Last week's column
I love fishnet stockings. I do, I really do. Anyone that knows me knows what an amazing statement this is. I hate stockings. Passionately. I regard them as torture devices fiendishly disguised as fashion accessories. They are the means by which society attempts to subvert women by making us uncomfortable to the point of distraction. I only have to look at a pair of stockings for them to start to fray. By the time I’ve got them on my legs have more ladders than Bhagwansingh’s hardware.
But I love fishnets. I don’t know how they do it but they manage to give legs great tone and definition, making you look like you spend all week at spin class when in fact you just end up spending your evenings turning around and never reaching the gym. They fall in that nebulous area just between skanky and whorish and never fail to grab attention. I feel sexy in fishnets – like Tina Turner in her “What’s love got to do with it?” video and they’re well ventilated to the point where you feel like you’re wearing nothing at all.
London is the land of the fishnets – you can get them in any colour, style and size. Last weekend I saw a pair of mid-calf fishnet tights with lace edging that I want to get to get. About two weeks ago I got brave and wore to work black fishnet stockings with red, patent leather, peeptoe slingback stilettos. Nobody in the office even blinked. I had a number of men sneaking glances at my feet though.
I tell friends about wearing them up here and the incredulous reaction is always, “Them skettel thing!” They wouldn’t be caught dead in them, except maybe at Carnival time, when you can safely be caught alive and inebriated in anything. But why is it that the only time of the year that women would consider wearing something as harmless as fishnets is the same time of the year men wear women’s clothes and people drink from poesies? Is the pressure to conform and fit it at home so strong that the only time you can subvert it, no matter how subtly, is when there is a consensus of blatant and total disregard?
Where am I going with this? Right here. I know if I go home in the morning and pull on my fishnet stockings and leave my house at least one friend will be ashamed to be seen in public with me, at least one more will insist I take them off because I’m looking like a jamette and at least one man will feel the need to shout at me and confirm while walking in the streets that I am, indeed, looking like a jamette.
And that’s one of the things I like about England. Not the fishnets stockings per se but what they represent. Up here, you have to come really good to produce a double take from anybody. Directors, managers, clubbers, grandmothers all wear their fishnet stockings like normal. They also colour their hair to match their outfits and wear outfits that look like they couldn’t decide among three outfits what they wanted to wear so they decided to wear all at the same time.
Body piercings are de rigueur and range from holes the size of twenty five cent pieces in earlobes to cubic zirconia beauty marks in the lower cheek. Goths parade in six inch high platform boots and matted hair while men wear cleavage revealing, form fitting blouses to go clubbing with their girlfriends. And no one cares. Coming from a society where if you wear the same party outfit more than once people talk about you having no clothes, this is supremely refreshing. I’ve had co-workers wear a shirt on Monday, wash it (I hope) and then wear it again by Thursday, Friday. Try to do that back home nah. You will never live down the shame.
In a city this big and this busy, the anonymity that can sometimes be depressing can also be a wonderful thing. It’s hard at times to walk the streets and no one knows you, to go for weeks without seeing someone you know among the crowds. But it’s also very liberating. You find yourself doing things to please yourself only, without the confines of the unspoken rules of acceptability that regulate Trinidad society and indeed, the Caribbean as a whole.