Writings about etiquette can be entertaining. Whether you use them for actual guidance or not, it is interesting to get a glimpse into other people’s perspective. There is a lovely mystique, as we don’t often witness the writer practicing what they preach. My fantasy of Letitia Baldrige is that of a woman who has never faltered and never once regretted what she has or has not said. Writings about personal style do not support that kind of fantasy however. The market is such that one would be hard pressed to name a “style expert” who isn’t a brand onto themselves. Therein lies the rub, eh? The platform of expertise is a bit unstable when we can see you. I find it difficult to take style advice from someone who considers white a color or wears denim work shirts as if they were Chanel jackets. And for the record, monochromatic table settings or home decor is not a style it is an absence of creativity.
Is it any wonder then, that when I come across someone who dedicates himself to living artfully, I am besotted? A writer who extols the virtue of written holiday greetings and shuns the gift card? I’m yours. A man who lives life out loud and strictly by his convictions? Color me a fan. So of course, I spent last night at the John Waters’ Christmas show.
Good taste or bad, Mr. Waters does it with intent. Always immaculate and exuding a quiet sophisticated style, Mr. Waters takes center stage and talks in the manner he writes (or is it the other way around?) He waxes poetic about his favorite holiday and fantasizes about the perfect Christmas presents (books and more books) and films. I can’t possibly keep up with the cinematic references made by someone who got his start in 1960s underground. But I can certainly admire the encyclopedia knowledge of outsider art. What is far more captivating to me is the goodness and generosity of spirit which exude from a man steeped in style. With little fanfare, for years he has been volunteering in prisons and recently a first-grade classroom. (And the parents gasp.) He is legend for his friendship and support.
While it isn’t that much of a wonderment that an artist lives artfully, Mr. Waters is willing and able to share his skill with others. Fan of his films or not, it is difficult to not embrace his authenticity. In Mr. Waters’ world, style should be synonymous with self expression and etiquette is synonymous with decency. I want to live in that world.
*Divine (1945-1988) star of Hairspray, Pink Flamingos, Female Trouble…