A SUNDAY IN DECEMBER

DeeDee Brown

My eyes slowly open as a slim ray of golden light peaks through his grey curtains. I turn over, pulling his comforter up above my bare shoulders. His green eyes gaze at me as a lazy smile crosses his face. His arms reach out, wrapping tightly around my frame, pulling me further into his warmth. His broad hands grip my waist, and I feel the roughness of his palms graze my torso. I tuck my head into his chest and burrow deeper into his embrace. Snow is gently falling outside, cloaking the Ithaca ground with a blanket of white. The cover of powder conceals the previous night’s mysteries and mistakes, shielding the town’s inhabitants with its frosty chill. All I can focus on is his heartbeat, thumping steadily beneath my ear. The rhythm echoes in my mind as my head rises and falls with his breath. We breathe in tandem, deeply inhaling the late morning air.

There is a weight between us. The expectations of this cold Sunday morning loom in our minds, but neither of us bothers to pull away, even as the minutes tick by. To move from this bed would be to accept the responsibilities of the day, and move into the unknown. With both of us here, entangled in a sloppy mess of limbs, we don’t have to wonder about the other’s intentions. There is no other girl, no unread texts, no drunken Snapchat stories or wondering. It’s just two bodies, intertwined in the pureness of this early morning hour.

 An expectant sigh is released from between his pink lips as he slips out from underneath me. The comforter is pulled away from my chest and the cold air of reality drifts over me. Goosebumps creep up my arms as I watch him retrieve a worn red shirt from his closet, pulling it over his bronzed shoulders. My legs slide over the edge of the bed as I reach for my dress, tossed haphazardly on the floor. He crosses the room and kisses my forehead as I squeeze my feet into my shoes. I can feel each layer of clothing we put on increasing the degrees of separation between us.

 He turns the rusted doorknob and reaches for my hand. I follow him down the hall, zig-zagging through a maze crushed beer cans and empty red solo cups. The stairs creak as we descend, and through the foggy window I can see the cab he called me pulling up the drive. He pauses in front of the entryway and looks down at me. His warm green eyes are suddenly steely and far off, and his lazy smile seems to have turned hard. He reaches out and squeezes my arm, pulling me in to deliver a firm kiss on my expectant lips. It is hard not to mourn the loss of the closeness we had shared just ten minutes prior. He pulls away as he opens the door. “See you around.” His deep voice cracks and follows me out, pushing me into the cab and sending me off into the December morning.

THE ANXIETY OF DEATH - QING'S FIXATION ON IMMORTALITY

Urban literati of the Late Ming endeavored to contextualize their Problem of Ephemerality as the Ming narrative to be immortalized (thereby ‘solving’ the Problem) in the ledgers of dynastic history. Literati bemoaned the inherent lateness of aesthetic development and the paradoxical beauty of the nearly dead. Connoisseurship was a nostalgic mode for eulogizing the cult of qing, brutish Manchu armies threatened the atemporal rule of dynastic law and aristocratic privilege (and thus the literati identity), and the aesthetic principles that defined the cult of qing, derived from homoerotic fetishism of catamites and boyishness, rested upon a dewy paradigm propped by qing literature, doomed to the same death as boyhood. Ming literati outlived their very culture; ironically, the anxiety of death stoked the dialectic, heightening the requisite vapidity and obsession of qing. Qing was a quest to immortalize the delicacy of boyishness and unsullied masculine vitality, analogies for the masculinity of mania and the erotic courtship of literatus and literatus that ordered the hierarchies of intellectual societies. Through the scholar’s lens, Ming was on the precipice of death, but as long as qing was manifest in youthful ephemerality, qing obsession could become a rare, permanent fixture of the China narrative, one impervious to age and dynastic upheaval.

A main, albeit controversial, tenet of the literati’s “cultural heritage” was “[the value] of class-transcendence,” an aesthetic irony posed as part of the literati’s offensive against Neo-Confucian “doctrinaires.” Literati patrons of the theater could mimic the capriciousness of a youthful mind in their dualistic embrace of sophistication and low culture, pragmatically curating a relationship with youths and youthfulness to bolster their own qing. Literatus patrons replaced the Confucian father in the social niches emptied by the accessible capitalism of the Ming; as Hellmut Wilhelm holds: “When…the father in society is stripped of his dominant position, a filial son will dispense with the expressions of the virtue of filial piety.” Filial duty implies maturity and acknowledges the temporality of youth. Absent that ingrained cultural reflex, the youth is societally freed from a connotation of adulthood. Literati who traded young actors as catamites and protégés thus halted and obscured the transitions of adolescence and perpetuated the androgyny of boyhood. Moreover, boy actors were commodified by literati partly for their androgyny: qing writers in the field of compiling actor rosters “[appropriated] the rhetorical strategies used for courtesan entertainers to record the charms of boy actors, [signaling] their perception of opera players as purveyors of erotic…spectacle.” Boy actors’ youthful “vulnerability…spoke to [literati] senses of self,” ones tainted by the impropriety of class transcendence and homoeroticism, from which literati gleaned vignettes of coveted immortality as affected youthfulness.

Youthfulness, however, is a theme virtually omnipresent in the writings of qing literati, largely due to its litany of connotative synonyms; among them, purity, the state before arousal (weifa)—two notions rooted in eroticism. Purity as youthful chastity and naiveté, a characteristic of qing tales’ women (perhaps marketable substitutes for boy actors); and the state before arousal as evocative of the precursor to an inferred ejaculation. As Andrea Goldman astutely asserts: “[Qing stories] emphasized sensuality rather than raw sexuality, [defining] the supreme expression of sensual climax as a chaste—unspent—desire.” Literati culture’s obsession with the inert but kinetic—unspent, unsoiled, landscapes, tranquil shelves for the objects of connoisseurship--was deftly translated to the connoisseurship of young boys as the most nostalgia-inducing objects one could possess. Catamites’ persistent youthfulness provoked and pleased literati, who perhaps could see their own faces, younger, in those of boy actors. Boy actors were the unachievable standard—true thespians of qing—whose emotive theatrics and enviable figures located qing in the mathematics of nature and the materials of society. Literati’s “pain of remembrance,” Wai-yee Lee accurately claims, “retroactively legitimizes pleasure."

The self that had atrophied into the husk of a sage literatus possessed qing in itself; qing was a “wistful longing for vanished people and things.” The self had vanished in the intellectual’s eye, receded into its physical core to allocate space for qing and the qing soul that one develops through connoisseurship and embrace of the idolatry of youth. Boy actors thus were not unlike “vanished selves” onstage; the proprietor could own his past self, but only if he admitted his own death had already taken place. Therein lies the anxiety of death. Qing was obsessively dedicated to death and regeneration, though attempts at the latter are mere pastiche and lack pure qing. Qing had been found beyond the courtyard, beyond age, and beyond Ming. 

The efforts mounted by the cult of qing to “discover” qing in organic settings are clear in works by the likes of Zhang Dai, who aspired to a monastic lifestyle of aesthetic connoisseurship, but visible, even, in paintings of the Late Ming. Shen Xuan’s Bamboo and Rocks depicts a young bamboo outcropping amidst a scattering of irregular boulders, seemingly worn down by a complicated process over the course of millennia. The bamboo, by contrast, is capricious and boyish. Lanky, with needle-thin sprigs protruding spontaneously along the course of the flexed stalk—the plant is a clear reference to the desirability of youth. The stones in the composition are indicators of the permanence of the bamboo’s cycle, demonstrating a rightful, natural pairing of ancient and eternally renewed. The boulders, undying and resilient to change, reflect the sturdiness of the qing dialectic’s societal niche and the artists’ anxiety of imminent death and death’s abject failings. But they are also the “heritage,” and the “doctrinaire line,” the defiant Ming stance whose porousness enables the literatus to assume a father’s role, freezing the Confucian pistons in place and separating boy and man.

The freezing of the Ming monoculture to develop the cult of qing as a viable successor or replacement to Neo-Confucianism would have halted the capitalist dialectic that insisted on temporality. But literati of the Late Ming could not overcome their shared, debilitating anxiety toward permanent, old death. Ultimately what dismantled the ulterior thesis of the cult of qing was the thesis itself.

athleisure x streetwear by ju won yoon

Whether you’re actually coming from a workout or just strutting the looks of it, the trend ‘Athleisure' has hit the industry through some of the most iconic fashion influencers in today’s media. Consumers ranging from models, Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner, to your college floor mates are jumping on this bandwagon, ditching converse and jeans for kicks and a mix of sporty and streetwear.

A passing fad? A temporary favorite? None of the above.

The increasing allure of athleisure is linked to the surge of fitness-conscious consumers who are redefining their perspectives of athletics as more than just a hobby, but an all-around lifestyle. According to the National Purchase Diary, the total athletic apparel sales reached $33.7 billion, representing nearly 20% of the total apparel market, and are forecasted to continue growing at a rate of 4.32% over the period 2014-2019. NPD chief industry analyst Marshal Cohen says, “consumers are drawn to its comfort and versatility, and the fact that it still makes a fashion statement. Activewear, by nature, also evokes a sense of athleticism and wellbeing, which only adds to its appeal.”

Mr. Cohen speaks truth in acknowledging that demand is naturally higher for clothes that are both comfortable and functional. But that’s not to say this style trend is an affordable one. Brands falling under this umbrella of “streetwear fashion” include: Huf, Opening Ceremony, Supreme, Stussy, and many more to join the market. Even Kanye West’s most recent Yeezy collection sports (unintended pun) this style as well. Runs in the family?

Elevated Jogger by olivia friedman

The jogger has had a large presence on menswear runways this past year. However, it will transition into a more advanced version of itself, in addition to trickling down into the commercial market, this coming Spring ’17 and Autumn/Winter ‘17/’18.  This ‘elevated jogger’ trend will be expressed in a variety of styles. Elevated joggers incorporate gathered and ribbed cuffs as subtle details (Paget, 2016).  Joggers will combine ‘sport’ and high-end tailoring through sleek lines in order to meet the demand for simultaneous comfort and luxury in easy-to-wear pieces.  ‘Sportified’ components, like waistbands or drawstrings, are combined with high-end fabrics, such as satin and classic checks to enhance the silhouette (DeLeon, 2016). Other luxury fabrics, such as fine wools, and formal fabrics, including suiting material, tweeds, and even velveteen are also being used for joggers to create an aura of opulence (DeLeon, 2016).  

Over the last few seasons, the boundaries between formalwear and casualwear have been broken (Boddy, Coleman, & Ketteniss, 2016).  The voluminous style of traditional joggers indicates customer demand for relaxed shape and comfort.  The elevated jogger is perfect for the people with a lifestyle in which their professional environment is blurred between home and work (WGSN Menswear Team, 2016).  The simultaneous comfort and luxury of these pants makes them versatile and multi-functional for work, loungewear, and going out.  The elevated jogger is essentially a ‘lifestyle pant.’