The Malibu rum bottle was my icon. She embodied the life I longed for. The commercial on TV showed a group of bronze beauties with corkscrew curls, moving to Caribbean beats against the backdrop of an orange sun in the horizon. A man with dreadlocks, sitting on the beach would take a sip of Malibu, look at the camera, and in a heavy Jamaican accent, say, “Malibu, the taste of paradise.” I could almost inhale the fragrance of coconut from the palm trees, and feel the salty sand from the ocean, between my toes.
It couldn’t have been further from my reality. The weather outside was as grim, as a scene from a Charles Dickens novel. The rain drizzled permanently. It lacked the majestic ferocity of a monsoon; instead, the constant weak mist that fell from the dark sky, left a moist residue on my hair and my heavy mascara. Like glitter it also left shimmery dew on my face. As I stepped out, leaving the comfort of my home, I huddled and tried to keep the warmth inside my coat. We faced the unknown; it was another night out.
It had taken us almost three hours to get dressed in my box room, the size of a coffin. There was enough room for one person to get dressed at a time. The others sat patiently on the bed and waited. The only benefit of this was, you’d get instant feedback like, “Wear it with the suede shoes instead.” To avoid suffocation from cigarette smoke we had to open the windows and shivered as we tried on our mini-skirts. We warmed one hand by holding on to the central heating next to the bed as we smoked with the other. From the street outside our silhouettes and animated gestures must have looked like a shadow play.
Priya took the longest with her hair, even though she had natural curls. Our combined make-up would be laid out on my purple dresser: MAC, YSL, Christian Dior and Lancôme. We shared our make-up but guarded our individuality through our choice of perfume. We’d never tread on each other toes by wearing the same fragrance.
Anita always had perfectly painted nails and lips. She painted them in slow motion with Chanel’s Rouge Noir, (before Uma Thurman wore it in Pulp Fiction). She was only bold with her make-up and needed encouragement from the rest of us, to show her curves. This time she gave in and wore my black Whistles dress.
London was cloaked in a velvety blur of grey. The wet pavements and nicotine color headlights led us to the Tube. As we walked passed Raj, the Indian restaurant, the aroma of Tandoori Chicken met our combined fragrances. My perfume of the month, Samsara had seeped deep into my skin, and left its mark on me. From the advice that I had given my customers at Harrods, I layered my fragrance with matching shower gel and body lotion. I was a walking tribute to Samsara, which appropriately meant wanderer in Sanskrit. Within the realm of karmic law, there were no coincidences. We walked into the corner shop, and bought a back-up pack of Marlboro lights and wine gums.
It took us 45 minutes on the Piccadilly line, to make it to Stringfellows where the scent of Fahrenheit mingled with Arabian oude. Patrons would make it past the velvet rope, in search of hope. The Stringfellows butterfly shined in neon lights above the discreet entrance and beckoned me to fly away with her.
I longed to be her. My bad fashion judgment trickled into other areas of my life. Apart from my one good purchase; my black crushed velvet knee-high boots from Russell & Bromley, my 20’s was a haze, nothing was clear.
My naturally straight hair had been transformed into a Diana Ross style hairdo with half a can of Rock hairspray and half an hour of upside down hair drying, that made the blood rush to my over-bronzed cheeks. I held my hair up in a scrunchie (to hold the waves in) until we stepped out of the Tube station. My use of hairspray was singlehandedly responsible for at least half of the hole in the ozone layer. The other half was caused by Priya; my best friend.
Once in, my friends and I would take our Miss Selfridge coats off at the cloakroom and make our rehearsed entrance down the grand staircase. We were one step closer to being free. With one sip of Malibu & pineapple we were on our way to sweet hedonism. As the music echoed in my eardrums, thoughts of my string bikini and sun scorched-skin from my last “Oliday” made me believe I can make it through another September. It was my black period. Apart from my signature blood red lipstick (Tres Tres Dior), I was seen in no other color for years.
Inside the VIP area, the members greeted other members they had seen last night at SW3. They’d hug each other like they hadn’t seen each other for years. Then they’d outdo each other by ordering bottles of champagne, for the next table. Their insecurities were being disguised as Middle Eastern hospitality. When the initial formality and greeting period was over they would take off their Ferragamo loafers and stretch out their argyle socks on plush sofas, to show the non-members, how at home they felt.
Around every table there was a loser who was actually paying for the stuff. He was the one that couldn’t bring in the crowd unless he paid. You’d spot him because although he was spending thousands a week, in all the upper tier clubs around London, there was something Third World about him. Although he was wearing Cartier glasses, he still looked like he was plucked out from a shopping mall in Libya, Cairo or Bahrain. You’d know because of the silk Versace shirt. It was loud and screamed foreign money, even under the flashing disco lights.
Everyone else around the table was living off a heavy dose of wire transfers, sent from back home, into their Marylebone Barclays bank accounts. Their monthly allowance was a shop girl’s annual salary. It paid for their Knightsbridge lifestyle. Harrods and Harvey Nicks, is where you shopped, Quaglinos and Ivy is where you dined, Whitley’s is where you went to people watch, Pellegrino is where you sipped your cappuccino and Stringfellows and SW3 is where you partied. The Garden is where you went on Sunday afternoon. Wednesday nights it was L’Equipe Anglais. Unhappy hour was at Henry J Beans on Kings Road. Everyone seemed bored everywhere, it was routine.
Did I mention, that the reason they were there in the first place was to get an education? Usually at an American University. The fees were high but the classes were a breeze.
Also around the table were a few sycophants. Some were court jesters and provided entertainment. Others were more like employees than friends, and lived the good life, for the price of doing the things that the others didn’t want to do. They’d make reservations, pick up the dry cleaning, make sure there was plenty of alcohol back at the flat and manage the girls and the entourage. Like parasites they lived off everyone else, made their masters feel important and got the leftover “Girls”.
The “Girls” were a permanent fixture and would circulate from one group to another. Last month Cindy, Michelle and Sophia were with the Emiratis, this month they’re with the Indians, and next month they’ll be the Italians (that everyone knows are Iranian). Remy, Sheila and Leila were with the Nigerians last month, this month they’re with the real Italians and next month they’ll be with the Lebanese. Beneath the mirror disco ball was the United Nations of “Partydom” and its Kofi Adnan was the DJ.
Stringfellows was a place for the older crowd. We were voyeurs into this world of sleek and chrome. A change from the trendy trendy Ministry of Sound, where everyone looked they had stepped out of a magazine. Here we got to witness flash. And for a few hours we were part of the rich crowd.
I didn’t belong in any group, especially not with my own kind. We were the eclectic dreamy drifters. We were not part of any entourage or plan. We floated aimlessly in a transient world that only the young can afford.
Many years later, I made my home half way across the world, in Miami, the land of sun, sea and skin. Like the native orchids that flourish there, I lived off the air and didn’t need soil to be rooted. Everyone, like me was was from somewhere else. I’m at Sky Bar on a warm September night. I’m standing under the intricate patterns of light that shine from the hanging Moroccan lamps. The balmy breeze of the Atlantic Ocean; a few steps away, sway the white muslin sheets draped on the canopies. The crowd is mix of South Beach meets Ibiza with a dash of Kendall. The moonlit sky is clear.
I’m dressed in head to toe white, with strappy silver heels, a clean ponytail on just washed, “product free” hair and barely-there, full make-up. As I lean against the bar, I catch a glimpse of the white opaque Malibu bottle sitting on an upper shelf, above the bartender. Like a friend that I’ve outgrown, familiar strangers, we nod at each other and hold our gaze for a moment, before I look away. We’ve come so far. I smile as I take a sip of my minty rum Mojito. It tastes like paradise.
Why have bad-handshakes become the social equivalent to the little black dress? This foul mannered cousin to air kissing has become an epidemic. It’s being “handed” down and spreading fast. A probable result of Tit for Tat behavior, something has to be done about it.
At a recent cocktail party I was introduced to a someone that seemed nice, until I extended my hand out to her. I then felt like I had entered a Sub-Zero fridge. She took a few seconds longer than I had expected to respond to my outstretched arm. When she finally did, I felt I had shaken hands with a dead tilapia.
I gave her the benefit of the doubt and attributed her lack of enthusiasm to arthritis, germaphobia or an extreme case of shyness. I can’t expect everyone to be overjoyed to greet me. And then it happened again and again. With men and women alike. On one occasion I was given a memorable bony finger-shake by a clean-cut, well-dressed fifty something year old man. He used the tip of his two fingers and almost a thumb to greet me, at arms length. It was a meek attempt at a handshake. To me it signified deception and sleight of hand.
The ladies seem to prefer the “I’m not going to look at you handshake,” combined with various marine inspired (scaly to fin-like) forms, that leave you feeling worse off than if you had not been “shaken” at all.
I can understand that some people prefer not to be forward or friendly and perhaps they’ve heard its trendy to be distant, but if you’re going to stretch out your arm, and touch somebody’s hand, do it right or excuse yourself (sorry my hands are wet or I’ve got a cold) and don’t do it at all. The touch is a sacred human act. We have thousands of nerve endings on our fingertips. The energy it creates is magnetic, so why not use it to your advance?
I’ve had my fair share of handshakes and although it might not get you the deal or the date, it will certainly make an impression. I’ve made friendships based on the openness of a handshake. That’s how I met Rojo, a part Jewish, part Colombian, part Cuban, businesswoman. She gave me a smile and a handshake that stood out from a hundred other people I was introduced to at a fashion event. We exchanged business cards and when she emailed me the following day, I remembered her.
She sponsored our magazine for an event and we ran an editorial about her spa/salon business. The business overflowed into friendship. We met for happy hour, went to the spa convention together and became fast friends. It was that simple. People refer to her as the Cuban red head, but to me she’s the girl with the handshake.
A great handshake exudes confidence and trust. It’s one of the oldest forms of surrender, known to have originated from battle when soldiers would lay down their arms. We’ve been shaking hands longer than we’ve been writing. It’s been depicted in paintings and sculptures from thousands of years ago. You’d thought we would have got it right by now.
I’m just as afraid of germs as the next person. I carry a travel size hand sanitizer in my purse, spray Lysol on almost everything and use my shirtsleeve to open doors in public restrooms. Yet when someone I’ve just been introduced to extends his or her hand to greet me, the least I could do is to respond. So I’ll make eye contact and offer my hand back and give a firm, yet gentle handshake, with web-to-web contact.
I’m not talking about a knuckle buster grip that leaves marks from your ring on your palm for days or an ego driven bone-crushing clasp. I’m talking about a sincere handshake, the one that shows our intrinsic need to connect. Better than any tennis bracelet, it’s every season’s ultimate accessory. Call me old-fashioned, but when it’s done right there’s nothing quite like it.
Even though I’m a writer, the power of the touch surpasses words. If you feel the need to carve a steely appearance of self-importance and take revenge on receiving a bad-handshake, by reciprocating with a limp touché of your own. Just remember, despite all the hype; bad manners are never in.
I’ve gone off fashion. I don’t feel a pang in my stomach when I walk past Arden B. or get an anxiety attack on entering Forever 21. Not like I did before. No more the forever-floating girl about town. I’m now the picture of stability: printing crème caramel recipes from the Internet and joining in on a lengthy discussion about the versatility of the eggplant, with a group of Persian women, at a recent cocktail party, sans cocktails.
No man likes to come home to a wake, so I’ve resorted to wearing pastels. I’ve discovered that pink blusher has a miraculous effect on my facial expressions. It helps create the rosy appearance of permanent serenity. I’ve also found my prior aversion to florals has disappeared. It’s opened a new world of possibilities that had been off limits. Just like finding you can eat something that you’ve been allergic to. They say our bodies change every seven years, maybe so does our sense of style. It’s only a matter of time before I’m writing about the benefits of the Moo-Moo vs. the Miu-Miu dress.
It’s far more sensible to be planning for travertine tiles and a granite counter top than a big shiny, red Valentino handbag. I tell myself that the bag; is better suited to a former Madame and not a former Magazine Editor. As the salesgirl tells me about the necessities of the color red and shows me the inside compartments of this enormous, almost luggage size handbag (perfect for carrying props), I interrupt her:
“Thanks, but it’s not right for me,” I say, sheepishly.
I hover away from her. I find myself in an unfamiliar place; somewhere between restraint and reason. Trance-like I walk on, not knowing where I’m headed, until I snap out of my daze, relieved that I’ve entered my comfort zone: the shoe department. Like being handed a mug of hot chocolate and a soft blanket; It’s all-better now.
Surely I haven’t turned frugal? God, I hope not. I regain my optimism as I spot a pair of dainty calfskin, peep-toe shoes in the palest shade of pink by Via Spiga. They fit like a soul mate. What’s the use of buying them (even if they are on sale), if my next project is to grow basil in my own vegetable patch? The only forms of life taking a peep at me there will be the hummingbirds and the olive trees.
At least I haven’t become all domesticated. It would be pushing it to have lost an interest in fashion and turned into a Cleanzilla. There is consolation in knowing that I have a spider’s web in my bathroom and that I’ve managed to ignore the nasty ant situation behind the fridge for a week. The beige carpet between the sofa and the coffee table (where a good amount of food lands) has turned a blotchy orange color due to a recent two-day fiesta of Spaghetti Bolognese. The skin of roasted red melon seeds, the perfect snack while watching thrillers, is now permanently embedded over the stains.
The spare bedroom is set-up perfectly for any unannounced overnight guests, except right now, it’s turned into a makeshift laundry room. Heaps of clothes are thrown on the bed directly from the adjacent official laundry room, to be sorted later. The pantry is off limits to everyone apart from my husband and I. Guests are steered away from all drawers, cupboards and closed doors. Pretending to be a control-freak, I prevent guests from helping out in the kitchen and putting away dishes and cutlery in their “right” place. There is an average of 0.3 cm of dust on all horizontal surfaces in the house. There are large fingerprints on glasses, splashed toothpaste residue on the bathroom mirrors and bird droppings on all the sliding doors that lead to the garden.
I’ve stepped out to the garden a total of five times during a period of eight months. Once because I was being the perfect hostess at our BBQ party and the other times I’d gone out there in my underwear long enough to figure out what the whether was like so that I could decide on what to wear.
Our walk-in closet is a war zone. I’m often accused of having invaded and taken over a foreign country. My husband has been given the Gaza Strip. Why can’t he just be happy with the space he’s got? The battle continues.
I haven’t bought a single item in a week, apart from the big ceramic mixing bowl from TJ Maxx and household items don’t count. My last trip to the mall was at least 2 weeks ago. I bought exactly what I needed. In this case my studio fix foundation and medium brown powder by Mac. Nothing more, nothing less. It felt like I was having an out of body experience when the gay sales person at the Mac beauty counter asked:
“Is there anything else?” and I heard myself saying “No.” I almost had to pinch myself.
I stood there holding the smallest size see-through bag with two items, as he went off to help another big spender. I caught sight of my own reflection over the beauty counter and saw a vacant expression on my face. Had the real me been surgically removed? Maybe she has run off somewhere. Perhaps she was on a remote island in the Caribbean sipping on a Piña Colada with her cell phone turned off. That’s why she couldn’t be bothered to find out about Mac’s new summer collection. There could be no other explanation.
Barbie’s Beauty Regime?
Eight months into our marriage, my husband suggested that I should go and see a barber. He said it gently without giving me cause for alarm. He didn’t use the word hair stylist, hairdresser or beautician. I wonder why? I thought barbers cut hair, give shaves and trim beards, often with mechanical tools. Maybe I’m being sensitive but to me the word has a distinct masculine connotation. Isn’t it derived from the word barbaric? Doesn’t the word barbaric mean someone uncouth and often bearded? It’s possible; it has an entirely different root word, which I’m unaware of.
Maybe its origin relates to Barbarella, the Queen of the Galaxy. She’s the fantasy space traveler, with a mane of bouncy hair. She has various intergalactic adventures and fights off evil with her shiny space gun wearing skin-tight cat suits and metallic knee high boots. Maybe he’s trying to tell me my hair needs more volume. I can easily fix that with my “big sexy spray and play” hairspray. Even though he wasn’t looking at the hair on my head when he mentioned it, I’m sure that’s what he was thinking; more bounce and body. I prefer to believe the latter derivation.
What’s All The Fuzz For?
Darwin has a lot of explaining to do when it comes to female body hair. It must have some benefit. Evolutionary science tells me so. If it didn’t it would have shed by now. My fuzz must serve some purpose. Maybe it’s protecting me from bacteria, spread of disease and harmful UV rays. That’s now all taken care of with penicillin, hand sanitizer and sunscreen. Whoever’s making the decisions must see how futile it is. Surely they must know we’re taking it all off. Why don’t they bring the human conveyor belt to a halt? Don’t they realize that faulty batches are going out? Why has natural selection turned a blind eye to the plight of over protected women?
It’s too late for me. My concern is for future generations. Every day thousands of baby girls are born with what society tells me is a genetic deviance. These girls will spend a great deal of time and money on removing excess hair. Forget the rashes, cuts and the in growing hairs. It’s the psychological damage that leave the worst scars. I knew a girl that was driven to therapy because of her deep shadowy facial hair. Her brother had given her the nickname Mach 3 when she was three years old. Twenty years later, despite hopeful family predictions, the hair had not fallen-out. She wasn’t even Persian.
Misguided information from family and friends creates anxiety. Adults tend to lie when confronted with a newly born, hairy baby girl. Female family members are particularly prone to well-meaning deception. They give the mother false hopes that the beard, neck and forehead hair on her bundle of joy will miraculously metamorphose from coarse black to blonde and eventually fall off. Just like the belly button does. They call it baby fluff. This is myth number 1. No one has the fortitude to tell the truth. It’s misleading and unkind. They recall imaginary cases when it’s happened to the baby of a distant cousin back home or a friend of a friend that they’re no longer in touch with. Their examples are always vague and never taken from the immediate family gene pool. Frankly they would be better off telling the mother the truth and allowing her to make the necessary provisions and preparations both emotionally and financially for herself and daddy’s furry little princess.
No matter how cute her dimples are when she smiles the velvety moustache is distracting, so the baby is adorned a with huge bow, gold hoop earring and a shiny name bracelet specifically to publicize: “I’m not a boy!” The color blue is boycotted. The parents invest heavily in everything pink.
Growing up, Baby Barbarella knows she’s not like the rest of the girls and feels more comfortable with other Persian Princesses or girls from the Mediterranean community. Who else can understand what it’s like to have sideburns and lose a front tooth? When she’s old enough to say moo (hair) she’s given a pink Gillette ladies razor with a tiny bow tied around it along with a can of what looks like Barbie’s whipping cream. Here begins what will be a lifetime ritual. This is the point of no return. There should be a Bat-Mitzvah or some other formal entry into this coming of age but instead it’s done quietly, discreetly and only in the presence of other women. This secret female society will play an important role in her life. The initiation is usually suggested by an aunt, cousin or a close family friend. There will always be a debate as for the best course of action. Should she start shaving right away or would it be wiser for her to wax, and prevent thicker hair growing back, or maybe her condition is better suited to threading? Which brings me to myth number 2: when you shave, wax or thread hair on any part of your body, it will grow back looking exactly how it looked before, maybe even worse. The pain you experience during your method of hair removal doesn’t give you any re-growth advantages. Trust me, I know.
I miss my fake Givenchy sunglasses. The ones I bought from a street vendor in Rome. He wasn’t exactly a vendor, but more like a traveling salesman. He kept mobile and carried his goods in a duffle bag. Far more efficient than having to set up shop and to redo his display every five minutes (like the others) because of the fashion police patrolling in their Vespas. Surely there must be worse crimes taking place in Rome. What I liked about him, beside his Senegalese/French pronunciation of Givenchy, is that he worked in close proximity to the actual flagship Givenchy store across the street in Via Borgognona. This meant he kept up with the “real” trends. To think of all the new stuff he must have. Those were a real fake. They were worth the trip to Rome. Beautiful heavy black lacquer, with a discreet yet visible, rhinestone encrusted iconic Givenchy logo on each side and a clean, uniform polish. The fact that they left red marks on my nose was secondary. Most of the time I wore them on my head, so it didn’t matter.
A few weeks after I got back home, I left them in my car by mistake. The next day when I tried to put them on they suddenly snapped. Either my head had got bigger or they had shrunk. I had left them in 90-degree heat but that couldn’t have had anything to do with it. After all you were supposed to wear them in the sun. They even had an authentic UV sticker, which I had peeled off. I never found what caused the snap. Maybe I hadn’t read a warning about “extreme direct sunlight may cause retraction,” but it wasn’t like I was given a booklet, a receipt or a proper case for them when I bought them. Otherwise I could have tried to give them back. Yes, not even those snooty shop girls would have known the difference. They looked that real.
And then there was the fake Cartier watch. Not the run of the mill Pasha or Santos. It wasn’t anything like the stainless steel fake ones you see everywhere. This one was a rare find. It was a classic leather strap. It had a dark red, (almost) real crocodile leather strap, Roman numerals, great workmanship and a tiny look-alike sapphire on the crown just like the real one I had seen at the Cartier store for $35,000. I got this one for $25. It was just like a cubic zircona. No one could detect it from the real thing with a naked eye. In this case, unless you got really close. And how rude for someone to try and get such a close look at my watch as if to deliberately check its authenticity.
I bought it while I was working as a reporter for a newspaper in Miami. Every few months, Ricardo, the second cousin of Consuelo, our Puerto Rican, print assistant would make a trip from New York and bring us goodies. He’d come down on our lunch break and lay out all the goods right there on the production line, on top of the proof sheets. There would be rows of fake Gucci, Fendi, and Prada bags. Rolex watches, Hermes belts and Louis Vuitton wallets. Sometimes he would even take orders for special requests. The newspaper would come to a complete halt. Our front desk receptionist would announce in a giddy voice that “Ricardo’s here!” The salespeople, production department, editors and writers would all gather around. Even the publisher’s wife would pop in on those days. In fact if it wasn’t for my swift judgment she may have snatched that watch right from under my nose. She ended up buying exactly the same Cartier watch as mine, but hers was in boring black. Serves her right, after all she’s the only one that could’ve bought the real thing.
I was pleased with my purchase and looked at the time more often than I did before. In fact I wondered how I had got by without it. I started developing a keen use of my left hand. I now used my left hand to drink coffee, point at things, and flap my hands to show how hot the weather was getting. The only problem was that since it was new, the “pleather” strap was a just a bit stiff. So I decided to sleep with it, just to break it in. And just when it had finally molded perfectly around my wrist, I went to visit my sister in Atlanta.
I hadn’t got past the baggage claim, when she gasped and said, “I can’t believe how real it looks.” I had emailed her a close-up photo of the watch on my wrist but it was different seeing it in the flesh. By the end of my trip she had tried it on so many times, I decided, against my better judgment, to give it to her. I could always buy another one from Ricardo, I thought.
When I got back to work I asked Consuelo about Ricardo’s next visit. She was really upset that she’d never get the denim LV purse she had ordered. I found out that there had been a crackdown and he’d been caught at JFK airport with all his knock-off goods. Why did he not drive instead? Not only was he on probation, he was given a hefty fine and worse still; he had all his goods confiscated. Unfortunately for all of us at the newspaper, after that episode Ricardo decided to change careers. Although he’s still in the luxury goods business, he’s now selling used BMW’s in New Jersey and it’s just not the same.
A week after I got back from Atlanta my sister called frantically and said that she had developed a nasty rash, on her lower wrist precisely where she had been wearing the watch.
“Are you sure its not chickenpox?” I asked.
“But it’s only red my wrist.” she said
“Maybe you caught something from Danny’s friends at school. They’re so susceptible to skin disease at that age.” I said.
Being the hasty person she is and jumping to unnecessary conclusions (as always), she stopped wearing the watch. She threw it in the bottom of her bathroom drawer. To my surprise the rash completely cleared up after a few days. I still think it was because of all the stress she was going through at work. Stress will do that to you.
As for the watch; well, the glass frosted up with droplets of water and the pleather veneer flaked off to reveal shameful plastic. If only she had taken care of it and placed it in the imitation suede pouch that it came in. I could be wearing it now. Instead I’m waiting in line at the grocery store and looking at my cell phone every five minutes, to see what time it is.
It’s been one year, seven months and 23 days since I last saw Christian. I’m logo-free now. I blame it all on Louis, Louis Vuitton. If it wasn’t for him I might not have turned into a logophile. I clinged on to those labels. At one time L and V meant something to me. It happened before he became popular. I was 16 years old, naïve and needy. He seduced me with his irresistible dark caramel skin. I fell for him. With him on my arm I became the girl with the bob and the LV handbag. I could go anywhere. My Petit Noe made me look better. He made me feel I belong.
Monogram, Epi and Damier became part of our everyday dialogue. We went on vacation together to Greece and gazed out across the turquoise waters of Santorini. We came back home happy, bursting at the seams, with sand in our pockets. He accompanied me to Paris, his hometown and as we climbed up the steps of the Eiffel Tower together, I held onto him tighter then I had before.
Then I noticed a gradual shift in his behavior. I had known all along that I wasn’t the only one. It was something he had told me from the beginning but I thought I could handle it. At first I turned a blind eye to his indiscretions but it gnawed at me. He started showing up on the arms of strangers on the street. I started noticing it more. Sometimes I would see him with someone younger and prettier but often they were nothing special. There were secretaries, moms, executives and even my manicurist. There was nothing I could do. The harder I hung on to him the less discriminate he became. Then one day I saw him on the arm of my best friend. He’d got to her too. That night I threw him out. I never let him into my life again.
Addictions are not erased; only replaced. I replaced him with Gucci first. Then with Fendi and Laurent. I even had a fling with Chanel, once. She was a beauty but it was during my college years and I was just experimenting. I had to have them all. They were dark, rich and foreign. Their names and logos meant nothing to me. They gave me a temporary fix. Each one satisfied my insatiable appetite for the newest. It gave me such a high. But it was hurting my bank account and me. “You need to stop,” my mother told me.
I hated myself for being so weak. No one can tell you to stop. You have to do when it feels right. I remember when it happened. Christian and I were sitting at a cafe on a bright Sunday morning. By the time I had drank my last sip of coffee, I had counted, seven Louis Vuitton handbags, four Gucci’s and one Fendi, walk past me. They were all with women like me. Women that didn’t have the confidence to be alone, they needed someone on their arm. They needed a Louis to hold onto. I didn’t want to be like them anymore.
At that moment I looked down at Christian. I didn’t say a word but he knew it was over. I took my things from him and left him sitting there. He looked torn and tired. He tried to email me through Saks Fifth Avenue, but I just hit the unsubscribe button. I haven’t looked back since. It hasn’t been easy. A few months ago, I walked past Neiman Marcus in Fashion Island and saw Marc Jacobs in the window; I looked the other way, and pretended I hadn’t seen him. Christian and Marc run around in the same circles, and I’m sure he’s told him he saw me, but I’ve stopped caring about all of them.
I’ve now moved on and made a fresh start. I’ve changed my perspective and expanded my horizons. And when I least expected it, I met someone local. Although no one recognizes him, he’s refreshingly low-key and unpretentious. I don’t know what the future holds for us but I’m taking things slow and I’m not giving any names.