Wednesday, May 28, 2014

clair de lune

I'm lying in our bedroom on a clear, full moon night. We have a skylight, so at the right moment the moon appears in the middle with a shock of brightness. I reach for my iPod, slip on my headphones and lie back with Debussy. For the longest time, I didn't care for Clair de Lune, but one day that turned, and now when the moon shines into my room like this, I let Debussy describe it to me. These are my favorite nights, special nights, rare nights. The light travels everywhere. Nothing is hiding. I feel safe in a way that I don't feel most nights, which I recognize each time with surprise. 

I tense up a little bit at bedtime, I guess. I stay up late, putting off the moment when I'm going to have to turn off the light, let go of diversions and become vulnerable. It's a carryover from childhood, when I'd lie in bed and beg the powers-that-be not to make me clairvoyant that night. Every night I put it out there as hard as I could, "I don't want to see anything, I don't want to see anything, I don't want to see anything," over and over until I fell asleep. I didn't want to see what Granny saw. My mom likes to tell me that when I was very small, I'd complain about things I saw hovering at the foot of my bed. I don't have any memory of that, but something sure went into this frantic drive to stay unclairvoyant. Anyway, some of that lingers. It feels a teeny bit dangerous to get so quiet at night, to give over, to stop, like that's the cue for unseen forces to creep in and get their game on. Forces from within, forces from without, I don't know. Forces. 

Something will come, I fear, and untie some knot* holding my third eye closed, and I'll be overrun with needy spirits trying to get messages to their loved ones. Like if my third eye opens, some red light will automatically start flashing on the astral plane, some rinky-dink "open for business" sign in a bad astral neighborhood, and all the etheric junkies and thugs will crowd my bedside, taunting me and tugging at me, and I'll have no way to make them disappear. 

*Whatever I have rigged up there feels way more elaborate than a knot, frankly. If you ever saw the show Get Smart, you'll remember the opening montage where Maxwell Smart walks into headquarters through a series of heavy, mechanized doors that slam shut behind him the second he's through. Bam, wham, whoosh, thud, whomp. I installed about a hundred of these over the course of my childhood, I'd estimate, every "I don't want to see anything" a nut or bolt or square inch of steel right between my eyebrows.

Now, clairvoyance isn't the only game in town for psychic ability to work through. There's clairaudience, where people pick up information aurally, and claircognizance, where people have flashes of pure cognition, and there's what I have, which is clairsentience. I get information in my gut that shows up kinesthetically. If I tune into a situation, I'll pick up degrees of friction/frictionlessness, heaviness/buoyancy, obstruction/fluidity, constriction/expansiveness, static, tranquility, speed, etc. I used to do intuitive readings for a living until I got very, very sick for a few months—my body went on strike, which is another story altogether—and once I was better I didn't want to do them any more. My point here is that the family lineage didn't skip me. I just squelched it and then rerouted it and then let it lay fallow, which is what I'm doing with it now.

The upside of having my third eye open never really presents itself to me. I'm sure it's fascinating, and there are probably perks beyond "I see dead people", which is no perk at all in my book. I fear-imagine that I'll feel like a baby again, taking in a mess of sights and sounds and feelings I have no context for, only this time I'd be motherless, unguided, left to fend for myself. A reverse Helen Keller with no Annie Sullivan. 

If I could be guaranteed somehow that the old third eye would sneak open just a bit at a time, if I could wake up at some retreat center staffed with trusty, old-hand seers, and find myself one-fifteenth clairvoyant, and get talked through that all day, and then two-fifteenths clairvoyant the next day—if I could move at a snail's pace, my hand held all the way, then yes. I'd like that. I'd do that. I would sign up.

But I never picture anything that gentle. I fear a sudden burst, or something else, something worse, closer to death. That's what I'm subconsciously braced against at night. It's not quite that I fear I'll die. What I fear is that something will happen that will make my current understanding of the world dissolve, and my identity with it, and then I won't die. I'll experience annihilation, then rearrangement, and then strangeness. Strangeness might be the worst, worse than death. Death feels familiar, cozy, well-populated, compared to what I fear. What I fear is exile. Strangeness, loneliness and exile, in some pure form. I stay vigilant because at any minute I think this could strike. And if it's going to strike, it'll surely strike at night. 

But I don't have to worry about any of that tonight. My moon is out. There's a book I loved when I was small; it's out of print now, but it was called When the Sky is Like Lace, and it was about three little sisters in white nightgowns who'd keep an eye on the sky for signs that a special kind of night was about to take place. These were bimulous nights, that was the word, and the sisters would sneak out through the woods to the sea and make spaghetti in a gazebo and dance all night and play poker with rabbits and exchange presents, all under this full, rare moon. I get exactly that excited on nights like this, but I don't move. I lie there, too happy to sleep, feeling so safe. The thing can't strike tonight. The moon is looking out for me. Debussy's piano wafts over me on repeat, and the moon is my mother, my bodyguard, my familiar friend. I gaze at her wide-eyed until she wanders away from view, and then I slip into sleep in the trails of her blessing, the world made briefly so easy.

P.S. The painting up top is "Clair de Lune", by Felix Vallotton, whom I'd never heard of until today. If you want a treat, Google-image his work. You might be all up in the Vallotton already, but I just got here, and I'm fresh with the fever about him. Go look. 

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

sun break

You can tell that my sons are real Seattleites when you ask them how they feel about sunshine and summer weather. "It's too crazy!" beefs Finn. "It was 68 at school the other afternoon and I was dying!" Fred rides around in the back seat on sunny days, grimacing and shouting, "My eyes!

I'm deep Seattle myself, so on the one hand this deformity in my children pleases me. If I had to choose between cloudy forever and sunny forever, I'd pick cloudy, because that's reading weather. I don't like the sun berating me when I'm caught up in a novel. But I spent my first few years in New York, where the summer sun wasn't kidding, and except for on the most extreme, humid days, we loved it and it was good. Beach, pool, popsicle, sprinkler. The Official Weather of Childhood Fun. So I'm a touch bummed that my boys don't have the sunshine bug, especially since summer vacation is a long stretch when bitching replaces wonderment. 

When we moved to Seattle, just as I turned nine, I found out that the summer sun wasn't such a guarantee. On a summer morning, I'd be up at dawn checking things out. You knew right away if it was going to be a good one, a hot one. And you also knew if you were shit out of luck, if it was pouring and there was no hope. And then there was the middle kind of sky—overcast-lite, cloudy with a glow—that could develop either way. The trick there was to exert your will on the sky as much as possible while also managing your expectations and being ready for disappointment. 

But when it was a good one and I stood outside in the dawn with the sun flexing its muscles already, an outsized promise-thrill rolled through me, hinting at something better than any actual day could probably deliver.


I learned as a girl that you're supposed to stay out of the sun between the hours of 10:00 am and 2:00 pm, because the sun does the worst damage then. Good to know! Those became my most prized teenage sunbathing office hours. 

It was a job, getting tan, or trying to. And you had to get tan. There wasn't a choice when I was young. Or, sure, duh, there was a choice, if you knew who you were and didn't care about fitting in and loved yourself unconditionally and other wondrous, far-fetched things. Like I said, there was no choice. And I had vampire-pale skin—I began more at light blue than white—so I had miles to go before I slept on a summer day if I was going to move the dial to ecru or, if heaven allowed, gold.


Back deck or yard where the sun was brightest 
Coppertone (SPF 4 in a slight nod to danger, a reluctant 6 or 8 if it was a scorcher, baby oil if fuck you)
Lemony-smelling tan accelerator (?) in a spray bottle
Bowls of water/strips of tin foil to set around me for their reflective powers
Walkman, once I acquired one 

Before I had my Walkman, because I was too clueless to bring a watch with me outside, I had no way of figuring out how long I'd been out there. I'd oil up and close my eyes and just wait. The first few seconds were fine. Then I started getting bored and hot and irritated and twitchy. But I'd grit my teeth and dig in, lying there doing nothing but willing brownness until I couldn't take it anymore and I had to dash into the house to check the time. Surely it's been an hour, or at least half an hour. No. Fifteen minutes max, every time, that I'd been out there before cracking. Fuck! And the house felt so cool, felt so good. No sun headache, lots of entertainment. The TV right there, all tantalizing. Refrigerator full of drinks. Fuck. But I'd go back out. 

After I got my Walkman, though, I was a force. I could lie on my back in the sun for an hour or even an hour and a half without flinching. My eyelids went hot orange and everything was Duran Duran or Van Halen (which was a little sexier) and the sun on my skin didn't feel like a test but something else, something sensual and, okay, maybe a test, but a good one, more like a dare. 

When I'd put in all the time I could stand, I was free once again to relax in the Great Indoors. Time to pop a Fresca and curl up in the cool, wading through reruns of Three's Company, enjoying vicarious television sunshine. There was a bathroom run at every commercial to check my tan lines and see if anything good was developing. Sometimes I felt guilty, like I should be out there fighting for it while the sun was still up, but the fan was on and The Love Boat was next, and there was always tomorrow, maybe, if the weather held.

One time I was on the back deck—bowls of water everywhere, tan accelerator accelerating, skin heating up, "Panama" pumping in my ears—when I became aware of a hubbub in the air above me. I opened my eyes and there were 20 or 30 or who-knows-what-horrible-number of crows in a crow-cloud about fifteen feet up. They were cawing and flapping and beating the shit out of each other, and it was the worst thing I'd ever seen. I yelled and fell over myself to get inside, spilling some bowls of water on the way. Work day over. Tan as I'm going to get. But once I got inside, it was great, because the crows had removed the television guilt.


The first time I went to the beach with the girls from my new school, I woke up excited and nervous. It was great to be invited, but I was a disaster of whiteness. But I had a plan. I would rise at dawn, sunbathe and use my new bottle of QT. Quick Tan. This was the answer to my prayers. A tan could come out of a bottle. I would never have to worry again. The air was still cool when I set out my towel at 8:00 am, but those were sunbeams, so something could happen. I was covering my bases. I spread the QT with an emphasis on my legs, stretched out on my towel and waited, until it slowly became clear that the shade I was going to take to the beach was partially-eaten Creamsicle: my regular vanilla, with streaks of sherbet-y orange. Scrubbing didn't help. 

Nobody said anything at the beach, and it got cloudy pretty soon so we didn't stay long anyway, so I guess I got lucky.

My bathing suit that year was a one-piece in skinny royal blue and white diagonal stripes that aimed down in a V-shape. What promise the early mornings held was whittled away by the feeling of lying next to the other girls, whose bodies looked perfect. I wasn't fat, but I was so pale, and I had stretch marks from developing too fast. Nobody else had those. I stole glances down at my body while we all lay in a row, and tried to find the parts that looked nice.

When I was a little girl in New York, my problem was my shoulder blades. My best friend, Allison, had blonde hair and golden skin, and her shoulder blades jutted out in a cool way in her halter tops. My shoulder blades didn't do that. I used to try to stick them out, but that was uncomfortable/unsustainable and I never knew if it was working. At thirteen, non-jutting shoulder blades seemed like a dream dilemma, now that my pale skin was such a problem, and these marks.


For years as an adult, I disliked the noonday sun. It was so battering and obvious. But one summer day in my late twenties I was walking through my neighborhood to a coffee shop a couple of blocks away, and I had a change of heart. The sun was beating down from straight above, but everything looked good. The clouds were high and light and the sky seemed taller than usual, and the blue was pale and hazy, like the sunbeams were almost visible. And the sun was hot but it felt therapeutic. I flashed on the Aztecs and their sun gods, and in that moment the light and heat on my head felt both personal and impersonal, like receiving a blessing in a crowd. It was for me because I happened to be here and I received it, but it was for everybody. And here was the sun, a god I could see right up there, giving us everything in plain view, making the planet habitable, giving us life. I felt acutely grateful for it, and when the gratitude gets that acute on the receiver's side, it seems as though something like love is implied on the other.


It's always summer in Hawaii, basically. I went there on my honeymoon for my first marriage, and then again with a couple of girlfriends a few years after that marriage ended. And then I went again a couple of years after that, and that's where I met Dave, which I'm going to talk about just a little, but first I have to sing the praises of Hawaii for a second. In Mexico (I'm suddenly dragging Mexico into it), the sun feels challenging and masculine, but in Hawaii, everything feels lush and feminine and maternal, splashing out with the luxuries and the wish fulfillment and the TLC. 

I met Dave on a yoga retreat. We were in a little group of people in a rented house on the North shore of Maui, and five days into the ten-day retreat, after five days of wanting to, we got together. On the sixth morning, I woke up with the sun, with Dave right there. The light was streaming into our room around the corners of the shades, and I knew as I watched him sleep—I didn't hope, but knew—that I was going to get to keep him. I got it, I got all of it; I was good just how I was, and loved how I was, marks of all kinds and all, and I was getting what I'd hoped for, exactly, like this was the kind of thing all those bright, balmy mornings of my youth were hinting at. I sat up on my elbow beaming at him, until he woke up and beamed back.

When I got back to Seattle, I visited my folks, and told them I'd fallen in love, and showed them pictures of Dave. There was one photo of me and Dave on the beach in our bathing suits, standing and embracing and smiling at the camera under a blue sky. My dad took the photo and disappeared upstairs a while, and when he came back he'd blown it up into an 8 x 10 print. "I played with the color a little," he said. "Is this close to what it was like?" 

Who knows if the color was right? How could I say if it was like that, if the sun shining on us gave everything that exact tint and brightness? But his instinct to try and bottle it, the generosity and impossibility and hope of the gesture, I got it and loved it and said that it was.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

snow white

This is something I've been putting off talking about because I was afraid I was going to look stupid or do it wrong, somehow. But then I remembered that passively protecting my image is maybe not my highest ideal, and maybe I can handle looking stupid or doing something wrong. 

I was inspired by a pal of mine on Facebook this morning. There's a post that's been circulating on the Internet, written by a playwright here in Seattle, called "Walking While Fat and Female — Or, Why I Don't Care Not All Men are Like That" , which is a good and important read, so go for it if you haven't run across it. And I see lots of women sharing it, but not so many men, except my pal. This is how he prefaced the link:

There are times when I'm embarrassed to be male. Not because I've given or received the abuse Courtney Meaker describes so simply and eloquently here, but because that abuse just isn't part of my life, and that privilege is an embarrassment for our entire culture.

And when a guy piped up and said he was tired of the collective shaming that men endure, my friend replied like so, "Really? Because it's easy to avoid that collective shaming. If I didn't want to think about any of this, I wouldn't have to. No one forces me to read these articles, women don't force me talk about it, there are no consequences if I ignore it. What are you tired of?" 

The conversation went on, and my friend did a damn good job addressing what he saw as a responsibility on behalf of men to actively contribute to the dismantling of this unfair privilege and the oppression that keeps it in place. And it meant a lot to me to see a man take this on publicly, and see him not only accept the discomfort that comes with recognizing his privilege, but take a stand and gracefully deal with the pushback that followed. 

In that kind of discussion, I get the narrative privilege of being among the oppressed, since I'm a woman. When it's just talking time, nobody wants to wear the oppressor suit. (Out in the world, in real time, being the oppressor is the comparative jam.) But if we switch up the discussion, and turn our attention to white privilege, then that's my suit to wear.

I've been alive for nearly 45 years on this earth, and if there's one thing I've given minimal thought to during that time, it's the privilege I experience just by virtue of being white. And hey! That's part of this dreamy loot bag of prizes I get for my skin color. Like my friend said above, I don't have to think about it if I don't want to. I can organize my day so it never comes up. And, in fact, I've been doing just that. I live on the white end of a very segregated city that feels whiter than it really is. My friends, with very few exceptions, are white. My family is white. I mostly read books and watch movies and television shows about well-to-do white people. It's how I've been doing it, and I never thought to sweat it. Soaking myself in all that whiteness just feels familiar and cozy and unchallenging, and nobody can accuse me of spending a lot of my entertainment hours challenging myself. I'm somebody who can spend three hours in the bathtub replenishing the hot water with my big toe.

Last summer, a Twitter hashtag begun by a woman named Mikki Kendall—who tweets under the handle @Karnythia—woke me up from my long slumber. The hashtag was #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, which has a long backstory that you can google if you're curious, but at its heart was frustration and disappointment with mainstream white feminism. The hashtag took off, with women of color venting about their experiences, and white women jumping on in various ways: to defend themselves, to chide, to offer support, etc. 

The hashtag caught my attention when somebody I follow started responding to Martha Plimpton, who thought that the conversation was divisive, and then she and Karnythia got into it, and anyway, ANYWAY, the upshot, for me, was the realization that I had spent basically zero time in my life listening to women of color—particularly Black women—and learning about what it's like to live in a culture that doubly disrespects and devalues you.

Embarrassing. Not just a little embarrassing, either, but cold-water-in-the-face embarrassing. I'm a grown woman who professes to care about people, and the attention I'd given to race was the passing, get-upset-at-the-news-when-it's-in-my-face-and-then-change-the-channel kind. It didn't stick with me all day, it didn't linger in my mind, it didn't wake me up at night.

But something happened. You hear the phrase "hashtag activism", and it sounds tepid and half-assed, but you have to acknowledge social media for giving a microphone to whomever feels like picking it up. A shard of democracy remains there. And what is a hashtag besides words? Nobody ever started a social and cultural fire without them. For the first time, at age 44, I woke the fuck up and started seeking out Black women's voices. Better late than never, I guess. Around the same time as the #Solidarity hashtag, someone started a #SmartBlackWomenOfTwitter hashtag, and I went on a follow-binge. (This is the part where I worry about doing this wrong, but fuck it, this is how I did it, and I'm open to correction/suggestion.) I listened to conversations that were outside my white world, I went and read blogs written by Black women about their experience in white society. I questioned if this was okay to do, like if this was quietly invasive, somehow, but this seemed like a place to start, and I hoped that if I just lurked and stayed in listening mode, I would be doing more good than harm. 

It was bracing to hear what a pain in the ass white women can be for Black women. Besides stories of outright racism, I heard a lot of weariness with the barrage of "But I'm a white woman and I don't do those things!" that Black women get. Like if you want to vent about your experience with white people, you have to always throw in a long disclaimer, "...except for Christine Adams, Molly Sims, Jennifer Christensen, Frances Niedermeyer, Corinne Davis, Tracy Smith and the other 234,758 awesome white women who would never do that, whom I'll name for you in a second after I have another sip of coffee." 

In that Facebook discussion about male privilege, my friend linked to a cartoon which makes me laugh and laugh, and is transferrable to this very thing. Here you go:

Even if I haven't personally collared a Black woman mid-complaint to impress my innocence and the innocence of many white women everywhere upon her, I've certainly had the thought, "Well, not all white women are like that. I'm not like that," which drags the conversation in my head back over to me, away from where it ought to be, which is with my fellow humans who don't get to enjoy the sweet, sweet perks I get to enjoy because of the color of my skin. And there are various things in my life which have conspired to make me feel small/unimportant/unworthy/invisible—some of them cultural, some of them personal and familial. I have some problems with self-confidence as a result of those things, and that feels pretty difficult to me sometimes. When I take a goddamn minute to think about people who have received far, far worse messages from birth, and live in a culture that makes them feel unwelcome, unprotected and dismissed every single day, my heart squeezes and it better squeeze. 

In my house I have some super flattering, totally unhelpful mirrors. The mirror in my bathroom and the mirror next to my closet...god bless them. They're liars. I love them to bits, but they're obsequious little bastards straight out of Snow White. They make my figure look adorable in ways that I regularly—and with some sadness—come to understand are not quite true. Whenever I leave my house and run across  alternative reflective surfaces, I'm all fuuuuck. Mirrors. You were not straight with me. 

White women have these cultural mirrors installed everywhere that tell them they're the fairest, best, most important of them all. You might think that's not what you're getting out there if you're white like I am, but you are. We are. And you have to work a little bit—leave the house, as it were—to get in range of a less flattering, more truthful mirror. Once I started paying attention, what I saw in this new, clearer mirror, was a privileged, coddled, comfort-loving creature. I say this with love and compassion— and not, indeed, to hate on myself—but I saw something a little grotesque. Think about The Hunger Games, if you've seen it. The people who live in the Capitol—your Stanley Tuccis and Elizabeth Bankses—are wealthy and pampered and disconnected from humanity. And they look ridiculous, like fancy, freaky space poodles. When Dave and I saw the movie, the analogy hit me: I'm one of those space poodles.  

(I come back to the idea of narrative privilege, because if we're in a Hunger Games analogy, you want to be Katniss Everdeen. You don't want to be Stanley Tucci. You don't want to be Elizabeth Banks. You want to be the cool heroine who has to struggle nobly for survival, not the glitter-covered asshole eating hors d'oeuvres and watching the destruction from the sidelines. But if I'm white, and if I'm not thinking about this, and I'm not trying to figure out what to do next, how to make it better—even if I am doing those things—that's exactly what I am until this culture changes, and I better know it. And if that's not what I want to be, then I better get my nose to the grindstone. And, shit, isn't it enough to have all the real-world privilege? What kind of jerk then demands to also have the most flattering role in the story?)

That's what I am. It's the luck of my draw, being born white, and also the result of my own long unconsciousness. I may be a lovely person in many regards, but I have a huge amount of privilege and I have done next to nothing to offset this. I'm at the beginning, the very beginning of my work. And the thing is, I'm still trying to figure out what to do, what's mine to do and what's not mine, how I can best help. 

There's a video that was going around the web a little while ago of a woman named Glozell Green, a comedian who went to Disneyland and saw a black princess there for the first time. It's beautiful and sweet and heartwrenching, and you can't watch it without falling in love with her. If you can, a) I don't fucking want to hear about it, and b) you better go set off a grenade in your heart chakra. This is it:


 All I know is that the Glozell Greens of the world, be they five or fifty, mean something to me, and I want them to walk around in a world that sees them, that loves them, that welcomes and celebrates them and tells them they're just as beautiful and worth every bit as much as anybody else alive. And if some heads don't get pulled out of some asses, that's not going to happen, and when you're advocating heads getting pulled out of asses, you have to check yours first.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

the metropolitan superfly space gala

What can be happening? Where are we? Where's everybody's head? Where's mine? It's May, and I'm suddenly about to do a red carpet post. Traditionally, these only happen once or twice a year, tops. The Oscars and the Golden Globes are all I remember to care about, because those are broadcasts I cherish on TV, unlike your Grammys and your Emmys and MTV Movie Awards and Nickelodeon Teen Choice Awards and whatever else they're hiding anywhere. But I'm sick with regret for all the years I haven't thought to speak of what I'm about to speak of, because this red carpet event is so majestic, so rarefied that I think it descends once a year from heaven, or maybe the Horsehead Nebula.

Please be seated. 

Hold one moment. I have to brush my teeth and spray on some perfume. And I can't write about this in this shirt. I'm going to change into my wedding dress. 


Let us bow our heads and get ready to consider the red carpet from the Metropolitan Museum's Annual Costume Institute Gala, aka The Met Ball. 

For those of you who are unfamiliar, this is an insanely la-di-da affair that's been happening every year since 1971. Anna Wintour, Vogue magazine's Chief Queen of the Unswerving Bob, has been presiding over it for almost twenty years. Every year there's a theme around which the attendees dress in homage. Last year's theme was punk, and this year the ball honored the work of the designer Charles James. In a minute we'll look at the kinds of things he dreamed up, but first I want to talk about why this event gives me the vapors so hard.

This is really the only red carpet event where people dress up in the name of fashion as art, and not just as a personal be-hottening mechanism. The goal here is not just to look elegant or beautiful or sexy, but to be a little bit of a living exhibit. And the theme lends unity to the whole event, which is an aesthetic treat. But you get to see the theme brought to life through so many prisms: different designers, different levels of commitment or boldness or faithfulness or rebellion from the participants. And it's fun because it's the king of the sartorial challenges. If the red carpet at the Oscars is a Harvard-level throwdown, the red carpet at the Met is Harvard plus Oxford times the Sorbonne on the planet Vulcan. The game is on, do you get me? ON. 

Now let's meet Charles James and see what we're talking about.

Here is Charles James with a Hearst person. I wanted you to see the man of the hour. Now dig the majesty of his designs, and get a sense of the spirit the attendees were meant to capture.

Bang. This is the Charles Jamesiest possible way to begin. 

Look at that signature shape. Like space lilies drinking out of champagne flutes.

Something a little more ethereal, but still with a little sharpness/pointiness.

Ribbon cape, 1937. There's a whole wedding happening under there, with a band and everything.

You're getting the gist, I bet. We'll look at a couple more, and then on to the carpet.

Origami Easter parade.

What are you, sculpted dream marshmallow? Are you a bed jacket? Can we wear you to the opera? I would never take this off. What could ever hurt me again?

Okay, friends. We're schooled enough now. We should get moving. There's just so much to see and say. 

We begin with Beyoncé and Jay-Z, who are doing it up just right, Met-Ball-style, and also thoughtfully demonstrating some themes for the evening. Black and white is a big one, and Beyoncé is sporting the deep, severe lip that always looks so correct at this party. I like the 1930s boudoir scene happening here, too. This is what you slip on after you've taken off your Charles James at the end of the evening and you're ready to pop some Barry White on the gramophone and ride up on that surfboard. 

Karolina Kurkova is on super-pointy point thematically with her dress, but she's styled out a little boringly, I'm afraid. My feeling is that every Met Gala look should have more than a touch of "what the fuck?" about it. Because that's art, weasels. 

Liu Wen, whoever she may be, is delivering perfect thematic and WTF levels. She's wearing dramatic lipstick and being eaten alive by an ultrachic sea creature. This is look is an excellent example of why I cream myself over the Met Ball. So grand.

Jessica Paré is this happy because a) she's at the Met Motherfucking Ball and b) she's nailed it in her poofy, printy Michael Kors gown and glamorous updo. She's going to lead us into a neighborhood that I call "COME ON, DOVER, MOVE YOUR BLOOMING ARSE!" because everyone in this neighborhood looks like they've wandered off the set of the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady. Black and white and black and white and black and white for miles.

I respect Greta Gerwig here for coming on so harsh and strong in the name of art, and sacrificing a little prettiness on the way. That pulled-back hair looks like it hurts like fuck, and ain't nothing soft going on with her face, but again, that's not what this night is about. This night is for painting a big collective picture. Some of these bitches we'll examine later seem to have left their paintbrushes at home so they could look like pretty princesses, so troopers like Greta Gerwig end up having to paint a little harder. You go, Gerwig. Get a head massage this week. You've earned it. 

Greta Gerwig is wearing an Olivier Theyskens dress, and who's here but Mr. Olivier Theyskens himself! He looks fresh and innocent, somehow, like a cross between Michael Jackson and an undiscovered Kardashian sister who's been hiding away living a pure life on the border of Tibet and Nepal. With him is Felicity Jones, who looks nice and is wearing black, which is the black part of black and white, so welcome to the neighborhood.

Anna Kendrick is certainly quite the little lady here. Grandmothers everywhere are going to slip an extra $10 into her birthday card this year. Not enough WTF, but I can only assume she's backpedalling from the critical WTF levels she reached at the Oscars. She appears to be holding herself very carefully so she won't go inside and bump over some priceless statue. 

Lily Allen is perfect. Art City, USA, and cute as an avant-garde little button. I briefly could not tell if she was holding a clutch or a very dressy, matching bag of snack chips, but I begrudge her neither. 

Chloe Grace Moretz is like fuck you, Anna Kendrick. Grandmother likes me best. 

Do you see how good this Met Gala is? It's so good that after I write this Naomi Watts bit, I'm going to write 33 more about other people. It's 10:14 pm. It's so good that I'm going to be writing about 33 more attendees and it's 10:15 pm and I've been doing this all day already. For the love of the game, people. Naomi Watts was dipped in fire and charred by the devil and I'm glad, glad, I tell you, because the blackened ashes of her gown are badass and thought-provoking. 

Anna Kendrick was probably carrying herself so gingerly up there because she doesn't want to cut herself on Margot Robbie.

'Ello, guv'nor! 'Ere's Kate Upton modeling a li'l sumfing from the Frederick's of Hollywood Eliza Doolittle Collection. All she wants is a room somewhere, far away from the cold night air, if you take my meaning! And I fink you do, seeing as how you're a man o' the world. 

Note: I stand by Kate Upton here. She's going for it, you know? She's helping to create atmosphere. I don't think she's exactly pulling this off, but remember, this is the Costume Institute Gala, so points for erring in the direction of costuminess. 

And points for not being so eternally tasteful and boring and understated as Sophia Coppola. I will give Sophia Coppola one thousand human dollars if she just once shows up somewhere not dressed like a twelve-year-old on her way to church. 

Rihanna, show her how it's done. 

Rihanna will full-on light up a spliff right in front of Anna Wintour, and then she'll make out with Anna Wintour's date and put out the spliff in Anna Wintour's bob. I feel so much better. 

LaLa Anthony is another breath of fresh, post-Coppola air. She's doing her own thing and Charles James's thing all mixed together. 

Okay, now, wow. This is some very strong post-Coppola medicine. It's like Scarlett O'Hara's heroin-addicted cousin has just wandered onto the plantation and fucked Rhett Butler and both Tarleton twins in the middle of the Twelve Oaks barbecue, right there in front Aunt Pittypat and everybody. Land sakes, Katie Holmes!

Here is some virginal pastel shimmer, which I'd be feeling if Hayden Panettiere weren't the delivery system. It's the Met Ball, sister! You brought your prom head! You are a prom head. 

Look, I'll be frank. I don't know how Lupita Nyong'o's gown tips a hat to the Charles James theme, but it pleases me anyway, unless I stare at it too long. Then I start collecting doubts. And I don't feel like collecting doubts, so I'm going to glance and run!

Michelle Williams is so aggressively understated here that I kind of want to pop her one. This is along those same Sophia Coppola, I-don't-want-anybody-to-catch-me-trying lines. I'm so cool that I can throw on a little shift for the Met Ball. I love you, Michelle Williams, but no, you're not. 

Okay, now we've entered a neighborhood where I start to wonder, what, what exactly, is appropriate for this event? My radar says Rosie Huntington-Whitely is doing just fine, but why? She's in a short dress, but it's structured and gilt, so it feels like it passes muster. Also, hang on, are those leopard stripes? It's not disqualifying if they are, but are they? Whatever. I like this. 

And Dee Hemingway, of the Hemingway Hemingways, I presume, what's all this, then? This is elegant and chic as balls—well, I should say more elegant and chic than balls, but anyway, while it certainly is delightful, is it right? The men were requested to wear white tie and tails, you know? Is this enough? Do women just have loads and loads of leeway, as long as they look fabulous? These are the questions that plague our time.

Elizabeth Olson is understandably a little glum because she was told she'd be allowed to ice skate but then there was no rink, and now she's going to have to do her routine in heels on the regular floor. Oh, well, here goes run run run run JUMP TRIPLE AXL OH NO THIS WAS A TRULY HORRIBLE LANDING OH GOD MY ANKLES ICE PACK ICE PACK ICE PACK

She looks so innocent, like she got dressed for the kindergarten formal all by herself. Also, will somebody stage a production of King Lear, please, and let Elizabeth Olson be Cordelia? 

And let Mary Kate and Ashley Olson be Goneril and Regan?? Look, they're already doing it! They already know what to do! 

Anna Wintour could play Lear! She's got a temper! She's resistant to change*! 

*see: bangs 

One day I'm going to save a picture of Anna Wintour and plug it into one of those upload-your-face-and-try-a-different-hairstyle apps. I could be amused for hours like that. PERM. REDHEAD. CORNROWS. 

Lena Dunham is such a smartie-pie. She's someone who's always going to wear the right thing to this affair. It's a puzzle she's built to crack. This is a joy, the best thing I've ever seen her in: simultaneously sophisticated and young, offbeat and respectful, somehow. I heart it. 

Kate Mara is a very pretty, sullen, garden moss fairy who used her magical fairy powers to sneak into the Met Ball and creep around. Good job, sullen moss fairy! You blend in! And the shape is Jamesian, too! 

Ivanka Trump, on the other hand, is the queen of the garden moss fairies and she straight-up got an invite, walked in the front door and nailed it. 

Tabitha Simmons is also from Fairy Forest, where they apparently know a lot about Charles James. She is giving me my WTF money's worth like crazy, in the best way. Flowers flowers flowers flowers! This is exactly the kind of thing I hope for when I come a-calling for the Met Ball. 

Chrissy Teigen is like an iced coffee that spilled out of the Milky Way. Sexy, celestial and still pleasingly prim and Jamesian with that neck ruffle. And now I'm going to tell you something that I actively know will make me more lame, but I'm going to do it anyway. One day I opened up Twitter, and found that Chrissy Teigen was following me. A supermodel. It was so senseless. Was she lost? See, this is humblebraggy and very, very be-lame-ening to discuss, BUT I MUST, because why did this happen? What I'm trying to tell you is that after I die, if I'm granted a peek into the workings of the world/the behind-the-scenes footage of my life, I'm going to float over to the moment she followed me and figure out which tweet of mine did it. Also, do you think she talks about me to John Legend? Do you think he's written some songs about me? Probably. Every time I see her now, I think she must be the nicest, best person in the world.And now I understand that you might have to go. Goodbye. Thank you for knowing me this long. 

I love Emma Stone, and I can see a teeny bit of Charles James lurking around the skirt here somewhere, I guess, but I am of the opinion that you mustn't dress like a strawberry smoothie made out of yoga pants to the Met Ball, in a crop top and everything. She looks beautiful, don't get me wrong, but it's too loosey-goosey. Nobody should show up to this thing looking like they'd be perfectly comfortable if they suddenly jumped on a couch and rented a movie.

Anne Hathaway is balanced on the knife edge of success and not-quite-success here. The simplicity is extreme, which tips her both ways. Too extreme and therefore a touch dull! Super extreme and therefore maybe sharp and interesting! But what if the whole carpet is actually part of her dress? That would be very interesting!, I can't land one way or another. I do not know if this is good or bad or in the middle. I'm malfunctioning. I can deliver no verdict. Whichever one I pick, it's probably the other one. 

Claire Danes is another one who looks lovely and appropriate but could have done more. And I'd love this at the Oscars or the Golden Globes. But we are not there, are we? Have I mentioned where we are? Well, I'll tell you, Claire. You might be slightly busted for dressing too simply, but just wait.

Because what in the name of baby booties is this girl doing? Child, where do you imagine you've wandered? This is not your bridal shower. This is not your graduation brunch. This is not a super dressy cocktail party at your friend's apartment. This is the motherfucking Met Ball, motherfucker! Look alive! Jesus! 

See, Janelle Monae has just run a Met Ball clinic. This is how you do it. They should have just slammed the door after Janelle Monae and not let anybody else in. I hope they carted her around on a throne all night. I hope they had a follow spot on her. Dang. 

Year after year, when I talk about red carpets, I say, "Sorry, fellas! Your tuxedos make me sleepy! I have nothing to say to you unless something interesting happens!" And so hurray to Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka, who are the equivalent of an alarm clock set at top volume across the room at 5 am. WHAT HOLY SHIT OKAY I'M AWAKE I'M AWAKE. (I sincerely love this, too. I find it witty and delightful.)

While I do normally get the sleeps with men's formal wear, white tie and tails are enough of a change that I'm genuinely enthralled. Bradley Cooper looks very "Eh, wot? Jolly good, let's retire for cigars and port and leave the ladies to their business." Stodgy-foxy. Fox hunt! Boom. Got one. 

And Andy Cohen should just make white tie and tails his default look, even there in the Bravo Clubhouse, doing shotskis, handing out the Jackhole-of-the-Day award. He just shouldn't stop, because he looks like one billion dollars.

I have a few more tickets to give out, though. It's not my fault; I have a quota. And then we'll end on some high notes.

The answer to the question "Whatever happened to Baby Jane?" is right here wrapped around Stephanie Seymour. Baby Jane took excellent care of herself and ate right and got herself a very good surgeon, is what happened to her, and now she's a thriving baby in a fancy baby romper, thank you very much. 

I feel like M.C. Escher maybe drew Donatella Versace tonight, because she has the proportions of three different people. She's a normal-sized person on top (sized, I said, SIZED) and a little bit smaller person in the middle, and then a very small disappearing person on the bottom. Among other things, sure. There are other things going on. But Donatella Versace's Donatella Versace-ness is as it ever was, and doesn't need my comment. 

Oh, hurray! Do you know who this is?? This is none other than Sandra Lee, of the Food Network's Semi-Homemade fame! I jumped for joy when I saw her here like this. If you've never watched her show, you must. It's completely bananas. The show is just what it sounds like; she makes dishes half out of premade stuff from the grocery store and half from scratch. The food is horrifying, all pound cakes and pigs in a blanket with homemade chimichurri or whatever, but the real joy is that she has a different color scheme in her kitchen with every episode, and she dresses to match her kitchen, and then at the end of the episode she makes something she calls a tablescape. Oh my stars and garters. Tablescape. The table is decorated within an inch of its life, and so tall and crazy that no guest could possibly see a guest who's sitting on the other side. You'd just hear voices on the other side of the tablescape and assume they belong to real people who are really there. There would be no way to verify, either, because you'd be trapped behind/underneath fifty different plates and napkin-sculptures. So I'm delighted, DELIGHTED, that Sandra Lee is dressed exactly like both a tablescape and one of her own recipes. Half-couture and half-Cool Whip! If I could do a cartwheel, I would. Just assume that I am right now. 

Amanda Peet, however, is a tablescape I would really make. So twisty-deco-modern-glorious. 

Every day is the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute Gala for Florence Welch. She could pop by on the way home from the gym, and this is what she'd already be wearing. 

And here's the winner of the Met Ball, Miss Sarah Jessica Parker. She's got it all: scale, thematic perfection, quirk, cojones. There is nowhere else on earth that this look makes sense, but here it's right smack in the middle of the bullseye's bullseye. But we can't leave here with Oscar de la Renta's signature hanging in the air, the last thing we see. No, we have to drag the real designer of the hour  back on stage to take another bow.

Don't ask what her hands are doing. Don't ruin this. They're doing what they're supposed to be doing.  They're making tablescapes. They're making art.

Good night, Charles James. Good night, Met Ball. Fuck you both for being so good because I made this post twice the size I normally do, and now it's a trillion o'clock and I'm going to die.