I woke this morning to a cold draft coming in around the edges of the window glass, and snow collecting in the street. I watched it for a bit, strangely dizzy. It occurred to me eventually that this might be because, since I went out a few nights ago, I've had toast with cream cheese and jam, four crab rangoons, most of a bag of miniature peanut butter cups, one sandwich, a prodigious amount of flavored vitamin water, and a quantity of various drugs, for both medicinal and recreational purposes. I went grocery shopping the other day, and then didn't eat any of it.

I'm debating whether I should fix this or not. A few days won't kill me, and I feel sick right now, not hungry. I haven't bothered to put my glasses on. There's a fine wash of film grain over the world. The Winamp visualizer and the winter outside seem equally real. The wind whisks ice crystals off the roof next door, and goosebumps curl across my back in sympathy.

I have to make something for Jazmin's dinner, in any case. At least I'm not crying.

[Edit: Made a sandwich. Didn't help. Also, ended up crying.]

I wrote a while ago about my intellectual heritage, about Oliver Sacks and Douglas Hofstadter and Richard Feynman, and everywhere they came from. The art side of things -- the flip side, if you can separate them; I can't -- is another interesting tangle. It's not quite a case of 'all roads lead to Rome Bowie,' but it's close.

I have always loved things that were a welter of complicated detail. I work best if I'm given as much data as possible to just stare at until patterns emerge. Art and clothing, for me, are no different. My mother was never a particular fan of glam rock, but she did like dirty-girl dance pop. I used to stare at the chiaroscuro of Madonna's album covers, self-titled and Like A Virgin, and follow the web of tousled hair and laces and chains. Or the shoulder details and steel accents of Janet Jackson's Rhythm Nation. I was too young to understand the sexual connotations of any of it -- I knew all the words to "Like A Virgin" before I had any idea what they meant -- but I liked the careful complexity of their looks.

And from the moment I was allowed to choose my own clothes, I dressed accordingly. I like hats. I like jewelry. I like eye-popping colors. My mother is also not a very large human, and by the time I hit eleven or twelve, I was tall enough and had big enough feet to steal all the fancy clothes she didn't wear anymore. Her taste is very different than mine, but I nicked all the bits I liked -- black with accents, sequins, soft rayons, jewel tones, high-heeled shoes.

It was not always necessarily a good idea. At the end of fifth grade, my sister and I were bullied out of our K-8 elementary school. It took our parents most of a year to shout the administration into letting us transfer to a new one. In an effort to make me less of a target, my mother attempted to lay down a new rule: I was not allowed to wear any of my long patterned skirts, or some of the fancier shoes, to school anymore.

It didn't work. The first time someone else took me clothes shopping, I came back with faux-silk blouses and a pair of bright purple jeans. By high school, my mother decided to cut her losses and stopped commenting on anything that wouldn't get me sent home for dress code violations. I bought suits and tiny black corduroy dresses that zipped up the front, and cropped motorcycle jackets with matching tiny skirts.

I had scoop-necked lace bodysuits and cropped angora sweaters. I owned a form-fitting maroon dress with a Mandarin collar that got me hit on by a lot of guys in the mall who did not realize I was a teenager. I tell people I have looked basically like this since I was fourteen, and I am not kidding. I stole a pair of black suede stiletto ankle boots from my mother -- actual stilettos, with a steel spike in the heel, and a decorative buckled strap across the instep -- and wore them until they died. If you want to see it in action, a pop singer named Charli XCX has stolen a large portion of my wardrobe from about 1996-9 inclusive.

I only became more enthusiastic when I hit my late teens-early twenties, and started hanging out with the anime nerds. I discovered visual kei. The lush, complicated costuming and painted androgyny came first to heavy metal through a band called X Japan, who mainly got it from KISS, It spread then as a "visual style" through Goth rock, manga/anime, fashion boutiques, and back to pop.

There are loads of them now. One is a musician who goes by the name of Gackt (above, with X Japan), who appears to be absolutely immune to both aging and taking anything seriously. Miyavi, among others, carries on in the same vein, and over in Europe, kids like Tokio Hotel -- mainly the Kaulitz twins, and mainly Bill -- have taken up the banner.

It wasn't until I started poking around the history, trying to figure out where all of this came from, that I realized it really all traced back to Ziggy Stardust. I knew of Ziggy Stardust as a phenomenon and as a wisecrack from way before my time, but until I hunted down Ziggy Stardust: The Motion Picture, I had ever actually seen what the hell other people were talking about. If you have never actually seen Bowie do that in character, it's a trip. The documentary has footage of nearly the full concert at the Hammersmith Odeon, the last one he did as Ziggy, and here is the title track:



There is not a single costume anywhere in that concert that I would not wear in a heartbeat, and that includes the pair of shiny striped space-trousers it takes three stagehands to stuff him into later in the show. Although if I were going to give the audience that many upskirt shots, I'd wear snazzier underpants. We all learn from the mistakes of others.

The point is, I have always been this fancy. I was about to say 'frivolous', but it's really not: This is the way my brain thinks I ought to look. I'm fine in jeans and t-shirts, I suppose, but those are just body coverings I wear when I don't have enough time and energy to do things properly. When I get dressed, I really mean it. When I went to see the live-action space opera last week, I wore my 'going to see a live-action space opera' dress. Actually, I wore one of my 'going to see a live-action space opera' dresses; I have several, and this was the one that had a mock turtleneck and full sleeves, and was specifically a 'going to see a live-action space opera when it is fucking eighteen fucking degrees fucking Fahrenheit outside' dress. This 'rack of shiny gowns' thing is not new; I just have places to wear them now.

It wasn't really that the glam rockers gave me ideas about how to conduct myself. Just that around them were a lot of people who didn't think it was distasteful to be the way I already was.

I commented the other day on Facebook that you really shouldn't listen to Blackstar unless you needed a good hard cry while your brain cramped up. I don't know what people thought of it for the first couple of days. Perhaps that it was just Bowie retiring for good this time. I suppose he was. He lived to see Lazarus open and Blackstar released, as the other bookend to his beginnings as Ziggy Stardust. "Starman" said to all the glittery adolescents of the world, 'Something shiny this way comes, and it's one of you.' And from the bridge of "Blackstar": 'I was just the messenger. There will always be others. Don't let this die with me.'


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