I check my look in the mirror
I wanna change my clothes, my hair, my face.
— Bruce Springsteen, Dancing in the Dark
Ever since that song was first released, I have been puzzled. I can understand Bruce changing his clothes and his hair; the Jersey Boy look can be sexy if you have an eye for what old school queens call “rough trade,” but it’s never stylish, and in the 80s the clothes and the hair from the Swamps Beyond The Bridge and Tunnels were almost as bad as they are now, as showcased on The Show That Cannot Be Mentioned on MTV. But why would a man as handsome as Bruce Springsteen want to change his face? After all, a man’s face is something that should not be changed by anything other than time. For the fair sex, it’s as my former lover Daniel, the Giant Spanker of Celebrities, used to say: “Every vooman has a second face. It’s called make-up.”
All I can think is that some irate ex-girlfriend of Spingsteen’s must have screamed the truth about his one facial imperfection during a heated smack-down Jersey-style breakup moment: “So you think you’re fuckin’ sexy, huh? So does half the fuckin’ world! But let me tell you something. Do you have any fuckin’ idea how fuckin’ difficult it is to kiss a guy with an underbite? Huh? You practically have to hang upside down like a bat to do it properly. And I’m sick of it! I’m outta here!” Which led Bruce to sit down and pen that song. From then on, if he was going to dance, it would be in the dark so that no one could look at his underbite, which is a pity because it’s the key to his sexiness.
At the risk of being hauled up for cyber bullying with my relentless pursuit of Galliano, this post does pick up from the earlier pieces about him not just because of the work John has had done to his face, but because he’s got me thinking about my play Hatter and narcissism. What makes anyone take a look in the mirror and not just want to change his clothes, his hair, his face, but take a scalpel to it and rearrange as much of it as he can afford?
Hatter is an extended riff on the Mad Tea Party, in which the Mad Hatter is now Matt Hatter, the Galliano/McQueen/Tom Ford rock-star fashion designer character, and Alice is a fashion journalist who has the goods on him. One of the tropes I carry over from Alice in Wonderland is the looking glass, the mirror, how people perceive themselves. The fashion designer, I state in the play, is the mirror that people hold up to themselves: he tells you how to dress, what you look better in, who you are going to be today.
I stumbled on the notion of the fashion designer-as-looking glass when I was writing the piece. Actually, I stumbled on quite a few things when I was writing it, both intellectually and physically, but I’ll expound more about that when we get closer to production and I shed my inhibitions. It wasn’t until I was living with a philosophy professor a couple of years later that I realized that this notion of the exterior world being a mirror of the self, in particular the libidinous self, is central to the teaching of modern French philosopher Jacques Lacan. Basically, Lacan’s mirror stage, “typifies an essential libidinal relationship with the body image.” I’ll leave it there and let you follow the Cliff Notes on Jacques Lacan via my Wikipedia links if you’re interested. I need to keep this blog as light and fluffy as a Galliano tulle gown if I’m going to keep my readers, i.e., the fashion folk and the Amanda Seyfried breast-loving pervs, happy.
Narcissism, as I discovered during an extended “spack out” I had in London over the fall/winter 2008-09 season, isn’t the same as having a dollop of normal vanity combined with healthy self-confidence. The cause of said spack out, as the British call flipping out, was that I was taking the oncoming Recession personally. It had to be my fault that everything was collapsing around me, only I was to blame that a trillion dollars of wealth had vanished, leaving the indie film business — never exactly a booming, flush industry to begin with — with nothing in the collective bank. See, we rely on the discretionary capital of high-net-worth individuals to close most independent film deals, and suddenly there was nothing left, nothing was moving forward, and we were all tumbling towards nothingness. In good ol’ Anglo-Australian-American fashion, I saw this as entirely my doing: my small overdraft at the bank had collapsed the world economy in a butterfly effect. That had to be it because I was raised to believe that had to be it; all problems in our lives are our fault, aren’t they? And the only possible explanation for this colossal, recession-causing fault of mine was that I had a major personality disorder.
So I hopped onto Our Lord Google, Omniscient God of Everything and Everything Else, and scoured directories on mental illness, the DSM IV, the WikiWonderWorks, you name it. Then I found the cause of it all: Narcissism Personality Disorder, a.k.a. NPD. That was me. It spoke to me, it rang true. Years of running from the horrible truth were over.
But a blind test was in order. I needed proof before I committed myself to an institution, and if not an institution then to intensive outpatient psychiatric care courtesy Her Majesty’s NHS.
I printed out a list of the symptoms without a heading or an explanation and handed them with great drama and flourish to the aforementioned philosophy professor, who shared my bed and knew me best. “Read this, Jonathan. And tell me who this reminds you of.”
Jonathan read. “I dunno, who does it remind me of?”
“Oh, come on. You mean I don’t have even one of these characteristics?”
“Not really. No.”
I was crushed. I needed not one, but at least five to be considered an NPD. But there was still hope: why should I believe the one person that I had purposely brought into my life to convince me I was sane and wonderful when I clearly wasn’t? Just having Jonathan around was part of the pathology of my NPD. Luckily, our friend Helen, a psychologist and social worker who spent her days “sectioning” people, which is the British equivalent of forcibly committing people to mental institutions, came over for a cup of tea and a “rollie.” Helen is a great character: soothing alto voice, big Amy Winehouse black bouffant, fifties glasses, bright red lipstick.
“Go on, Jonathan, tell her,” I said.
“James thinks he’s a narcissist,” Jonathan said.
“And he doesn’t believe me,” I added.
“You’re not a narcissist, darling,” Helen said with calm authority while she finished rolling her cigarette. “You’re just an American.”
In the end, Jonathan and Helen and Mayoclinic.com convinced me I didn’t have NPD nor any major personality disorder. All I have is somewhat elevated levels of vanity by British standards, but relatively normal levels of it for an American. And just because most hours of the day I tend to be preternaturally confident when many people around me aren’t, doesn’t make me a narcissist.
True narcissists are delusional. When I say that there are a lot of narcissists around here, it’s because Hollywood attracts people who really do have NPD. It’s what makes this “Hollyweird.” Like all completely or partially insane people, their inner Lacanian mirrors are cracked or warped, as I believe Galliano’s might be, even though it would be up to his shrink to diagnose him, not some blogist who caused him to be spanked one night seven years ago in Paris.
Having said all that, it’s time for me to admit I don’t really fancy myself the gay Hugh Hefner, as I’ve stated in earlier postings. It just sounded sensational. I’m not even sure I like his baby oil regimen, which I was inspired to try after that NY Times article about him; I feel more leathery, not less. Actually, I feel parchmenty.
What I really delude myself as being is the gay George Clooney. This is not just because both he and I are getting sexier as we get older; although, truth be told, anything is sexier than when I was a tall, lanky, out-of-shape youngster. The main reason I am the gay Clooney is because we both have the same drooping wattle folds between our chins and necks. I noticed his the other day while watching The American. I am a bit younger than Clooney, so I just have one wattle, which is starting to come in like a wisdom tooth. No doubt it will be joined by another soon, and I’ll be more like Clooney than ever. They’ll be my wisdom wattles.
I don’t know if Clooney does anything to his face, if he botoxes or fills in wrinkles. I don’t intend to, even though my sister thinks I should inject something in the accordion action happening around my neck. Nah. Just cover the mirrors, people, cos I’m going out like Eastwood, making movies and lookin’ like a Shar Pei puppy.
I shall leave you today not with a celebrity tit picture, we’ve moved on from those, but with a joke a young friend just shared with me via text.
Question: If Marilyn Monroe were alive right now, what would she be doing?
Answer: Clawing at her coffin.
Apparently that is from Chuck Palahniuk.
Hi, my dear. A couple of things…
Bruce Springsteen was never really handsome and I agree that it is never acceptable for a man to wear a bandanna around his head.
I just realized that the Dior haute couture show, inspired by the 50s French fashion illustrator Rene Gruau, that I raved about for weeks was, in fact, credited to that Galliano mess and I’m just sick about it. What are we to do when the things we love have been created by horrid people? It happens more than we’d like to admit!
Finally, I have Narcissistic Personality Disorder and just love it! How else would I look so good all the time? Luckily, I was born in Libra with Leo rising so I was already there on Day One.
Keep up the good work, my dear!
Bah, you just think you’re got NPD. Don’t flatter yourself. Just because you live in Hollywood …
Love the part about Springsteen!
Thanks. I was hoping I could find another more savory celebrity to pick on other than Galliano. Looks like I’ve found him. The best thing is, Bruce is very difficult to pick on, makes it a real challenge.
*removing bandana, pretending I’m not from New Jersey*
Uh, yeah. Those bandanas are stupid. Shaw-right. Like I’d wear one.
If I’d known you were going to do a post on narcissism, I would have put you in touch with my ex-girlfriend. She is an expert on the topic without realizing it. She walks the Earth today for two reasons:
1. I have self-restraint, unlike her
2. I’ve seen shows about what it’s like to spend life in prison for murdering your girlfriend.
But the real, meaningful reason I am compelled to leave a comment is in response to your concerns about Bruce’s underbite causing kissing problems. The solution: Freddy Mercury. Huge overbite. Bruce and Freddy’s faces would fit together like one of those pictures that’s either a wine glass or a man and woman kissing. Just goes to show you that the fates are cruel, not letting Freddy and Bruce be soul mates.
Extremely well observed, as usual, OA. But you really haven’t lived until you’ve dated a schizophrenic. That’s a barrel of laughs, especially when God starts dictating the terms of your relationship to him while he’s driving on the 101. And not only dictating, but inspiring him enough to put it in psalm format. Oh, and the Evil-o-meter. Measures how much of the devil people have in them, don’t you know. All true paranoid schizos are equipped with them. Sort of like that Scientology E-meter, but invisible.
I’ve dated a manic depressive, but that doesn’t involve dealing with a third party in the form of an order-giving deity. Of course, the narcissist was her own deity…
I forgot to add before that Chuck Palahniuk can’t take credit for that joke, which has been kicking around since the 1970s at least. I first heard it in reference to a news reporter who died in a car accident.
Ah, good re Palahniuk. Never like to give credit to other writers even when it is due.