Head back to Flip Collective for my piece on NYC’s Friday Night Knockout. Click link below.
I imagine our generation feels the same way about Instagram as our great grandparents felt about toasters: Exactly what was life like before? Just as Great Grandpa Paul Otto Bahn surely couldn’t imagine what it was like to stick a loaf of bread over the open hearth for a BLT, I can’t imagine what I did with all my time before Instagram. Did I, like, actually pay attention to my surroundings? Did I interact with people through the entirety of a meal without that chronic, attention-deficit-disordered, technology-is-making-me-retarded flicking of my pointer finger against a smudged iPhone screen? Jesus Christ, did I even exist before Instagram?
But I digress. This isn’t about me. No, this is about Instagram celebrities, those people who have so many followers their extraneous numbers are merely replaced by a “k” – the scarlet letter of Instagram awesomeness.
Fashion week has provided excellent spying into the world of the underground and the upper crust. Runway shows, after parties. There’s nothing better than sitting home on a Friday night, scrolling through pictures of what other people are doing on their Friday night, especially if these people are popular.
[Side note: Now the good news is that we no longer need children to live vicariously through someone else!]
Through some intelligent lurking research, I have come up with the following recipes for becoming fashion famous.
1. Live a generally edgy lifestyle that Danny Boyle might one day want to document. Heroin abuse optional.
2. Dye your hair. Any My Little Pony color will do.
3. If pink, purple, or periwinkle does not work for your skin tone, try working the platinum blonde with no eyebrows angle.
4. Wear something by Jeremy Scott. Nothing will get you big-time hearted like wearing sneakers with wings on the back or a sweater with Bart Simpson’s head all over it.
5. Become friends with Dev Hynes, Alexa Chung, or Theophilus London and get your pictures taken together. Don’t forget the handle. If you can’t remember the handle, don’t bother. Consider yourself waylaid in anonymity forever.
6. If the up-and-coming music scene isn’t your thing, trying plugging in with well known fashion bloggers. Have them promo you on their own feeds. Shout out to @SOONTOBEFUCKINGPOPULAR!
7. Take pictures of yourself wearing things a lot of people can’t afford.
8. Take photos of your nail art. Make sure they are awesome.
9. Triple points if you are in close proximity to famous people. Stylist, sibling, hanger-on, whatever. You are well on your way to being Instragram-famous-by-association.
10. Man up, dudes. Stop being so goddamn normal. Stop taking pictures of what you’re eating for lunch (unless lunch is crystal meth). Stop taking pictures of your dog (unless your dog is actually a domesticated jaguar on leash). Stop taking pictures of you making a fish face in the mirror (unless you’re Giselle Bundchen, in which case, fish-face all you want). And please, dear fucking god, stop taking pictures of your weightloss progress. I did not sign up to Instagram to be someone’s cellulite cheerleader.
These are my recommendations. Follow them and watch your followers skyrocket, your self-worth take a trip to the goddamn moon. So many hearts and likes and smiles and shit, you’ll forget what it’s like to exist in the real world. Because, frankly, who needs that.
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A light rain falls on my new shirt, a silver leather thing with black lapels and a zipper up the back. I look like the inside of a very fashionable lunchbox. I change out of a pair of black horsehair loafers and into my new Balenciaga heels. They’ve been sitting in a box for the last month and a half since purchasing them, and if it weren’t for Lief supporting the idea of me being 6’4 and fancy tonight, it’d probably have been another year before they saw the outside of my closet.
“It’s a shit show,” he texts.
I walk down the street attempting a grace that I am strangely capable of in showrooms, modeling pants for international buyers who don’t give a shit about me. In real life it’s harder; no one’s paying me to look elegant or capable. The fact that I don’t fall over all night is a success story in itself.
A hovering mass of people wearing black encroaches upon the entrance, attacking from all angles. Everyone who’s anyone and everyone who’s no one is here, myself included. I’m freely willing to admit I have absolutely no business trying to get in. If it weren’t for Lief, I’d be at home, likely writing about the underground boxing match we went to last night and watching The Daily Show.
Lief’s standing outside, wearing a shredded denim Acne jacket and a baseball hat. He drank a 32-ounce margarita before he got here and I can tell he’s feeling rowdy already.
“What’s it looking like?”
Apparently the five people who were supposed to get us in tonight have all but vanished. So-and-so and this person and that person who does this and said that. Lief keeps looking at the shattered surface of his iPhone. “This is so annoying,” he says.
“I might have to get grimy to make this happen. I don’t want to get grimy,” he says.
“We’re here,” I insist. “Get fucking grimy.”
Fashion week after parties are designed to make you feel like a loser unless you’re actually supposed to be there. The whole act of trying to get into one seems sort of strange. For instance, I don’t try to crash random people’s birthday parties or weddings. And if anyone took issue with it and told me to fuck off, I’d totally understand. But at fashion week, you take your inflated sense of self-worth and imagine that’s currency. That and a pair of really expensive shoes and some good hair. Yes, you think, I might not have a ticket, and I might not be on the guest list, but I am list transcendental.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.
Lief and I stand in between two parked cars and assume the affectations of people who think they’re important but clearly are not. If you’re important, you’re inside. Lief groans. I cross my arms. We’re like personified eye-rolls and ho-hums. Lief starts launching into mini tirades about hookups and favors and “Don’t ask me for anything anymores.” I’ve never seen him this annoyed. I think it’s the margarita.
“If you’re on the list, get in the line,” some guy in a black suit repeats from the door. There’s a stronghold of resisters standing on the sidewalk. To get in the line, to barricade oneself between the venue and those horrible silver bars is an admission of defeat, a sacrifice of the little crumbs of ego we have left. On the sidewalk, we are still humans. In between parked cars, we still have power.
I can’t imagine what this whole scene looks like to the security detail. To them, it’s all very black and white: you’re on the list or you’re not, you have a ticket or you don’t. Still, they’re surrounded by cool kids with glittery pants and half-shaved heads, praying to the party gods for a sign of the gray, a glimmer of hope, a breaking of resistance.
The creative director of J.Crew walks past and per the dictates of their corporate culture – the way they interacted with the models like they were human beings, asked our names, looked us in the eyes when they spoke to us when we worked together last week – I say hello and kiss her on both cheeks. She’s with Garance Dore. They both disappear soon after because, well, they’re supposed to be here.
I feel like I’m on Titanic and someone keeps shouting “Women and children first! Women and children first!” and I’m the 75 year old man left to perish on the listing promenade.
Models come up and out of nowhere and slide straight through the crowd like eels, all bones and thin wisps of hair.
“They’ve got a ticket for us,” Lief says, still looking at his phone.
One ticket means one entrance. Lief instructs me to pretend I’m his girlfriend and we’ll probably be okay. Twenty minutes later, our ticket is delivered by Jake. And just as we move off of the sidewalk and into the line for hard tickets, they close down admission. Everything grinds to a halt.
We stand. And wait. And feel a little less loser-y, but we’re still not inside. We’ve been waiting for over an hour.
I’m standing next to some emaciated, French male model version of Robert Pattison and his entourage of cigarette-smoking hip kids when a bass line thuds from inside.
“Is that…” Lief’s ears perk up. White light flickers from the windows of the building onto the façade of the one across the street. “Is that Die Antwoord?”
Now I’m starting to get annoyed. I can hear Yolandi rap on the mic, her voice screeching through the air like a rat caught in a trap. This is just salt in the wound. Everything about this is getting embarrassing – this need to get into a party and dance around strangers, this need to get dressed up and wear shoes that are now making my calves numb. The problem is that when it works, it’s fun. You’ve won some sweet, stupid, superficial victory based on nothing.
The line starts moving again, two by two. They’re only taking hard tickets now, no guest list. Finally Lief and I arrive at a man in a gray suit. “One ticket, one entrance,” he reminds us. We tell him we’ve got a name on the guest list, one we’d been given along with the hard ticket so we could get in. “Sorry,” he says, “we’re not taking the guest list anymore.”
Only one of us is getting in right now. This is like Guest List Gladiator. The man watches on, his eyes relaying zero sympathy or heartfelt desire to keep the team together. Rules are rules. Hard tickets only.
Lief says he’ll wait.
I push the ticket in his hand.
“Don’t do this to me,” he says. “I’m not going to go in.”
“I’m not going to go in either.”
The man continues to watch us argue over who is going to sacrifice the last hour and a half of their life for zero reward and lots of wasted dignity. This is like Sophie’s Fucking Choice right now.
I push the ticket into Lief’s jean jacket. “I’m leaving. You stay.”
And then I walk away, down the street in my Balenciaga heels and my silver shirt, the rain falling lightly again but not enough for an umbrella. There I am, alone in the Financial District: Jenny Bahn, party martyr.
For as many times I’ve been to “The Beach”(not that many, to be honest, but enough), I’ve never been to the main drag of East Hampton. There’s nothing remarkable about it except for the fact that it’s got good places to shop while you’re on vacation. I’m not a very good vacation shopper, or a very good non-vacation shopper for that matter. Eva, on the other hand, excels at it.
“Want to go to Intermix?”
I can think of about 100 things I’d rather do more right now. Read on a beach, lie on a beach, be half naked on a beach. Yeah, that’s pretty much it.
The Intermix of East Hampton is kind of the same as the one in Manhattan, the similarity being that there are clothes in it and you’re supposed to buy them. I thumb through the racks, noting that the purchasing style is best described as “urban beachy” – ranging in class somewhere between Manhattan and Miami. Lots of color, lots of cover-ups, too much color for my taste.
Something catches my eye to the left, a rustling in the force field. I look over, and then down a foot, at a young girl, about twelve years old, carelessly flicking through racks of $1000 Helmut Lang jackets like this place is Charlotte Russe. I remember shopping at that age. There was great respect for the act of spending money, because the money wasn’t mine. One looked at clothing with great reverence, touching the $30 dollar pairs of Z Cavariccis and $8 glittery underwear with a polite hesitance.
SCRAPE SCRAPE SCRAPE SCRAPE
The hangers move along the silver bar while she flips through shirts and skirts, her nude bra straps falling down about her chubby forearms. A blue patent Chanel purse with red accents swings from her shoulder. She is the Lolita from hell.
SCRAPE SCRAPE SCRAPE
Daddy’s standing somewhere towards the back wearing a blue blazer and denim, a pair of horrible loafers on his feet. He’s a massive, looming thing with gray hair, and likely where the robust young lady gets her unfortunate build.
Eva’s ready to go. There’s apparently “nothing good in here” even though I didn’t really look. We walk out the doors, following just behind Lolita and her horrible parents. I think of the day that person will one day con some poor bastard into falling in love with her and shudder.
Everyone in East Hampton looks exceedingly expensive. I’m wearing an 80s jumpsuit I bought four years ago that I chopped the legs off of and a pair of sandals with the zippers that won’t stay closed. When my youth and looks fade, I’m going to have to start paying more attention to what the hell people think of me and contemplate the merits of ironing my clothes, as well as brushing my hair.
We pass another horror in the making: a four-year-old girl wearing plastic demi-heels with the pink tufts of marabou. Loungewear for prostitutes on a kid not even in preschool. I look at the dad.
I don’t understand anything anymore.
Eva takes me into another store filled with clothes. I try on a poncho that weighs as much as a packing blanket and makes me look like General E. Lee. It costs $1,200. My fingers trace the embossed leather of a pair of leggings I tried on probably 900 times when doing showroom for the designer who made them. The task of pulling them up and around my knees left me with raw knuckles and friction burns. By the end of the week they were riddled with holes in the crotch, seams falling away from seams. I think I had two nervous breakdowns. Showroom. Clothes. Fun.
Eva buys a turtleneck sweater. Nude is her new black, she says.
We’re walking over to a St. Tropez-based store filled with overpriced silk caftans when I overhear a conversation between two little boys and a father:
“The president really can’t do much of anything,” the dad says.
“But they blame him for everything,” says the one child.
These are the conversations I want to hear. I want kids engaging with the world, not buying Chanel bags and wearing hooker heels before they can even read a book without pictures in it. I want to kiss him, hug him, tell that dad to keep on fighting the good fight, but I refrain, not wanting to be mistaken for his impoverished, younger mistress.
This is, after all, East Hampton.
[For the record, Suri Cruise is certainly beautiful, but she is the epitome of overindulgent, abhorrent parenting. Create your own monster; just don’t bring them to my Christmas party.]
Sweaty clusters of people stand in between silver terminals waiting for the train to Montauk to be announced. Everything about train stations is constructed to give me anxiety. If a train stations were a mode of communication, it would be the broke-ass beeper I inherited from my dad back in 1997. That damn little terminal with only three platforms announced at a time, the paper maps that are the only way you can figure out what your line is called, the hovering for crumbs of information. I’m not good at this.
I stand alone, my acid-wash denim sack at my feet, watching all sorts of Labor Day randos congregate in the same subterranean space. There are the twee gay men in front of me are trying to figure out if they need ice for their cooler or not, the girls with the Louis Vuiton totes and Chanel jellies, the bros wearing Rugby shirts from their college alma mater. Then there’s the man in the orthopedic shoes and the polyester pants. Every part of him twitches, his cheek wrenching up towards his lower lid with the frequency of a speedy reliable metronome, hands shaking a black leather wallet. He’s a rattling, nothing of a vision, transparent if he weren’t so matte, dusty as an old shelf.
Platform 19 scrolls along the screen and everyone starts running down the stairs like there’s an emergency greater than snagging a seat for the 20 minute train ride to Jamaica station, where we will transfer to another train for the 2 hour continuation to Montauk.
Speedy, selfish asshole that I am, I score a seat near a window and spend the next ten minutes listening to the conductor tell the scrambling masses behind me to “MOVE TO THE BACK OF THE TRAIN, PEOPLE. THE BACK OF THE TRAIN.”
Dudes in fedoras are piled into the aisles like refugees on a boat. Girls clutch medium-sized roller bags to their chests, awkwardly wrapping their arms around boxes of canvas and wheels. I’m saddled in between surfers and small families, fratty investment bankers and their punishingly high-maintenance girlfriends. We’re the Labor Day stragglers, fancy enough to be on a train en route to the Hamptons, but not fancy enough to take a car.
“THERE ARE NO SEATS IN THE FRONT. NOT EVEN STANDING ROOM. WALK BACK.”
Despite his persistence, the conductor does not seem increasingly irritated. I suspect he expects the worst, always, and operates on an even-keeled level of mildly annoyed for the better part of his workdays.
“WALK BACK. WALK BACK.”
Through my filthy window, bodies scramble along the platform, juggling bags and chairs and all sorts of travel things. Something dings, doors close, and we glide sluggishly towards a tunnel, blackness giving way to weeds and graffitied walls, fleets of numbered school buses.