Your green babydoll shift dress has proven to be one of the safest things you own. It’s old, cheap, and you got it on vacation in a foreign country so nobody else has it. It communicates enough personal style without demanding attention – a surprisingly impenetrable armor not of swagger, but of quiet girlishness. At your best, this dress makes you feel like you could make everyone fall in love with you in a nonthreatening, asexual way. But you’re not at your best, and the trusty green babydoll also makes you a little shinier than you actually are. It is the most reliable path through the angst of seeing your natural enemy.
A warm hello doesn’t make it past your throat. She waves. It’s not a friendly wave and it reaches you as a sort of sardonic “we’re on this shitty boat together for an evening, I guess.” You wave back and smile in your mind, but you can’t remember if you actually carried it out. You hope the green babydoll is softening your sad bastard pout into something sweeter and more demure. It strikes you that you want her to despise you but also to think of you as a small animal undeserving of her scorn.
You need another drink. You think about buying her a drink. You don’t. At the bar, she’s waiting to pay her tab. You both miscalculated the timing and are annoyed at being stuck in each other’s line of sight. You are trying to work up the courage to pay her tab, for reasons not entirely clear even to you. You are trying to condense every emotion you’ve ever felt – hatred, jealousy, respect, longing, a mutant strain of fondness, guilt – into one facial expression. It comes out as a thousand-yard stare.
You try to zap your daydream that you have only just become aware of directly into her brain through sheer force of will. In this dream it’s a boozy party still on the holiday side of winter and the clothes are more glamorous. This dress is a dark jewel tone silk – deep pine or midnight blue (it catches the light so beautifully that nobody can be sure). What it lacks in flash it makes up for in elegance, with a skirt that flutters when your boyfriend spins you and catches you in a perfectly executed hip lift – because this is a dancing event and you can do that now. Your mother’s diamond and ruby estate bracelet is on loan for the night. It’s late enough that cheeks are flushed and hair is out of place (half up, tendrils). You tend to dream in diaphanous pastels that blur at the edges but in this dream, you and your clothes are solidly rooted in the boundaries and sweat of real bodies. In the glow of alcohol and celebration you smack straight into her and don’t have time to wipe the unguarded, dance-crazed grin off your face so you take the risk of leaving it there. This gambit not only manages to neutralize everything that has come before, but her heart is utterly captivated by how charming and actually nice when you get to know her you seem to be. You laugh loudly and sincerely and dance together with the joy only two drunk people could. Some time later you see a photo a friend snapped without either of you noticing. Your smile is real and crooked in a way that only shows up when you don’t feel watched. Your arms look very skinny. You never go on to become close friends, but you are always genuinely glad to see each other. You both treasure the candid photo and count it among the most flattering pictures ever taken of you, respectively and collectively.
Everyone online is talking about skincare! Actually they already were, but last week a skincare-critical article in The Outline brought it to the forefront and also led outlets who already publish stories about skincare on a daily basis to exclaim “everyone is into skincare?!”
Like most of my millennial skincare enthusiast peers, I wasn’t a fan of the Outline piece. I didn’t appreciate the assumption that those of us who choose to be passionate about skincare are somehow being duped or fooled. It got some things right, mainly “Within the current paradigm, a blemish seems like a referendum on who you are as a person.” Skincare-as-moral coding is something I’ve long read into the marketing of certain brands like Glossier (still buy their makeup) and many “clean beauty” lines. About my own skin anxiety I wrote, “My face is something I can’t hide, and if I can’t present something close to perfect to the world, then I’ve failed at self-management.” Skincare can be exhausting. It can bring on a new wave of stress when I’m struggling with self-harm and the chasm between the now and the ideal seems wider than ever. And because skincare is a huge industry like any other, it can be hard not to cave to the pressure to try every new trend and wonder if the routine you’ve locked down is good enough, expensive enough, or Holy Grail enough.
I am a person with a lot of screeching and strident anime opinions, but when it comes to actually diving into hot button conversations on a season-to-season basis, I usually wimp out because conflict eats me. But there’s a new show, Darling in the Franxx, that I was compelled to bleed a lot of word viscera about because it’s being very blunt with themes of sexuality and sexual roles. It’s at an intersection of things I spend a lot of my time processing as a girl, a feminist, a sexual abuse survivor, a person with a blood fetish, the list goes on. I don’t think the world needs my take, but I haven’t really seen much discourse in the pro or con camp coming from a cool sexual trauma haver, so here it is.
I was going to finish this post in December but depression, etc. I saw a lot of very affecting movies in 2017 – not necessarily 2017 movies. These are the most important movies that I happened to watch in the year 2017 and why they were important, underexplained and with no internal consistency.
I finally! saw Dario Argento’s cult classic in its beautiful 4K restoration. The story, about American ballet student Suzy who travels to Germany to attend an elite dance school that may have ties to evil witchcraft, is ultimately very stupid, but that doesn’t matter. Just the Grand Guignol ass setpieces and stunning colors wash over you. It was also an influence on Kunihiko Ikuhara, so that qualifies it as essential viewing.
This was a relatively subdued Almodovar (and I love me a convoluted Almodovar). The story of middle-aged, independent Julieta is framed by a tell-all letter to her estranged daughter, Antia. Julieta is played brilliantly by two actresses, representing her youth and middle age, the division between which is also marked by life-changing grief. It’s a simple story in some ways: a woman alone meets a man, by the alignment of circumstance they build a life and family, there is loss, there is estrangement, and the woman is alone again. What stuck with me about Julieta is its exploration of how much of ourselves we put aside in relationships without planning to or realizing it, how grief can rewire our entire self, and how we really just don’t fucking understand other people – especially our parents.
I have a habit of making an absurd joke, overthinking that joke, and finally realizing that the heart of the joke is some latent but unironic sentiment. This was the case when sometime last year, I turned to a co-worker and said, “if you had to describe one work in the canon of classic literature as NTR, what would it be?” And because this person entertains my whims way more than a normal person would or should, he helped me mull it over. For the purpose of a one-off joke I landed on Doctor Zhivago.
In the second to last episode of Showa Genroku Rakugo Shinju, a small moment – just a single sentence spoken by Miyokichi in the middle of an already emotionally rich episode – struck me on a bone-deep level. Miyokichi wasn’t my favorite character. That wasn’t my favorite scene, or my favorite episode. It might be my favorite line. In just a few words, Miyokichi articulated something that I think most women have long known, a problem many of us grapple with our entire lives.
“Role” seems to come up a lot in relation to a woman’s life: the role of mother, the role of daughter, the role of a career woman, and the list goes on. I don’t think we talk about the “role of man” as much because at some point we just collectively agreed on what men are in a more cohesive way than women. The conversation of what roles a woman chooses to play are often phrased in terms of trade-offs or sacrifices. If a woman can’t “have it all,” she must give up something, usually family or a career. But people rarely talk about the foundation of all of this: the role of being a woman itself. No, I don’t mean the purpose of women.
I have recently gotten very into Lana Del Rey – her decidedly not training montage material even dominates my running playlist. I’ve been aware of the siren with the 1,000 yard stare since she hit the scene in 2011 but avoided her, maybe unintentionally, for six years. As someone who runs in an unapologetically feminist circle, Lana Del Rey is not exactly on message. Outside of my bubble, Lana’s conceit is likewise out of tune with the zeitgeist. The current image of stars like Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, and Ariana Grande generally espouse agency and confidence. Although their songs can deal with tumultuous relationships, the message that wins out is almost always self-love and self-care. Lana, on the other hand, is often subsuming herself in the shadow of a man. Her (very internally consistent) world of dangerous, negligent men, affairs, and sugar daddies isn’t something I aspire to. But here’s the thing – it still speaks to me and my life much more than dozens of girl power creeds. It may be bad feminism, but damn if it doesn’t resonate with me.
Teens going to great lengths to get Kylie Jenner lips has popped in and out of the beauty blog circuit in the past few years, but full lips is not a new trend. When I was finally old enough to wear makeup and take notice of what features I was supposed to be accentuating, plump lips a la Angelina Jolie were the top priority. Then, to my relief (thanks for the genes, Mom), long lashes were the hot ticket. Then it was brows. We’ve moved past the age of 1,000 thick brow trend pieces, and lips and lashes have become a natural part of many beauty routines. We are now living in the skincare moment, and this is both awesome and crippling.