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A Eulogy to Alexander McQueen, Madonna-style.

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Feb. 11th, 2010 | 05:17 pm

Alexander McQueen was found hanged in his apartment this morning.

To speak on his life and death is an incredibly selfish act, as someone who does not know him personally, but was so affected by his life that I cannot help but feel some small 'claim'--unfair thought it may be. But these words are constricting my throat, and I feel that if I don't speak, I will do him a much larger disservice.

I hero-worshipped Lee Alexander McQueen. When I was very young, I wanted to be a fashion designer. It's something my family very firmly squashed from me as best as they could. I remember when it started. Like so many nerdlings, I wanted to work in comics. I had all these stories I wanted to tell, and I liked to draw them. Now, I am no conventional artist. When I put pencil to paper and draw a human body, what comes out cannot accurately be described as a human. It's more like a very old Stretch Armstrong doll, played with too many times. One arm hangs too low, while the midsection is squished together and the legs are all but flat. Even as a child, I knew that my drawings would never be a thing to be celebrated.

Until my my brother began his little league career. I was perhaps ten years old, and could not be less interested in baseball. My father forced me to play as well, and I hated it. So at my brother's games, while everyone else was caught up in these children playing a sport I just didn't comprehend, I began to put a story to paper. It was a terrible story, a very cliched blend of the Ronin Warriors and Sailor Moon, with these knights who each represented a different element. And I wanted that to be shown in their costumes. I can still remember the one I was most proud of. A knight of the earth, who represented the element of earth/life/wood/nature/whatever you want to call it. I gave him this intricate, detailed armour, plate mail made from a variety of leaves and bound together with vines, and a staff like a gnarled root, with a grand sunflower on top. It was nothing special, perhaps, nothing too creative. But it was the first time I'd ever put something on paper, and realized I was proud of it. I thought it was so well done. And so I made a mistake I continued to made throughout the years, and I showed it to my parents.

My father grabbed the paper from my hand, crumpled it up, and threw it in the garbage. Told me to watch the damned game for a change and grow up. That I needed to learn how to be outside, and not just read all the time. If I didn't stop, he was going to throw all my books away. I cried, and I stopped. Not altogether, mind you. I designed shoes and dresses, tops and skirts. I kept them hidden where my father would not find them, ripping a hole in the fabric of my box springs and hiding them inside my bed. But I was still proud of them, and I still wanted someone else to be too. I took them out one day, while my father was at work, and showed them to my mother. She shrieked at me, words I can't remember, but whose meaning I will never forget. Little boys didn't DO that. Little boys needed to NOT do that. She refused to hand them back to me, and showed them to my father when he came home. I came home from school the next day to find my books gone. My mother shielded me somewhat, keeping them in the attic instead of throwing them away, but that was her way. My mother and I have a bizarre relationship. Everytime I come to her knowing that she will be supportive, she rips me apart. And when I come to her expecting it, she is loving, caring, and understanding. I'll never understand her, really. I've stopped trying. My parents are not the world to me anymore, and have not been since I realized at fourteen that I was very much alone, and that I could actually deal with that. It may even be better that way.

My parents taught me that any work I had to be proud of was best kept hidden away. Partly, so you didn't seem like you were bragging, but mostly because you were stupid and the things you did were stupid too. Why should anyone else even give a shit? But it's hard to be proud of something that has become downright shameful to you. When I do good work, I want it to shine, and not be squirreled away. So I stopped making things. Even in home ec, which I fought tooth and nail to take, and was only able to take it so that I could learn to cook and my mother wouldn't have to as often, I suppressed it. We only made pillows, nothing extravagant, and I still have mine. I've replaced the stuffing and stitching many times over the years, and I keep it on my bed at all times.

When I began my dreams of design, Alexander McQueen began his work with Givenchy, succeeding John Galliano, in 1996. McQueen took the job, and then called the founder of Givenchy irrelevant. His first line-up flopped, and all his works after that became my life. Despite the horror my parents expressed at my interest in fashion, my mother herself had a soft spot for it. We watched beauty pageants together, where I would stare with awe in the evening gown competition. I glued myself to the entertainment channel during fashion week, and was also blown away by McQueen's work. There was something so beautiful in its harshness, its wrongness. I remember falling in love when I saw pictures of Aimee Mullins walking down the runway in these. My father, of course, was furious, but eventually seemed to accept my interest--until I realized with burning shame that he thought I watched it for the swimwear. He thought it was my early adolescent porn, my own scrambled channels. He and his friends made jokes about it to me, and I didn't get them at first. Until I did, and I was so embarassed. Not because it was true, but because of the opposite. How could anyone be so base as to use a beauty pageant to get their jollies? There was something so sacred about fashion that the thought of it as porn was upsetting to me. And they thought I was one of those people?! Of course, I denied it. Which was again a mistake, as the revelation of my apathy towards the beauty queens meant that I was forbidden to watch the pageants anymore.

Luckily, I had a safe haven during the harshest of those years. Patrick, whom all you know, was the first truly kindred spirit I had. His home became a second home to me, his family another family. When things at my home were at their worst, I could go to his and be okay. My mother knew. When my father threw a fit because I refused to play little league anymore, my mother sent me to Patrick's house. When our home flooded and my father screamed because I wasn't sweeping water out the front door fast enough, my mother sent me to Patrick's. And at Patrick's, we watched beauty pageants. And the entertainment channel. And movies I wasn't allowed to see, films like Moulin Rouge, which my parents forbade me to watch for fear that it might encourage me.

But these escapes were not permanent. I could only hide at Patrick's, or when we were at my home, hide behind him for so long at a time. I continued to grow, and eventually came my eighth grade year. I don't talk about this year very often. Truth be told, I don't remember much of it. This is the year most pivotal to my life, when all the bad coalesced and I had my very first nervous breakdown. When I discovered that I had a monster I never wanted to face again inside of me, as I pulled a gun on the man who tried to rape my cousin and came very close to killing him. When I learned that I was capable of the most extreme kind of violence. I changed. You don't face a beast like that and not change. More and more, that side came out. The shame my parents forced upon me stopped tearing me apart, but instead pulled me together. I'd always been a rather self-sufficient child, but here I became independent. Financially, I was still reliant upon my family. But nothing else. I no longer needed them, because they hadn't provided what I needed for years. I existed at home to protect my brother from the life I had, and that was it. But it was not so simple as realizing all this. That took many years. For the monster that I can be now to grow, it had to continue wrestling with the broken child who housed it. I attempted suicide for the first time that year. I constantly suffered from my migraines, and used one as an excuse to empty a bottle of pills. I was young. I did not die. I got sick, threw up, and had a really terrible night. And so once again, I had failed, and things only grew worse.

I stopped paying attention to fashion for a few years. You have no place for art when you're hollow inside. There is nothing to which it can connect, nowhere for it to grow. My world was hollow like that. Patrick still provided a safe haven, and it was there I grew the most. It was there that I had a world again, where I could be a person and not a monster. We continued watching pageants and 'scandalous movies' and all sorts of things my parents opposed. But Patrick moved. I had other friends, to be sure, but at the time I can't say I felt the same for any of them. As the only member in my circle with a car, I felt more like a transportation service than a member of the group. Maisha was a close friend, but she rarely if ever hung out with us outside of school. Lydia I will always cherish, but she was of that car-less circle, and though I know it was never her intent to make me feel like a chauffeur, the slights of a sixteen year old hurt in ways that no one can truly explain. Rayven, who I briefly dated though I had no sexual interest in anybody, let alone the opposite sex, but who was a wonderful friend despite. But her life has not been easy either, and there was a period of time in which she was not there. Physically, I mean. It's hard to connect to someone when you have no method of communication. I attempted suicide two more times over the years, until I was seventeen.

My last attempt was in the bathroom of my house. My mother and I had a major screaming match that day because I hadn't emptied the dishwasher--I suppose I had lost the time to do so, between vacuuming, dusting, mopping, scrubbing our countertops, and cleaning the upstairs bathroom. I finally stormed off, upset that the only time I was ever visible in my home was when I failed, and how the only thing I could do that my parents did not perceive as failure was clean. I set about, determined, then, to clean the whole house top to bottom, so I finished the bathroom. I scrubbed the tub for an hour that night. I scrubbed the grime away, and then I scrubbed the blood into it, as during the process I scrubbed so much my hands literally cracked. I didn't notice. When I finally did, I thought about that act, of literally pouring my blood, sweat, and tears into my work. And knew that it would still not be enough. So I made myself a cocktail of comet and bleach. This attempt delayed by my brother, who gave me an immediate reason to live--as in, he desperately needed to use the bathroom. It was the likes of Shirley Manson, Trent Reznor, Courtney Love, and yes, Alexander McQueen, however, who gave me a reason to live past his trip to the toilet. I had been building a sizeable music collection of these artists throughout the years, always drawn to their haunting works but never able to explain why. For the first time in my life that night, I heard the phrase "all the beauty of a trainwreck." And when I thought about it, everything in my brain went on all at once. That was it. That was my life and my idols. Like Trent Reznor's beautiful music, like the pain in Shirley Manson's voice, like the rage in Courtney, and like the designs of Alexander McQueen, I was a trainwreck. I would never be all right, I would never be fixed. I was to stand like that forever, haunting people with my very presence, unable to let them look away. I find the same beauty in Lady Gaga now. I had thought all of these things before, or at least, all the parts involving myself being broken, unfixed, and unloved. Here was where the love finally entered. Trainwrecks ARE beautiful, and by extension, I must be too.

I don't think it's a healthy outlook, by any means. But I have never been one to assume my pain is the worst pain, or that no one else suffered like I did. My life is a dime a dozen. But I do have art inside of me, and while I have no dreams of inspiring the world, of being a shining example to all the kids who grew up early, hard, and wrong, I want that art to show. A trainwreck may not be a thing to aspire to, but dammit, it is what I am, and never again will I be ashamed of anything that I am. I learned to love myself deeply, and while perhaps in all the wrong ways, it is still love.

And today, early this morning, one of the men who let me save myself from suicide, committed that very same act. I don't know what to do. There is nothing to do. But cry, and reflect.

I love Lee McQueen, and the company he created that continues to bring joy to this broken monster. I will miss him, and I will strive to carry on his legacy. And while my heart feels as if it is broken, for such a hero of mine to die this way, my heart feels even more broken because I love him, but I love him as a hero.

Lee McQueen left behind a family. A family whose pain I cannot begin to describe, as its youngest son has taken his life only a week after the death of his mother. A family who, three years ago, lost Lee's close friend Isabel Blow to suicide as well. I cannot imagine this family's pain, and for that, I am grateful. I do not want to imagine it. I do not want to feel it.

All I want, these days, is to live. So I thank you, Lee Alexander McQueen, for teaching me how.

Requiescat in pace.

Today, on my way home from work, I purchased a sketchbook and supplies. The Queen is dead. Long live the Queen.

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Comments {1}

The fucking YARN FAIRY!

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from: mac_arthur_park
date: Feb. 12th, 2010 01:42 pm (UTC)

What a beautiful, loving, heartbreaking tribute. Thank you for sharing your story, dear.

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