One of my favourite mid-aughts Christmas treats was catching up on Veronica Mars with my mother, who loves teen narratives and detective stories, and the combination even more. Kristen Bell embodied Mars so seamlessly I didn’t think too much about the actress who engaged multiple generations with her bitter, smart heroine. But I was delighted to get to know, and quickly come to adore, our cover star through Caroline McCloskey’s profile (page 180), not least because she invites us to. Bell candidly discusses her relationship with fellow actor Dax Shepard and compellingly describes how uncertainty during pregnancy turned to love once her daughter was born. In Briony Smith’s interview with Anjelica Huston (page 172), whose memoir is just out, the elegant fashion icon tells us you shouldn’t come to the dinner table if you’re not going to have a real conversation. How generous and true.
It’s not simply that I’m a nosy journalist and an avid gossip. Like any writer who puts their words and their subjects’ words into the public sphere, I’ve thought a lot about healthy privacy versus toxic secrecy, and have arrived at the considered philosophy that, generally, openness is better. People want details for prurient reasons, but mostly we want inspiration, connection and road maps. What a person says one day might not be what they’d say the next, and we say things we don’t mean—for instance, when we’re hungry! Once you’ve accepted that our characters aren’t fixed, you stop being overly fetishistic about words that come out of mouths. But I’ve always taken journalism to be another form of fiction (it’s edited and written by fallible, biased human beings) and fiction to be journalism.
Once, chatting with an English professor of mine after class years ago, he commented, somewhat sneeringly, I thought, that he had students who believed Anne (of Green Gables) was real. Since he hadn’t yet written our final grades, I refrained from saying, “But she is!”
For those of us who know fiction and fact glide along on the same slippery road, holidays can be particular challenging. The romance of the season holds such promise, and such peril. We plan on flitting to soirées in on-trend-yet-original outfits worn with—one of my many seasonal goals—a confluent evening coat, while finding time to handpick ethically sourced presents and create a nonstop flow of beautiful meals. Plus, if you have children, you make their world magic while gingerly scheduling your way through a minefield of corporate events. (Can we tear asunder “Holiday” and “Event” and give this season back to the people?)
Here’s the rule. This is a four-week-long occasion that you must rise to, even if you already know you’re going to end up at least somewhat deflated. Why? Because if you do approach it with a healthy dose of overachievement, you open yourself up to the possibility of one of those collisions between real and fantastical that make life worth living, and if you don’t, you’re breaking the social contract. Opting out while everyone around you scurries is like littering (and, to get more smug and bossy, all of my paper—wrapping is fun!—is reused and/or made from recycled content).
This issue of FLARE is full of inspiration to help you realize your vision for a stylish December. In our gift guide (page 87), for which we commissioned an original paper sculpture from artist Cybèle Young, we’ve categorized suggestions into types: urban home-steader, retroist, good-time girl, patron and romantic (enjoy debating where you sit); found the most festive accessory ever, the ornamental evening bag, and gathered going out–fits, including outerwear (see my goal above); delved into new sparkling makeup that feeds princess fantasies while maintaining a grown-up sophistication and staying on all night; and, as a pure winter eye feast, photographed Chanel couture in all its luscious artistry. Inevitably there’ll be a holiday disappointment or two, but we’ve done everything we can to ensure this issue of FLARE won’t be one of them.