Karen Krizanovich column

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There's a woman back home who replies to the shop clerk's cheery "Have a nice day" with "Don't tell me what to do." This is a global right. If she wanted to buy the local church, remodel it and then proudly announce that she is installing a black bidet in her bathroom, then it is her inalienable right to do so - to be tasteless, in other words.

Style magazines and newspapers make like they know what's in and what's out. But, as the Versace knock-knock joke goes ("Knock-Knock." "Who's there?" "Versace." "Versace who?" "Ah, that's the fashion business."), fashion is at best a grace note - meant to be played and then forgotten. That means everybody gets it wrong, but it doesn't matter. So here I am, as promised last week, telling you a bit about how to be cool. You can be like me - desperately trendy - if you follow these simple Trendy Rules.

1. Be there ASAP. If you haven't checked out a new place to shop, eat or be seen within four weeks of its opening, don't bother at all. You're a leader, on the cutting edge of what life's all about (which is, basically, spending more money than you make, buying stuff you don't need and wasting precious time that you will want back when you are lying on your deathbed. Honestly, if you don't have children, what else is there to do? You can only read for so long before your lips get tired.)

2. You are where you eat. All you McMuffins, out of the pool.

3. Technophobia no longer makes you seem like Holmes's Dr Watson. If you can't operate a computer, a Psion or a Swiss army knife, you should be ashamed of yourself.

4. Know the difference between old-good and new-good. For example, there is really only one palpable difference between the vulcanised fat-free muffins at the Seattle Coffee Company and those at the Beverly Hills Bakery in Knightsbridge. One delivers.

5. By the time anyone else finds out what's trendy, you've already moved on to the next trend. Why? Because a) you're a leader, b) you are insatiably curious and the credit card people keep lifting your limit, c) you are neurotic and d) you don't have a recognisable raison d'etre.

6. Being trendy is hard work, which must look effortless. Remember key phrases, like "This old thing?" when the tag is still on it.

7. Always remove the red sales stickers from the soles of your shoes.

So how cool am I? I am so cool I wear Cutler & Gross sunglasses, not the prohibitively expensive, they-saw-me-coming Porsche spectacles. As much as I love the movie Men In Black, I wouldn't dream of wearing Ray- Ban Predator 2s. Sure, they wear 'em in the film. But at the end of the movie, the cool MIB are wearing another brand. (Actually, I wouldn't touch a pair of Ray-Bans because their publicist mulishly refused to send me any freebies. She obviously doesn't know who I am - I was in Private Eye once. Fie on her.)

I'm so cool I wouldn't drive a Honda - especially a free one, unlike Tara Thingie-Thingie (apparently known as the Plank). Honda? That's for people who punch a hole in the front of the microwave and continue to use it. Back home, they're for aspiring trailer trash. Betsy Joe's got one to go to her classes in How Astrology Affects Your Mascara.

I'm so cool I have to drive a car with a cool name, like the Rover Here Boy or the Saab Story. I'm against buying that car called the Prowler on principle. I can understand the Cobra (as pitted against the Scarab), or its current incarnation, the Viper. Those are race cars, meant to be cherished and pampered and sold come the divorce. They're not exactly Sainsbury's parking lot cars.

Car companies have traditionally named their vehicles after animals (Puma, Mustang, Pacer), places (Granada, Capri, Blackpool), and Egyptian symbols for life (Ka) and the sport version (Ka-Si). That's OK. But who set the trend to name cars after violent perpetrators? The Prowler? What's next - the Granny Kicker? The Thug? The Munchausen Syndrome By Proxy? At this rate, both the Plank and me will be driving a Jeep Skate or a Ford Harrison - although she won't pay for hers coz she wears short skirts. Oh well.

"What are these?" Several chocolate bars are posed like bathing beauties on my friend John's coffee table. (John is a trend-monger like me).

A trap, no doubt. They're candles. Soap. Stuck down with epoxy - anything to get me back for eating that sweetie last time. We don't have much Merano glass in Illinois but when we do, it's shaped properly, like a swan or a clown. Inedible things shouldn't pretend to be food, not with so many hungry people around.

"They're new," John gestures to the bars, "I've got all three flavours from the manufacturer. You can't buy them yet." (So I can't buy them yet but he's got them? La-de-da.)

"You don't like chocolate, John."

"I know." (Touche. Smug sonofagun.)

"So what do you think of the new Oasis?"

"Bored to death," he says.

"America doesn't think the V-1 shines out of their bottoms, either," I reply.

"The V-1?"

"Oh dear! You don't know, do you? It's the latest craze. Nazi Rhyming Slang. V-1 - sun!"


"Rudolf Hess!" I affirm. (Got him.)

One pearly Hitler Youth poking between his lips, a blush spreading over his master race, he snarls, "If you want to win the style war, you've got to be prepared to feel the breaking wind of fashion against your cheek."

"Isn't that a misquote from Fitzgerald?" I ask.

"OK, you win."