Two months ago I went with BFF Natasha to see ‘The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk’ exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. The genius and talent made me shiver; it almost made me sick to the stomach. I swear my heart beat faster than when I saw Matt Bomer/Neal Caffrey’s abs in the first season of White Collar. Natasha and I could not help caressing with the tips of our fingers one of the dresses and got (rightfully) scolded by the security guard who then followed us during our entire visit. True schoolgirls in a candy shop or at a boys band’s concert
I have been meaning to share this experience with my readers who cannot go to see the exhibit themselves so we can all sigh together in awe and pleasure. I’ll shut up now and let you enjoy. Apologies for some of the lousy shots and my inability to short list among these wonderful works of art!
Come on girls
Do you believe in love?
‘Cause I got something to say about it
And it goes something like this
A fun and moving letter by Jhanis to her 7 year old self and this beautiful response from Stephen Fry to a letter 16 year-old Stephen wrote to his future self inspired me. I decided to write to a certain young, naïve and angry redlipstickgirl. I was not sure at which age I’d like to talk to her and thought, why not do a series? In this first installment, I am writing to teenage redlipstickgirl (14-16 year old). I put these years together because a lot of shit was going through my head then. It is a scary exercise but I promised, when redlipstickmama was born, that I was always going to push my own boundaries in my search for my new self and nothing and no one may be spared. So here it goes.
You are spending a lot of time, way too much time, in your bedroom. It is covered with ugly wallpaper with windmills print. This ugliness is too much to bear and you are staring at glossy posters of Madonna and Norwegian boy band A-ha, dreaming of a country far away and wishing to flee the boredom of la Banlieue Parisienne where nothing, absolutely nothing, happens. You fucking hate la Banlieue. Surely, there has been some major cosmic fuck up because you cannot belong here. You think about how Madonna supposedly left her home and arrived in Times Square with $35 in her pockets to become..well, Madonna. You think, can it be that during her pre-fame stay in Paris, she had a fling with some Asian dancer dude and I am her long lost child? Breathe deep, girlfriend. Madonna is really not your mother but you will live in a far away country one day and you will give a go at your own American dream. It is going to happen so for now perhaps you could open that window of yours to enjoy the sun and listen to your neighbors mow their lawn even though you hate it. By the way, in twenty years, you’ll still hate that sound; it will still put you in a weird spleen. Something even weirder, in your mid-twenties you will start to proudly boast that you are from La Banlieue in the middle of snotty cocktail evenings where people talk about social justice but never suffered from exclusion themselves. Also, there is this very cool moviemaker Matthieu Kassovitz who will shed some light on La Banlieue in the movie, La Haine. It’ll make you feel sad and angry and you will then realize that perhaps you grew up there and survived it just to tell others.
No one chooses their family. And one day, you will actually accept yours. One day, your mom will stop gambling your family home playing Black Jack and your dad will stop threatening her to use a Samurai sword if she does not give it up. One day, in about 15 years, you will look at their vacation photos in Laos and you will be shocked to see them very much in love and holding hands. Surreal? It is true though, it will happen. One day, you will not think that your dad is a tyrant but a sweet old man who will help you hobble out of the maternity ward after you delivered your younger son. One day, you will tell your little brother that you love him on his wedding day so stop acting like a crazy bitch and stop chasing him around the dining table with a kitchen knife. This image will haunt you for the rest of your life. Trust me.
Talking about being a crazy bitch, I know you are about to barge into a neighbor’s house in the middle of the night to interrupt a cards game and rip your mom’s gambling partners apart. You will say something like that: ‘You selfish bastards, why did you drag her all the way here to play? You know she is an addict. You know she has a 3 months old baby at home who is crying, a husband who needs to go to work at 5 am and 3 other kids who want their mama home. You should be ashamed of yourself, losers!’ Well girl, kudos, kudos. Do not feel embarrassed; do not let their uncomfortable chuckles unsettle you and just rip them apart. Because it will be one of the proudest moments of your life. Because sometimes when I feel weak now, I remember your courage and it inspires me… Also, if you have not done it yet, please take a container full of padek (stinky fermented fish that Lao people adore) and splash their faces with it. Also do know that some of these gamblers, when old, will redeem themselves in the eyes of their own families. Funnily enough, some will continue to fear you as an adult because you will always be in their eyes the demented girl in her pajamas who barked at them and told them their sad truth with all the anger and conviction of her youth.
On the topic of your body and how you look like…You have cried, not often, perhaps twice (and it’s already twice too many), because some stupid boys daily heckle you using a moron moniker ‘moustache’ or offer you a razor as a secret Santa gift. All this because you have facial hair. You spend nights cursing them and swear to get your revenge once you take over the world. Well, it is not going to happen sweetheart (sigh) but soon you will be able to afford wax and most importantly you will meet a guy who in the first 15 years of your relationship will never see your upper lip hair because he is totally short-sighted. Plus you will not even remember those losers’ names and faces. You also recently decided that you did not want to look like a tomboy anymore and started to wear very skanky outfits and stash your bras with tissues. I understand where you are coming from, and why you feel you have to do this. What bothers me if that you don’t actually feel great about it, you feel cheap, you don’t even like the way older creeps start looking at you on the street. Well, stay firm on your ground. There is no rush, my little tomboy. The curves will come eventually (and you will wish they had not), and with them a classier fashion sense too. Keep the red lipstick though, that’s a good style statement 🙂
There are other couple of things that really bother you at the moment: you still don’t have your periods and you are still a virgin. On the first point, your periods will come, then go for a while and then come back from time to time. You are never going to be one of these women who have their menstruations on the clock. It’s OK, periods are overrated so stop pretending you have them by putting some pads in your underwear, silly girl! As for your virginity, you think you need to have sex by age 17, just to get over it. It’s not a big deal and others have lost it before you and seem OK. I am not sure what to tell you: should you treasure your virginity more? Should you make this a bigger deal? I don’t know… but you have great instincts and you are going to choose your ‘first’ well: a sweet guy. That choice has helped me develop fairly healthy relations with men, I am sure of it, so thank you little redlipstickgirl.
You are also very upset because your best buddy got called ‘pede, tapette, trans-‘ (French for faggot, fannie, transsexual) by some high school classmates. You have never heard of the word ‘gay’ so you naively defend him and tell the bullies that ‘no, he is not a fag, he likes hot girls‘. Well, he still does but not in the way you mean 🙂 The fact that you are so clueless is kind of sweet and kind of sad too. I wish adults would tell you more so you could engage with all these guys at school you think are a little weird but you cannot figure what their problem is. When you are older, a lot of your closest friends will be gay. You’ll know that men can love other men, rejoice that some can even marry and you will bite off the heads of anyone who dares to say they should not be allowed to. Strange, huh?
Finally, be proud of the little diary that I know you are keeping. You feel absolutely stupid writing all your dreams, pains, infatuations, and secrets. You should not, this diary is helping you more than you think. Unfortunately, I know that someone will find it, you will feel mortified and you will trash it. It is a shame because I really wish I could read this now so we could compare notes…
Redlipstickmama aka you in 20 year or so and with an additional 30lbs.