10.18.2007

cintra wilson: a love story

I worked at the world's most wonderful bookstore many many summers ago, just about coincidental with my discovery of those aspects of the internet beyond hotmail, diaryland, and ICQ. Notable as a point of internet-obsession was salon.com, which at the time was headlined by these marvelous and totally bonkers women like Camille Paglia and Cintra Wilson.

This is relevant to my bookstore employment because the same summer I became aware of Cintra Wilson, she came out with the book A Massive Swelling, which I read in one sitting during a register shift and, as far as I can remember, was basically about how she lived on the same block as Shalom Harlow and Shalom Harlow's incredibly pretty boyfriend, and thereby cultivated resentment towards them for their prettiness.

(I totally, completely found that to be a sympathetic angle, by the way. In fact, it is entirely possible that the idea that someone would pay you to write an entire book about being bitter about being less pretty than professionally-pretty people has been the driving force behind my life so far, and the opportunity to be physically more proximate to the pretty people in order to cultivate a more legitimate articulate bitterness might have been a major motivation behind my postcollege move to New York.)

I define others' fame via a rubric comprised entirely of my own awareness of them and my own perception of their media saturation. Therefore the summer of whatever that was, which saw not only the Cintra Wilson book at my place of employment but also a collection of Salon.com's greatest essays, and also (if I am remembering correctly) a Cintra Wilson article in Bust or Bitch or Jane or one of those monosyllable neogirlyfeminist magazines, was - to me - the apex of Cintra's celebrity. And then she disappeared from my awareness, and all that remained for me was a vague false memory of seeing Shalom Harlow standing by a fire hydrant, pouting.

Then she showed up out of the blue in the place I was least expecting to see her: The Critical Shopper column in the New York Times.

Here's a confession: Critical Shopper is, one hundred percent, my favorite aspect of the New York Times. It is awesome. In it, an individual goes to a store and interacts with salespeople and buys things, and then presumably goes home and writes about it in a voice that is by and large naive, overeducated, and vaguely indicative of social phobia. A not-out-of-place passage might be something like "The saleswoman suggested I try a sweater. A sweater? Me? I stood there, feeling how I can only imagine it must feel to be a fourth grader in the Republican vision of Gomorrah, with the school nurse asking with trepidation if there was any chance I might be pregnant."

This is quite a circumloquacious way of getting to my point. Which is that in today's Critical Shopper column, Cintra Wilson visits Balenciaga and apparently enters a fugue state, inspiring the wrath of the sales associates and eventually revealing to one of them her identity as a Times reporter with a gravity that she compares with that normally reserved for Batman.

I find this awesome. Basically what this all comes down to is that I would like to be Cintra Wilson. Now, the last time I suggested that I would like to adopt the identity of a New York Times writer (it is astonishing that I have done this more than once in my life), he discovered me via some self-googling and we had a lovely email correspondence and I just the other day got an invitation to his book party.

Cintra Wilson, you crazy wonderful person, I bet you can one-up that. Let's be friends. You know where to reach me.

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