Spotted. N wandering Soho solo in heels, and doesn’t even enter Balthazar?! What is this Queen-B wannabe searching for so eagerly?
I admit. I am obsessed.
It all started freshman year when I went to visit my sister in New York. Having just returned from spending a semester in Ghana, where she claimed to have been television-deprived, she was now intent on watching every show possible to restore her equilibrium. I hadn’t seen a single episode of “Gossip Girl” at the time and had no desire to watch the series. Wasn’t the melodramatic story of teenage debauchery a little old? And hadn’t everyone found Blake Lively completely annoying in “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”? But my sister was adamant, and so we came to watch episode number 7: “Victor/Victrola.”
For those of you who don’t know (gasp, there are people who don’t watch the show!), Gossip Girl is a mysterious blogger who describes the scandalous lives of Manhattan’s elite—that is, the rich and beautiful students of semi-fictitious prep schools on the Upper East Side, as well as a few of their across-the-bridge consorts. Before you judge, know that the book series on which the show is based has been compared to Anna Karenina in a New Yorker article.
But in truth, there isn’t much that is special about the show. Sure, the clothes and characters are gorgeous, but the plots are often ridiculous (in the Latin sense of the word, literally, “laughable”). Take, for instance, when a new boy-toy who seems lackluster actually turns out to be a British Lord. Or this season’s liason dangereuse between Dan Humphrey—resident Brooklyn writer whose short story was once published in the New Yorker itself—and J.Crew-wearing, Shakespeare-spewing English teacher Miss Carr. It was not only morally repugnant, but also so Dawson’s Creek circa 1998.
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Nonetheless, there is one character who keeps me a Gossip Girl fan(atic), who compelled me last summer to watch the first season probably 15 times and to order season two on DVD three months in advance. Meet Blair Waldorf: the self-professed “crazy bitch around here.” In downer Dan’s immortal words, she is a “95-pound, doe-eyed, bon-mot-tossing, label-whoring package of girly evil. Medusa wants her withering glare back.”
Okay, okay. It’s true that Blair’s antics are often childish, outlandish, usually downright mean. But people just don’t understand her in the way that I do! I remember watching the opening scene of that fateful episode 7, our first encounter. B (FYI: only her friends call her B) had just ended her relationship with longtime boyfriend Nate and proceeded to take a limo downtown to a speakeasy and undress publicly. Maybe it sounds worse when written down so literally, but trust me, it’s this magical moment where we are confronted with Blair shedding her inhibitions for the first time, denuding herself of the expectations that others have imposed on her, that she herself has come to accept as truth. It is a moment of self-discovery, of liberation!
Watching this for the first time, I realized instantly that Blair and I—not at the surface but at our very cores—are really one and the same. Her desperate acts of revenge cloak her fear of being vulnerable. Her cruelty and heartlessness shroud profound insecurity. Her guise of innocence masks her recognition of her own weaknesses. Yet on the outside she remains the epitome of poise and grace. Seeing so much of myself transported onto the screen, but embodied in this glamorous, mythical character—it was something of a transcendent experience.
(NB: if you are looking for an episode to understand Blair better, I highly recommend season 1, episode 9, “Blair Waldorf Must Pie.” I promise it will make you cry.)
Since then, struck by the unquestionable rapport between us (and after exhaustive research on gossipgirlcloset.com), I have taken it on as a mission to unearth my inner Blair. After seeing B’s iconic red Valentino headband in “Victor/Victrola,” I now wear a red headband with almost everything. I now have a pair of red tights like the one Blair loves (and wears best in “Hi, Society”); salmon shorts just like hers from “Never Been Marcused;” an Audrey Hepburn painting like the one that hangs in her room. Recently, my dad bought me a new light blue duvet that has an uncanny resemblance to Blair’s. And after learning that Blair’s cat (who lives with her dad and his partner in France) is named Cat (a reference to her favorite movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”), I have started calling my dog, Dog.
This sense of identification reached even greater heights this summer, when I spent two months living on my own in New York City. Suddenly, I felt that everything in Blair’s life would become real to me. For one summer, I could be a part of her world. I could be Blair.
Or at least I could try. Often would I meander through Central Park to find the pond where Blair feeds ducks with her Polish maid, Dorota. I would spend countless afternoons sitting on the steps of the Met, though usually sans yoghurt. Once, I nibbled on dessert at the Modern, the restaurant at MoMA where Nate had planned to take Blair after the cotillion ball. (I couldn’t afford to dine at B’s favorite restaurant Gramercy Tavern, but at least I walked past it once!) I went to Bendel’s, Blair’s favorite store, and even splurged on a coat that I think she would adore. For two months, it was as if I was living my life by one ruling criterion: What Would Blair Do? (No, I don’t have a bracelet, thank you very much.)
Near the end of my time in New York, I realized that there could be only one grand finale to my life as a Gossip Girl: I had to come face-to-face with my heroine herself. I had to see Blair in the flesh.
Finally, on July 20, I was ready. The night before, I had done some sleuthing on GossipGirlInsider.com (another truly valuable resource), where I discovered that the cast would be filming around Mulberry and Prince streets the following day. I chose a perfect Blair outfit for the occasion: a black high-waisted pencil skirt, a ruffly cream blouse, and a wide cream silk headband adorned with tiny pearls. And, of course, heels. Blair has this superhuman ability to wear heels everywhere, and while I usually changed into flip-flops on the way home from my day job, I knew that tonight, they would simply be unacceptable.
Around 7:30 p.m. I exited the Spring Street station, my heart racing, and made my way to St. Patrick’s Old Cathedral School. Crowds of swarming preteens lined the sidewalk, whispering, waiting. “Did you see Dan?” “I saw Vanessa earlier, and the love child Scott…,” overemphasizing the double t’s. A man in a black t-shirt with dark hair and muscular arms had set up four orange cones and was instructing the fans to stand behind them, but everyone was trying to push past the barricade to get a better view. I decided to climb onto a lamppost for extra height.
Suddenly, as I was towering above the herd, the cameras began rolling. Everyone was silent. A limo pulled up on the other side of the street, and a small frame, statuesque and regal, emerged from within. Blair Waldorf. Her white headband, heels, pearls: impeccable as always. Her architectural red dress: fitted, elegant, structured. Her dark brown hair, her Snow White skin—she was perfection, like a Ladurée macaron. I was straining to see what would happen next, when, abruptly, I heard: “That’s a wrap.”
Without thinking, without planning, I ran across the street. I knew it was my moment. There she was, right in front of me: spotted.
It was as if time had frozen for a moment, and I just stared. I didn’t take a photograph—I couldn’t, somehow. A few teenage girls, notebooks and pens in hand, started running after her as she sped down the street with two bodyguards. “We love you, Leighton Meester!” they cried. I just stared. In the few seconds it had taken me to cross the street, she had changed out of her beautiful cream high heels into raggedy old flip-flops.