It all started while I was still in high school, working as an intern at a fashion company in Midtown Manhattan. It wasn’t a terribly exciting job - I wasn’t working for a big name designer or anything! It was paid, though, and that made me feel oh so grown up. I spent my days fetching coffee, designing mood boards, learning about pattern drafting, and delivering samples.
When New York Fashion Week rolled around my job got a LOT more exciting. My boss, a fabulous woman in her 50s with streaky blonde hair and an extreme facelift, pulled me into her office.
“I want you to come to a few fashion week parties with me,” she said, looking at me appraisingly, “It’ll be good for you to meet some people.”
I quickly agreed. I was intrigued. I was already a bad kid, sneaking out during the weekend to go to raves in Brooklyn warehouses. I had hung around SoHo during fashion week with friends before, gawking at the scene, but I had never been able to score an invite to one of those uber glamorous parties I would read about on Gawker.
That Friday, I struggled to pick out the ideal outfit. I probably tried on at least fifty different dresses; a pile of slinky, glittery mini dresses and elaborate frou frou getups lay scattered on the floor around me. I finally settled on a red vintage dress, black stockings, and a pair of turquoise blue heels. Very French New Wave, I thought, regarding myself in the mirror.
I met my boss at a restaurant that was closed to the public; I had to give my name to the host to get in. It was a corporate party for Macy’s, who purchased many of our garments. My boss introduced me to a bunch of older women who looked like they shared a plastic surgeon - all wearing rock star glamorous clothing, studs and leather and ripped up jeans. They each held a beautiful cocktail or glass of champagne. I shook their hands and they pulled me close. The scent of musky perfume was overpowering.
They tittered over how cute my outfit was, “So boho chic!”
The party photographer drifted by, flashes of light suddenly illuminating us. The posse struck a pose and I posed right along with them, nervous about how it would look. Someone put a drink in my hand and when I told them I was underage, unsure if it was allowed, they cooed, “Isn’t she precious?”
I ended up not drinking, nervous about making a fool of myself. We shouted over the loud music and laughed. The photographer swung back around and whispered in my ear, Are you a model? I looked at him suspiciously; I’ve never been tall enough to be a model, but enough creepy men had asked me that question over the years that it immediately got my hackles up.
He saw the look in my face and laughed. He showed me the photos he had taken earlier, You look good. The camera loves you. I smiled. I did look good in the photos. The Macy’s party was winding down, so he invited me to come with him to a club in Meatpacking District.
“I don’t have an ID,” I said quickly, worried he would think I wasn’t cool. Plenty of my friends had fakes.
He grinned broadly.
“Not a problem, cutie.”
Apparently this photographer was Someone, because we skipped the line at the club and the bouncer quickly waved us through, raising an eyebrow when he saw me, but never asked for an ID. I breathed a sigh of relief. The club was incredible. So many beautiful people, sweaty and dancing, wearing impossibly tiny and glittery dresses. I felt out of place in my decidedly unglamorous outfit. The photographer, seeing I was nervous, put his arm around my shoulder.
“You’ll do great, kid.”
He whisked us to the VIP area and pawned me off onto another photographer, an older woman. She kept asking me questions and laughing at my charming naivety. She snapped some photos. She dragged me out to the dance floor and shot photos of me while I was dancing. I was beaming like an idiot.
“I need to piss,” I told her, and she gestured towards the bathroom, giving me a kiss on the cheek. I ran over, waiting in line while impossibly beautiful models glowered down at me. Two girls were shouting at each other by the sinks and I couldn’t tell whether they were fighting about a boy or if they were having a lovers quarrel.
I got out as quickly as I could and tried to find my two new friends. I was short and everyone else seemed to be a statuesque model in towering heels; I couldn’t see anything! I made my way over to VIP and they turned me away. I decided to walk through the crowd and see if I ran into them.
As I walked, I was pushed by a particularly erratic dancer into the crowd. I fell onto a wild looking girl with red hair and fierce eyeliner. She was very mad. And then I realized it was Lindsay Lohan.
“What the fuck is wrong with you?” she shouted, extremely drunk and belligerent, “Are you actually retarded? And what the fuck are you wearing?”
I stuttered something about being pushed, but I internally was very pleased. Lohan was in the middle of her epic meltdown and I felt honored to be a part of it. She poured her drink on me and then spit on me. I started laughing.
I went back to the bathroom and mostly dried myself while everyone else stared at me, a mixture of pity and disgust. I couldn’t stop smiling. I made my way out the club, extra careful this time to avoid any erratic dancers.
The streets were cool and I ran my hands through my sticky hair. The sound of the club faded into the distance. I decided to walk home, the glittery crowds of fashionistas fading as I got further and further uptown. I said a quiet thank you to my boss under my breath. What a night.