Copyright 2010 by Ruth Pennebaker)
Read one of my favorite posts about helpful hints for an unemployed kid