Harry & The Heartbreakers

Oh Dames Nation. December came HARD for the Northeast this past week.

Live footage of Your Dames, scrambling and stumbling their way through last week.

We cannot change the weather, not for our benefit or for yours, but! We can change one thing, and have: we’ve extended the 20% off sale on Two Bossy Dames subscriptions until the end of the day Sunday. We know a lot of you don’t read the newsletter at whatever ungodly hour on Friday Dame Margaret finally manages to send it out. We did not want any of you who’d forgotten to snag a subscription to miss your chance. So, until midnight on Sunday, 12/9, you can still get a year of Two Bossy Dames for 20% off— either at this link, or by using the button right here:

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Pride & Prejudice Pilgrimage

This could be you and Dame Margaret, but you playin’

In case you missed the special announcement issue we sent out Monday, we did just want to remind everyone that, from August 20th-23rd, 2020, Dame Margaret will be wandering England’s Peak District close-reading Pride & Prejudice, eating scones and clotted cream, and developing an opinion on Bakewell tarts v. Bakewell puddings— and you can join her! For more information about the trip, you can read Margaret’s Q&A with Vanessa Zoltan, last year’s trip leader, or the trip’s official website, where you can also submit your registration. Whether because of Jane or Your Dame, the trip is filling up fast, so if you want to come— jump to! 

Dame Sophie’s Cool As A Cucumber Thoughts About Harry Styles’ New Song, The Anti-SAD Jam We Need And Deserve

Serenading one’s best buddy, a fish, about how delicious a taco is. Obviously!

Harry Styles is an incorrigible flirt, and also a benevolent gentle alien who wants to remind us all that sincerity and friendship and encouragement and joy are important and possibly life-saving. Let’s discuss!

For context, Harry’s in the thick of pre-album release promotional work. He’s already released two songs from his forthcoming second album, Fine Line, to be released next Friday, and performed them on Saturday Night Live (Lights Up (there’s also an official video | Watermelon Sugar). He’s appearing on Graham Norton tonight, too! It’s a lot! 

In the middle of the already-dramatic runup to releasing today’s single and video— a Nile Rodgers-influenced, Gloomvember-defying bop about a crush so delicious it doesn’t matter if it’s ever requited at all— Harry also shared with fans a little introductory video to highlight the visual charms of Fine Line. Lovely, nice, smart, good move, ok, wait, what is this???

Tastefully nude while lounging beside a cross-section of...a heart? A womb? A guava crossed with an avocado? Whomst can say?

Harry Styles can’t just release a charmingly amateurish website for the imaginary island of Eroda (“adore” spelled backwards, facile but ok, cute). Nor can he limit himself to dropping a nearly three-minute preview for the Adore You video, which declares to the world that he’s watched Amelie at least 12 times. No. He has to include imagery that offers us a clear callback to the cover art of Prince’s album Lovesexy!

How lucky we are to live in a moment where this maximally dramatic and clever fellow is really feeling himself. What semiotic gifts we’re receiving, decoding, analyzing and sharing!

Where were we? Oh, yes, the video for Adore You! Well, it’s a lovely little fable about how a misfit— a boy whose dazzling smile nobody in his perpetually overcast fishing village can deal with— helps everyone there understand that things don’t always have to be the way they are right now, through the example of his loving support of a golden fish he discovers flopping on a rock by the ocean’s edge. The boy feels so out of place he can’t function, and the fish is in a similar pickle. As the narrator explains, “Loneliness is an ocean full of travelers trying to find their place in the world. But without friendship, we’re lost, with no hope, no home, no harbour.” The voiceover is deeply sad, but it’s also layered over an animated sequence where the little golden fish is being terrorized by fellow sea-dwellers! The juxtapositions are almost too much. 

Instead of letting the fish die, the boy gently carries it home, feeding it disgusting fish flakes and finding increasingly large tanks for the fish to swim in as it grows supernaturally fast over the course of a couple of days. The caretaker role suits the boy, and as his fellow Erodans witness him being gentle, joyous, and supportive, they come around to the idea that saving this fish— whose entire species is migrating en masse towards their island— is a worthwhile thing to do. Flush with confidence, the boy decides to leave Eroda for adventures in parts unknown, maybe somewhere where his smile won’t blind his neighbors or incinerate their umbrellas. Bon voyage!

This video is so good! And joyful! Sincere! I’m profoundly moved by its embrace of giddy silliness and seriousness. How often do we get to see a work of popular art that explores what a healthy & reciprocally supportive friendship can look like, even across species? I MEAN! 

The hero learns to knit for his buddy (check out that picot-style lacy bind-off on the fins)! 

This video values coziness & high-quality loungewear!

Harry is making a case for smiling as an invitation to participate fully in society! Wow! 

Also, it’s just straight-up adorable and fun? 

What I see here is an open-armed, whole-hearted leap into camp that exceeds the tenderness & beauty of his Met Gala red carpet look. As I review the quotes that surrounded and underscored the objects and viewers of the Camp: Notes on Fashion exhibit at the Met this summer, several jump out as potential influences (or at least strong resonances) on the Adore You video:

"Camp . . . is very serious—serious about maintaining the freedom to play, which is a way of saying the freedom to live." —J. Bryan Lowder, 2013

"Camp [is] a third stream of taste, that encompasses the curious attraction that everyone —to some degree at least —has for the bizarre, the unnatural, the artificial and the blatantly outrageous." —Thomas Meehan, 1965

"Camp is a lifeboat for men at sea." —Philip Core, 1984

"Camp is a tender feeling." Susan Sontag, 1964

"Camp taste is a kind of love, love for human nature." —Susan Sontag, 1964

"Camp taste is a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation— not judgment. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy." —Susan Sontag, 1964

If Dames Nation will excuse a little didacticism on my part, The Camp: Notes on Fashion exhibition materials available on the Met’s website are very very very much worth your time. I believe it’s going to be the core lens through which we understand Fine Line, and would go so far as to say we may not be able to fully get what the artist is doing without a full & nuanced grasp of camp. 

You can love Adore You simply as a sonic delight. You can watch the video and send yourself down a rabbit hole of allusions (Velvet Goldmine! Moonrise Kingdom! That Gene Kelly lewk!). I’ve been delightedly gobsmacked all day by what an assured balance it is of an artist taking his music seriously, while also being a gigantic goober with quite a scope for imagination. I’m fine, I’ll just be over here having a wee weep over Harold’s warm, joyful, tender sincerity in this video about making friends, sticking with what you know in your guts to be right, and embracing serendipity & maybe a little bit of everyday magic. And smiles. Smiling is his favorite. Also, miniature tacos, the tenderest material gesture of them all.

Breakup Songs Dame Margaret Has Earned, One Love Song She’s Lost, and One She Can Always Keep

Much of this movie and book have aged poorly, but this question is an eternal one.

Yes, friends: more breakup content. I am doing okay— shockingly well, in fact, given the particulars of this split— but it’s still preoccupying my thoughts to a great degree, hence: I have some more thoughts for YOU! This week, they’re about the music people make to process these feelings. 

I have, my adult whole life, had an affinity for breakup songs. Love songs can sometimes seem subject to Tolstoy’s rule of families— all happy love songs are alike; each unhappy love song is unhappy in its own way. In fact, thinking it over, I think that axiom works much better for love songs these days than it does for families. The specific details of a broken relationship, its furious hurt and miserable anger, are often so much more concrete, and more pressing to communicate, than the diffuse joy of happy relationship. 

My whole adult life, however, this love of heartbreak songs ran counter to my ability to, by and large, outwit romantic ruin. It’s not that I was never heartbroken or love-lorn or lonely— I am human, ergo I was all of those things, and often more than one at a time— but prior to the last three years, I had never had a sufficiently enticing invitation to hurl myself wholeheartedly after anything. The temptation to do something messily romantic was never greater than my distaste for the possible consequences; I was always Elinor Dashwood, never Marianne. 

As I got older, I began to chafe against this practical avoidance of passionate pitfalls. I started to feel like the collectible toys my mom kept on the top shelf of the closet when I was little— in mint condition, with original factory packaging. I was keeping myself so neat and safe, but to what end? 

Little did I realize how much disaster I could bring down upon myself once a sufficiently alluring bad bet came along. I wanted to find someone worth dinging myself up for. I wanted to be made real by love, like the Velveteen Rabbit. I just made the mistake of handing myself over to someone who, without entirely knowing it himself, was more Sid than Andy and, well. No one would describe me as being in mint condition anymore.

In some ways, it’s an extraordinarily uncomfortable feeling— Marianne was always ready to be heartbroken. She knew what do to with it, she knew how to revel in the ruin. When you’re an Elinor whose feelings don’t sit right unless they have hospital corners, this riot of emotion is intensely confusing. But it did leave me feeling like, finally, I had earned my affinity for all these sad songs, I had earned my right to love them with such ferocity. I didn’t know when I found them how much I’d need them now.

“How Am I Different” — Aimee Mann

I listened to Aimee Mann in my twenties like I was studying something. Like I was strength training. I think, on some level, I believed that if I soaked up enough of her world-weary romantic cynicism, I could skip the part where I had to learn these lessons with my own hurt and jump straight to wry detachment. I was wrong. But at least, when I was standing amidst the ruin of the relationship I thought I’d had and my ex invited me to bet again on an improbable pledge of improvement, Aimee had taught me exactly what to say: when you fuck it up later, do I get my money back? 

“Roll With the Punches” - Dawes

Dawes, more than any other band in the world, makes me cry. Their songs aren’t sadder than most bands’, I have just lived with them more than almost any other musicians’, so when Taylor Goldsmith sings, it feels like he’s talking directly to me. I haven’t 100% earned this song about a messy divorce (although I have a wealth of newfound respect for ANYONE who's survived one) but coming out of this, I have been realizing how many emotional blows I took, how many punches I rolled with that I should have felt. And so this one makes me cry more, and differently, than it used to. I am crying for all the blows that came too fast and furious to even register until now.

“Night Shift” - Lucy Dacus

This song is, flatly, both a masterpiece and one of the best break-up anthems of all time. And it has also been a thorn in my side for more than a year because, when its hurt first spoke to me, I was reeling from the brutal loss of a relationship I’d valued, but I had been the person who chose to end it. I worried that Lucy would resent me identifying with her sadness— if I’d chosen to leave, did I have the right to feel this sorry for myself? This recent decimation, however, has signed over the rights to me entirely. Now when I sing “You don’t deserve what you don’t respect, don’t deserve what you say you love and then neglect,” I don't have to worry that Lucy would say it wasn't for me. Me and Lucy, we’re on the same team now. Maybe we always were.

“All I’ve Ever Known” - Nabiyah Be and Damon Daunno from the off-Broadway production of Hadestown, written by Anais Mitchell

Of course, not all wisdom has felt like a gain. For every heartbreak song I understand anew, there’s a love song I’ll never feel the same way about again. Of those, this one is the most gutting loss because it articulates so perfectly what I thought I’d found in the relationship I’ve just lost. I had spent so long keeping myself safe, worked so hard to make myself independent, that I truly didn’t think I wanted a partner. I couldn’t imagine finding anyone I’d trust enough to hold. The good times in this relationship, they made me feel like I’d really found that. They taught me I could love having it. But, somehow, I didn’t spot the threat in identifying so closely with a relationship as tragic as Orpheus and Eurydice’s, particularly as depicted in Hadestown. Now all I hear is how misplaced Eurydice’s trust is, all I can think is how she should have waited to hold someone who was strong enough to hold her, too, whichever way the wind blows. 

“Challengers” - The New Pornographers 

But nothing can take this love song from me. I imprinted on this song at 21 and thus, forever and always, “whatever the mess you are, you’re mine, okay” will be the most profound expression of love I can imagine. I may not have a romantic partner who can say that to me right now, but I have friends who can, and do. I have a true north to point my ship towards. And that’s more than plenty of people can say. 

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