Did you read Fran Lebowitz’ recent interview about style with Kathleen Hale of Elle.com?
I dug into it with an eager curiosity that, much to my surprise, slowly morphed into a labored sense of dread. Lebowitz may be an ingenious writer, speaker and social critic at times, but I found this particular interview tiresome and unfunny. My takeway wasn’t a newfound aversion to platform sandals or men in shorts (two things she explains she vehemently abhors), but a sparkly new example of how I don’t want to age.
The interview pokes the beast that is Lebowitz’ longheld view on how people should and shouldn’t dress. I think her opinions were meant to come off as cheeky, wise, and a little controversial, but instead they come off crotchety and irrelevant.
A few examples:
“That’s what young people want: $2 T shirts that fall apart in the wash.”
“American women think that clothes fit them if they can fit into them. But that’s not at all what fit means.”
“People care more about trends now than they do about style. They get so wrapped up in what’s happening that they forget how to dress, and they never learn who they are because they never learn how to take care of anything.”
Can we agree right now that it’s a little dangerous to start sentences with:
“Young people want…”
“American women think…”
“People care about…”
Her assumptions spare no human.
Hyperbole aside, I get her point. And it’s not that I don’t see the benefit of buying fewer, more timeless pieces to be tailored and properly kept forever – but her failing to see the merit in any other way of living discredits her point, not to mention is likely causing her more internal frustration than it is inspiring a lick of cultural change. Such a narrow diatribe doesn’t open people’s minds, it just closes hers off.
People can wax poetic all they want, for instance, about the weighty satisfaction of a good solid book in their hands, the smell of the paper, the significance of turning that final page, but the validity (or even truth) to that statement will never change the fact that e-readers can enhance the reading experience in new and different ways. Digging your heels into the ground and denying that fact – or worse, taking an us vs them position – doesn’t incite a worthy debate as much as it isolates you and your enjoyment of the world.
The ineffectiveness of vigorously shunning what’s new has been duly recorded in history books but so many older people fall into this trap. Pleeeeease let this serve as a wake-up call to my future self. I’m sure I will begrudge a lot of the changes to come – but I hope I remember that people stop listening as soon as you put “your time” on a pedestal.
What really gets my goat are her complaints about Young People. That is capital Y capital P because they are just one collective body with one common way of thinking and being. She takes the tired stance that Young People categorically never look outside of themselves and their time.
“If you’re 18 right now, you think you invented platform shoes. You think you’re doing something new. You think you’ve invented something so ugly that it’s beautiful.
“When we were young, we knew things. We knew basic history, even as it related to fashion. Now, when something reappears, an 18 year old has no clue that it’s a revival. Despite the fact that they’re almost always online they don’t get references.”
What?! I honestly think she just made that up to be angry about something. What 18-year-old doesn’t understand, at least on a basic level, that fashion is cyclical? I promise you, Fran, 18-year-olds have brains and many of them are capable of critical thinking. Just because certain people embrace progress doesn’t make them incapable of understanding what parts of that progress aren’t working. This may be an aggressive analogy but I feel a bit like I’m watching Fox News. Baseless assumptions for the sake of shaking her fist at kids these days.
Her comments in some places skew so ludicrous they tip into pure entertainment territory.
“Men never wore shorts when I was young. There are few things I would rather see less, to tell you the truth. I’d just as soon see someone coming toward me with a hand grenade.”
“…more people should wear overcoats than those damned down jackets. Please. Are you skiing, or are you walking across the street? If you’re not an arctic explorer, dress like a human being.”
You seriously just sound crazy at this point. And mean:
“So if you’re naturally beautiful, wear what you want, but that’s .01% of people. Most people just aren’t good looking enough to wear what they have on. They should change. They should get some slacks and a nice overcoat.”
“On the one hand I think it’s hilarious that so many people think they look fantastic, because they’re wearing clothes that you should only wear if you look fantastic.”
“Drag queens know how to wear clothes. Can you imagine if women tried as hard as drag queens? We’d be a much more attractive culture.”
Yes please! Can we go back to the 1950’s when physical standards for women were widely based on looking perfect and pleasing men? I would love to get back to that!
It’s too bad she took this overly-assumptive angle. If she’d given her ideas a more level-headed slant, I might have really soaked them in rather than disregarded them with a chuckle.
She’s 100% entitled to her own point of view and 100% entitled to share it with the world, but the narrow-minded philosophy she’s touting is not for me. It hasn’t so much incited anger or offense in me as it’s further instilled my distaste for this particular brand of aging.
I hope I never forget that young people are capable of critical thinking. That a new way doesn’t always imply that the old way is wrong or bad, and vice versa. I hope I can learn to live by Amy Poehler’s feminist motto: good for her, not for me.
And at the very least, I hope we can all agree that Amy Poehler is a queen.