Mon. Sparkles Joy is a bon vivant, demi- Papillon about town, acolyte of Adonis, and impossibly gorgeous. Whether your question is about how to accessorize your scarlet Oscar de la Renta gown with tiered ruffles, the proper way to scent handkerchiefs, the correct temperature setting for your walk-in humidor, or which stationery to use when breaking up with a paramour, Mon. Sparkles is your man. Please direct all queries, whether about attire, cocktail husbandry, lifestyle, manners, or romance, to:
Dear Mon. Sparkles,
When I turned sixteen years old, my father gifted me the predictable items that every young lad lusts after: the keys to a brand new Mercedes SLK convertible (to get me where I was going); and my first box of engraved calling cards (to announce my arrival once I got there). The latter came, of course, with the invitation to refill my supply by special order with Smythson of Bond Street whenever necessary.
You will be surprised, I am sure, to know that while I have gone through a veritable fleet of motorcars in the last fifteen years, I have yet to exhaust my original set of calling cards. I’ve had so very few opportunities to employ them even. The silver salver has become a very rare greeting indeed; answering one’s own door is now so inexplicably the fashion. So my cards waste away in their ostrich leather case, eager to herald my entrance but condemned to remain hidden in the breast pocket of my tailored jacket.
Finding myself in this situation, I turn to you — my guru of modern grace and contemporary etiquette — to advise me as I adjust to and accommodate the demands of today’s society. Which medium can now best announce my imminent and impending presence? What should replace my engraved cards, those relics of a print culture we no longer enjoy?
Harold J. Worthington, III
P.S. Please do not suggest that an archangel be employed to herald my arrival. That has, of course, been done before.
Dearest M. Worthington,
I feel as if we were separated at birth. I share your pain, your grief, and your bewilderment. If I may briefly kvetch before offering advice (and consolation), I find that, in addition to the disappearance of the salver and the calling card, no one wants to telephone anymore, either. Instead, it is all about this thing called “le texte-ing.” I shudder and die a little inside every time someone texts me to ask, “Where r u?” Or: “Wassup?” And dressing for dinner, in evening tailcoat with silk lapels, white bowtie, and trousers? You can place that in the folder marked “Masterpiece Theater.” We live in bruteish times, Mon. Worthington, but we cannot despair. Men of our quality must always put on the best show for others. We must demonstrate that we can rise (or lower ourselves) to any occasion, for it is our role to inspire others with our noblesse oblige, and to also hold up, as best we can, the crumbling pillars of civilization. So I’ll tell you what you are going to do: you are not going to give up. There may not be butlers to receive you at the many doors you haunt, and there may not be salvers, but there will still be engraved calling cards, and companies to print them, and I urge you to carry the mantle of genteel print culture forward. Leave your card everywhere you go: on the counter at Starbucks after paying for your caramel macchiato, on all the coffee tables of all the lofts in Soho and Chelsea, with your Pilates instructor at the gym, on the bedside tables of your mistresses, in airport lounge sky-bars, with your doorman, your private car drivers, with the woman who checks your coat in the Russian Tea Room, and yes, even with the transvestite who walks your five pampered Pomeranians through the Lower East Village 5 times a day. Because by god, you’ll make your presence known, and on finely-engraved, heavyweight linen. Because we’re gentlemen, and we don’t have a choice in the matter.
Ever Yours, Mon. Sparkles
Dear Mon. Sparkles,
now is the winter of our discontent: we sit in our Park Slope apartment and look out the window at all of the sleet and snow of the Polar Vortex, and we don’t want to live anymore. Especially since Paco, the manager of the Starbucks on the corner, and our once-upon-a-time boyfriend, wants to “see other people.” We tried to cheer ourselves up by inventing a new cocktail, the Ice Queen (1 part Cointreau, 1 part Lillet Rose, 1/2-part Meyer Lime juice, and a pinch of Demerara sugar), and listening to our Burt Bacharach mix on Pandora, but after one too many renditions of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head,” we feel we might drown in our sorrows. We also use the royal “we” too often, but that is another problem. At least we don’t have Richard III’s clubfoot nor do we feel like we should lock people up in the Tower of London and then murder them in their sleep. At least we have that. But still, we are discontented. And then we decided: enough of this maudlin self-pity; it’s time to get out there again and look fabulous doing it! So, my dearest Mon. Sparkles, what does one wear to go with the winter doldrums during the Polar Vortex?
Ever Yours, Down in Brooklyn
Dear Down in Brooklyn,
depression lives only a few blocks from rage, and I suggest you get more fierce as a way of cutting a bold swath through the snow drifts of your discontented winter. Luckily for you, Dolce & Gabbana has just unveiled their Game of Thrones-inspired Autumn/Winter 2014 collection, and I think a suit from this collection will be just the ticket for you, as opposed to that tired and sad Victorian Dorian Gray get-up I just know you wear when you go to Starbucks with your dusty copy of Baudelaire’s Fleurs de Mal, thinking that will impress Paco, or … whoever. So here is what I recommend: get your hands on one of these D&G suits, and a bottle of Templeton Rye whiskey, and start sauntering down Fifth Avenue like you own the place. And if you get any invitations to weddings on remote islands — no matter how tempting — politely decline, saying you have real estate to conquer in Brooklyn.
Yours, Mon. Sparkles
Dearest Sparkles Joy,
With the festive season upon us, we are once again compelled to don our gay apparel. I have thus pulled my sables out of cold storage, and so swathed, I am prepared to brave the impending cold and the inevitable yuletide cheer that accompanies its onset. As long, of course, as the brandy holds out. Now that I have all of my holiday finery laid out, I am wondering just what books will best match my festive frocks? In other words, which books should I read when in Burberry tweed? Whose verses to ponder while wearing Jil Sander? Is there a novel as trendy as a handbag from Fendi? Please do advise. I would like to end the year with a library as well stocked as my closet.
Yours always, Mary N. Bright
Dear Madame Bright,
You mesmerize me this holiday season with your love of brandy and good books. How refreshing to make the acquaintance of someone who understands the importance of pairing, not just wines and first and second courses, but also pencil skirts and prose poems. This is why I want to share with you that, on my last holiday, I took advantage of an extended period of time available to me and my family to re-enact the complete set of Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu. What I am trying to tell you is that, given the leisure of the holiday season, and the fact that you are probably spending it somewhere like Turks and Caicos, I urge you not to just pair novels with handbags, but to indulge in extended tableaux vivants. You wouldn’t believe the success we had last holiday season (in Paris, of course) with the scene when Odette is riding in her open carriage along the Avenue in the Bois de Boulogne while Swann looks on longingly. Or, how we re-staged that moment when Baron Charlus makes his wife go upstairs and change her shoes again. Always a wonderful prelude, of course, before the goose and pudding, or a fitting denouement, after the Calvados.
And if you are feeling more serious, and prefer the tragic-theological holiday mode, I suggest something like the following:
Yours, Mon. Sparkles
My Dearest Sparkles,
When Gucci launched its ‘flagship’ internet store, I thought, “How gauche!” But, in the end, I started ordering shoes online. When Tiffany made Jean Schlumberger just a click away, I thought, “How absurd!” But, in the end, it is soooo convenient … Now, I am wondering: my shoes, my diamonds, even my morning coffee all come from internet shopping; should my lovers as well? What, what, what do you have to say about internet dating, mon petit monsieur?
Ever and only yours, Wondering About Online Dating
If Jude Law can play a mecha-gigolo in a Steven Spielberg film [A.I.] and millions of people have to suffer through every last detail of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s romantic travails via TMZ, then yes, internet dating is a foregone conclusion. Oh yes, I am certain that you would like to pursue love the old-fashioned way, munching gourmet popcorn and sipping Sancerre with your paramour [whom you “met cute” in an East Village bookshop while browsing the shelves marked “Italy, Piedmont Region”] while watching any French movie directed by Eric Rohmer, or as a bit player in The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but I am afraid you will have to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee you purchased online. If you want to have any hope of love, or even the occasional romp in the hay, I suggest you figure out what OKCupid is and start dusting off your profile. I suggest hiring some ghost writers, scheduling a photo shoot, and an appointment with your tailor. As to the photo shoot, let me suggest a casual photo-documentary in the style of Tom Ford, featuring some candid action shots from the polo grounds, you in the kitchen making sushi, and maybe also some shots of you on the trading floor shaking down a hedge fund manager’s overpaid personal assistant. Absolutely no cats. A French bulldog (named Bruno) on your lap is acceptable, glass of cognac in hand, with a blazing fire nearby, suggesting your hotness, as well as your taste in fine brandies and overbred, pampered pooches. Don’t worry that this all might be an elaborate fiction — that’s what we all live for, after all.
Ever yours, Mon. Sparkles
IT DOESN’T HAPPEN LIKE THIS ANYMORE:
IT HAPPENS LIKE THIS NOW:
Dear Monsieur S.:
When Karl Lagerfeld wore a beard in the 1970s, he scented it with Black Narcissus by Caron, a discontinued perfume of which he secured the remaining stock. What is your opinion on scenting and oiling one’s beard?
Dear Mon. Moustache,
you speak of perfumed beards, and then sign yourself “Moustache”? You seem to be having an identity crisis, but never mind that. Personally, I’m not a beard, nor a mustachio man, but what I can tell you that is that, regardless of Jean-Paul Gaultier’s 2010 show and Game of Thrones, shaggy beards will never be okay in my book. As to perfume, I say it should be everywhere and on everything, even beards. Life isn’t worth living in an unscented world. I personally prefer my men bare-faced and well-oiled, but if one must have a beard, and also perfume it, please keep it trim.
Yours, Mon. Sparkles
Dear Mon. Sparkles,
every time my — ahem — “keepers” take me to the groomer’s, I return home wearing a brightly-colored bandana; sometimes, it’s yellow with little monkeys on it, or red-white-and-blue like the flag of you-know-which pleased-with-itself country, or — shudder — it is green with the emblazoned words, “Happy St. Paddy’s Day!” I would like to chew these right off my own neck. Thoughts?
Signed, Shamefaced in Ohio
In short: quelle horreur. You have my deepest sympathies and I am outraged — outraged, I tell you — on your and all of my similarly poorly-treated confreres’ behalf. Not to mention these rags are usually made from the cheapest cotton imaginable, coated with some sort of shiny, flame-retardant chemical, and then cut with zig-zag pinking shears, as if their ragged, sawtoothed edges somehow stand in for “flair.” It’s as if we are hobos from the 1930s who just fell out of a boxcar on our way to Oklahoma, or are heading to auditions for extras in a 1970s movie by Sergio Leone. Just because you can wrap it around our necks, does not make it fashion. So please, the next time they come at you with the bandana, make like George Clooney on the shore of Lake Como and pour yourself a Campari and soda while wrapped in a blue silk ascot.
Yours, Mon. Sparkles