I was speaking with this young artist recently whose work I did not understand. I appreciated, in the moment, that this was my problem, not hers.
Conversations with artists are so often delightfully arcane — nutrition for the linear brain.
Eventually, our chat got around to the subject of her childhood. She grew up in North Vancouver. She now lives on Main.
“I had to get away,” she told me. “I wasn’t going to become another of the Stepford Wives of Deep Cove.”
I was delighted to hear someone so young reference a novel that was published 20 years before her birthday. It didn’t surprise me, though. Ira Levin’s Stepford Wives is one of those books that endures mostly because the title assumes an understanding that has, over time, transcended the story on its pages.
I left our brief conversation thinking about the inherent sexism in referencing a group of women as “the Stepford Wives of Deep Cove” — submissive, robotic, uninspired, dutiful. I wondered, in that moment, what the male equivalent might be.
And then, I gave this no more thought.
No more thought, that is, until a few weeks ago when I considered writing my own book and calling it The Men of Aritzia.
For the uninformed, Aritzia is a fashion boutique that started in Vancouver decades ago. It is now a global brand. Its target audience is women between the ages of 16 and 35.
On almost every seat of furniture … there is a man with a phone. Some appear alert; others appear on the precipice of a coma
The Men of Aritzia, as I see them, are not there to shop. They are there because their girlfriends want them there. They are thoroughly and utterly Stepfordian, in that regard. They sit around, staring into their phones, while their mates run about the store. When requested, they look up from their screen and nod approvingly at the modelled blouse before them.
The skilled ones — the lads who are gifted at being Men of Aritzia — will converse substantively: “Turn around. Let me see what it looks like from behind.”
Mostly, though, they appear to offer little commentary beyond “yup” and “nice.”
Aritzia, to its credit, goes above and beyond to accommodate these men who breach its threshold.
“We call those ‘the boyfriend chairs’,” says Nikki Ambrose, store manager at the company’s original location on Robson.
Ambrose is referencing the divine lounging furniture strategically placed throughout the store. On almost every seat of this furniture, on this day of my visit, there is a man with a phone. Some appear alert; others appear on the precipice of a coma.
This one chair, at the front of the store, is the most wilfully seductive lounger I’ve ever seen. Legend has it that men have fallen asleep on this chair. I sat down and gave it a go.
You know those songs that are anthemic and rousing — songs that make you want to jump up and take the hill?
Well, this chair is the exact opposite of those songs.
“We want to make sure the boyfriends are comfortable when they are here,” Ambrose told me.
Indeed. I couldn’t be more relaxed on a bed of Ativan.
Next time I visit the store, I think I’m going to bring a book. The Stepford Wives would seem a most suitable choice.
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