woo-woo girls

I’ve always felt like a basic bitch trapped in a dweeb’s body. I don’t understand how I can waste so much time on Instagram and still not know how to buy clothes that fit, roundbrush my hair into beachy waves, interior-decorate, etc. Maybe it’s because I approach anything that’s not, e.g., reading Proust with a keening sense of shame and thus never learn to do it properly. The trouble is that I’ve also never read Proust, either, putting me in this liminal space where I have neither Instagram followers nor highfalutin lit-bro cred.

The other day I listened to a podcast about intuitive eating recommended by a friend and fellow-traveler on the used-to-count-the-calories-in-a-packet-of-baby-carrots journey, an interview with the dietitian Evelyn Tribole. I was walking to work and practically crawling out of my skin with fear that my headphones would fail and the other commuters would find out that I was listening to something so woo-woo.

(It happens. Every train commuter has experienced someone’s headphones getting yanked out of the jack so all the sudden everyone is listening to Papa Roach together before nine in the morning.)

I lean on my intellect like a crutch to make up for my failure to thrive as an artist, and ascribing value to anything that seems like it could have been on Goop feels off-brand. Case in point: A couple years ago a friend gave me his copy of Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way, a cult favorite workbook for creative artists who feel “blocked.” Julia Cameron is woo-woo embodied. Her method is premised on reviving the creativity you were born with, before your parents and teachers and coaches shamed it out of you, and so there are lots of exercises like writing letters to your childhood self and your shitty dance teacher, and arts and crafts, yada yada.

It took me fully three tries to complete the thing. It worked. Having shelved my ancient grudges with my sophomore year dance teacher and whoever judged the submissions for Vassar’s senior creative writing seminar, I am now a font of creativity. I’ve written probably four novels’ worth of content in the past year (unfortunately it’s the same five chapters of one novel, over and over again…).

Yet I resent feeling like the caricature of a self-involved white woman, hell-bent on rearranging the universe to accommodate myself at the center. Every morning I hunch over my Julia Cameron-prescribed “morning pages,” a three-page, handwritten ramble of whatever’s on my mind (I hate my novel, I love my novel, I hate my job, I love my job, I hate living abroad, I love living abroad, I should learn to garden, don’t forget to buy toilet paper, etc., etc.), afraid that someone’s going to see me engaging in my interior life. I listened to the intuitive eating podcast while I walked to work, blisteringly aware of the irony of being one wealthy woman listening to another wealthy woman telling me how to coddle myself into being able to enjoy the culinary riches on offer in our rarefied world while I swerve to avoid tripping on the rough sleepers who shelter in tents on High Holborn.

Years ago, as a middling dancer at my performing arts high school, I made peace with my mediocrity by reminding myself that I was smarter than the girls who got cast when I didn’t. (It was a real blow to my ego when I went to Vassar and lost out on roles to girls who were blowing my undisciplined ass out of the water academically and artistically.) I’m not a successful artist. I’m still low-key obsessed with the idea of visible abs. I rationalize my failures by positing self-care as lowbrow.

And the only reason that I’m introspective enough to recognize any of this is because I did Julia Cameron three times!

P.S. Honestly, do Julia Cameron. She’s so good. I hate her. But she’s so good.

P.P.S. Now that I’ve finished self-flagellating, another woo-woo thing I’ve been really into lately is yin yoga videos on YouTube. Yin yoga is the kind of yoga where you hold poses for like a hundred years, until you’re so bored you want to claw your own eyes out. I think this is supposed to be good for your chill, or something. On my favorite channel, Yoga With Kassandra, you can even do yin yoga where you repeat “affirmations” to yourself, and when you’re done you feel so chillaxed that you forget that you’re a monumental waste of space.

welcome to the anti-lifestyle blog

Over the course of the past year, since landing my first grown-up job, I turned into a yuppie douchebag. I go to spin class, I eat salads, I recently paid a flat fee to taste an unlimited number of IPAs in a muddy field littered with fake mustaches. Were I a more entrepreneurial woman, I would monetize the shit out of my affinity for the written word and the ungodly amount of money I spend to keep my weight below where it was when I subsisted entirely on grilled cheese sandwiches.

I’m a casual reader of several women’s fitness and lifestyle blogs—you know the type—and I’m fascinated both by their ability to capture a devoted readership and to get all kinds of sweet free swag. I wondered why I couldn’t do the same… then I realized that I suffer from several fatal flaws that will forever separate me from the women’s lifestyle blogosphere.

I’m single

I’m perpetually lacking in the man department. In fact, I’ve been for-all-intents-and-purposes single for such a long time that my relatives keep pulling me aside to subtly encourage me to come out of the closet. For a budding lifestyle blogger, this is a problem. It’s a thing for lifestyle bloggers to coyly mention their “man,” usually with that particular noun, but sometimes with a nickname of sorts. (The Pioneer Woman and her Marlboro Man are the only lifestyle blogging couple that I allow to get away with this. Mostly because I’ve made her smashed potatoes and they are delicious. Also, I’m pretty sure she’s a multimillionaire and that’s kind of awesome.)

It’s not that I’m a cat lady before my time. Over the course of the past two years, I’ve been involved with a veritable parade of men who are, for various reasons, unsuitable for long-term purposes. I’ve committed every kind of violation: cradle robbery, workcest, castcest, dormcest, and dating a guy who dressed up like a robot for his senior picture in high school. I think one time I accidentally went on a date with a 40-year-old. These are not the milquetoast young men who go jogging with their blogging belles. I only date men who are interesting enough to deserve a blog of their own.

But it seems like without a boyfriend, I’m just a Woman Laughing Alone With Salad. To be a successful lifestyle blogger, I need one of these uber-supportive cardboard cutouts by my side to guide me through my spiritual journey toward Crossfit nirvana. I can’t very well blog about a romantic weekend trip that I took by myself, can I? How can I lord my superior lifestyle over my readers when I’m not even getting laid on a regular basis?

Compounding my singledom is the fact that I’ve moved several times over the past year and while I think that D.C. was the right place for me to settle, I haven’t yet established a strong social network here. My best friends live mostly in New York (with a few stragglers in Las Vegas, Mississippi, and points abroad), which makes it hard for me to do normal lifestyle blogger activities like Going to Brunch on the Weekends and Giving Dinner Parties. I can’t really conceptualize a detailed photoblog about my night in on the couch watching “Big Bang Theory” reruns (which is most nights). I like to think that this fact will change over the months and years to come, but for now, Brunch on the Weekends is basically me eating yogurt while I hate-watch Giada.

I don’t like talking about exercise, eating, or health in general

I really enjoy exercising. I also find the cultural obsession with glorifying exercise to be distasteful. I don’t consider myself to be superior to anyone else because I exercise regularly. In fact, I struggle to keep my exercise habits in check because I tend to overtrain out of a desire to control my weight. I think it would be irresponsible for me to blog about my exercise habits in a way that could be considered prescriptive.

Actually, I really hate talking about health in general. I could not possibly give less of a shit than I do now about what other people eat or how much they exercise. I’m an evangelist for happiness, not low cholesterol. Exercise, sleep, and healthy eating are integral to maintaining my sanity, but that’s a personal thing and not everybody is at war with demons that run when confronted with a consistent bedtime.

And it will be a cold day in hell before I start taking pictures of my food. Not in small part because all my meals are provided to me by my employer, because I somehow tripped into a job at a software company that understands that if you feed your employees breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and beer, they will happily work through all the hours that one consumes those items.

Even if I were responsible for feeding myself like a normal person (plebes!), I still wouldn’t want to take pictures of my food. When I tried to count calories, I stopped eating, and then my hair started falling out and I was super bitchy and I kept getting sinus infections. I think that taking pictures of my food would have the same effect (the medical community might call this an eating disorder). Eating disorders aren’t a cute thing to blog about as they occur. They’re only fodder for the “About Me” section where you discuss how you had an eating disorder, then you got over it, then you got fat drinking beer in college, then you saw an ugly picture of yourself on Facebook and went on Weight Watchers, then you decided you didn’t want to count points anymore so you bought a bunch of quinoa and took up Ashtanga yoga and Crossfit and now you live with your marginally attractive boyfriend and endearingly ugly dog in the suburbs and you go to coconut water tastings with a bunch of other recovered anorexics who, too, have discovered the joys of the WOD.

I guess I could blog about how to stay marginally sane without prescription drugs while maintaining a low-level compulsive exercise habit and spending the majority of your waking hours at work. That’s a more honest version of what most healthy living bloggers are trying to sell, isn’t it? Or is the rest of the world a lot less crazy than I am?

I don’t like dogs

All lifestyle bloggers have dogs. I’m going to be honest here: I hate dogs. My workplace allows dogs, which most normal humans would consider an awesome perk, but to me, it just means that I constantly have to pretend that I have a soul. And I don’t. When I’m standing at my sweet hydraulic desk minding my own business and someone’s mongrel sticks its head in my crotch, my initial reaction is not to start petting the dog. My initial reaction is to kick the dog in the face. This is generally considered sociopathic and it’s really lucky that thus far, I have been able to contain this urge.

I’m not normal

I find that lifestyle bloggers, for the most part, tend to be refreshingly normal. Particularly in the domain of women’s health, they’re sane, social, and following a pretty standard life path for the Millenial generation: college, career, marriage, baby. I think it’s downright admirable—and unusual, perhaps belying my point—that many of these bloggers have turned their websites into a career. And I’m more than a little jealous that they’re able to do this with a similar set of skills and interests to mine, but I don’t think that I belong to their elite.

When people meet me, they get the impression that I’m a sweet, painfully earnest girl who’s a little bit of a weirdo. I don’t think I’d fit well into the community of twentysomething female lifestyle bloggers. They’re all really attractive and have really excellent hair and boyfriends and dogs and I feel like they don’t offer obscure trivia about colonial history as conversation starters. I don’t live the kind of life that other women my age want to emulate (although everyone should be jealous about free beer, the greatest perk of all). I like salads and spin class, and then I like to curl up on the couch and write first chapters of novels and wear ugly sweatshirts and see movies alone. I like dating men who dress as robots in their senior pictures.

I think the conclusion here is that while I exhibit yuppie douchebag tendencies, I’ll never be the kind of sane, sociable, put-together woman who can realistically offer advice to the public. I can only observe and try to capture in words the absurdity of the world I travel in. Does this interest you more than yet another recipe for protein powder-laced pancakes coupled with my detailed observations on the latest Crossfit workout? Then stay tuned, dear reader, because there’s plenty more where this came from.