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.