Nowadays I binge on Facebook photos from nights I wasn’t at. My right arrow key is worn down from the surfing (does anyone surf anymore?) and my FOMO grows with each click. One night while I was studying in Paris last spring, I went down one of those wormholes and found one person, smiling for the camera, whose photo had been taken at every night I hadn’t had the strength to go to alone. The tag read: Lutin en Folie.
A Google search or two later, I found Lutin’s fashion blog. I tracked him down, and we met for coffee one Saturday. Kailea and I spent every Saturday of the month with him after that, shooting Lutin in his natural habitat, le Marais. From those Satudays came the short film you can see above, Lutin le samedi. I feel more and more tender towards Lutin each time I rewatch it. His first collection launches tomorrow, for Paris Fashion Week. I wish him the best.
To me Lutin en Folie embodies self-invention and freedom, the productive kind of attention-seeking that queer and digital cultures so often produce. Where once he loved collecting art now he loves creating looks, and his willingness to surprise never failed to thrill me, especially in a city like Paris, where no one tries to hide whom they’re staring at and why. For me he personifies and crystallizes the way that even in our queer new world, the rearrangement of cultural narratives around gender and age continues to fascinate. His very image speaks to the power of clothes, most of all when they land on bodies they once could have never belonged to, or when these thrilling combinations are seen in public when once they would have been a private affair. (I’m not sure what Lutin would say of all this. I don’t mean to put too much on him. This is all me.)
When I think of all this, I can’t help but think of how I met my first boyfriend on Neopets. By which I really mean that I came of age by chatting with an online predator on a site that offered tweens the pleasure of starving imaginary animals and hoarding imaginary eggs. Chubby and unambiguously queer, a prepubescent Eric found some sort of solace in the dissolution of the body and the capacity for self-invention that Neopets presented me with. (In forum conversations, I posed as Aaron, a 17-year-old male cheerleader who suffered from relentless bullying and hated his small hometown. In addition to being witty and a huge fan of James Blunt, Aaron was wiry, hairless, and 6 foot 4. Everyone else on Neopets loved me, and they were all wildly attractive, and hilarious, and fashionable, just like Aaron.) This was pre-Facebook, or Instagram: there was no urge to publish photos of your real life or make your real friends jealous, were you lucky enough to have them. Then, I had no image of what my life would one day look like. Today, all we have are images. We Grind and Tumbl on.
In short, I wish I had seen this video when I was still in my Neopets days.
A glimpse of Lutin would have been a glimpse of some sort of future.