Ah, it's good to be home again! With flowers in the window and birdsong in the garden, and roast potatoes for tea! Telephone campaigning was arduous indeed, but I befriended some fabulous, Sparkles and Crumbs-souled girls who I probably would not have met otherwise. On our last night in college, we retired to my room for microwave chocolate cake and discussions of brilliant books, the merits of old movies, and shoes. It was this discussion that sparked my inspiration for this post - which, I am afraid to say, will be lengthy! My inspiration was this:-
It started when everyone tried on my Irregular Choice ice cream heels and gushed over their beauty - one of my new favourite people sighed, "I love them, but I can't wear heels. I'm already too tall and gangly. I feel like I'm all limbs, 'Hey, I'm an Octopus!'" [This lady is, yes, tall, willowy and resembles Alexa Chung in style and prettiness.]
Someone else reassured her: "Oh gosh, no, I just feel so beefy when I stand beside you. Like, I just have so much meat on me! I'm so chunky!"
Another new comrade reprimanded me for feeding her cake, complaining: "You're going to make me fat! It's not fair! You just eat so much, but you still fit into a dress that size!" One of my older friends reassured her with more than a hint of glee: "Don't worry; one of these days, she's going to hit menopause and balloon. Then we can all laugh!"
Seriously, this just threw me! Here were these lovely, light-hearted heroines, brooding over the conviction that there is something terribly wrong with their appearance, and, moreover, that this was somehow detrimental to their captivating characters! I just don't understand it!
Here's the first point: "The responsibility of pleasure can be too much of a burden. Having what you want, sometimes, seems so far-fetched... high whimsy, too rich an experience for the average palette. It's madness. 'I couldn't possibly!' Have what I want? Don't be silly!" Try this: "Hold out your arms in front of you, parallel to the ground, and reach forward as hard as you can towards the opposite wall; then reach harder still. Stretch out your fingers as far as they will go. Hold the position for two minutes. Do you feel comfortable? Is this how you intend to live the rest of your life?"
Sometimes [well, for me, always!], a big juicy baguette or a bowl of strawberries dipped in chocolate is so much more scrumptious than having a perfectly *trim and attractive body*
Another lesson learned from the gorgeous Judy Garland? There is so much more to being fabulous than having that conventional *trimness and attraction*. Can you believe that MGM Studios used to call her the 'Little Hunchback' or 'The Fat One,' and that they severely rationed her food?!
Mickey Rooney went to the MGM School with both Judy Garland and Lana Turner. He described Miss Garland as "no glamour girl... a little too short... She looked, well, different," whereas Lana Turner's "body said it all... I thought, Here is a woman."
Turner was stunning, for sure - but she was also 'banal and even silly.' Her memoirs read: "Shortly after I met him he asked to marry me, but for once I knew I really didn't want to. After I declined he left for Arizona to do his nightclub act. Clever man, he didn't call me for a few lonely days. Sensing my mood, he again asked me to marry him. This time I agreed. Our wedding took place in Las Vegas. Why oh why?" As the brilliant Boyt puts it: "Indeed."
Judy Garland, on the other hand, was described by Dirk Bogarde as "complete, unforgettable magic." For Susie Boyt, she "seemed miraculously to transform the harsher truths of life into something wonderful, where all feelings, however dark, are good and true because they're yours." And just watch her performing Get Happy in Summer Stock, clad in a tux jacket and bowler hat!:-
Despite serious psychological problems and a drug addiction that eventually killed her, Judy Garland radiates fabulousness - proving my pet theory and her own 'Garlandian truisms':-
- Things that are hard have more of life at their heart than things that are easy.
- Glamour is a moral stance.
- Loss, its memory and anticipation, lies at the heart of human experience.
- If you have a thin skin, all aspects of life cost more and have more value.
Let's all be a little bit more like Judy and Kay Thompson, and never be afraid to crank up our own personal pizzaz to the highest kilowatt! I unearthed this whilst researching fundamentalism in the USA, and found it hilarious:-
“The most sinister and menacing figure of our mod life is the cigarette smoking, cocktail drinking, pug dog nursing, half-dressed, painted woman, who frequents the theatres, giggles at the cabarets, gambles in our drawing-rooms, or sits around our hotels, with her dress cut ‘C’ in front and ‘V’ behind! She is a living invitation to lust, and a walking advertisement of the fact that many of our modern women have lowered their standards of life!”
-John Straton, ‘Slaves of Fashion,’ written in 1920s New York. Wonder what he'd think of Sex and the City...?
Hmm - I think I'm much more of the Mary Oliver school of thought:-
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes, over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
— over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
won't you celebrate with me
what i have shaped into
a kind of life? i had no model.
born in babylon
both nonwhite and woman
what did i see to be except myself?
i made it up
here on this bridge between
starshine and clay,
my one hand holding tight
my other hand; come celebrate
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.
More Garland Girls:-
The inspiring 'Octopus' - not only for her exquisite mix of realism and dreams, but for stating matter-of-factly: "You know, I really don't think I need a boyfriend right now. I'm much happier without."
The hardest situation to stay happy in, I think, is when you’re trying to find love, and yourself at the same time. It just doesn’t seem to fit well. So I believe that happiness is being able to wake up and just know that this is what you wanted and not what somebody else wanted.
Barbra Streisand in Hello Dolly.
Marilyn Monroe [obviously]...
...And, of course, the camerado. Whether she is being madcap and theatrically evil...
In the meantime, to every Sparkles and Crumbs heroine - as Judy is told in A Star Is Born: "You're better than that. You're better than you know. But you know yourself, don't you? You just needed somebody to tell you."
Ooh, and just as a sartorial aside - if you ever doubt this, take Dolly's advice and "put on your Sunday clothes when you feel down and out!" Last night I was approaching a massive wardrobe clear-out with the focus and ruthlessness of Napoleon Bonaparte, and was considering charity shop-bagging these two items - a gorgeous, rich purple, balloon-sleeved crepe shirt that the camerado lent me money to buy two years ago, and black linen trousers she passed on to me. I usually wear dresses rather than seperate tops and bottoms, but by chance I tried them on together to make my decision - and I was instantly reminded of something Lauren Bacall would have worn to lounge in in How To Marry A Millionaire!:-