Archive | Harriet Matters

All the Pretty Girls, Humblebrag Edition

I received my best compliment of the year already and it’s only January. I’d been railing for a full hour to a friend about work, love, politics. Then I mentioned as a grumpy aside that I’d been taking dance classes “all year.” “Well,” I corrected myself. “One class anyway. Yesterday.” “What kind?” she asked, finally interested in something I had to say. (I couldn’t blame her; I was being terribly boorish.) “Tap,” I answered. “See?” she said. “That’s the thing about you. You act like a grouchy grownup but you’re wearing braids and striped socks and corduroy gauchos, and I heard you singing Hair songs on your way into my apartment and the kind of dance you’re taking is tap. You’re a cute person who doesn’t admit she’s cute, which makes you cuter.” Of course I’m repeating the story here, which is not especially cute. But all in all, a great compliment, one that says more about my friend’s generosity of spirit than my own alleged charms.

Moon Void of Course, Of Course

Right now, we’re in the middle of a 21-hour period in which the moon is void of course. This means everything is spacy and off-kilter and totally nonlinear–so much so that even as I write this I wonder if I am making any sense and then realize with some delight that I don’t care. Void-of-course events rarely have long-term consequences, and, besides, sparkly tesseracts are right up my alley.

After finishing this morning’s Ruby Intuition readings I took off for a very long, very cold walk through the city. I was ecstatic for the opportunity to live inside my own private children’s book–a welcome reprieve from the grownup worries I’d not been able to shake for the rest of the week. My only rule: no major financial expenditures. Our tastes are so different during VOC that buyers’ regret is inevitable.

Here is what happened on my walk: I talked to an East Village girl selling candles in ironic overalls and unironic pink lipstick about the importance of sunshine noir in the ides of winter. I found a pair of fluffy platform beige clog boots that I desperately craved but managed to refrain from purchasing. (I promised myself I’d buy them as an auto-birthday present if I still longed for them in a week.) I went to the hardware store to thank the owner for his good advice about my radiators and in return got a $2 vise-grip, which is only slightly less sexual than it sounds. I trailed an arguing couple for seven blocks to decide who I thought was right. (Neither, as it turned out.) I saw a friend I’d not seen for six years, and, bitter wind blowing all around us, we tackled the brilliance of Vivian Maier and the unplugged power of post-reproductive women as if it were a balmy July afternoon and we’d last talked five minutes ago. I went to the Strand Book Store and bought a thick anthology of time travel essays (because you never know when you might manage a quick chrono-jaunt) and a dog-eared Pippi Longstocking paperback (because you can always use an extra copy of Pippi). I came up with a style trend for Spring 2025 and a catchphrase that I decided to give to the next superhero I met. I tried on a collarless camel tweed coat practically embroidered with my name and whispered to her that we’d meet again. I listened to an 85-year-old surrealist painter reminisce in a coffee shop about dancing naked with Anaïs Nin dance at a party. I spent an inordinately long time talking to a jewelry vendor on Bedford Avenue because his copper rings were stunning and so was he.

By the time I got home I was laden with lemon-pepper soap and and leather-rose perfume and green-gold eyeshadow and lavender honey and coffee beans and phone numbers and hand-painted stationary given to me by people who’d enjoyed our conversations. I was so frozen I couldn’t feel my feet but my cheeks were pink and my eyes were bright and I was wrapped glamorously in two soft scarves and a big fur hat and a soundtrack of late-’50s jazz and a certainty that I’d earned a quiet, cozy night at home. When the moon goes void of course it’s like Hilary Knight drew the whole world. Ooooh, I just love it.

Hell Hath No Fury Like a Bra Burned

Coming home on the subway tonight from a gala, I was decked out in grownup lady finery–high heels, LBD*, hair blown out, mascara, red lipstick, sheer stockings. At first it was pleasant. I’d almost forgotten what it was like to be out and about in high femme garb since I’ve been dressing like a 12-year-old boy for months now. Then this guy sailed on at Union Square and began making eyes at every girlygirl on the train. Actually, “making eyes” is an understatement. The lout (30ish, clad in bratty fratty gear) was working his way down the traincar, leaning over every unaccompanied woman wearing lipstick, and saying things like You’re gorgeous. Will you marry me? until she finally looked up and everyone else looked away to avoid poking the bear.

Then he headed in my direction.

I had steam coming out of my ears. Here I had thought one advantage of middle age was invisibility, and this Alexander Dumbass was haranguing me like he’d been appointed king of a goddamned harem. And then it hit me: I really didn’t have to take this crap. I’d never had to, of course, but at this point I was old enough to know I didn’t have to. I’d been living in NYC for 22 years, and had every right to take a subway in my hometown–on my own line, even–without a joker acting like he owned my personal space. I wasn’t some stammering coquette. I was a grown-ass broad.

I stared at him. “So this is your game? You’re just going to walk down the train and mess with every woman you like?” He raised his eyebrows and hands– Whatsa matter? I’m just complimenting you–but I channeled a furious Harriet the Spy. “C’MON, FINK. GET OUT OF MY FACE BEFORE I MAKE YOU.”  A few guys shrank as if I’d just screamed at them but most of the female passengers started cackling. And when the dude heard our laughter, he beat a hasty retreat to the next subway car–where, I hoped, another weary middle-aged woman was poised to bellow at him some more.

*Little Black Dress!

"All, everything I understand, I understand only because I love."
― Leo Tolstoy