Someone I'll Never Be and Why I'm 100% Okay With That
One of my biggest joys on any hairdresser visit is reading the fashion magazines. While 95 percent of my life may be spent avoiding the financial investment of the glossy rags, as well as the impetus to buy things and feel down about myself that they inevitably bring, that glorious 5 percent while there's tinfoil in my hair is all about lazily flipping through the pages of ELLE or Harper’s or Vogue, devouring the stories of posh divorcées and bikini tips from Reese Witherspoon. And my last trip was no exception, as I spent my time flipping through the pages of a few different magazines, silently noting the new miracle cure for acne and thoroughly enjoying a cover story about T Swizzle.
But a single line in one of them caught my eye, and hooked into me in a way the fizzy, enthusiastic writing of women’s magazines rarely does. Some designer or another — a 20-something whom Google verified as indeed stunning, rich, French, and thin — was crowned a Cool Girl, and we were all encouraged to buy her designs before she becomes (inevitably) so established that they’ll be out of even this upscale magazine’s readership’s price range. A cool girl. And even where I was, in a hair salon feeling pretty and pampered, I suddenly felt profoundly uncool.
There are many kinds of porn in this world. There is porn porn, there is food porn, there is travel porn, and then there is my least favourite genre of all, Lifestyle Porn. It’s photo sets and blogs and magazine profiles designed specifically to make you feel badly about yourself, like the inadequate, joggies-clad loser you are, to remind you that there is someone out there living their best life, and none of it involves eating an entire bag of Doritos in a fugue state while watching Gilmore Girls re-runs. You know the Life Porn I’m talking about. It’s the airy, white bedrooms with a beautiful serving tray on it that somehow happens to be carrying tea, fruit, cake and toast, and the morning paper the lush white comforter tousled just so. It’s the background of stark white (or exposed brick, or wood), with a single plant, and one chair standing as the lone piece of decorative furniture, equipped with two art magazines that cost 15quid each. And on the bed sits the Cool Girl clad in her loose button-down and boyfriend jeans, her messy bun the perfect amount of messy, gold rings adorning her long, elegant fingers. She’s sitting on the bed, usually laughing at the camera, while all of the delicious food goes untouched.
She’s the kind of beauty we’d call “effortless,” which can be directly translated to thin, with good skin, expensive (but minimalist) clothes, and hair that always looks done without ever looking touched. It’s a lie, created with “no-makeup makeup,” and art direction, and Vaseline on cheekbones to give you that dewy, beach-babe look when you are sitting in an air conditioned apartment in NY. But the effect is the same: This girl is beautiful and perfectly self-controlled, in a way you will never be, and it is reflected in everything from her expansive, perfectly-appointed kitchen, to her impossibly tasteful collection of thin gold jewellery. She is never actually doing anything, of course. She is sipping her tea, staring out the window, sitting curled up on her comically large white couch with a few magazines strewn about her. She is not there to inspire anything other than insecurity, because her “achievements” include keeping everything incredibly white, not gaining weight, and having a messy bun that is always on the verge of falling but never actually does. It’s aspirational, but aspiration towards being rich enough to have a ridiculous amount of space with which to do absolutely nothing. She’s not just incredibly beautiful, which is a more run-of-the-mill sort of insecurity, she’s propped up as beautiful (and surrounded by beauty) without ever trying, which adds a profound level of frustration to the average Hollywood starlet who is stunning, but in a way that requires a process.
Except the truth is, very few of us are Cool Girls. I’ve met a few of them myself, and I can confirm that they give off an ethereal je ne sais quoi, managing to make a ripped tee shirt look intentional and chic, instead of just ratty and unkempt. Their social media presences are mysterious and vaguely sexy, and they never let you in on any of the less-flattering details behind their perfectly crafted personas. I can attest that, even meeting them in real life, you walk away with the impression that there is nothing negative or troublesome in their lives, and if there is, it will immediately be transformed into some powerful and interesting work of art. They are what we would call “fashionable,” not just following trends but defining them, breaking the rules and making new ones in the process, and eventually being featured in magazines like the very one I was reading, where they are given a crown for the hard work of style-defining they’ve done, the crown of the Cool Girl (also sometimes referred to as It Girl).
Sure, admire her and secretly wish to be her, but don’t be her. Allow my very brief experience with a very mild amount of internet fame be the conviction you need that it isn’t worth it. Even having a rising profile makes me more and more anxious about appearing a certain way, my interaction with the very people who do makes me even more afraid of slipping into the trap of seeming cool. Don’t be cool, because maintaining an air of avant-garde perfection on social media is a full-time job in itself. Don’t be cool, because living a life that is composed of glamour shots and perfectly-curated aesthetic leaves no room for being human. It has no place in a world where beauty can come from anywhere, where everyone can be part of the conversation. We are no longer accepting these narrow terms of what is and isn’t chic, what is and isn’t a good body or the “right” way to dress. We have a chance to let go of these meaningless messages to consume more product and consume less food, to transform ourselves into something that will make us more interesting at cocktail parties but more unhappy in the long run. We deserve to have blemishes and frizzy hair and wardrobes full of last season’s trend pieces because they looked really, really good on us. We deserve to set our own terms for beauty and happiness, and to buy only what we love, and what works for our budgets, because chic — no matter what designer ads want to tell us — is not something that you can hang in your closet and put on when you go to a big, important event.
Be happy. Don’t worry about getting your name on a list, or your picture next to important people. Don’t worry about the labels on your bag or the up-to-dateness of your tastes. Don’t worry about putting forth an image of effortless Cool, because it’ll never be true. We don’t need more photoshoots of her. We don’t need magazine and brand profiles of the writer/blogger/model/producer/DJ/yogi who lives in a loft that seems to have more windows than actual walls, and who spends their day making tea in their dainty kitchen. We don’t need their utterly useless beauty tips (drink water, be confident, meditate), because we have lives. And sometimes-messy apartments. And imperfect colour schemes. And hair that doesn’t look good until we make it look that way.
And neither does she, really. Because the Cool Girl is all an illusion, albeit one that looks incredibly enticing when it pops up on your Tumblr dashboard. But remember that its only purpose in this world is to make you feel inadequate in every category, from beauty to home décor to lifestyle.
That girl will never be you, and she’ll never be me either.
So maybe we should just be ourselves.
And that's 100% okay.