cut to the feeling

I saw Carly Rae Jepsen this weekend and it was an amazing experience. I love her so much because she really represents unabashed joy and clear positive energy that she just shares with people and that feels really special. One thing I noticed last night was that I never stopped dancing. There was only one song I didn’t know all the words to and I still kept moving, I still felt it. Even better, I wasn’t drunk—I’d had maybe a half a glass of wine—so it was just pure happiness. It was truly the best concert I’ve been to in years. 

I’m always thinking about how good it feels to express joy or excitement about things that you enjoy, even though aloofness is always the order of the day. Last year, eagerness was really important to me, especially when I went to New York for the first time and had the opportunity to meet people that I admired. On one hand I wanted to pretend that i was cool and disinterested but at the end of the day, I’m a fangirl at heart. Eagerness is my factory setting. And a lot of the time, people don’t know what to do with eagerness because it’s not what they’re used to receiving. And it can feel embarrassing at times to feel really excited about anything because it feels naive. You’re excited to be at this event that is a celebration of the thing you love? Yuck. Even I, when faced with other people’s eagerness, can feel uncomfortable. But it’s still something I respect and I think other people do too. There is a lot to be serious about in the world, and it’s really easy to be morose and jaded. Especially if you’re paying attention. In the face of approaching climate apocalypse, institutionalized and mass hatred, and the way every day feels like gripping on to the edge with the tips of your fingers, joy and excitement feel impossible. But we need those moments, we need to cling to those things that make us grin stupidly and uncontrollably. We need Carly Rae Jepsen.

consumption report 

Movies are too long. We should make more miniseries instead.

I’ve been watching Succession. It’s definitely a slow burn, filled with tense, anxious scenes that I always hope, for the sake of the characters, are merely dreams. They’re not. Each character’s worst nightmare is always a potential reality, and it’s that darkness, the failure of happy moments to last even more than a minute that make each episode so good to watch.

I thought Second Act would be teeth-achingly corny and terrible to watch. It was. And I loved it.

The essay everyone is emailing to their friends.


your poetry's bad and you blame the news

The other day I wrote in my journal about how I get insecure about being the person who gets their book recommendations and style inspiration from Instagram instead of discovering things for myself through active search. This got me thinking a lot about sharing the things that I consume, culturally, online. That is a large basis of this blog, and I have Highlights on Instagram dedicated to it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the curated nature of it all, and how each time I experience a book that is considered culturally acceptable or I have seen a “critically acclaimed” film I feel like I must share it with whatever digital audience will observe me. The problem is not the sharing—though it might be—but of what I share. I don’t give the same platform to the Liane Moriarty book I tore through that I give to the Zadie Smith novel I didn’t much care for. And I’m not sure if I’ll change and stop posting Instagram posts of the books and movies that I’m into but I still want to think about why I feel the need to post any of it at all.  I’m reading Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror right now, and if there’s one thing I’ve got from it is that we should always question why we engage in the things we do—posting on Instagram, going to barre classes, eating kale caesar salads with pride—rather than just accepting the “order” of things. So, that’s the big question of the day: why do I feel so validated by the idea that people on the internet know I read a George Eliot novel this summer? Why was I desperate to let people know that I too am reading the hottest essay collection of the year? I haven’t figured it out yet. Stay tuned.

In other news, I’m back at university, and the first few days I felt so disconnected and purposeless. But today was a good day and I’m excited for the semester. I’ve begun to notice the way my brain automatically begins to panic when profs discuss assignments. Without a pause, I become convinced that I won’t be able to do what their asking and that I’ll fail. I give up before I’ve even tried. It’s a feeling that I’ve had since the first year of university, and even now, with three years of relative success behind me, I have not gotten better at tamping it down. I’m often annoyed by the people in my classes that raise their hands with confidence and say empty things with a tone of great importance. But I’m also envious of their ability to push past their self-consciousness and just say what’s on their mind. I want to strike somewhere in between being overly bold and overly cautious.

I’m really hoping to stay consistent on here as the semester goes on—even though I’m not very consistent now anyway—so if anyone is out there reading this and has articles/books/podcasts (especially audiobooks and podcasts) that you think I should check out and think about, let me know. And maybe I’ll talk about some of the stuff I’m learning in class as well.

consumption report (lmao)

“As everything around us heats up (from the summer sun to the climate at large), we are drawn to impracticality and sensuality, and ultimately, back to our own bodies.” (ssense)

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (duh!). The “Pure Heroines” essay was a dream to read. All the books are on my list now.

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. My first bell hooks and I don’t love it yet, but the chapter on love and greed is fantastic. And she quotes Marianne Williamson.

NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL!!!!!! I listen at least twice a day.

“Blocking a Million Bad Men” (The Cut on Tuesdays). You will gasp.

we lose things because we have things to lose

Our brief crossing is best spent attending to all that we see
— Kathryn Schulz

I recently picked up my copy of The Best American Essays: 2018 after ripping through a majority of it in the spring and then putting it aside with a few essays unread. I was determined to finish it eventually, but nothing was actually driving me to pick it up. And then the other morning I did. Just because. I realized that I only had three essays left to read and usually I would just buckle down for the afternoon and drive through them, maybe savouring certain sentences but gaining no lasting impressions from any one essay. But this time I chose to do something different. I decided to read one essay a day, just so I could focus on that. One of those essays was “Losing Streak” by Kathryn Schulz of the New Yorker. In the essay, Schulz begins by talking about a time when she began losing things. Previously, she’d never been someone who absentmindedly lost things. She and her mother prided themselves on being organized and collected whereas her sister and father were replacing credit cards and drivers licences at a worrying frequency. But one summer she started to lose things. She’d leave her keys or her phone or her sweater at the coffee shop and would find herself frantically looking for them hours later. When she retrieved one thing, she’d lose another in the process. At one point, she couldn’t find a large truck she’d parked in downtown Portland. A second season of loss follows: Schulz loses her father. In the essay, Schulz recognizes the way in which loss covers our lives; the way in which loss is “a supremely awkward category” which forces “into relationship all kinds of wildly dissimilar experiences.” Losing your phone and losing your father are dramatically different, yet we approach it with the same vocabulary. On a gloomy and directionless Friday afternoon, Schulz’s essay made my brain go into overdrive. I wondered: How did loss become The Great American Theme? In “Eat, Memory”, another essay from the collection, David Wong Louie details his experience of losing food after he is diagnosed with cancer. Before the cancer and the G-tube that becomes installed in his abdomen, eating had been Wong Louie’s “enduring talent.” Throughout the essay he talks about food with care and with love. Losing food wasn’t just as simple as not being able to eat pork buns or delicious plums. The loss of food was a loss of identity. In 2019, when to be American means to be part of a chaotic undoing, the question of who we are and who we used to be feels more pressing. In her essay Schulz suggests that despite the disorder that it creates, loss is the regular order of things. To be human is to know that we will one day disappear. So what do we do we that? I’ve thought on this for a few weeks and I still haven’t come to any sort of conclusion or insights but I’m going to leave this here.

consumption report

  • I’m reading Zadie Smith’s Swing Time, despite my long time refusal to do so. I’ve yet to become the Zadie Smith fan my literary tastes demand I be. Maybe Swing Time will change that.

  • Mindhunter Season 2: it just keeps getting better.

  • Of course I’m listening to Taylor Swift’s Lover. I still really stan for Taylor’s music (I will never not emotionally belt “Dear John” in my most emotional and dramatic moments) even when I’m put off by her pseudo politics. Lover is not great but it’s best when Taylor does what is most honest to her: creamy, sweet pop filled with stick-your-tongue-out drama, and overwhelmingly beautiful romanticism. Favourites include “Lover” and “Cruel Summer”

hoping things will get better

I find it very hard to be alone in the world without my headphones in the ear. Even when I’m just walking five minutes to meet a friend and will have to take the them out in the middle of a song, I put them in. I’ve never liked silence—I spent a lot of my childhood on the phone or watching movies or talking to myself—but I didn’t realize that part of that dislike was because I loved distraction. I loved not being too alone with my thoughts. I loved that through anything I could think some other voice, some other world would always cut through it, so the threads in my brain were half-finished stitches, cut short by bridge in “Find U Again”. The latest Quartzy newsletter, the fruitful monotony edition, is an intriguing read on boredom, prophetic dull moments and creativity. It talks about how these days we’re always looking at our screens or ingesting something—podcasts, music, Instagram posts. It suggests that despite the constant input we are not really more creative or more informed. We’re just stuffed with sound and graphics; were stuffed with distraction. The rest of the newsletter goes on to talk about the boredom boom: boredom is in right now and it shows that it may be the source of creativity. Silence and embracing the dull moments so as to let your mind work on its own, without wondering how you will ever be as good as Lorde or @influencer643. Silence gives space for all the things we’ve stuffed in our head a space to breathe. And then they become something worthwhile, something we can work with, instead of stuffing for the gaps in our brain. The idea, and appeal, of disconnecting has dominated our social and media channels for the past few years. Just think of all the celebrities who announced social media detoxes in 2017. But simply deleting Instagram and Twitter don’t necessarily mean disconnecting or silence or boredom. One of my favourite people on YouTube, Rachel Nguyen, recently went on a solo road trip for a video series titled, The Art of Loneliness. It was a way for her to find inspiration by disconnecting from social media but also removing herself from her everyday experience. At times, I wondered if her documenting the experience for her viewers to watch later voided the aim of disconnection. Yet, her talking to herself, even knowing she’d eventually share it, forced her to think beyond her usual approach to slowed down productivity and creating work (or so it seemed). We don’t all need to rent a car and drive somewhere far away, but the concept of putting ourselves in a new environment, even just mentally, seems to align with boredom and dull yet prophetic moments. Maybe it’s not about boredom and silence solely (because, as the newsletter recognizes, sometimes boredom is just boredom) but turning off the world we know and turning on another that we’ve never thought to explore. I don’t know. I’m just lying in bed thinking as I type.

Music Video Friday (but it’s not Friday)

Over the years, Angel Olsen has perfected introspective, dramatically angst-y music for crisp and grey winter mornings. Her new song “All Mirrors”, takes everything that’s good about Olsen and elevates it: the drama has intensified, the weariness has taken over, and yet she sounds more powerful, more bold. The accompanying music video makes me think of a recent divorcée, who is relegated to her country home (the only thing she got out of the divorce) and has to face herself now that everything’s been stripped away. Paired with the song’s lyrics (“losin’ beauty, at least at times it knew me”) it’s a thirties, female driven fantasy.

incandescent rage

As I mentioned last week, I just finished Rebecca Traister’s latest book Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. I first read an excerpt from the book sometime in 2018 and was automatically engaged. I love women’s anger and I love reading about it more.

The act of a woman opening her mouth with volume and assured force, often in complaint, is coded in our minds as ugly”
— Good and Mad, pg 54

Early on in the book, Traister talks about the way women’s anger has been expressed in popular culture, specifically in the work of Beyonce. She talks about the video for “Hold Up” (from Beyonce’s Lemonade) and the way in which the fire hydrants that burst forth with uncontrollable water were reflective of a woman’s anger. Later, I was listening to the song and paid special attention to its lyrics. More than ever before, Beyonce’s refrain of “what’s worse/looking jealous or crazy” struck me. Even more so when she decides that she’d “rather be crazy,” suggesting that expressing her anger--and looking crazy--was better than sitting in bitter silence. For a long time I’ve been interested in how women’s expression of negative emotions, whether it be moroseness or anger, makes them monsters in the face of the world. And sometimes women do become monsters. Because at some point, it is exhausting to stay smiling while the patriarchy continues to stomp us into the ground. And so we rage. We use foul language and create “Shitty Media Men” spreadsheets and we act ‘crazy’ because it’s what we have to do to make things change. Traister’s book primarily focuses on the moment after the 2016 Presidential Election, but she recognizes that women’s anger and revolution is not new. It goes back to the centuries. To the French Revolution even. And it’s worked. It’s changed things. It hasn’t been neat or easy or consistent, but it has worked.

Throughout Good and Mad, Traister talks about the ways in which the expression of women’s anger can backfire. How the messiness of it can undermine or derail the revolution that we seek. But as Traister recognizes at the end of the book, we must go on. We must remember this anger. Because it is our driving force. And it will save us before it ever destroys us.

Good and Mad also made think about Solange’s “Mad” and the lyric where someone asks Solange why she’s mad, and she responds: “I got a lot to be mad about”

consumption report

  • My friend Kyle made a playlist called “road trip with bloody tires” which is made for quiet and steamy summer mornings. It reminds me of something that would play all day in an old house, or as the background to scenes from Donna Tartt’s A Secret History. After giving this a listen put on Kelsey Lu’s “I’m Not in Love” which I asked to be put on the playlist but has yet to find its place there.

  • Been reading Tina Brown’s The Vanity Fair Diaries which makes me nostalgic for a certain literary New York crowd that I don’t think really exists; but I hope it doest. Brown’s writing is quick and sharp, making the book easy to pick up and put down—perfect for the last lazy days of summer.

  • Saw the new Netflix documentary on Cambridge Analytica, The Great Hack, and was mildly disappointed. It’s premise: how the influence of Cambridge Analytica over the 2016 U.S. presidential elections and Brexit, specifically the data harvesting, brought about new questions about data advocacy. Should’ve been vair interesting but focused mostly on Brittany Kaiser, a former employee at Cambridge Analytica, and one of the two whistleblowers who put it all out there. As I put it to my friend Charlie: it was a movie about young people choosing power and prominence above all. And I still don’t know how we’ll advocate for our data rights against increasingly powerful Tech.

a minor but perilous triumph

I started reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which has been on my Amazon wishlist for years. Being a person who likes books and liking Joan Didion feels like the most unoriginal thing ever, but there’s a reason everyone loves her. There’s a reason she’s a legend. The book is filled with essays that Didion wrote for various publications in the the late 60s. Essays about John Wayne and and “Life Styles in the Golden Land” and self-respect. I just finished Part One this morning in which the essays are primarily reporting. What makes her reporting so good is that it’s thoughtful and poetic and moving. Concluding an essay about Michael Laski, the man who founded the Communist Party U.S.A, Marxist-Leninist, Didion says: “You see what the world of Michael Laski is: a minor but perilous triumph of being over nothingness”. Ugh, talk about magic!

I saw The Farewell with my roommates and found myself stunned with emotion for hours after. It’s about a young woman, Billi, “whose family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch -- the only person that doesn't know she only has a few weeks to live”. Awkwafina plays Billi whose close relationship with her grandmother makes it even harder to maintain the lie. She’s fantastic. The film itself is an amazing depiction of family life, especially immigrant family life. It depicts the tensions created when people move away; it perfectly captures the ways we hide from our families but never very well; and it gets the way in which culture defines family and the way in which the family unit is tied into the traditions and practices of a culture at large.

This week was filled with sweet moments and interactions with people that gave me lots of joy. To leave any interaction with a shit eating grin on your face makes you optimistic. Unfortunately, I capped the week off with a note so great moment. I made a mistake that was inconsiderate of other people around me and of course upset those people. It was a small mistake and it wasn’t too serious but I still found myself spending the entire day hating myself for it and believing that my friendship with the people I affected was irreparably damaged. But the experience was a good reminder that making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person. And that people aren’t going to hate me or cut me off because I make stupid mistakes. It’s sometimes nice to believe that you’re going through the world and not causing any ripples. That as long as you can sit still enough and not be too messy and not do anything noticeably bad that you’re safe and that people will never have a reason to dislike you. And that’s just not the case. I know it and yet everytime I falter I spend ridiculous amounts of time beating myself up. I know it and I’m still thinking about it as I type this. But I’m learning. As everyone’s favourite yogi, Adriene, says: “We all fall, we all fart, and we all cry into the pillow sometimes. But, listen, We also all have the tools”.

consumption report

  • I’ve been watching a lot of reality tv this week, specifically Love Island (which is one FIVE nights a week) and MTV’s Are You the One? Watching reality shows in which people form emotional connections based on sheer proximity is always fun for me because as silly as I think it is, I always get overly invested as if it was happening to me.

  • Reading Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. More thoughts on that to come.

  • I finally listened to “Brown Skin Girl” and almost cried. Can’t wait for Blue Ivy’s solo album

it doesn't have to be this way

This morning I was talking to my roommate about one of my favourite books, Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life, and suddenly found myself feeling slightly weepy. I talked through the burgeoning tears and moments later they urge had passed. I could have easily dismissed the teary moment to PMS—I had, afterall, gotten equally teary during an episode of Love Island just yesterday—but throughout the day I couldn’t stop thinking about that moment. I had been talking about the moment I had realized, influenced by Yanagihara’s novel, that there was great appeal, for me, to have “a little life”. A little life: finding rich and satisfying intimacy with other people, whether romantic or not, having a beautiful home; maybe you’ll have a dog. It’s a life that is defined by love and connection, and simple pleasures. It’s one that sounds completely satisfying and beautiful , but in a world in which we are constantly told that we should always want more, that we should always want better, it doesn’t feel like enough. It feels like giving up and settling. I think the reason I felt so teary describing that moment is that I want it so badly. And I want to also feel like that’s a worthy pursuit. I don’t want to be disgusted with myself for wanting that. The greatness of a life that results in love, joy and beauty, even in the face of terrible things and the worldly pressure is beautifully depicted in John Boyne’s The Heart’s Invisible Furies. I just finished reading the book and I enjoyed it so much. Although I shed quite a few tears over it, it didn’t leave me completely wrecked and feeling incapable of living in the world, which always feels like a plus. The novel follows an Irish man named Cyril Avery through his own little life, from the moment he is born into chaos to the tender moments of the months before his death. Over almost seven decades—each new section of the novel skips forward seven years—Boyne makes you feel tied to Cyril, as he comes to embrace the immovable fact of his homosexuality in 20th century Catholic Ireland, falls in love and makes quite a few mistakes all in between. I devoured the book, my emotions alternating between laughing and crying and groaning and gasping. It’s the best book I’ve read this year. Another thing I read this week that fits well into this theme and motivated me to write any of this down, was Anne Helen Petersen’s newsletter titled oh no all my earnestness in one place. It’s comprised mostly of a commencement speech she gave at the University of Oregon in which she encourages the new graduates to forego the idea that there is a map and if they follow it, they’ll follow it right to certainty and security. Because more and more, that certainty is not there. You follow the map and then at the point where the bells should ring because you’ve absolutely made it, you’ve won, the map falls off. She talks about how many of us know that we have to throw away the map, we have to rethink what our futures may look like and what we need to do to get to that nebulous future, but find it difficult to do so. I screenshotted this:

“And for various reasons, you’re scared and exhausted”

“And for various reasons, you’re scared and exhausted”

She reminds us that we do not have to be ruled by fear, especially of the unknown and the uncomfortable. She reminds us to dig into the uncomfortable instead of dismiss it. She reminds us that whatever it is that we are struggling to reconcile with, whether it’s how we work or how live or whatever, that it doesn’t have to be this way. We have the power to make it any which way we want. Although as she suggests, that is easier said than done. I feel like I’ve been telling myself for years to ditch the conventional definitions of success, to ditch the ideas of how my future could look like. I’ve been telling myself for years to just listen to myself, rather than to the voices that tell me there’s a right way to get what I want and to have a satisfying life. I remind myself everyday that I can’t put too much stake into the future because there’s no way I can control what happens. But then I panic. Because the thing is that the future is like a poor potential partner: it demands you to invest everything into it but at no point will give you any signals, any indication, that it’s in it with you. That it will give back everything you’ve given it, and maybe more. And no matter how much you give it up and swear you won’t return it’s call, you always do. Because you feel like you’re missing out on something potentially great. And it’s hard to believe that something actually great will come your way without as much strife. There’s no use promising that you’ll get over it. But as Petersen’s newsletter, and Boyne’s novel, and my tears remind me, it’s worth trying to get over. Because you might miss the good stuff otherwise.

consumption report

  • The Man Repeller article that led me to AHP’s newsletter

  • I started listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which hasn’t necessarily told me anything about success that I haven’t really thought about myself, but has given me lots of interesting stories to share at dinner parties. It is satisfying though to have things I’ve thought about before be expressed in a more eloquent and pseudo-scientific way.

  • I find it really hard to get into podcasts, though when I do, I dive all in. I recently have been obsessively listening to Gimlet’s The Cut on Tuesdays, and excitedly await the episode each week. New York magazine’s The Cut is the only media publication I read on a regular basis because it combines fantastic reporting and writing with easy humour, as well as has a splendid mix of celebrity gossip as well as newsy news. The podcast is essentially just an audio version of that greatness, a perfect distraction from tedious work. I’ve also been really enjoying the Longform podcast again, especially this and that.

  • You can find out the other books and movies I’ve consumed recently here

MY YEAR OF REST AND RELAXATION

public.jpg

Months ago I read Otessa Mosefgh’s acclaimed novel My Year of Rest and Relaxation at the persistent request of my friend. Later, I drafted an email about my thoughts on the book. I never sent the email, and I never shared the thoughts I wrote. Here’s the (slightly) edited version.

I was fully prepared to dislike My Year of Rest and Relaxation. When I was encouraged to read the book by my friend, I had known about the book for awhile. It had dotted my Instagram feed for weeks at some point last year and even though it was lauded by people whose opinion on literature I quite respect, I also recalled books like Meg Wolitzer’s The Female Persuasion that are the talk of the town and then I find a tremendous bore. And I really want to start forming my own opinion on things.

When I started reading the book, I thought wow I do not like this girl, I do not like this book. But I kept going because my friend wanted me to read it and I wanted to read more of almost anything. My first thoughts about the novel’s unnamed narrator and protagonist is that she was conceited, privileged and a little whiny. I felt disgusted with her and I was unsure if I could make it through a entire novel full of her. But of course, over time I came to understand her. I came to appreciate her, to care for her. She could be a little despicable and gross but she also felt relatable. The overwhelming, and sometimes debilitating feeling of caring so much it feels impossible to live when life feels like a grey, purposeless mess. When it felt full of people who thought they had it all figured out, desperate characters that were grasping at every possible thing to make themselves feel good about who they were and who they had chosen to be. Characters like Reva and Ping Xi and Natasha, who weren’t bad people, but who are the kind of people we should resist becoming if only because there is no satisfaction in a performative life. 

Yet, her project of a year of rest and relaxation feels like a performance art piece, even without Ping Xi’s strange appropriation of her experience. I still haven’t decided what I think. I think it was Mosefgh’s intention for it to feel a bit performative. Despite this, and despite the protagonists lies and delusions the whole thing feels honest and open. Maybe the joke’s on me.


ANOTHER GIRL IN A SWEATER

I watched the video for Caroline Polachek’s “Door” after my friend Kyle texted it to me with the words “this video is insane”. “Door” is “another girl in a sweater” chasing a person who treats their love like an impenetrable maze of doors. And our girl will always be there when one of those doors open. I can’t help but love these song intensely, maniacally. The video is wildly unique—it’s hypnotic, beautiful and everything is executed with care. The mirrors in the bedroom! Watch to fall in love and make something good.

mumbling cap book club begins

It’s no big surprise that I love books and talk about them pretty often, so a video on books is to be expected. In this video I share books that I’ve read recently and new ones I’ve picked up. Please share your recommendations in the comments (here or on the actual video); I can never get enough.

BOOKS I MENTION

Sex and Rage by Eve Babitz http://bit.ly/2ITDgy5

Slutever by Karley Sciortino http://bit.ly/2Kt217q

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi http://bit.ly/2IU2HzL

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot http://bit.ly/31AIrvo

Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion http://bit.ly/2Zx1lBx

Patsy by Nicole Dennis-Benn http://bit.ly/2RkUf00


who cares what i eat?

(img via tumblr)  not wellness approved

(img via tumblr) not wellness approved

The first time I remember crying over the way I consume food, I was about 10 or 11 years old. I left my yearly physical in a fit of tears, after my doctor told me that I was way over the “normal” BMI for someone my age. I ran home bawling in tears and self-hatred. In reaction to the news, I downed a pint of Oreo ice cream and a container of powdered donuts. I told myself I enjoyed every bite but I also remember it feeling like a punishment. Though I wouldn’t have described it as such back then, I was definitely a binge eater, and I definitely had an eating disorder.

If you talk to a lot of women, stories like this one are not out of the regular. Based on conversations alone, most women I know have dealt with some sort of complication with food and the way they consume it since they were children. I’ve had friends who spent junior high trying to subsist on a diet of plain popcorn. I’ve underwent diets with friends that saw us diligently recording our meals, and allowing ourselves to manically indulge (re:binge) on so-called “cheat days”. Again, none of this is new. Living as a woman in a patriarchal world in which your worth is often measured by your beauty—and beauty is defined by thinness—means that from an early age you’re taught to think about food in a very controlling way. Whether for nourishment or pleasure, food becomes something that could easily destroy you if you let it. And so, twelve year old girls go on Weight Watchers and get refuse to go the pool, lest somebody tell them that once they lose their baby fat they’ll beautiful.

For some people, the era of fad diets is one of the past. Oprah might be the face of Weight Watchers but the modern feminist knows that diets are just a tool of the patriarchy. The modern feminist knows that to spend an excessive The modern feminist subscribes to something else: wellness. Unlike the fad diets of the past, wellness is a lifestyle that is focused on overall health and wholeness. Now, if you restrict yourself to two meals a day and count a smoothie as a satisfying meal, it’s not about losing weight or anything messy like that. Now if you restrict yourself, it’s about shaping your body and its systems in order to reach the best version of yourself: full of energy, successful, and strong. Although the narrative may be different, the process and the goals are still the same.

In a recent op-ed for The New York Times titled “Smash the Wellness Industry” writer Jessica Knoll discusses her experiences with restrictive eating and how her recent discovery of “intuitive eating” has changed the way she interacts with food and her consumption of it. She describes her experience with wellness as “a poisonous relationship between a body I was indoctrinated to hate and food I had been taught to fear.” Knoll names diets like Whole30 which is premised on only eating “whole” foods for 30 days in order to determine foods that are harmful to you. It involves giving up things like gluten and alcohol (typical) as well as legumes and grains (not so much). Starving oneself (intermittent fasting, anyone?) is now acceptable in the name of wellness.

In his essay “On Food” Mark Grief talks about the ways in which, as homo sapiens, our relationship with food has changed now that many of us do not face scarcity. He touches on a variety of subjects, but what I strongly remember is how he talked about the relationship between food and health. What I generally got from the essay is that in our obsession for immortality, we turn to food as a way of controlling our lifespan. This attitude is one that I think plays a strong role in the wellness narrative. With more and more people being diagnosed with cancer at increasingly younger ages, it makes sense that people find comfort in the idea that you’ll be ok as long as you stop eating tomatoes. Furthermore, wellness encourages the idea that if your diet is wholesome and clean, your life will be as well. In his essay, Grief claims that we have come to “privatize food care as a category of inner, personal life.” How we eat has become a defining element of how we live.

Of course, having beautiful, wholesome lives is extremely appealing, and if it’s as simple as only drinking juice for breakfast, what could be the harm? For Knoll, and for me as well, the issue is that “at its core, “wellness” is about weight loss.” And while losing weight is not necessarily a negative thing, most women’s desire to lose weight is founded on the idea that thinness is the ideal, and that women who are fat or “fat-bodied” or whatever you want to call it, fail to care about themselves or their quality of life. As someone who constantly deals with guilt over my choice to order onion rings and avoid the gym, I can attest to how quickly one can fall into harmful habits (like finding satisfaction in missing meals) when living in a world where wellness is king.

As an idea, wellness is great, and being conscious about how we treat ourselves should never be a negative thing. But I would love to get to the day when thinking about what I eat and how I eat is the least important thing I have to think about. A hyper-tech future sounds frightening, but if that meant food became a passing thought instead of a ruling force, I think I might be okay with that. Or maybe that’s still dangerous thinking. Honestly, who cares?

I obviously love to talk about my relationship with food and my body.

“ENDLESSLY WICKED, ENDLESSLY TRUE”: TALKING BOOKS WITH WRITER MOLLY YOUNG

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Ever since I was little, I’ve had a love affair with reading. A big part of why I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was six years old was because I loved reading and books so much. And as someone who is still trying to find her voice, reading a variety of things is important to me. But finding new things to read can get overwhelming. A lot of the places I get my recommendations come from people with very similar tastes, and so most of the books I read are pretty similar. That’s where Read Like the Wind comes in.

Read Like the Wind is a monthly newsletter created by one of my favourite writers, Molly Young. Each month features three books, as well as a few other recommendations. What I like most about Molly’s recommendations is that they are never books that I have heard of before. They cover a range of interests and curiosities, and encourage me to explore topics that I would have never pursued otherwise. Curiosity is a characteristic I value, and it seems to play a key role in all the projects that Molly undertakes.

I’ve read and admired Molly’s writing for a long time, and the delivery of her newsletter has only increased my admiration. Recently, I nervously emailed Molly to ask if she’d be down to answer a few questions about Read Like the Wind and her relationship with books. She immediately accepted and after freaking out for an entire day, I sent her a few questions. Read what she had to say below 🌻

What made you want to start sending out your newsletter? Why not share your Goodreads account or start an Instagram account?
I love the intimacy of email. Because it comes from my address, it means that people often respond with their own opinions or recommendations for me, which I love. Plus, it allows readers to access the newsletter on their own time. If they don’t feel like reading it when it appears, no prob— they can archive it in their inbox for the next time they need a book rec.

The best thing about your newsletter is that the books you recommend are typically titles I don’t see recommended elsewhere. Where do you find your recommendations? What makes a book worth recommending?

If you think about it, book recs are the original memes. We’ve all had that experience of reading a book, freaking out over how good it is, and recommending it to a friend…who recommends it to another friend…and on it goes. Like “going viral” but in very slow motion. I only recommend books that made me freak out on some level, which is why the newsletter comes out infrequently!

I once read that you read about three hours a day. Do you do it in just one block? Or little by little? Do you ever have days where reading feels like a challenge?

I treat myself to bursts of reading throughout the day. Of course, there are days when I don’t pick up a book once. Since I’m a writer, I’m lucky enough to set my own schedule, which means I’ll often work for an hour, then read for 30 minutes, then work for an hour, and so on. The reading periods offer a break for my brain but also a kick in the ass because they remind me of what good writing looks like.

How have books and reading impacted your life? What book (s) would you say have defined your life so far?

Books like Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie and Reef by Romesh Gunesekera come to mind. They are page-turning heart-shredding books that utterly smashed my (inevitably limited) experience of the world.

MOLLY’S MUMBLING CAP RECS

THE VACATION READ

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My personal metric for a vacation read is that it's easy enough to be intermittent—you can pick it up or let it be without losing steam—but brain-gripping enough to provide a steady opportunity for escapism. My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite fits the bill. It’s about an Instagram hottie who goes on murder sprees. Braithwaite is the voice of a generation that I want to be a part of.

THE CHALLENGER

The Custom of the Country by Edith Wharton. Endlessly wicked, endlessly true.

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THE RE-READ

The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin

nothing ever goes as planned (vlog #3)

this is my favourite vlog that i’ve made so far. i haven’t done anything crazy so far, but this feels the most honest and honestly the most i’m proud of. it’s pretty simple but i’m hoping to start doing different things and learning more things. thanks to everyone who has watched so far and has given me feedback; i appreciate it so much. and thanks to my friends who happily make appearances in each video.

💄Products used/mentioned

Hourglass Veil Primer https://seph.me/2JRBd0G

Glossier Lidstar in Fawn http://bit.ly/2XlNBsO

Morphe Eyeshadow in Grape Soda https://seph.me/2Z5QQVL

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Foundation in 400 https://seph.me/2HO91cs

Fenty Beauty Pro Filtr Concealer in 390 https://seph.me/2Xe11Hb

Hourglass Veil Translucent Setting Powder https://seph.me/2HN6Oya

Anastasia Beverly Hills Powder Bronzer in Mahogany https://seph.me/2JPTACT

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Highlighter in Ginger Binge/Moscow Mule https://seph.me/2KcAcQ2

🎧 Music

All the things we used to do ~ anna collins and fox martindale https://soundcloud.com/rookiemag/all-the-things-we-used-to-do-fox-atticus-martindale-anna-collins

Crybaby (B) ~ cookies https://soundcloud.com/cookiesvision/cookies-crybaby-b

🥰 Friends

Lilly https://www.instagram.com/batforlillies/

Lydia https://www.instagram.com/lyduye/


Born from the Fire

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Black women were born with fire raging through their veins. And throughout their lives, they have used that fire to fight for themselves, and for others, in a world that sees that them as less than; as nothing; as non-citizens. While this fire can be empowering for black women, it often burns them in a world that uses black women’s passion and emotion as way to invalidate the very real struggle that they face in a hostile world. We are asked to be quiet, to be respectable, and to be grateful for the small scraps people are willing to throw our way. Yet, it is our emotion, more specifically our anger, that will save us. It is what allows us to fight everyday against the injustices that befall us and all other oppressed minorities. It is the power of this anger that Brittney Cooper’s Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers her Superpower takes on.

A mix of personal memoir and the political, Eloquent Rage breaks down the many ways in which black women face disrespect and subjugation, from the way they are treated in romantic relationships to the responsibilities that their churches and communities place on them. In the chapter, “White Girl Tears,” Cooper addresses the relationship that men, black and white alike, have with black women, who they’re happy to have take care of them, but refuse to love. She talks about the ways in which black men are quick to defend white women over black women *ahem Daniel Caesar*, and the way in which black-white interracial relationships can be coded by internalized racism and hatred towards black women. In “Orchestrated Fury”, Cooper argues that respectability politics—”the belief that Black people can overcome many of the everyday,, acute impacts of racism by dressing properly and having social comportment”—has been used by both black and white communities to invalidate black women who don’t play by the rules. Black women that fail to remain poised and respectable, who are seen as “ghetto”, are accused of being a ‘disgrace to the race’. Respectability then, is used as a way of silencing black women, allowing their continued mistreatment. As Cooper says, “respectability might have got us to the highest office in the land, but it could not ensure any level of long-term respect for Black humanity.” In the chapter, as in the rest of the book, Cooper passionate and careful navigation of such politics encourages black women to let go of the rules that don’t serve them and empower themselves.

What’s great about Eloquent Rage is that Cooper doesn’t hold back. The topics that she addresses are controversial any day of the week, and Cooper is quick to call out everyone, from white feminists to Black Panther leaders. No one is exempt from her critique. Even better, Cooper stans hard for black women. While she doesn’t disregard the experience of other oppressed minorities, she makes it clear that she is riding for black women and their experience.

Reading Eloquent Rage was a necessary education. Of course there were things Cooper said that I’d heard before but there were also stories and details that I’d never heard before. And it made me think of how my desire to be likeable and agreeable to people is so closely tied with wanting them to see me, a black woman, as digestible. Without really knowing it, I’ve held the principles of respectability politics like a Bible to the chest. And Eloquent Rage showed me the power that could come from living freely; it showed me that my emotions were completely valid even when the world wants to tell me that I’m being too sensitive.

Support black writers and small businesses, and buy Eloquent Rage at your local independent bookstore

🌻 rules are just guidelines 🌻

Here it is! My first vlog! I’ve honestly been wanting to make vlogs for almost 2 years now, ever since I first watched Rachel Nguyen’s #31daysofthatschic. And I’ve finally done it. Like any other creative endeavor I don’t know where it will go, how long I will do it but I had a lot of fun doing it. I worked on it every day. And I’m actually kind of proud of it. I hope you like it! Please share your thoughts in the comments

Blossom Out: Hulu's 'Shrill'

I don’t think I paid much notice to ‘Shrill’ when it first came out and only really knew it existed based on a passing Instagram Story. But when it became available to watch in Canada, I was excited to watch it right away. Although we live in a time when body positivity reigns supreme, representation of fat people is always disappointing. We live in an age when ‘Insatiable’ was made with little concern about what it was saying to fat people. Lena Dunham might have bared it all on ‘Girls’ but fat bodies in the media are often depicted as things to diminish and dismiss. Which is why ‘Shrill’ is so appealing on one level. Based on Lindy West’s book Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, the show stars Aidy Bryant as Annie, a young woman who wants to write things she cares about at the publication that she works at, and is in a situationship with a guy who makes her leave through his back door. It follows Annie as she gains more confidence to ask for what she wants, both at work and in her relationship. While the show addresses being fat in the world, it is not the thing that defines Annie and she doesn’t pay much attention to it. In fact, it’s the people around her that bring constant attention to her body and associate it with negative connotations. In one scene, Annie is accosted by a fitness trainer who tells her that there’s a small person (in Annie) “screaming to get out”. Later that same fitness trainer calls Annie a “fat bitch” for refusing her services. ‘Shrill’ has its fair share of hostile moments like this (Annie deals with an Internet troll), but even so, the show is overall lighthearted and funny. In what I think is the best moment of the whole season, Annie lets herself dance goofily and freely at a pool party, and the joy that she experiences is so tangible I burst into (happy) tears. Lolly Adefope (Loaded, The Spy Who Dumped Me), who is absolutely hilarious, plays Annie’s commitment-phobe lesbian best friend and roommate, Fran, and is absolutely hilarious in the role. My biggest complaint with the show is that we don’t see enough of her. Thankfully, ‘Shrill’ has been picked up for a second season, so there are more chances for the purest moments.


Watch ‘Shrill’ on Hulu (US) or Crave (Canada) or however you want to

*gif courtesy of GIPHY

you can’t always take the analytical position

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Normal People.  In a scene from Sally Rooney’s Normal People, Connell Waldron finds himself feeling out of place at a book reading he attends. While everyone around him is gushing about it, Connell finds himself displeased with the experience and questioning its purpose. He thinks: “Literature, in the way it appeared at these public readings, had no potential as a form of resistance to anything.” Later, he gets home and reads notes for a story he wants to write and he feels an “old beat of pleasure”. He connects these pleasures to a variety of experiences: watching a perfect goal, hearing a bit of music from a passing car. Rooney writes: “Life offers up these moments of joy despite everything.”

Moments like these are essential to Normal People which, like Rooney’s first novel Conversations with Friends, perfectly captures the tension between the political and the emotional. In this moment, although Connell finds himself incapable of connecting literature to the uneven world in which he lives, he can still recognize beauty and joy in the world. Normal People is full of social and political questions: Rooney’s characters discuss class differences as they talk about their romantic relationships; they question their access to money and the appeal for of it, the way it can be both “corrupt and sexy”; they discuss the Greek financial crisis at parties. However, the novel does not reject feelings for politics. As much as it functions as social critique, it is equally, maybe more, concerned with the ways we express our feelings, the way we shape ourselves to please other people, the moments we stay silent due to uncertainty. These things define our lives primarily, and Rooney is suggesting that they function simultaneously with the social, political and economic events that also shape our lives. It’s Rooney’s capacity to capture the tension within this relationship that makes her novels so appealing to read.

“A History of the Influencer, From Shakespeare to Instagram.” What do you think of when your hear the word ‘influencer’? Do you think about girls with itty bitty waists and big butts hawking fitness teas? Do you imagine Instagram shots of young women in six different outfits with a caption that includes the ambiguous term ‘#ad’? Can an influencer be anyone else? Laurence Scott thinks so. In “A History of the Influencer, from Shakespeare to Instagram” Scott explores the way in which influence works in our modern age. He suggests that “the social-media influencer (re: girl with the fit tea) has an eerie double in the hacker who covertly shapes political discourse” in that they are both “flourish in our increasingly networked world”. Put simply, influencers and their influence are everywhere, and take many forms. Yet many of us, including myself, resist the idea that we are influenced. Scott argues that this resistance stems from a desire to  maintain a sense of self. To accept that we are influenced in a neoliberal society is to admit that “we are neither entirely self-determining nor self-contained.” In modern neoliberal society, our greatest fear is the subsumption the individual (and his interests) to the group. Accepting that as individuals we are influenced feels, for many of us, accepting a loss of self. Discussing Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Scott suggests that “to be influenced is to be dominated--to experience an eclipse of personality.” That sounds terrifying. Yet the insistence that the individual exist their own without the interference or influence of others has failed to contribute to a well-functioning society. Adam Smith’s views on capitalism have not worked out the way he thought they would.

Resisting outside forces leads people to have a limited perspective. Over the past few years, we have seen how harmful existing in an echo chamber of your beliefs can be. It seems imperative that we open ourselves up. Maybe not to fitness teas and fast fashion brands, but to other people. At the conclusion of his article, Scott claims that the challenge we must now undertake requires us to “negotiate the inherent inauthenticity and cynicism of an influence economy” while preserving “our ability to be occupied, and perhaps changed for the better, by the alien ideas of other people.” Recently, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m influenced. I’m influenced by everything I read, watch, or listen to. But I don’t feel like my sense of self has been eliminated. In fact, I’m more aware of who I am and who I want to be. That may just be the potential of influence.

”Lie to Me” - 5 Seconds of Summer ft. Julia Michaels. Listening to 5 Seconds of Summer reminds me of being sixteen and finding joy in the most simple things, like listening to a band’s entire discography 24 hours before going to their concert. When their second album came out last summer, I was excited to regain that feeling again. But, after just one listen I found myself addicted to “Youngblood” and not much else. Recently, after succumbing to the suggestions of Spotify, I put the song “Lie to Me” (featuring Julia Michaels) on a playlist and have been obsessed since. “Lie to Me” is not revolutionary—it’s a breakup song filled with regret—but it has all the elements of the greatest bops, from lyrics that feel relatable to music that makes you want to dance at the bus stop. Add it to your summer playlist and thank me later.

Tatcha's Deep Exfoliate Cleanser

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The thing about facial cleansers is that you don’t know how good one is until another one doesn’t work for you. I used to be of the camp that believed that a cleanser was just a cleanser. If you could wash your face with it, it was great. But overtime, as my oily skin became more untameable, I started to realize the effect one solid cleanser can really have. I’ve experimented with a variety of formulas, from soap bars (Cetaphil and Drunk Elephant) to gel (Cosrx) and oil cleansers (Tatcha!). Generally, I prefer creamy formulas and gentle exfoliants because I find that those go beyond the surface without stripping or irritating. Right now, I really love Tatcha’s The Deep Cleanse, which is a gentle exfoliant, semi-gel that’s good for everyday use. When I first purchased this, I assumed it was the same as their oil cleanser (which I love) with a touch of exfoliation. However, I was happy to be disappointed. Just a small amount works away at all the dirt and oil on my face. If I wanted I could bypass a toner, which I think is a key signifier of any cleanser’s quality. At $47CAD, it is a bit of a hefty price tag for a cleanser but it’s lasted me almost three months so far. You can extend its time in your cabinet by using it once or twice a week if daily exfoliation isn’t for you. My only beef with it is that it doesn’t come with a pump, which can lead to over dispensing but that’s small thing. My rating: 4/5.