On Religion and Romance

Fall comes early in the Pacific Northwest, and all the swirling leaves, dropping temperatures, and drizzly mornings have put me in a romantic state of mind.  Very much reminds me of my Geoffrey–those were his moods and colours.

And I’ve also been rendered more romantic than usual by my attendance at the vow renewal of two very good friends–Ben and John Smyth/e.

I have to say, I did not head into their renewal expecting to be romanced.   The men are Puritans, and I had an admittedly prejudiced vision of what their ceremony might look like.

But it was gorgeous, as is their story, and so I thought I’d share some of it here (with their permission) in the hopes of combating my own atheist tendency to write off all things religious.  My empathy for the church-going can always use a bit of sprucing up.  If they believe in a God who brought them together, then who am I to scoff?

In any case…

It turns out that the little wooden meeting house in the Toronto countryside, where the ceremony took place, has been John’s church home for just over 200 years.  He came to Canada from England in the early 19th century looking for a new start and he was taken with the quietude of the congregation and, more particularly, with the pastor, who goes simply by Christopher.

I can see why.  Christopher, is a truly lovely man who genuinely wants everyone around him to be happy–I could tell from the moment I shook his hand.  And he is always willing to test his own faith life, and the faith of his congregation, by creating inclusive spaces for “all manner of God’s children.”

He is, in fact, a liberal puritan.  Of all possible things.

And it turns out that inclusiveness really started to define his theology when John came to his congregation–a deadly handsome single man with a household and trade, who remained single year after year after year…

A few decades in, Christopher finally asked him why, and John admitted that he didn’t think he’d make a very good husband to a woman, and that he worried for his soul should he take up with a man, even though he knew that was the way of his heart.  He asked for penance for speaking the desire aloud, poor thing.

Christopher thought about it and decided that he liked John too much to uphold teachings that would force the man to continue to live alone or live a lie.  Instead of penance, he opened counselling with John, taught him self-compassion, and after a year or two, convinced him to broach the subject with the congregation and broaden his net of empathetic friends.

About a quarter of them left.  John still feels terrible about it.

But the three quarters who stayed opened their arms to John, and apparently started trying to set him up, to his utter embarrassment.  Puritans, he says, mean very well, but have a rather indelicate handle on what it means to be gay, haha.  I can only imagine.

So, anyway, John continued on in his single ways until one afternoon service, while he was administering a reading to the congregation, Ben wandered in and sat in the back of the church, looking forlorn and tired and six different kinds of overly modern–we’re talking late 1970s/early 1980s club culture.  He refuses to show me pictures. And John ‘for some reason known only to the Lord himself…’ fell in love at first sight.

Christopher apparently saw it on his face and sent him over after the service to invite Ben to attend a picnic they had coming up.  (Oh to have been a fly on that wall.)

Ben said he might show up.

The congregation took this to mean ‘yes, I will definitely be there, and you should all match-make the dickens out of John and I because obviously I am gay, I’m wearing eye liner for crying out loud’.

So they did, haha.  The congregation spent the next few months putting the two of them together in as many situations as possible.  Ben’s demeanor softened, John grew a bit bolder, and they finally went out for supper and were Committed within a year following–recognised in the congregation as a married couple.

Both of them talk about the first five years of their marriage as a time of massive growth.  John is staunchly 17th century in manner and dress, right down to the linen shirts and antiquated language.  Ben felt very comforted by that after years of wandering around the world looking for highs.  He stepped back into ‘thee’ and ‘thou’ at home, asked John to teach him to pray again, and purified his lifestyle.  But he also needed John to work on allowing pieces of modernity into his worldview.  Agreeing to disagree on some things, qualifying the occasional bottle of wine as ‘pure enough’, attending the country dances the congregation indulged in.

Obviously, though, they made it.

Ben is still the more outgoing of the two–it was his idea to publicly celebrate their 35th this last week, exemplifying Godly love to the LGBT youth they now minister to.  John is still the stalwart–he agreed to the ceremony, but only if it was quietly incorporated into a regular Wednesday night service and congregational supper.

But the strength of their bond–the way their differences support each other–is actually rather inspiring.  As John said, ‘When I look at thee I see an exploration.  I feel it keenly both in the planning and the execution.  Thou art a vast adventure. And I want to know thee better, as I also crave thy mystery.’

And the steps they have taken to live outwardly in a faith known for its restrictions are beyond courageous.  I am in such admiration of their bravery, and of the way they have reached out to other LGBT Puritans.  Simon, in attendance at the ceremony, has an apartment, a job, and a live in boyfriend because of their work with him.  And Prid, their newest boarder, is on his way.

So, the next time I find myself rolling my eyes heavenward over some such religious nonsense or another, I will remember that there are those in the world who fiercely believe there’s something up in those heavens, and who use that belief for good.

 

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NY Ghost Fashion Week Recap

Our host is on the road again this week, so I’ve only time for a short little post.  As it turns out, though, NY Fashion Week was rather low-key this year, so I needn’t go on at length.  Here’s a brief glimpse at our fashion forays:

Wednesday, February 10:  We arrived at fashion week and walked the first of many red carpets into the event.  J insisted on taking his new teacup pig to the opening events, on a glitter leash, and I must say Earl Pink made quite the splash.  We’ve quite the reputation at this point for doing eccentric rich-people things, but with children and charm.  In fact, one blogger has dubbed us the First Family of Fashion.  I suppose one must concede to ridiculous titles where required.

Thursday, February 11: I walked for Herschel, whose line of suits this season truly soared.  All Edwardian, as per usual, but with a great deal of country flair this time in rich red tweeds and plaids.

Friday, February 12: Meetings.  All bloody day.  Marcus was approached by commercial developers from ghost Egypt. They’ve requested he open his second African store (the first being in Cape Town) and commissioned a few new Egyptian/Roman pieces from him.  Fleur and John saw to JS business interests in Europe.  I spent my afternoon with Danny networking with models and gauging interest for my services as a London-based runway coach (interest is high).  And Mira had tea with Oscar de la Renta, acting as the charming face of his line.  J spent the day with Lucas, vascillating between Marc and I, cradling Earl Pink (who also wears faerie wings), and being quite adorable.

I walked for Georgie in the early evening, and then went on a bar crawl with Richard and the cavalier crew to show off his line in lieu of a runway appearance.  The man never does anything formally when he can do things with foppery. Not that I’m complaining…

Saturday, February 13: For the first time ever, Mira and I were scheduled at near simultaneous runway shows, and on opposite sides of the fashion events.  Marcus and I fought for a different time to no avail.  So, we checked Mira into her event with Lucas and Fleur (and J, to hold her hand backstage).  Blinked across the city to begin our runway.  Blinked back for a hot second to see Mira’s opening walk (with her kitten, Cozy, on her shoulder).  Popped back over to finish our show.  Disappeared again to watch Mira’s final walk with all the fetching looks, leaving Danny and poor, puritan John to handle the first rush of post-JS show interviews.  And then finally settled in at our after party for cocktails and conversation, occasionally spiriting away to check on Mira and J, who were tucked beside Oscar and Fleur, respectively.  The children were so very good for everyone, but Marcus and I were both heartbroken at giving them up for the evening.  It might mean taking a less coveted runway time slot or stage, in the future, but we’re never going to finagle things this way again.

Sunday, February 14: Lunches, followed by our closing ceremonies.  Herschel won a very much deserved afterlifetime achievement award–he’s been designing suits for 100 years–and he was oh so shy and sweet as he accepted the accolade.  The man really is a darling.  And the Junius-Smith’s, having made out like bandits in the Spring and Fall of last year, happily cheered on our mates and well-respected acquaintances as they picked up the other awards.

And that’s about it!  Rather exhausting, but managed with success.  I am looking forward to the Fall where Marcus will debut his first haute-couture line along with his usual runway, where Fleur and I will put forward our women’s line, and where Marie shall be back on scene.  (She boycotts American events in accordance with her French Revolutionary experience.  Rather feels they should have sent a ship to aid her Queen.)

Our next big event?  Marc and I are celebrating our five-year wedding anniversary on March 19, and of course I’ll tell all about those plans in my  next post.  Fabulous to be sure.

 

 

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.

Got to See a Man about a Go-See

This last winter, one of my designers fell apart at the seams–no pun…some pun intended.

I try to keep six of them in my pocket, because I’ve determined that six is enough to keep me interested without stressing me beyond my ability to look and walk well for each.  I also try to take on jobs that allow me to stay at a consistent age and physique–as a ghost, I can shift at will as long as it’s within my realm of alively experience, or within an achievable range of new experiences as a ghost, but it does perturb the children, especially J.  And, finally, I try to take on jobs that allow me to dress for historical eras.  This might be a throwback to my time in the opera, or it might just be a personal quirk, but whatever the case, I bloody well love flouncing about in costumes from previous eras.

My current list of designers, then, fleshes out as such:

1. Marcus–JS Designs:  Of course, my husband’s line was my first sign.  I shall have to tell the story of our hiring at some point…it’s a tickler.  His clothes are angular, interested in natural materials (wood, ore, leather), and modern, although they are often inspired by his Roma and what he remembers of it.

2. Marie–Mode du Marie: Marie was my second sign. This was apparently something of a coup, although I didn’t realise it at the time, as awestruck and befuddled by everything as I was to begin.  She is the foremost designer of 18th century haute couteur and worked as an assistant to the primary dress designer of Marie Antoinette in life.  And now I traipse down the runway in her glittery creations, acting every part the courtier.  She recently collaborated with Marcus on a line of zoo animal inspired outfits.  She is also mad.  Just completely mad.  She calls her husband, “girafe.”  And she asked me at my interview to describe myself as if I were a hot air balloon.

3. Herschel–Zehr Anzuge:  Herschel signed me on my gentlemanly manner, which holds until I open my mouth and attempt to say any word starting with an “h”.  He makes suits primarily of the Edwardian era, and over the years I’ve come to front his line and print ads.  He’s a dear heart who fancies walks in nature over walks with companions.

4. David–Sliante:  David is adorable.  He’s this shy Irish bloke with an aversion to parties and shmoozing who knits all the sweaters for his line, pines after redheaded lasses, and finds the fact that I’ve gone and made him famous equal parts fantastic and frustrating.  His line is 40s/50s based.

5. Georgie–Regencies:  Georgie is posh, flippant, and something between a dandy and a Corinthian.  He found me in my second year of modelling and snatched me up before my contracts became…absurd.  I love walking for him, as he usually picks natural, wild, forlorn sorts of settings and encourages both Byronic attitude, as well as Byronic attendance–his audiences are overwraught, as are his partners of both sexes.  It’s all rather brilliant, haha.

So, now I find myself in the position of contracting a sixth designer.

This is a bit of a dilemma for a number of reasons.

First, I’m embarassed to say, I have to find someone who can afford me.  I don’t controul my own contracts yet–that happens next year, at which point I plan on taking on brand new designers for next to nothing with the intention of launching their lines.  But for now AMMA tells designers how much they must pay me, and it’s exorbitant and horrid.

Second, I have to find someone in whose line I “fit” as it were.  I need it to be a line in which I can believe, as well as a line in which I dress well.  And I also wish very much to work with other fun blokes who enjoy what they do but don’t take it too seriously.  The sorts who will go out for a beer after wrap and not fret the whole time over calories.

Just these two stipulations narrow my options, considerably.  In fact, I came up with five options:  Medieval, Renaissance, Cavalier, Victorian, or a second modern line.

The second modern line is right out.  I decided rather quickly that I’d rather Marc occupy that spot on his own.  Then I tossed out Victorian because even well tailored Victorian has a tendency toward frumpy, as Marcus discovered when he took in a number of my own jackets for daily wear.  I ruled out the Medieval after some debate because the clothes are just a bit shapeless, as well, and the blokes on the current line rather serious.

So that left Cavalier or Renaissance.  Both sets of models for these lines are deliciously hilarious and handsome, and the clothes are equally gorgeous.  So, I procured some looks from each and tried them on at home to see how Marcus responded, as I also like to look well for him.  He appreciated the Renaissance, but the Cavalier duds inspired a rather wolfish grin, and so that settled it.

https://veronica12aslvillegas.files.wordpress.com/2011/10/095.jpg?w=519&h=388

Me.

 

Nearly.

I had one further person with whom I had to clear the decision–Marc’s assistant designer and junior partner in JS Designs, John Smythe.

John, you see, is a Puritan.

https://i1.wp.com/www.kingsacademy.com/mhodges/04_American-Government/01_Colonial-Foundations/pictures/WIK_The-1st-Thanksgiving_Brownscombe.jpg

John.

 

I know what you might be thinking–but he works in fashion and with Marc of all people.  How does he handle the constant allusions to battle and sex and paganism and sexy pagan battles??

Well, it turns out that John is such a phenomenal craftsman and truly good person that Marc keeps it all toned down for his benefit.  And it also turns out that John is a rather progressive Puritan–he still uses antiquated speech and dresses quite simply (loose white shirts, khaki capris with lots of hooks for tools, and tall boots) but he also enjoys seeing his visions play out on the runway, giving away the money his leather-work brings in, and living in some comfort with his husband, Benjamin, also a Puritan.  I’ve also heard him drop the F-bomb.  Granted it flew out of his mouth when he was nearly hit by a car, and he submitted to a week of penance over the whole deal, but he still said it.

Anyway, Puritans and Cavaliers are like water and oil, and I very much didn’t want to offend him with my choice, even if it is just a playful one. So, I went to ask him his permission.

He gave me a very tight lipped once over and said, “Do what you wilt.”  And then a bit more kindly he added, “Thou art a good man.  Clothing is but clothing, after all.”

I nodded and said, yes, it’s all just a bit of fun.

This concerned him.  Fun.  How suspicious.  So he added, “But as thou partake of fun, do be wary.  Thou shouldst take care not to let the Cavalier ways of mind and manners of person affect thee.  They are a lascivious lot.”

And I said, John, darling, the H.M.S. Lascivious set sail years ago.  Which got another tight-lipped once over with a bit of a wince thrown in, but he just shook his head and waved me off.  “Go and have thine…fun” he says.

(I desperately want to play “Cards Against Humanity” with him.)

In any case, now all that’s left is to sign with my new designer–Rrrrrrichard–and then it’ll be mustard coats and armoured breast plates and a vast number of boots.

Boots everywhere.

Quite looking forward to it.