Noelle McCarthy: Getting wound up to wind down

By Noelle McCarthy

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Gore Vidal's quote features at the Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography exhibition at the Auckland Museum. Photo / Noelle McCarthy
Gore Vidal's quote features at the Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography exhibition at the Auckland Museum. Photo / Noelle McCarthy

Style is not giving a damn. Gore Vidal said that. It's up on a giant pink wall right now, at the Auckland Museum. It's the last thing you'll see as you walk through the Selling Dreams: One Hundred Years of Fashion Photography exhibition. The most useful, certainly. If we all dressed and carried ourselves like we didn't give a damn, how much happier would we be?

It's a pertinent question for this time of year, these last frenetic, rain-splashed weeks, when everyone is getting wound up trying to wind down. It's a manic time and, if you're not careful, it can be wretched. Madness is airborne; a mass panic-infection brought on by the communal, ratcheting consciousness of a giant clock hanging somewhere, relentless on the tick-down. Christmas, New Year, Armageddon. The End of Days is on the way, and there are gifts to be bought before it comes.

There are parties to be dressed for, hangovers to be had, menus to be planned and the last impossible, infuriating projects of the year to be dragged kicking and screaming over the line, before you can get in your car and escape up north/down south/out of your mind.

The worst thing is the fear that it won't happen. That you won't get finished your work on time, and you're never going to get away. Tick, tock. Tick, tock. It's subtle, this miasma. It's madness of the creeping sort.

I don't know what happens in the rest of the country, but I know Auckland gets wiggy, come December, and I get wiggy with it. Always have done. I remember a few years ago, standing in the middle of Ponsonby Rd with a dress in my hands, crying because the dry-cleaner couldn't get a stain out. I stood in the middle of the footpath, while a bunch of drunk men wearing Santa hats weaved around me.

The afternoon sun beat down on us and I had a little moment of clarity, wherein I saw suddenly how entirely I'd lost the plot. I don't give a s*** about dry-cleaning. Stains don't bother me, unless a garment is actually soaked in manure or blood. And yet. The tears, the sobbing over a little grease spot or some such, while drunken Santas circled like sharks. Christmas madness. It sneaks up on you, even when you're trying to stay centred and breathe through your nose.

This year, just say no. Sail on regardless, even if your dry-cleaner fails you. Gore Vidal knew whereof he spoke. Style is not giving a damn. Sometimes that's your only option. That, and a gentle hand-wash.

- VIVA

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