Tuesday, November 22, 2011
All that glitters
When I was a child, I thought a "chester of doors" was a complex and wonderful construction that promised to open the way to a million new worlds. I can still feel that magical possibility when I write those words, even though it's been years since I figured out that a chest of drawers was merely where my socks and undershirts lived. And I still love the mysterious glamor of a word or phrase whose meaning is completely obscure to you, whether it is because you have misheard it, have no idea of the context, or simply don't know.
When your job is words, these moments become rarer and rarer, though technical terms do afford a certain pleasure: how lovely, the moments I spent imagining that "pléochroïque" was the era of rainbow-colored dinosaurs, rather than a crystallographic term. Charming, the few seconds I dreamed of "calandreuses," which in my mind ought to mean ladies who make calendars. (They're actually a kind of leather embossing press.)
That is why I am so grateful to the fashion world. Just one fashion event can give you enough of these mysterious phrases to last a lifetime. My favorite of them all, the one I carry with me happy in the knowledge that it will never be elucidated, is one I picked up at a Lanvin runway show I attended last year. I was working for an agency whose job it was to transcribe and translate post-show interviews, which are so esoteric they require an eyewitness to make any sense of them at all.
Seeing a runway show in real life is kind of like seeing the Tour de France in real life: an immense amount of hype and chaos for something that is over in a flash. After the show, it was my job to push through the crowd to listen to the press conference. As I was pushing I saw two men who looked like they'd been dressed by André 3000 from Outkast. For all I know, they may have been André 3000 from Outkast. In any case, as I pushed, I heard one of them say to the other,
"Yeah, I need to get some more, though. It's like all my diamonds are falling out."
I have turned this phrase over in my mind a million times, and it never looses its sheen. What must it feel like when all one's diamonds fall out? Sometimes I think it must be a chilly, shivery sensation, not entirely unpleasant. Other times I imagine it's painful, like those awful dreams where your teeth get wobbly and you can't keep them in your mouth. And what could you get more of that would keep them in place? How many diamonds do you need to have before you casually can say the words "all my diamonds"? Three? Seventeen? How big do they need to be? Oh, the possibilities are endless.