Teenage buoyancy. Giggles falling like curls from released pony-tails. 4 sets of cracking vintage high heels, crunching along the sidewalk with the momentum borne from 14 years of compressed innocence. Clopping up Hollywood Blvd. on wedges decades older then their wearers, mom’s 70’s jewelry bouncing on collar bones, we jingled into Fredrick’s of Hollywood.
It was a blushing occasion. It was a high-pitched whispering occasion. It was a bold, new, busty world for almost all of the girls, except one. I’d been there before. I couldn’t even count how many times.
(The wall above the original Fredrick’s Of Hollywood site)
Even back when I was 8, when I lived in Hollywood with my dad, we passed stores like this so frequently, even at that age my threshold for such visual audacity was tumbling down. The display mannequins seemed so self-assured, so self-possessed in their chain gear and fluorescent lace-up body suits. Their faces were stoic, like they had some deeper wisdom about the nature of sex and power. I hoped when I grew up I would understand that.
Fredrick’s was just one of many “trollop get-up” stores along the boulevard. They looked best at night with their electric window frames - it brought out the syrupy, candy-consciousness of the vinyl knee-boots in cherry red and licorice black. They looked lick-able. They lapped at your aversions with studded tongues, and turned your reservations into desire.
But on that day, when I was 14, and the lot of us adventured to the famous lingerie store, the wave of seduction was not there. I hesitated to enter. I wanted to explain something to my friends, but I could not figure out what. I wanted to warn them, but I didn’t know why. They popcorned out in different directions, springing from tights to teddies. I hung out on the periphery, tracing the wall, feeling this place too familiar, and feeling mute. All the silly laces, the minimal fabrics, the colors were so new to them – and so tired to me. I picked up a camisole. The lace embroidery looked sad, wilted, like it knew it was selling a bullshit fantasy and didn’t really have the heart to stick up for it.
I looked up and saw my friends gathered at the counter, I joined them.The jingle jangle gathering made bubbly vocal music as they compared their finds. Thigh-highs, and garter belts, a corset and a push-up bra – all of which would sit in the backs of drawers for years until their owners could fill them out, if they ever did. I hadn’t grabbed anything, so I picked up a small container of body glitter-gel from the counter. It came in a little plastic cup. I could live with that. It was an interchangeable item, could’ve gotten it anywhere so it wasn’t too stained with the location of its origin. It seemed practical to me, more than anything else in the store.
As we walked out, I trailed behind. I looked across the street at the check-cashing place where my dad and I used to go. And across from that, the liquor store where my dad made me buy and eat black licorice to heal a sore throat. Once, in front of that liquor store, I did an impromptu dance video for a Janet Jackson song while my dad was on a payphone. All this was hitting me like an invisible dust flurry. The girls thought that I was being “anti,” a very 90s descriptor, but really I was experiencing far too much too handle – or possibly explain.
I looked at the mannequins in the Fredrick’s window – they still had something on me. Enigmatic, cold, and eternally turned-on. Feminine strength, brazenly misdirected. Still, I would’ve taken it.
I used the glitter a few times, but then I set it aside. Over the years, all the liquid evaporated or dried up. The last time I saw it was when I was packing to leave for college. It was on my bathroom counter top between a pink wall tile and a dust ball. It was nestled in the back row in a parade of adolescent acquisitions, my attempts to pave a path towards womanhood – cheap nail-polish, hair clips, acne cream, a stiff yellowed note a boy had written to me backstage during a play on paper torn from his science book, lotions, perfume samples, a decorated Altoids tin from a friend – and quietly in the corner, a tiny Fredricks of Hollywood container. A little cup of silver dust.