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

Photo of Molly.jpg

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

braithwaite.jpg

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.

wharton.jpg
raskin.jpg

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

eloquent.jpg

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

IMG_5795.jpg

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

IMAGE.JPG

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.

in a big country i found home

Recently, I was listening to Tavi Gevinson’s playlist ‘In a Big Country’ when I heard a lyric from Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” that made me stop: “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die”. It was a lyric that I felt too perfectly described the limbo state I found myself in—the feeling that life was too disappointing, too exhausting but that death was too much to commit to, that to accept death was to give up too easily. This playlist is one of my favourite playlists ever but I’ve never really taken the opportunity to listen to it from beginning to end. It felt even more opportune to be listening to it at work, especially when I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with my work for some time and uncertain what I could do to change my satisfaction. Gevinson first shared the playlist in her Editor’s Letter for Rookie’s August 2017 issue, ‘Desire’. In that newsletter she talks about the desire for love and how people seek out fame as a way to fulfill their desire for love. And the way we chase these things constantly because we are always at risk of losing them. That made me think of being a teenager and hearing Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona say that she was chronically dissatisfied and recognizing that feeling in myself. And although I knew that it was meant to be a despicable feeling, I couldn’t help romanticizing it; I couldn’t help feeling that it made me more human, more real. In Mark Greif’s essay “The Concept of Experience (The Meaning of Life Part 1)” he talks about how we seek experience as a way of challenging our mortality; we are so desperately aware of the “only-onceness” of our lives that we chase experience in order to live many lives in the one life we have: “Your own experiences open a door into the inside feeling of somebody else’s life”. Plato suggests that the reason love that is about desire is always wanting of something and therefore, will never be satisfied. He seems to frown up this endless chasing. We want our futures to mean something. We chase an idea of perfection and beauty and success in the hopes that life is not just the ordinary but that we can somehow tap into a sort of paradise, even amongst challenges. We want to say at the end of the day, that despite the challenges we’ve faced, what we have now makes all that suffering worth it; we negate our suffering through our accumulation of experience, success and material things. And it’s still not enough. Back to that Sam Cooke lyric. It’s easy to feel like the hardships we face are endless, but just moments after he sings this HEARTBREAKING AND KIND OF LIFE CHANGING line, he gives himself hope when he cries: “I know a change is gonna come”. Desire makes it easier for us to feel like we’re escaping our hardships but none of this is forever. Life is hard but it won’t be forever. Maybe, for now, we can just rest.

Last week, in what caused my Explore page to gasp in a collective, WTF??, TMZ reported that Jordyn Woods, longtime friend of the KarJenner clan, was allegedly having an affair with Tristan Thompson, who happens to be father of Khloe Kardashian’s daughter and the same man who cheated on her while she was pregnant. All week, rumors were thrown back and forth, with much of the Kardashian clan keeping silent on the matter with the exception of some not so subtle InstaStories by Khloe. It all culminated in Jordyn Woods going on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk, and Khloe Kardashian angrily tweeting that Jordyn Woods was a lying, unapologetic homewrecker. It was a mess. In a new video this week, YouTube queen Jackie Aina discussed the issue, focusing less on the drama, and more on what we all could learn from Jordyn. One particular claim that Jackie made that stood out was how the Kardashians have a habit of keeping black people around them as a way to validate their appropriation of black culture. Because these people around them don’t criticize them for their privileged actions—Kim’s ‘Bo Derek’ braids; Kim, Khloe, and Kylie’s blackfishing—they could be secure in feeling that their actions were acceptable; they could go on doing the same thing despite multiple criticisms. Jackie argued that when these black people stopped validating the Kardashians behaviour or made a misstep—as Jordyn did—they were quickly disposed of, despite earlier claims of their closeness to the family. For me, I found that this was one of the clearest criticisms of the Kardashians that had come out of this whole mess. The Kardashians definitely dodge criticisms when they make missteps by finding ways to make themselves victims—re: Kendall’s Pepsi ad—and therefore, have failed to learn how to do better. Of course, most people don’t mind because they’re so sold into the cult of personality, but I think this event has demonstrated who and what the Kardashians care about the most—themselves and their business. Jackie also makes a series of other good points in the video, and if that doesn’t interest you, the makeup look she does is gorgeous (although simple).

In better, more fulfilling news, Solange released her latest album, When I Get Home last week, as well as an (Apple Music exclusive) film in which she uses Western (as in cowboy) motifs in reference to her childhood in Houston. The film also plays with a psychedelic New-Wave-esque aesthetic that feels like it would fit well in an episode Maniac. The heavy jazz sound that weaves its way through the album helps maintain this vision. Both the sound and the visuals of this album straddle the past and the future as if it is possible for them to exist side by side, simultaneously. If Seat at the Table gave us a Solange that had returned from a genesis, wise yet still uncertain of who exactly she was going to be or how she would express herself, When I Get Home demonstrates a Solange who isn’t worrying too much about how she comes off; instead she’s going to play and try new things and have fun. On “My Skin My Logo” her voice is playful and teasing, as she sings “I didn’t want a soccer, she had Gucci on her cleats”. I’m not sure (yet) what this lyric means but the energy it gives off seems more important. This a booty-popping, dancing on tables Solange and I love it. It makes me feel like we can all be so free. Favourite tracks include “Way to the Show” and “Down with the Clique”.

trois choses: easy on a sunday morning

Roommate Dinner

Roommate Dinner

I’m not sure where the past few weeks have gone; February has gone by in a flash and it’s going to take a lot of conscious effort to make sure I am prepared for the month ahead. This year, I’m working on planning out my days so that I can maximize my time and make sure I balance work with enjoyment. Sometimes that doesn’t happen because of spontaneous plans but I’m working on going with the flow and making up for the moments I lag. I’ve also been reading a lot, both for fun and for class, and it’s been great reading a variety of options from Charles Dickens to Otessa Moshfegh. My Goodreads is definitely getting a workout. Now onto my three picks for the week:

The Course of Love by Alain Botton. Alain de Botton’s second novel, The Course of Love documents the courtship and marriage of Kirsten and Rabih, a young couple living in Scotland. Unlike the typical romance novel which focuses largely on the courtship narrative, de Botton seeks to move beyond that and focus on what happens after the fairy tale ending. Although it’s classified as fiction, it is clear that de Botton is a philosopher first, and the book feels like one big case study in understanding why and how a marriage goes wrong, and what can be done to keep it. I’m constantly intrigued by what de Botton has to say about relationships because it feels so radical to what I’ve long accepted. I’ve always been a romantic but my view of love and relationships didn’t feel compatible with my understanding of myself and others; if love was anything like a Kate Hudson fronted rom-com, I didn’t think I’d ever have it. But de Botton reminds us that the type of romance that Nora Ephron made exceedingly popular is primarily aesthetic. He encourages us to put forward our flaws and imperfections from the start, be open to learning from our partner, and being communicative in a honest (if at times awkward) way. One of the best things about The Course of Love is that the characters display ugly characteristics throughout but there is no sweeping judgement of them. Instead of treating love and relationships as a back and forth of loveliness and explosiveness, de Botton demonstrates how these exist side-by-side in every moment of a relationship. I’m still learning so much from this book and I recommend for everyone.

@lamodedujour’s Sunday newsletter. Most of the time, I curse Instagram’s Explore page for barraging me with Timothée Chalamet fan pages that I spend too much time trawling, but sometimes it does me good things. One of those things was leading me to @lamodedujour, an account run by Gaby Azorsky, former G-Team Editor and newsletter writer. Gaby’s Insta is peak aesthetic and that flows into her newsletter as well, where she talks about what she’s learning and consuming that week, the book she’s currently reading, and typically includes a recipe for a sweet (yet healthy) treat. The newsletter is pretty simple but what makes it so appealing is how thoughtful it is—Gaby’s care for her subject is obvious, and her voice is colloquial and intimate. It comes out every Sunday and it’s the perfect thing, whether you’re at work (like I usually am) or laying on your couch eating Eggos.

What Feels Good. I’ve been feeling really tired recently, like knockout, my-whole-body-is-feeling-it tired and since I was sleeping a ton, I suspected there had to be some other issue. After some Internet research, I reached the conclusion that my problem was most likely a low metabolism; in addition to my constant fatigue, I found myself feeling cold all the time, even when I was wearing major layers. Most advice tells you to get some sleep, get moving, and inject your diet with healthy fats and vitamins. So I’ve been making an effort to get more greens and other veggies in my diet, as well as being consistent with meals. However, I’m taking it slow. I’ve done detox diets and BBG programs before and it was always about overhauling my life. That was not for me. Now, I’m just trying to find what works out for me and going from there. What’s important now is doing what feels good and not pressuring myself to be anyone or do anything just because it’s trendy or socially acceptable.

How to Write an Autobiographical Novel

It feels almost wrong to critique anyone’s memoir because it feels as if you’re saying, “your life wasn’t interesting enough; your life hasn’t entertained me” which not only feels a little crass but in instances such as Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, is also far from true.

Unlike most memoirs, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel is a collection of essays, many of which had been previously published. The beauty of an essay collection is that, on its own, an essay has to do a lot of work to impress itself on its reader; but putting a series of essays together demonstrates the way that life stories coalesce to make something beautiful. A collection like this shows how a series of seemingly insignificant moments are always more than what we originally believe them to be—we just need to take the time to think about it. In choosing to format his memoir in this way, Chee gives the reader the opportunity to find the threads that connect, to piece his life together—an exercise that he has also recently done.

Yet at times, the natural beauty of Chee’s chosen format feels undermined by what feels like the forced lessons that the reader is meant to get out of the essays. Chee loves a great metaphor, and throughout How to Write an Autobiographical Novel he uses many of them to get his point across. Sometimes this works beautifully—a exploration of Chee’s relationship to money that’s really about loss and familial relationships (“Inheritance”); a tale about starting a rose garden that’s a lesson in fierce resilience (“The Rosary”). But at times, these fall flat and stop the reader from having much faith in the lesson they’re supposed to learn.

Because of this, there were times when I found myself feeling disengaged and early on, I was ready to give up and move on. However, I continued and I’m grateful that I did. I found that the latter half of the collection was more engaging and essays like “The Autobiography of My Novel” and “Becoming an American Writer” were both touching and connective. Earlier essays such as “After Peter” and “The Writing Life” were also favourites because they felt genuine to the Alexander Chee that was revealed in the later essays.

Overall, How to Write an Autobiographical Novel feels like required reading for young writers, as both a reality check and a comfort. Nobody said being a writer was easy but Chee’s memoir shows that it can be worth it.

images via ssense and    alealimay.com

images via ssense and alealimay.com

They have become shorthand for a specific philosophy in fashion: that something doesn’t need to be beautiful to be moving, that the unusual can be beautiful, and that the smallest details can lead to the most enduring results.
— Arabelle Sicardi

Writer Arabelle Sicardi on the History of the infamous Tabi boot I’ve never been inclined to purchase a pair of Margiela’s Tabi boot—which are sort of footwear representation of major camel toe—but have always been intrigued by them. I associate them with the people who take chances with fashion; people who appreciate Comme Des Garcons and Rick Owens, and can create the most amazing looks from the simplest streetwear finds. After a recent conversation about the boots, I took to the internet to find out more and discovered a recent piece by Arabelle Sicardi’s for SSENSE about their history. Arabelle was the first person I ever saw wear them and I’m certain that most of my associations with Tabis are primarily to do with them. Their love and appreciation for Tabis is clear in the piece—they talk about them with preciseness and care, providing technical information while weaving in the art and magic of the shoe. After just five minutes, I now have a deeper appreciation for Tabis, as well as the kind of fashion environment they represent.

Model/Stylist/Influencer Aleali May on PAQ I wouldn’t call myself a hypebeast, or even a hypebae, but there are times when I’m inclined towards utilitarian pants, Nike trainers, and oversized hoodies with the most particular details. In those moments, I often go to model and stylist Aleali May’s instagram for inspiration. While her streetwear influence cannot be missed, she does a good job with mixing it with luxury and more “feminine” pieces that make it seem possible to do the same thing without looking like your trying too hard. For that reason and more, it was really fun to watch the PAQ boys take a stab at styling May for Paris Fashion Week. Apart from giving me a shopping bug, the episode also made me think about how personal style functions beyond the pieces you select, and also involves your mood and your intuition.

Friends and Food I think most people can agree that sharing food with other people, whether it be dinner parties or bake sales, can feel like the most intimate act. In the past few weeks, I’ve been lucky to have experienced this intimacy many times, especially with new friends. Moving to Toronto, finding friends wasn’t my biggest concern but since I’ve been here, making them has felt really special. Working on friendships isn’t something that has always come easily to me, but when the richest moments of the past few months have been those in which I’m breaking bread, literally and figuratively, the work has never seemed more necessary. Or fun.

My Mother's Health Remedies

Originally written in 2018 for submission to Adeline Hocine for an article on Home Health Remedies

When I was younger, no matter what illness afflicted me—fevers, stomachaches, hay fever—the first thing my mother prescribed was a piece of ginger. Before the thought of paracetamol or cough syrups, I would be led to the kitchen where my father sliced away at a large piece of ginger. Standing in the kitchen, howling in discomfort and irritation, I would watch as he sliced away the rough brown skin, cut the large plant into chunks and crush them into a consumable paste that my mother would then cram into the corners of my mouth. Stubborn and ill, I would hold the ginger in my mouth, refusing to chew and swallow the bitter remedy. Finally, with the not so gentle urging of my parents, I would quickly and unhappily chew and swallow the ginger. And while the ginger was always a first step, and never the end-all-be-all remedy, it felt like a necessary first step to healing. It was as if I would never get better if I didn’t have some ginger to soothe me. And even the taste made me feel more horrible, I always felt better after the fact.

As an adult, I have yet to go back to this remedy that my mother depended on for so long. But the experience has left its mark. Whenever I find myself feeling poorly, I automatically reach for something that contains ginger. Long winter months and finals seasons has me drinking 4-6 cups of ginger tea, a day and when it comes to nausea, there’s nothing that feels as healing as some ginger-spiked kombucha (GT’s is my favorite). And while the ginger content in these drinks aren’t as potent as chewing the plant itself, consuming them always comforts me and makes me feel a little better (even if it’s a placebo effect).

I don’t know why my mother was drawn to ginger as a remedy. It might be the fact that is a common plant that has been used for centuries for healing, from China to West Africa, which is where we are from. I just know that despite her medical education (she’s a nurse) and the promises of “modern medicine”, it was ginger, an ancient remedy, that was her tried and true. As I reminisce of this experience from my childhood, I have a strong desire to go back to that sort of healing. Simple, raw and comforting.


trois choses: i will assume form

image from  The New Yorker

image from The New Yorker

“Sally Rooney Gets in Your Head” by Lauren Collins for The New Yorker. Out of the many writers whose writing and existence makes me write, Sally Rooney has a sort of special place. I first read her novel Conversations with Friends at the beginning of 2018, when I was in a state of disarray and burnout, and then again in the summer because it was the kind of novel that reminded me that good writing isn’t always complicated. From the profiles I’ve read and some of other writing, I get the sense that although extremely intelligent, Rooney is not interested in showing off. Instead she’s clearly interested in people: how they think, how they process their surroundings—both immediate and globally—and the ways in which they present themselves to others. She does it with an understanding of the many faults and complexities of human beings. Her ability to do this makes all profiles of her a delightful read, and this one from the New Yorker is no different. There’s a certain honesty and unpretentiousness that isn’t always to be found in profiles like this and it does justice to the appeal of Rooney. There were some things about internet language and being a millenial that I could have done without, but overall it was pretty stellar.

James Blake’s Assume Form. There’s something ghostly and otherworldly about James Blake’s latest that goes beyond some of his other offerings. Like any angsty ex-Tumblr kid worth their salt, ‘Retrograde’ has been on a variety of playlists since 2013. What he offers on Assume Form is both familiar and disarming, though appreciated. The same sort of mellow, unique storytelling exists, but he’s really played with the production leading to a different energy than I’ve heard from him. Listening to this new stuff feels more engaging. The songs work at your brain and are immersive, even if they’re just playing in the background. Favourite tracks include “Mile High” (ft. Travis Scott and Metroboomin) and “Barefoot in the Park” (ft. ROSALIA).

Maggie Rogers’ Heard It In A Past Life. I recently read an interesting perspective on Maggie Rogers that made listening to her latest album difficult for a few days. But pushing past all of that, I continued to go back to her new tracks and realized I found extreme pleasure in them, despite her being dubbed “unmusical” by someone whose opinion I really expect. Heard It In a Past Life feels like something that Joni Mitchell would have written if she went to NYU and was super into production. Songs like “Past Life” and “Back in My Body” feel like they’re reaching into some unknown past and rearranging the pieces; maybe to figure out the present; maybe to figure out the extent of their power. But the songs are never too mournful, and it’s clear that despite the presence of turmoil, at its essence this is a piece of work that is as interested in the expressive and joyful, as it is in the meditative and quiet.