I've been thinking about how to explain my love of eccentrics for a few days now (two, in fact, and much has happened since then). I recited the potential beginnings of this chapter in my head numerous times.
"The first eccentric I ever fell in love with..."
"What, exactly, attracts me to them?"
"...je ne sais quoi mixed with a visible I-don't-give-a-fuck..."
"No," I thought to myself on the downtown six train, "they all suck. You're so not cool enough to be an eccentric."
During this session of (probably deserved) self-criticizing, I pulled out a Quest magazine that I had swiped from the lobby of my boss' co-op. (Relax, they're free. I just thought 'swiped' sounded better than "took lawfully.") For those unfamiliar, Quest is a magazine mainly for women who spend three-quarters of the year attending balls in New York City that benefit children in Egypt with cleft palates whom they will never have to touch (thank God, because they're quite unfortunate looking and it may rub off, you know) and the other one-quarter of the year in Palm Beach wearing Lily Pulitzer. (Its website describes readers as, "educated, affluent, and transaction-oriented. They live in the right neighborhoods; they shop and spend in all the right stores." Potato, Po-tah-to.) Probably the first half of the magazine is comprised of pictures from parties, so naturally I scanned the shots to see if I recognized anyone. And I did.
Iris and Carl Apfel, the caption said. Carl? Psshh. BO-ring. Iris, on the other hand, a New York celebrity of sorts whose talent I had never actually learned, was someone I had seen around (well, once at a fashion event at the Hammerstein ballroom), a diminutive little old lady always adorned with some outrageously large African-looking necklace and equally outrageous saucer-shaped, thick-rimmed glasses. I remembered that whenever I saw her picture (and that one time I beheld her teeny tiny form at Hammerstein), I thought, "Damn, that old lady rules. When I am old I want to dress just like that."
Did I have qualms about giving her the exalted title of eccentric without knowing anything about her background? Not at all. After all, fashion is one of the cornerstones of eccentricity, whether you choose to wear ethnic jewelry the size of your head or "pantyhose or some pants under a short skirt, I think. Then you have the pants under the skirt and then you can pull the stockings up over the pants underneath the skirt. And you can always take off the skirt and wear it as a cape."
I think that is the best costume for today.
Or tomorrow, rather. Everyone knows the best eccentrics are three things: old, rich and female. (The most worthy of exceptions is John Waters, but he has many an effeminate trait, so we'll give him 2.7 out of 3. His is a glorious and playful eccentricity. His house in Baltimore is full of fake things: fake food, a fake cat and an "eerily realistic fake baby." I imagine that we there is a sort of decorative kinship between us -- a good omen --- because in college I nailed a naked fake baby to my ceiling in an attempt to recreate that infamous scene in Trainspotting. "What is wrong with you?" my best friend wailed.)
Right, so, rich, female and old. I am already female and I will eventually be old, so the only other thing I need is money and I've got plenty of time to amass that. (In the meantime, I'm trying my darnedest to be a young eccentric, which is often difficult but I find it helps to employ Briticisms and carry a lunchbox.) So, presuming I can get rich, I just think it would be fun to accumulate a lot of stuff (three headed statues from Congo, a stuffed peacock with his tail fully fanned, a smelling machine a la Maude) and fill up a large, dusty apartment in a hotel or a run-down mansion on a secluded beach (lose the gang of cats but keep the writing on the wall and sea of leaves.) If I am lucky, I will be able to afford both my hotel apartment and my beach mansion AND be able to hire a driver named Duncan who will shuttle me in an old, silver Mercedes back and forth between my residences. I will wear emerald rings the size of eggs and a number of absurdly shaped hats (potential Craigslist ad: Wannabe Isabella Blow seeks aspiring Philip Treacey. Must employ Briticisms.) I will keep a trunk full of handwritten love letters beneath my bed, which I will take out once a year to read and weep and drink up their odor, as I will have doused them in perfume years earlier. There will be a large map of the world on the wall adorned with little red-headed pushpins stuck into places I've visited (Vienna, Paris, Cairo, Bogata) but I will have long since ceased traveling. I will spend my days writing and reading and drawing on the walls and listening to records in my rundown mansion or my crowded hotel apartment. Only my closest friends will be allowed to visit me provided they bring one of the following gifts: a poem, a bottle of bourbon, or raspberries.
You, my darling, are always welcome.
New York Magazine's profile of John Waters
NY editor, Kelsey's interests include eavesdropping, thaumaturgy, Pick-Up Sticks, and going on "adventures."
about Kelsey Osgood »»
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