Sunday, 17 November 2013

75. A pair of red flares and a fitted ringer t-shirt

I am sitting at my desk dreaming of clothes. We get paid tomorrow. I'm thinking about what I want to buy.

I'd like a pair of polished high heeled black brogues, like the ones the witch wears in Suspiria when she is walking round and round the corridors of the ballet school. I'd like a pair of red flares and a fitted ringer t-shirt like a Japanese girl wore in a horror film I saw once, I forget the name.

I'd like a bright red coat with a huge furry collar and long fluffy cuffs. After some thought, I recognise it as one Asami wears in Takahashi Miike's Audition, which makes me pause for a second because I'm not sure I want to look like her, but I decide that, while she is a horrifying person, that doesn't mean I can't admire her sense of style. I can endorse her coat without endorsing her actions. Then I wonder if this is a terrible thing to think. I should despise everything to do with Asami. It is not, after all, acceptable to say: "Hitler was a terrible man, but I quite like that one coat he wore."

Then I decide that Audition was a film and Takahashi probably picked the coat out for the actor. He quite clearly has excellent taste when it comes to sets and costumes. So that's fine.

I want purple fake fur and gold sequins. I want a 20s-style flapper dress embellished with beads; I waver towards white for a while, and then settle on midnight blue.

My wardrobe is crammed with beautiful clothes. Rose-pink satin jumbled in next to green feather boas and grey fake fur jackets. I have a particular weakness for tweeds, plaids and sequins - although not together. The current craze for embellishment is driving me insane. One sees what looks like, from the back, a very nice simple dress. One picks it up, hopefully turns it round, and sees that the designer has vomited a splash of multicoloured gems all over a randomly chosen section of its front. It is not aesthetically pleasing, continues to be a disappointment, and should be stopped immediately.

I adore clothes, but trends in general pass me by. I don't read style magazines or fashion blogs. Just never got into the habit. I took advantage of the obsession with lace two years ago to pick up a number of items, but other than that I don't really pay attention to this season's must-haves. I don't know anyone else who does, either. I don't know who buys them. Every woman I know thinks about how she looks, but we all have very clear ideas of what we want to buy which bear little or no relation to what is supposed to be fashionable.

All my wish list comes from films and music videos. Helena Bonham Carter's grungy-glam black wardrobe in Fight Club. The yellow latex dress Beyonce wears in Lady Gaga's Telephone video. Wednesday Addams' plaid. Molly Ringwald's pearls, hats and sweaters in Pretty in Pink and Mary Stuart Masterson's gloves and shorts in Some Kind of Wonderful. Everything everyone wears in Desperately Seeking Susan and any given John Waters film. Everything Tank Girl has ever been drawn in, whether in comic or film form.

I realise suddenly that it's not even so much about how I look. It's about a dream. An idea. It's about making life more like a movie, because in the end I prefer movies to actual life. And who wouldn't? The bright colours, the excitement, the sense that there is a point to all of it. So much more satisfying than the grey pointless grind of working at a job you hate, in close proximity to people who are so stupid and unthinking you can't stand to talk to them for longer than five minutes. And at the end of the month you get given just enough money to pay your bills.

When you buy clothes, you are buying a fantasy. It's a dream about who you want to be, who you really are on the inside, how you want to live. You're in a shop. You see a dress or a top and you say "It's me!" It's no wonder we get in debt, because you have to have that dream. Having it means you are the person you want to be, you could be someone else. Not having it means you are exactly what you are always afraid you were.

I suddenly realise that I just thought I hate my job. And in the same moment I realise it's true. I do hate my job. I hate this open-plan office. I hate pushing paper. I hate the endless round of tough negotiating and kissing other people's asses which defines public relations as a career. I hate that, when something goes well, all my incompetent bosses congratulate themselves for a good idea without noticing me but when it goes badly it's my fault. I hate the word "appropriate" as in "your clothes are not appropriate" and "your attitude is not appropriate". And most of all, I hate the way I am expected to not just do it - I have to do it, I need the money - but to love it with all my heart and soul, to make it my reason for existing. You don't get put in prison and then told you're lucky to be there so you'd better look like you're appreciating it.

As if anyone could love PR. It's not a job with a point. It's not like helping disabled children, or nursing, or doing ground-breaking science, or making clay pots, or mending clothes. There is no visible end result. I'm not even working for something like a charity, where at least you could feel you were publicising something which would actually help people. I'm working for the kind of large financial organisation which makes money off miserable people's debts.

At this point, I decide enough is enough. This train of thought is foolish and unhelpful. I'm going to buy myself a latte and a chocolate doughnut and sit in the cafeteria for twenty minutes. It's not like anyone will miss me.

But as I walk down the stairs the thought stays with me, a tiny nagging itch somewhere in the back of my brain: what would it be like to have a job with a point?

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