A Lighthearted Ode to *My* Queen

Dear Queen Victoria,

I regret to inform you that as of the 9th of September, 2015, you were surpassed by your great-great granddaughter as the longest reigning monarch.

I know…I know how much you loved titles. And in comparison to your ill-advised tenure as the Empress of India, this was a rather innocuous one for you to hold. So, in light of the distress which you would likely feel upon this loss, I would like to offer up the following ten reasons–in no particular order–that you shall always be my Queen.

  ***

1. When Marion and I married in 1837, she wore a white and cream gown with a red sash. When you wore a white gown at your own wedding a few years on, it made Marion look like a serious trendsetter and she garnered a full season of attention as a fashionista. We both pretended not to care. We cared. It was smashing. Thanks for the white dress.

2. Furthermore, your wedding brought Prince Albert to England. I’m sure you’d roll over in your grave to know what a service that was to gay blokes all across the isle, but thanks for that, too.

3. You cared, in your own royal way, about the poor. Much obliged.

4. You helped pave the way for companionate marriage. No one ever doubted you loved Albert or that he loved you, and the affection you showed each other served as an example to multiple couples I knew. And it made Marion and I (#lovebirdsforlife) look a little less odd.

5. You put the country back in the hands of an intelligent woman, which has always worked well for England. That in and of itself…brilliant. (In fact, I recall quite clearly the early morning cannons announcing the death of the King. Marion sat up in bed, perfectly still, and whispered, “Elliot, the King has died.” Then she sighed and turned her face to the ceiling. “Thank god there’s a woman back on the throne. I shall sleep more soundly.”)

6. You celebrated advances in the arts, literature, and medicine, along with Albert, who threw us that fantastic Crystal Palace Exhibition. Watching the royal family care so deeply about education was a balm to my son who been often bullied for his intelligence. No one can argue with “Victoria and Albert like science, too!” and for that I am deeply indebted.

7. You were also a balm for my incredibly outspoken, incredibly short wife.

8. You supported and fostered the careers of Mendelssohn and Tennyson, two of my absolutely favourite creatives.

9. You irritated my mate Paul.

10. I don’t care what people say. Surviving as long as you did in the age of cholera, dysentery, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and wicked difficult childbirth is a true achievement, and by god, I think that adds an honorary five years to your reign. (To be extended should Elizabeth make it another five years…)

***

Signed, Your Obedient Servant, Etc.,

EJS

Back to Work?

If there’s one thing that positively guts me, it’s change.  I can handle about two changes at a time, and anything more than that leaves me morose and exhausted–hence the late post.  It’s not a particularly charming personality trait, but there it is.

As it just so happens, there are approximately 6,000 changes in progress at AMMA, and, therefore, going back to work this week was quite difficult.

Primarily, I’m dealing with the burden, if you ask me, opportunity, if you ask Marc, of releasing my contract.  This is the four year contract I signed when I started at AMMA in 2011, and it has been nothing but gloriously comfortable and productive.  The fine print never came back to bite me, the staff writing position was never arduous, the ensemble modelling was terribly fun, and having AMMA on my side in negotiations with high-fashion runway folks was not only a relief but utterly necessary.

Now I’m being told–in the most complimentary fashion, I’m assured–that I’m too recognisable for ensemble work, too adroit for staff writing positions, and too independently successful to continue with agency representation.

I know.  I know it’s ridiculous to complain about such things, I do.  I’ve made good on my responsibilities, garnered opportunities, and become more coveted than I ever thought possible, and I should strike out on my own.  But I’ll be damned if I’m not just miserable over the idea of leaving AMMA.  They’ve been so wonderful, and I feel so ungrateful.

I expressed this opinion to Robert–CEO, general hardass, and good friend–and after he was finished calling me a number of rather unseemly things and raking me over the coals for naivety, he admitted he was happy to hear that they would be missed and that he’d keep me if he could.  But he had to stand by his decision.  I’ve done more than enough for the company.  I have outgrown the contract. He will not be setting me up with a new one.  It’s for my own good.

Recognising that I was pretty torn up about the whole thing, even if I was attempting a brave face, Marcus took me out to supper on Friday night.  We went to our favourite spot–a tiny Indian restaurant draped in silks and smothered in pillows–and sat in our favourite corner booth.  At the end of supper he folded his napkin and said, “Do non be mad.”  Then he pulled a key out of his pocket and slid it across the table to me.

As it turns out, Marcus, who has always been more of a shrewd and independent businessman than I, saw this contract release a mile away.  And since he had planned to give up his own contract when it expired due to personal and creative differences with the editorial board he secretly purchased new offices two years ago.

That’s right, he had decided to move out of AMMA and across the street into a three flat brownstone two years ago.

I was mad.  Then I was grateful.  Then I was mad that I was grateful.

Then I saw the look on his face, and I knew exactly what he was thinking.  I realised that it was actually a rather big deal for Marcus to recognize that he had trespassed on my autonomy, rather than thinking that he was a 100% unproblematic white knight and know-it-all.  In general, high-ranking priest/official/judge/generals of Ancient Rome were not taught to be apologetic.  And there he was looking apologetic.

It didn’t fix everything but it sure as hell helped…

So, we grabbed a bottle of Bordeaux to go and visited our new offices, wandering around together hand in hand while he explained his thought process and talked about the design plan that has been rattling around in his brain for two years.

Namely, I get the garden and the second floor of the brownstone for whatever fashion needs I have.  I can have an office with a window, or I can burrow into the back corner of the semi-basement and surround myself with books and lanterns, whatever I like.  From those spaces I can sell individual pieces of writing to AMMA as a guest contributor, I can schedule and spread my time more evenly among my high-fashion designers and participate more fully in their businesses, and I can hire myself out as a consultant and runway coach.

The main floor and the top floor, then, are Marc’s, with a flagship haute-couture boutique and tailoring suite on the main and a facsimile of his AMMA offices on the third in addition to a conference room.

Furthermore, I get to keep my staff.  My personal assistant, Danny, is coming with me, as is his new assistant Lucas.  That looks terribly extravagant in writing.  What it really boils down to is that Danny and his husband want to become foster parents and so he hired someone to answer the phones and make the copies so that he can focus on the more complex tasks from home with a baby on his knee.

Marc’s staff is coming, too: his wildly, joyfully aggressive PA, Fleur; his studious artisan of a first assistant and junior partner, John.

Conversations about changes we might make to his plan (which is, admittedly, a great one) turned into conversations about the opportunities the place might offer us.  And those conversations turned into reflections on how it really is rather swell to be able to share your work with your spouse…with minimal bloodshed…and won’t it be grand to go into work next week in our own JS Designs headquarters, to have the kids with us at work whenever we want, and to launch whatever comes next for us from a place of full independence.

And, yes, it will be grand.  A bit scary.  But grand.