In our home, the change of season is marked NOT by the turning back of the clock but by my switch from t-shirt to turtleneck. It is a sad day when this happens for it means that the cold is about to set in and we will, for six months at least, be subjected to soup for dinner at least once a week and complaints from both young and old alike that we can't find our other mitten. Sigh.
Though turtlenecks have long been associated with arty intellectuals, turkeyneck-hiding old ladies and sexless Christmas sweaters, I have always loved and worn them. Actually, I always thought that my love for the turtleneck came from a compliment I received once in my twenties. I was at a party at a friend's apartment in Montreal and flirting heavily with a young gentleman with whom I shared an existential philosophy course, a course, I should say, that I signed up for - foolishly! - and should have gotten out of waaaay before I did, but waited past the due date before realizing that my brain couldn't handle it. I turned, instead, to the wearing of the turtleneck as a solution to my problem. Dress like an intellectual, feel like an intellectual. Clever, right? Wrong. Ever the fraud, I remember secretly wishing that my bus would get t-boned on the way to my final exam.
But I digress.
The object of my affection was looking at me attentively while I blathered on about one thing or another until he interrupted with this: You look like Audrey Hepburn in your turtleneck, did you know that? I was speechless. I know that for certain woman, Audrey Hepburn is an icon of beauty and fashion. Her petite frame and gamine haircut have been copied by hundreds of starlets and co-eds, with varying degrees of success. In fact, a few months before the compliment was uttered, there had been an Audrey Hepburn festival at the revival cinema a few blocks from my apartment. Posters of her likeness were still plastered everywhere, her wide eyes and big mouth assaulting me from the sides of abandoned buildings and enveloping me in the shelter as I waited for the bus. She was a beautiful woman, there is no doubt. But to a 5 foot 10 inch black lady? There really is no weirder compliment.
I turned to my complimenter and simply shook my head. Yeah, I said with a pause. You're reaching. And, I added, you've probably had enough to drink, I think. He stood staring, bleary eyed before getting up from his perch on the arm of a couch and puking into a nearby plant. I guess that's why, for me, turtlenecks have to be about something besides a movie star. And as an added bonus: I can only conjure the image of a ponytailed man vomiting every time I see a movie still from Breakfast at Tiffany's. Some images simply endure forever.