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'Part Of It' Resists And Transcends Any Coming-Of-Age Clichés

Books

Talking with Ariel Schrag about her latest book

A lot of the appeal in coming-of-age stories lies in their ability to establish clear boundaries, aided in no small part by the gift of hindsight. These narratives help us understand our present lives by offering up our pasts for analogous inspection; the present, after all, is so much easier to comprehend when it is actually the past, when we have some distance from having made those choices that got us to where we are now. The decisions have been made, the fig has been plucked from the overburdened tree, the paths have been chosen, and, from the vantage point of adulthood, we can better understand why we ended up where we did, and so everything makes perfect sense and falls into place, immaculately—forever. Or, you know, not.

The problem, of course, with expecting a coming-of-age tale to be representative of a discrete part of life, one with clear boundaries delineating before and after, is that life is messy, going from one stage of it to another is often paralyzingly hard, and there is little that's linear about becoming a more fully realized version of yourself—if that's even possible. That's why the best coming-of-age stories are messes themselves, free of the reductive morality we've been taught to expect in these types of narratives, leaving the reader feeling liberated from any simplistic lesson; Ariel Schrag's latest illustrated book, Part of It, then, serves as one of the best examples of the genre, while also resisting any such categorization at all.

This is a book of "comics and confessions," and is a return to illustrated autobiographical form for Schrag, who became widely known while still a teenager for the comics she wrote contemporaneously about her high school experience, but who has also, more recently, written for TV (The L Word and Vinyl), and is the author of Adam, a witty and subversive, razor-sharp novel about a young man who pretends to be a trans man in order to get a girl.

In Part of It, though, Schrag goes back to her younger years, and relates over a dozen experiences she had, from the ages of six to 26, in which she does innocuous things—attempt to select a new pair of glasses or take a city bus to a friend's house—as well as more serious ones—teach at an after-school program in New York City and get in a fistfight at her college's gay prom. What's notable through each of the book's chapters is the way in which belonging—being a part of it, of something—is such a key aspect to becoming who you are, or who you think you should be. These choices, it seems, make you into you, but so, then, does the refusal to make a choice at all.

"It's really funny," Schrag said to me recently, as we spoke about the book, and I remarked how much I loved the chapter on the odyssey that is her glasses hunt, so painfully did I relate to the inability to settle on one pair of frames, or one anything, "because I took a modern literature class in high school where we read The Brothers Karamazov, Madame Bovary, stuff like that; and at the end of the year, the teacher was like, 'Okay, so having read all of these books, what is modern man's plight?' And we were all like, 'Uh, I don't know... God, or love, or whatever.' And she was like: 'Choice. The answer is choice.' Like, I could just keep choosing glasses... there was a 30-day return policy. I could just go on and on forever. I was imprisoned by choice."

This is a familiar predicament to, well, just about everyone, this inability to settle on one thing, lest we risk losing another, potentially better thing. It is, Schrag says, an indication of a kind of "infantile existence," one which—in the case of her glasses hunt—ends out of necessity: She got a job, and she moved on with her life. It's a conclusion that Schrag presents in a matter-of-fact way; she's never indulgent when relaying these pivotal moments, never moralizing, she just presents the quiet agony of not knowing what to do in life, and not having enough impetus to make a decision that will move you forward.

Of course, there are times when making those decisions doesn't necessarily mean you are moving forward in a positive direction. In the chapter "Fight at the Gay Prom," Schrag writes about punching someone in the face and, as such, dealing with the consequences of making a bad choice. She explained, "It was a challenge writing the gay prom moment, because part of me was like, I did this horrible thing, I don't want it to seem glorified in any way, because, at the time, I felt like it was glorious. But in the aftermath, I was like, This is horrible. And I did actually, in real life, immediately write a letter of apology to the girl the next day and entered counseling in college for what I did."

But what Schrag depicts so piercingly is that precise moment when your feelings of empowerment, spurred on by the mere fact that you made a choice at all, are destroyed because you are confronted with the consequences of those choices. In the case of the prom, Schrag found her post-fight high ruined by an encounter with campus police, who questioned her about her involvement, leading her to have to make another choice: Would she lie about it or tell the truth?

Schrag said of the situation, "[It was this] sort of transition away from, I can do anything, the world is mine to play with, and it's like a video game. And to then—I remember that moment in real life very clearly—at first [say to the police], 'Oh no, it was just a fight, we were all in it'—which I knew was completely not true. It was just me. And as they were like, 'I need to ask you again,' I suddenly was like, If I continue to lie, I am an evil person. It felt like this crossing of a boundary, like, Oh my god, I can't step over into that and be that—I have to tell the truth. It felt like this weird two-paths thing, and I was like, Even if I get in trouble now, I have to accept it. I have to deal with what I did."

These types of ethical complexities are beautifully set off by Schrag's elegantly rendered panels, in which faces are spare affairs, often comprising just eyes and a nose, or eyes and a mouth, to great effect. They are an ideal complement for her writing, as they work together to alternately offer dramatic tension and slack; they reflect the patterns of life, or, rather, life's routine lack of patterns. The illustrations are simple, often, but that's why the impact of the story is felt so strongly, they are a perfect background for the turmoil that exists off the page, within the minds of these furrow-browed faces.

And does it matter the age of the people behind these faces? Does it matter if they learn things, or become something other than who they once were? Does it matter if they... grow up? Come-of-age? Of course not. When we first began talking, Schrag mentioned how much she loves the novel Inappropriation, Lexi Freiman's brilliant satire of our cripplingly self-conscious, over-privileged, hyper-linguistic society, and referenced its Bookforum review by the writer Andrea Long Chu, in which Chu wrote, "Adults do not, as every adult knows, exist." Schrag explained that, for her, "writing these comics are about the same thing. I didn't just want to make it this coming-of-age moment." And so she didn't; instead of concerning itself with becoming, Part of It reflects the inherent complexities of just being, awkward and beautiful and painful and liberating though it may be.

Part of It: Comics and Confessions is available for purchase here.

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Photo by Phillip Faraone/Getty Images for goop

"I had to create a harder shell about being a woman"

In a panel discussion during Gwyneth Paltrow's In Goop Health summit, actress Jessica Alba revealed that she "stopped eating" to avoid unwanted attention from men when she was first starting her career in Hollywood.

According to People, Alba said that she "had a curvy figure as a young girl" and, as such, was made to feel as though her body was the reason that men may be inappropriate toward her. "I was meant to feel ashamed if I tempted men," Alba said during the panel discussion. "Then I stopped eating a lot when I became an actress. I made myself look more like a boy so I wouldn't get as much attention. I went through a big tomboy phase."

She continued, "In Hollywood, you're really preyed upon. They see a young girl, and they just want to touch you inappropriately or talk to you inappropriately or think that they're allowed to be aggressive with you in a way."

Alba also noted that she was raised in a conservative household. "My mom would say, 'You have a body, and it's very womanly, and people don't understand that you're 12,'" she said. "I wasn't allowed to have my nalgas out, which is butt cheeks [in Spanish], but I was born with a giant booty, and they come out of everything. So, I didn't get to wear normal things that all my friends wore."

She said that these reactions to her body really affected her attitude. "I created this pretty insane 'don't fuck with me' [attitude]," she said. "I had to create a harder shell about being a woman."

According to her, her relationship to her body only changed when her first child, Honor, was born in 2008. "[After she was born,] I was like, Oh this is what these boobies are meant to do! Feed a kid!" she said. "And that was the dopest shit I'd ever done. So, I came into my body as a woman finally and I stopped being ashamed of myself."

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FROM THE WORLD WIDE WEB
Photo courtesy of Teva

Because of course

Teva, the most obvious lesbian footwear brand since Birkenstock, really knows its customer base. In time for Pride, the brand has teamed up with Tegan and Sara for a gay shoe to end all gay shoes. In other words, your Pride footwear is on lock.

The shoe isn't just your average Teva sandal. Tegan and Sara's design, the Teva Flatform Universal Pride sandal, is a 2.5-inch platform shoe with a rainbow sole. Tegan and Sara noted in a press release that they have been Teva wearers for pretty much their whole lives. "We got our first pair of Teva sandals when we were 16," they said. "This rainbow Flatform collab is like full circle LGBTQ+ Pride validation."

What's better, with each sandal sale, Teva will donate $15 to the Tegan and Sara Foundation, up to $30,000. The funds donated will go toward scholarships which will give young members of the LGBTQ+ community the chance to go to summer camps which will "help develop self-confidence and leadership abilities in a safe and nurturing environment." Tegan and Sara added, "Teva's generous support for our foundation will allow us to help even more LGBTQ+ youth."

Available today at Teva's and Nordstrom's websites, the sandal retails for $80.

Photo courtesy of Teva

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Photo by Mike Coppola/Getty Images

"Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design"

Prada Group has announced that Prada, as well as all of its brands, will now be fur-free. According to a press release from the Humane Society, Prada, Miu Miu, Church's, and Car Shoe will ban the use of fur beginning with the Spring/Summer 2020 collection (aka the Fashion Week coming up next). The list of fashion designers banning fur only continues to grow, with 3.1 Phillip Lim, Coach, Armani, Versace, Gucci, and more having stopped using the material in seasons past.

"The Prada Group is committed to innovation and social responsibility, and our fur-free policy—reached following a positive dialogue with the Fur Free Alliance, in particular with LAV and the Humane Society of the United States—is an extension of that engagement," Miuccia Prada told the Human Society. "Focusing on innovative materials will allow the company to explore new boundaries of creative design while meeting the demand for ethical products."

Following London Fashion Week designers forgoing the use of fur in September and the first-ever Vegan Fashion Week taking place in February, it's easy to imagine an entirely fur-free fashion future. It's especially easy, I presume, for the brands to consider a fur-free future, given that entire cities and states are taking a stance. New York is following in the footsteps of Los Angeles banning fur, with a bill proposed this March that would ban sales across New York State.

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Photo by Johnny Dufort

"Club leisure" is the new athleisure

Alexander Wang is recognizing clubbing as the workout that it truly is with his latest Adidas collaboration. In this fifth installment, he "changes gears," per a press release from the brand, taking the iconic sports brand to the dance floor.

For the new campaign, the collection comes to life in iconic choreographer Tanisha Scott's dance studio and stars dancers Noemi Janumala, Dakota Moore, Avi McClish, and Olivia Burgess. The dancers show just how far these clothes can go when you want to bust a move or stretch, but TBH, I'll leave these poses to the pros and just use my clothes for flexing on the 'gram.

The collection—which features six apparel items, three shoes, and six accessories—features, per a press release, "Wang's knack for pre-styling." Standouts from the mostly black-and-white items include a silver sneaker that was *made* for moonwalking, an airy windbreaker that has just the right dash of bright blue with the scattered Adidas trefoil design, and a towel hoodie that you won't feel bad sweating in.

Ahead of the May 25 collection drop online and in stores, peep the gorgeous campaign images below.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Joggers, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Towel Hoodie, $350, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Sock Leggings, $60, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Adilette Slides, $90, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Futureshell Shoes in Platinum Metallic, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Core White, $280, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Shorts in Core White, $120, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

Photo by Johnny Dufort

Adidas Originals by AW, Sweatshirt in Black, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Bum Bag, $50, available staring May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Towel, $80, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Turnout BBall Shoes, $250, available starting May 25 at Adidas; Adidas Originals by AW, Duffle Bag, $70, available starting May 25 at Adidas.

NYLON uses affiliate links and may earn a commission if you purchase something through those links, but every product chosen is selected independently.


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Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

And Nikolaj Coster-Waldau's reaction to that prediction is literally all of us

Though it felt like no one saw the bonkers end to Game of Thrones coming, Gwendoline Christie, who played Ser Brienne of Tarth on the show, predicted exactly who would end up with the majority of power in the Seven, or rather, Six Kingdoms years before it all went down. During an interview leading up to the penultimate season of Game of Thrones in 2017, Christie sat down with Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (aka Jaime Lannister) for an interview with Mario Lopez, and they were both asked to predict how the whole thing would come to a close. Spoilers ahead...

Lopez posed the question, "If you were a gambling man, who would you say?" Coster-Waldau replied: "Well gambling, the odds now are clearly in Daenerys Targaryan's favor. Or, that guy," he said, pointing to a picture of the Night King.

But Christie, knowing Game of Thrones' tendencies toward the unpredictable, came right back at Coster-Waldau, asking, "But don't you think it's going to be someone out of left field?"

"So I'm wondering if it might be Bran," Christie suggested, "Just because we keep seeing the world from his perspective, don't we? We keep seeing the visions. So is he in the future, projecting in the past?"

Coster-Waldau's reaction to the suggestion that Bran will rule over them all is, well, exactly how we all felt watching it play out in real time this past Sunday evening. "The three eyed raven? As a king? No, that doesn't make sense," he said. And, well, same. Because while I usually *adore* watching Christie shut down Coster-Waldau, like they're an old married couple bickering, this time I'm on his side. It made no sense!

Coster-Waldau attempted to reason with her, saying that if Bran was planning the whole thing, then he wanted Jaime to push him out the window, and that makes no sense at all. But Christie stood firm in her belief, and, as last Sunday demonstrated, her commitment to this highly improbably outcome paid off. We hope she placed a sizable bet in Vegas.

Catch the full clip below.

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