WELCOME TO THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE
It’s full of new trends, fresh fashion, and all the feels. It might not be February, the clichéd magazine month for romance, but the heart-eye emojis are well and truly flying at ELLE this month, with no less than three editors (including myself) committing to a ride-or-die over the past few weeks. In true fairytale style, market editor Claudia’s boyfriend Tom (watch me resolutely refuse to use the word “fiancé” even once through this entire column) popped the question as they sailed on azure seas aboard a Croatian yacht, as you do. Deputy editor Genevra’s long-term partner (see?) Geoffrey nostalgically got on bended knee out the front of the pub where they met up for their first-ever date eight years earlier, blue box in hand, humungous bouncers cheering him on. For me it happened in bed one evening after a perfect day out with friends, not really so much a question as a quietly symbolic (and sparkly) confirmation of a decision we’d come to together long before. And then I surprised him with his own Maison Margiela signet ring re-proposal a few weeks later, just to keep things perfectly equal in the romance department. It was an equitable, grown-up engagement, just the way I wanted it. (And maybe the way it happens, the second time around.)
The modern-day women’s movement has given us a new lens through which to look at dating and marriage, and it’s less cut-and-dried than ever. Can you be a feminist and still want to be “given away”? (Answer: You can.) Can you be a feminist and still want the romantic, surprise proposal? (I didn’t, but you can.) Can you be a feminist and still sort of secretly expect the man to pay on a date? (Answer: possibly not in a perfect post-feminist world, but because of the “wax tax” – i.e. the costs of dating women absorb as par for the course – this is currently acceptable as far as we’re concerned.) And then of course, the big one: can you be a feminist and change your name? Of course, the answer, as always, is that a fundamental part of being a feminist is having the choice to do whatever you bloody well want, but that doesn’t make the decision any simpler. About half of my friends changed their name without a second thought. The other half wouldn’t have contemplated it for a second. The ELLE office is equally split down the middle. Up until now I’ve always fallen firmly in camp It’s My Byline/i Love My Grandfather/but What About Twilight, but now, having finally found myself exactly where I need to be, with the person with whom I was always meant to be, who wants exactly what I want out of life, I’ve suddenly found myself seeing it differently. I want to be a family with him in spirit, on paper and also on our credit cards. But do I want those things enough to perpetuate what I’ve always considered to be an outdated and unjust tradition? Probably not. My answer, for now, is to try to talk him into taking my last name, as a small step in helping to turn the tide against centuries of patriarchy. Is it working? Let’s consider it a work in progress.
Of course, even if you get past that major hurdle, then you have the kids to think about. Most of my friends who kept their own names (again, including myself) still gave their children their partner’s surnames or went with double-barrelled. But why is that the norm? And what’s the feminist solution? I like the sound of how they do it in Iceland, where apparently female offspring are given the mother’s surnames while males are given the father’s. But, as my wildly evolved
12-year-old son pointed out, that assumes there are only two genders… and that right there is where I stop trying to fix
600+ years of established traditions in a 600-word column.
A simpler love, in these complicated times, is the love of new clothes, this being the September issue. And there is so much to love this season, no matter what your style: leather or leopard, suiting or silk prints, shiny silvers or country plaids. This issue is full of all of them. The lesson being that fashion right now, like engagements and surnames, is about whatever makes you feel good.
“CAN YOU BE A FEMINIST AND STILL WANT TO BE ‘GIVEN AWAY’? (ANSWER: YOU CAN)”
LOVE ROCKS: From left: Justine, Claudia and Genevra with their (ahem) fiancés