Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Guilty Pleasures

I have a friend called Chanel No.5. Obviously that’s not her real name but if I did tell you her real name I would probably have to kill you. I’ve known this lady for about 4 years. I’m calling her Chanel No. 5 because I suspect she owns 5 pieces of Chanel. There’s at least four that I know about.

Before you make any assumptions, here are four interesting facts about Chanel No. 5.

1.) She has a variety of piercings including her tongue and the back of her neck.
2.) She has climbed Kilimanjaro
3.) She rides a scooter
4.) She doesn’t have a TV

Now try to find a box that she fits in.

Once, not long after we’d met, I asked her what she was doing at the weekend. She replied that she was getting married. Just like that. No fuss, no going on and on and on about her dress and her wedding colour scheme and her cake and her fucking petal-throwing page boys. She just did it.

I’ve never been a labels girl. I don’t buy into that crap that just because my chest has the words Calvin Klein written on it that that somehow makes me a more fashionable or more interesting person. In fact if anything, designer T-shirts make you look even more deprived than you actually are. Designer T-shirts were surely invented for those who couldn’t afford the actual label but wanted to align themselves with those that could. Now, of course there are hundreds of kids called Chanel, Gucci and Prada scampering around council estates and I have first hand evidence from the woman who registered my son’s birth, that there is a boy called Rolex and twins called Dolce and Gabbana running around this planet. I kid you not.

Anyway, I’m straying from the point. Despite my dislike of labels, there’s something about Chanel that does it for me. It conjures up a time when a woman never left the house without wearing her hat and gloves, and the world was full of debutantes and dance cards and perfectly coiffured ladies who wore pearls in the day and who never wore diamonds before 7pm. I’m a sucker for a bit of old world glamour. So, I admit it. It’s my guilty desire to own a Chanel handbag.

Years ago, I was in a lift with an ordinary looking woman and glinting under the strip light, tucked under her arm, was her little black Chanel handbag. I was at the same time envious and disgusted. I wanted it but I realised how guilty I would feel walking around with it. Yes, that’s right; I have a serious case of middle class guilt. Middle class guilt and Chanel meet regularly for tussles within me.

Chanel No. 5 is a bit like the lift woman. She is well dressed, in an understated way; but if you look very closely you will see a glinting gem here and there. I drool over her collection of handbags and when I peek under the restaurant table I see a pair of patent YSL’s twinkling away at me; the little minx.

Chanel No. 5 doesn’t want any children. I never put myself at that end of the spectrum, but couldn’t help agreeing with her when she moaned about the driven, career-minded women she knew, who all of sudden became mothers, moved to the suburbs and started baking cherry tarts.

When my son was born she came to the house and gave me some exquisite Italian biscuits but only if I promised not to make her hold the baby. I wasn’t offended at all. I thought it was hilarious.

About once a month I have dinner or drinks with Chanel No. 5 and another friend, Helena Rubenstein. Last time we met up Chanel No. 5 was telling me a story about a friend whose son had just learned to walk. My face softened, I went all gooey and I pulled a 'Mum' face. It was instinctive. I could feel myself doing it but it was over before I could think to stop.

“I can’t believe you just did that!” she said to me, truly shocked.

“What’s happened to you?”

I didn’t have an answer for that one. I barely knew myself.

Chanel No. 5 is my regulator. She reminds me of how I used to be. She stops me from moving to the suburbs and baking cherry tarts and when I’m with her I can put aside my child, and my middle class guilt, and covet her Chanel.

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