When I was in high school, my mother married (and subsequently divorced) a successful songwriter. The type of songwriter that, like, defined the ‘80s. You list ten songs from that era and he’s probably written at least three of them. Which was really cool when they were together, and really not so cool after they split. Walking through the mall or turning on the television was like stepping to the frontlines of an emotional warzone without a gun, shoeless and stupid. Inevitably we’d be shopping for candles or astrology books at the Wet Seal and one of his songs would come on overhead, sending my mom into a temporary tailspin. And the odds would never be in her favor. She was perpetually defenseless. There was never a chance for rebuttal, a way to shower him in painful reminders of her own disappearance. It was, by all accounts, a miserable monologue, a cruel diatribe. But that was the nature of the beast. She had married a fixture of pop culture, and he would haunt us until we died.
Three years ago, my own ghost came in the form of a bearded, tatted up man with stick legs and Prada boots. A fashion dude. He was a handsome nobody—anonymous and available, occupying but a few short rows of a Google image search query. He traveled the circuit—Milan, Paris, London, New York—sitting side-by-side with those famous fashion bloggers, the It Girls, buyers from Bergdorfs, but nobody cared about him yet. He, like most normal people, slipped under the radar. He emailed me from London the first time he was shot for the Sartorialist, looking solemn and gray in front of a stone wall, blue coat belling around his narrow frame, hands crossed politely in front of him. “Don’t make fun of me,” he begged, as I sent him the choicer of the comments already swiftly developing beneath the image, delighting in the panty-dropping hysteria my sort-of-boyfriend was capable of causing.
But, oh, how I would quickly come to rue that day, as it was emblematic of what the foreseeable future was to look like. That photo was like the first icy crumbs of a relentless avalanche, the catalyst for his life as a staple of the street style world and the subsequent demise of my sanity. In the years since we stopped speaking, a regrettable time period that began just days after that first photo was taken, his Google image query has grown tenfold, expanded to the point of further classification, including the popular tags “Tattoos,” “Fashion,” “Beard,” and, my least favorite, “Girlfriend.”
Girlfriend. As in, his girlfriend that is not me. As in, the girl he is holding hands with in every photograph with a romantic possessiveness I was once familiar with. God damn you, Internet! How was I to know that when I first walked past this man three years ago, stoned out of my mind on Xanax and muted anxiety and possessed by the silly notion of soul mates, that he would become fashion famous, while I would remain a veritable nobody with no hopes for retribution. And—even worse still—that he and his future girlfriend would become more fashion famous-er together, their sartorial clout more powerful as a couple than it had ever been on their own. Separately, they were just an image. Together, they’re a story.
Now I don’t just have street style blog feeds to contend with; there are articles in Vogue, W, designer blogs. Titles like Fashion’s New Favorite Couple and Fashion Makes the Heart Grow Fonder. Interviews about how they met, what kind of food they cook together, the tattoo of her name above his heart. UGHHHHHHHH. Don’t editors know that these two have exs around the world that have to read this crap? Have you no compassion?!
This near-daily (and totally unwanted) virtual interaction serves as a regular engagement with my own failure and stale heartbreak, a lesson that I have learned the hard way: Never fall in love with a fashionable man with a ZZ Top beard and a signature hairstyle. I can only hope, for reasons more selfish than Suzy Menkes’ own gripes about the street style fashion circus, that one day the cameras stop flashing, and my street style ex and his street style girlfriend chicly fade into the annals of time, quietly, like a bad song gradually disintegrating into the meaningless white noise of a local shopping mall.
Photos courtesy of Tommy Ton and NY Times
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