Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Power Pose

From the $3200 ostrich-lined mesh unitards to the boyish good looks of Kate Moss, the world of high fashion has always been an impenetrable enigma. It is a world populated by exotically mute Vikingettes who distantly tower over you from every magazine cover and who seem, somehow, to lack bodily fluids of any kind. They exude a mixture of allure and decay that can only be explained by years of dietary heroin suppositories and three day weekends with 'funny uncles.' And they cast no shadows; they are the perfect Tabula Rasa. Advertising executives bank on the fact that we will project our many unreachable masturbatory fantasies onto these glossy black-and-whites as we deliberate the relative merits of Old Navy and The Gap.

This, of course, is precisely what we do. But why? If a nation as intelligent, sophisticated, self-aware, grounded, subtle, profound, disciplined, keenly observant, and self-actualized as ours can be so easily manipulated, then surely a force with uncanny power must be at work. Fashion Moguls and Demiurges are notoriously reluctant to discuss such things. But in an effort to find answers, I came across a genuine rarity. A model, an insider, who was willing, and had the capacity, to speak.

Sitting across the table from me, at Sunnyvale's impossibly posh Fibbar MaGees, he looked almost normal. You would never have guessed that he was modeling's "Next Big Thing." He was clearly nervous, as evidenced by the fact that he had barely touched his free-range salmon cubes that were marinated in mango chutney and placed atop a bed of pine-nut infused mixed greens, candied olives and pan-seared marshmallows and that had a cloud of whipped cream, raisins, and corn floating a full three inches above it, (which reminds me of another article I'll have to write for this fucking thing.) He had also insisted on taking a seat that faced the entrance and I knew I would have to be extremely gentle with him.

"It's the hands."

His voice was barely audible and had a furtive, resigned quality. For reasons that should be obvious I will not use his real name. "Mark Schnittker" was introduced into modeling, through the Boy Scouts, at the relatively advanced age of thirty-seven. But his lack of experience was easily overcome by a kind of vulnerable innocence and a tremendous shock of thick red hair. He quickly moved from Sears catalogs to the cover of Seventeen and this is when he had his first encounter with the Fashion Cabal.

While on location in the Cayman Islands, "Mark" was asked to strike a pose that suggested power and confidence. He opted for the traditional arms crossed over the chest, feet slightly apart, method. An ominous hush fell over the set and children could be heard crying in the distance. He realized that something had gone horribly wrong but was unable to place it. It was then that several helicopters swooped down onto the beach. From one of them, a small old man, dressed in black and covered in blankets, was wheeled through the set by a gigantic Filipino woman and placed directly at "Mark's" back.

At first, he could hear a single voice speaking angrily in a language he couldn't understand. This was followed by a deeper resonant voice and a hand that came to rest upon his shoulder. "You have made a grave error. This shoot is finished." Startled, "Mark" moved to turn around, but the hand on his shoulder tightened its grip and he collapsed to the ground in pain and lost consciousness.

He came to, several hours later, and found himself alone on the deserted beach. Struggling to regain his bearings, he noticed what appeared to be writing in the sand near the water. He moved over to take a look and was barely able to read it before a rogue wave crashed onto the shore and obliterated every word.

Most of the crowd had left Fibbars and "Mark" was visibly shaken by the re-telling of this terrible story. His famous red hair was matted against the sweat on his forehead. He reached out and downed his pomegranate martini in one desperate gulp. Looking again at the clock, he said, "It was a rookie mistake; one that I'll never be able to get over."

He looked me in the eyes for the first time that night. He was nearly weeping. "When I struck that pose, I had covered my hands with my arms. You must show your hands." Abruptly, and without warning, he shot up from the table and ran from the bar, shrieking, "You couldn't see them! YOU COULDN'T SEE THEM!"

I have since done a great deal of research. The world of fashion is as tight-lipped as Scientology, and precisely as meaningful, but, through the Freedom of Information Act, and a couple of well placed indulgences, I was able to get my hands on their charter.

It is an ugly and severe document of more than 2000 pages and is not fit reading for any person who hopes to retain even a modest portion of their humanity. I made it one third of the way through the introduction before buying an incinerator, assembling it, and then throwing the damned thing into it. But it was too late. Right there, on page four, was this:

Sec. 2-973.134
Regarding the assumption of, or request thereof, a physical gesture indicating power, confidence, or any related sub-virtue (cf. pp138), the subject must, in lieu of contradicting features, attendant to, but not limited by, said gesture, will, in accordance with addendum 9 to sec 3J-209.3, and in good faith, make visible, and in reasonable (as defined by subjugate protocol) time, said subject's posterior ancillary extremities, or "hands", the withholding of which will result in the de facto forfeiture of said subject's elan or vital fluids.

It is a sad and beautiful world. I have been unalterably changed. How does one maintain hope in the face of such obvious malevolence? As my philosophy professor, Joe Steinke, once said: Knowledge makes a bloody entrance. And it is easy, now, to understand why I have a closet full of Prada bags and Vera Wang shoes.

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