• Tue, Sep 28 2010

Are We All Holly Golightly?

I just found a copy of the sleeping mask Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.It’s only $14. I was about to click the buy button 100 times. Because I am Holly Golightly! I am! I am! And then I pulled back and said “whoa, there. You’re Jen Wright. This is a fictional character you have almost nothing in common with. And you hate sleep masks. They always make you think you’ve gone blind when you first wake up.”

But I bet I’m not the only one who’ll think about it. I bet that because it’s one of the company’s best selling items, apparently. And because every year on Halloween, I see no fewer than 10 Holly Golightlys wandering through the evening. Now, that could be because it’s a really easy costume to make. It’s basically a black dress, big sunglasses, some manner of necklace and an  ill-formed updo. But then, if you listen closely, if you are a detective, you will hear one of the girls announce boldly “I am Holly Golightly.”

And I guess you could put on your more-detective hat and say “are you a high class prostitute and former Oakie child bride in the employ of a ganster? Were you the mistress of a jockey? Will you teach me to play the ukulele?” And the girl would stare at you blankly and say “no, stop evesdropping on my conversation.” Unless they were, in which case, I guess that girl really is Holly Golightly, and your detective hat should be off to her. The ukele alone sounds like a difficult instrument to master.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the book. I love the movie. (Though the ending in the book is better, and the Paul character is gay). I love Audrey Hepburn. I love Truman Capote. I love Truman Capote hating Audrey Hepburn. I love New York. I love large sunglasses and black dresses and pearls. But I don’t think this is a character most people have anything outwardly in common with. At least, I don’t.

I mean, I guess I live sort of a madcap glamorous life insofar as… there is a bottle of wine on my desk right now. Hah! It’s crazy in here! We’re going to shoplift some animal masks later and run through Tiffany’s while playing ukuleles! (No, we’re not. I’m thinking of hitting the gym later, maybe getting a burrito bowl and going to see Catfish if I’m not too tired. I live life on the edge.) (God, that isn’t even true. I lied to make you think I was cool. I have work I have to get done at home, so after work, I’m going home immediately. That is my fantasy evening I just described, the Catfish burrito bowl evening. In reality, I’ll do work, maybe eat some yogurt for dinner).

So, do we love Holly Golightly because she’d leading a fantasy life that we can’t lead? Is it an aspirational thing? I don’t think so. Holly’s life seems pretty miserable, most of the time. Men use her. The only man she really loves dies. She gets arrested. It’s not fun, although there are some very nice outfits.

But there is something appealing about the idea of not being quite pinned down to anything. Holly’s lived in her apartment for years and never unpacked anything. The telephone is in the suitcase, and all her calling cards read “traveling”. She can’t even remember her own keys, and she hasn’t gotten around to naming her cat because he’s just, “Poor cat! Poor slob! Poor slob without a name! The way I see it I haven’t got the right to give him one. We don’t belong to each other. We just took up one day by the river. I don’t want to own anything until I find a place where me and things go together. I’m not sure where that is but I know what it is like. It’s like Tiffany’s.”

There is something wonderful about nothing being quite set, yet. Holly’s life could, at any moment, lead to a great adventure. The possibilities are infinite. And that really is the best thing about being young. Or about being alive and being in New York at all, but especially being alive and being in New York when you’re young. But it’s terrifying, and it’s lonely too, and that’s probably why they tacked on the stupid movie ending (the stupid movie ending makes me cry every single time).

Or it could be the clothes. I’m still not buying a sleep mask, though.

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  • Amanda Chatel

    I’ve had a case of the mean reds all day… but this piece helped bring me out of them.

  • Anna Balkrishna

    Great piece of writing. Got the wry tone just right.

  • Anna

    It’s ukulele. Learn to spell if you want to play writer…

  • Lindsay Hartman

    I, too, have had to remind myself that I have nothing in common with Holly Golightly. Even if I love everything about her story. My self control was not as good as yours though and I actually bought the long cigarette holder. I don’t smoke.