While I have been repeatedly ensnared by “Chloe in the Afternoon” (the tenderest of hotel rendezvous anthems) and “Your Lips Are Red” (“Your lips are red / My face is red from reading your red lips”), it was not until the fitful static of April that I really began to find Annie Clark sexy.
As everyone’s world became plasticine — I recall those final days working in DUMBO, watching girl fridays haul bulky HP monitors aboard the F Train like bastard children — so too did my desire. Abruptly, I was working from home, masked to the gills in neoprene, and baffled by the inability to convey a smile to passersby. Lest any woman think I not appreciate her Chloé bag or find her night owl make-up pretty, I resolved to become a catcaller once the pandemic ended. Holed up in my phone and increasingly living without a body, I became unable to recognize myself as much of anything. Including gay.
The null of it all was so impressive that I accepted phone numbers from men and offered my number to men during my few jaunts outdoors. These exchanges are made all the more incredible in hindsight; we never even saw one another’s mouths. (In the effort to redeem myself, I must at least acknowledge a coinciding yet bizarre exchange with a real estate heiress.)
At some point during this, I finally broke the seal on St. Vincent and Dua Lipa’s mash-up from the 2019 Grammys. The performance is a little scrap of dyke popular culture that I knew existed. That girls were histrionic about it. That there were some BDSM memes about it. I’d never seen it. Yet my belated initiation couldn’t have been better-timed.
I inevitably capitulated. I copied and pasted the YouTube URL into a third-party application that played the song on loop. Of the thousand times I listened to this live Grammy performance, I’ve only viewed the video in full a handful; ten, maybe. I remain uncertain whether, in this polyurethane tango, Dua ever receives her “One Kiss” from Annie.
Visually, I found myself bearing witness to the artifice that I felt I had become; that this equally grand and grotesque display of physical thinness and domme rigidity seemed to be a kindred spirit to the body from which I felt detached, which was (and still somewhat is) shrinking.
In queer film criticism, ‘mirroring’ — the phenomenon of an on-screen woman, usually a femme fatale, closely resembling the woman she covets — is often held in contempt; a lesbophobic and misogynistic offense. See: ‘Atomic Blonde,’ ‘The Handmaiden,’ ‘The Duke of Burgundy’. Three films in which I, usually possessing the pulse of Rainer Werner Fassbinder after speed, delight.
In watching this exceptionally mirrored pseudo-sapphic duet, I saw something that I would have never seen outside of this very curious and damning and ever-digitally-attached moment. Something clinical, like an undressed Barbie; as sterilized and as searing as a coveted drop of hand sanitizer that encounters a papercut.
Dua Lipa’s lyrics are inconsequential to me, as is her presence, aside from being an oscillating stand-in; like Trilby tempted by Svengali. I assume, for those who clung to this performance after its broadcast, Dua was a mere prop for some odd fantasy of Annie Clark to which I was never really privy (until now, sorta).
Yet it wasn’t ‘Annie as Seductress’ with a guitar phallically strapped to her that did it for me. It was the familiarly unsexed electric rip of her instrument and a cognitive reworking of lyrics:
Masseduction / I can’t turn on what turns me on.
It became a girlish joke between the two of us. Dua, meanwhile, remained unimportant while her silhouette remained paramount.
The silhouette, you see, represented that thing St. Vincent and I wanted but just couldn’t seem to grasp.