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September 2011

Portrait of a Lady

“If you had one shot… Would you capture it or just let it slip? Yo.” – Eminem

Only five more days until my professional photo-shoot. I’m very excited. The last time I had a “formal” photograph taken was at The Elvis Chapel in Vegas wearing a Priscilla wig, a rhinestone dress, and working a twenty- foot veil. (This may give you a sense of my understanding of the word “formal.”)

For the book jacket I need something completely different; an image that conveys ebullience, vivacity, and a degree of gravitas; I’m thinking Tina Fey crossed with Whoopi Goldberg with a smidge of Ellen DeGeneres.

I was also thinking that framing would be important, chin on elbow, head cocked to one side sitting at my Louis XVI secretaire replete with old fashioned roses, coffee table books, and the Annie Leibovitz photographs of my kids.

At least that was what I was thinking until I turned my attention to the Fiction Studio house style. Close examination revealed that something approximating a holiday postage stamp is what is actually required; a tiny image barely visible to the naked eye. I looked at other imprints and even Lauren Weisberger, she of The Devil Wears Prada, barely has room to breathe on her photograph.

I was channeling Shania Twain, thinking I’d need these photographs for the posters in Borders’ window and for the side of the bus when we’re doing big city tours and for display on easels at Hollywood book parties. I felt deflated. Borders has gone into liquidation, and I don’t own a bus.

What would Kim Kardashian have done? Would she have lowered her expectations, packed away her Agent Provocateur, and bought a white shirt? I don’t think so. Would Victoria Beckham settle for anything less than a tuxedo and her Yves St Laurent platforms? Of course not. Even a head and shoulders shot starts with the shoes, which is why next Thursday there will be Veuve Cliquot, and dips, and clothes rails, and makeup, and runners, and stylists, and shots at sunset on the beach in Malibu.


schooluniformsSt. Pancras reminded Margaret of infinity. “Howards End.” E.M. Forster.

Every so often I feel the need to go to Loehmann’s. This is not simply an impulse to shop, it is much more specific than that. It is an impulse to shop at Loehmann’s.

Loehmann’s allows the possibility of reinvention, infinite possibilities – a jumble of personalities. The possibility that maybe today I will emerge with a whole new persona. Maybe today I will come to understand the batwing sleeve and learn to love color. Maybe…

I blame having to wear school uniform from the age of three for a lot of my obsession with clothes. Yes I know a three year old looks beyond cute in a panama hat, plaid skirt, navy sweater, oversized blazer and ankle socks but take it from me, she doesn’t ‘feel’ cute. She feels like that mushy bit of avocado inside a BLT sandwich; invisible, squashed. Fast -forward fifteen years and picture that same girl decked out in exactly the same outfit, (in a bigger size obviously.) This is a total of eighteen years; approximately four thousand five hundred days of her life wearing navy blue. It’s a criminal thing to do to a kid. It’s an appalling thing to do to a teenager.

And then you are hurled out into the world. Clueless. At this point you may be thinking ‘but didn’t you have weekends? Parties to go to?’ Well first, I allowed for holidays in my calculations; four thousand five hundred days over eighteen years was based on two hundred and fifty days not the three hundred and sixty days that are in a year, which times eighteen years comes out at…well…a lot…which is always the right answer when you have to do a hard mental -arithmetic sum. Second, all of the weekend activities involved wearing other equally predictable uniforms, sometimes made out of even more synthetic materials.

So, flung out into the world with no sense of how to pull it together, you start looking for clues. Nobody escapes your scrutiny and then you realize you can’t afford the ‘look’ and thus, an obsession is born and along the way you discover discount shopping and the rest is history. Would that it were as simple as that. It’s not. You seek out ‘the look,’ you find it, you buy it and then when you put it on it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s not ‘ you.’ Then you go on a very long process and discover that you only feel like ‘ you’ when you’re wearing a blazer and navy blue (go figure.) But you HATE blazers and navy blue and begin to realize that the grown ups who are voluntarily wearing navy blue blazers are not your tribe and so… you seek out the ‘ the look,’ you find it, you buy it and when you put it on it doesn’t feel quite right. It’s not ‘you’ after all and the other people who are wearing skirts with mirrors and fringed handbags and tribal bracelets are not your tribe either…and so you seek out ‘ the look’… I think you know where I’m going with this. Frankly, like any obsession it’s exhausting.

I think I told you that my novel (yes MY NOVEL,) “ India’s Summer” will be published soon (yes PUBLISHED.) I only need a head and shoulders shot for the book jacket. Now you would think that would be simple but not so. I refer you to the words ‘head’ and ‘shoulders.’ This could involve a hat. This could involve a jacket. It may involve a manicured hand, maybe earrings. Infinite possibilities. This will definitely involve Loehmann’s.


My exit from Vincente’s last night was unusual even by my standards. This was the first time that I had ever done a handstand on the way out of a restaurant. This was also the first time I’d had dinner with Bart Conner and his lovely wife, Nadia Comaneci. Why I felt the urge to share my extremely limited gymnastic ability with two Olympic champions I don’t quite remember. What I do remember is feeling a great sense of security knowing that if I fell, the only American in history to have won gold medals in every category was there to catch me.

This moment has been forever captured in a single photograph. Actually it was my second moment. I performed this feat again, for the camera, because my husband, stunned by the sudden execution of my ‘Perfect Ten’ had not reached for his Blackberry. This in itself is less common than my lack of dignity at the end of a night out.

Generally, if you can’t do something in high heels I’m not interested. And until now I had no idea that I had such a competitive streak. When we have dinner with musicians and actors, I don’t get the urge to break into song or do impersonations.

I like this photograph a great deal. Turns out my stomach looks a lot more toned when I’m upside down. Let’s face it, after a certain age it’s all about gravity and I mean that in a literal sense obviously as ‘ gravitas’ is a state of being which escapes me most of the time.

PS. Bart said that we can work on cartwheels next time.