I felt like an outsider because I wanted to be a part of that group but I couldn’t afford it. I couldn’t go to Biarritz, I couldn’t go to Gstaad, I couldn’t go to St. Barts or to the places where rich people go to have fabulous luncheons and dinners, but I could afford to buy some cheap taffeta and make a ball gown and go to the clubs where those people went, and walk into them like I owned them.
An Amish catechism manual devotes nine pages and forty-three questions and answers to dress – second only to the topic of heaven. In hypermodernity, dress articulates individuality and personal taste. In Amish life, clothing expresses exactly the opposite meaning. When members wear Amish garb, they relinquish their right to self-expression and signal their commitment to communal authority. Clothing that shows off one’s individuality produces a proud, haughty person, and pride is considered an abomination in the eyes of God.
To be pregnant, and then to be a mother, is to be reliant on others – to greater and lesser degrees dependent, like almost everything, on access to money, although family and community can play a vital role of support here too. I was reliant on the information and care of each different midwife I saw throughout my pregnancy. Then I was reliant on doctors, nurses, more midwives and the neonatal care team to keep me and my baby alive. I was reliant on my employer and the government to provide maternity leave, I was reliant on my boyfriend to provide income when I couldn’t, though many mothers, my own included, are reliant on government support instead. The extreme individualism of late capitalism both ensures this dependency, and does not make space for it having any value, any sense of positivity. It is simply a drain on resources. As I lost my privacy and sense of self-governance, I was no longer able to feel like an autonomous woman, and I craved the aesthetics of a woman who did.
The Chinese dragon is Chinese, but how did it become so? And what does ‘Chinese’ even mean in the context of a transcontinental empire from the 1300s? What does it mean today? Decentring fixed notions and dichotomies can be the first step in initiating transcultural discussions, and doing so acknowledges the interdisciplinary nature of transcultural, globalised study. History and art history, archaeology and material studies and visual studies — all of these go hand-in-hand when disassembling dishonest labels of ‘pure’ or ‘original’ or ‘national.’ In this way the broader realisations of hybridity, influence, or exchange can shine through.
Carlo is concerned about his looks; it’s important to him how his ‘outer shell’ – his coat – appears. Decent clothes make it easier to earn money, easier to approach people on a more or less equal level. But the coat also comes with a second purpose: it’s the smallest possible of homes, a sleeping bag and a comforter. ‘Since childhood we’re used to feeling something on top of us when we’re sleeping, something heavy,’ he says. ‘Turning a coat into a duvet is better than wearing it, somehow. It feels more secure and warm.’
‘An actress who lives in California brought in a dress that felt like hard paper, a material you couldn’t really clean. Another dry cleaner had tried it. It was white with big flower and it had brown smudges on it. I went to the stationary store art department and found some marker paintbrushes and drew the flowers back on to it. She loved it and started hugging me. I’m really good at drawing and I redrew the flowers. It was like redoing a tattoo. Afterwards she Yelped: “Mike Pagano is an artisan.”‘
You looked once again at your phone and wondered if you had time for a quick rub. Your record was seven and a half minutes and right now you had twenty-five. You cupped your breasts over your T-shirt and squeezed them so hard they hurt. You grabbed your throat with your left hand, lined up your fingers on your jugular and slid the right hand down. Good for the nerves, yes, but is there enough time?