Two years ago I couldn’t remember the last time I was happy, confident, or in anything resembling a serious relationship.
A year ago, I took a chance at being alive and I met the first person I’d ever really loved. In the span of three months I went from thinking about marriage, my burgeoning career, and how to cope with my perpetually chapped lips and goofy grin, to being knocked flat on my ass, fifteen pounds heavier, professionally foundering, and heartbroken.
Now, after that, a week from my 32nd birthday, I’ve got a new job, I’m dating someone, and I’m absolutely convinced that I have no fucking clue what I’m doing in any of life’s lion-filled arenas. It’s like the worst combination of my past self and the self I want to be, all full of self-actualisation and confidence but constantly announcing that I’m a screw-up. I live day to day confident only in the knowledge that I will ruin any one of the good things going on in my life. Because I am incapable of believing in happiness.
I don’t trust it. Imagine me sneering when I say it, like I’ve accidentally licked a spoon coated in alum. Happiness shows up at my door like Dennis the Menace with a cream pie behind his back and I’m like “GET THE FUCK OUT” and he’s like “I JUST WANT TO HAVE FUN” and then I go “YOU ARE THE FATHER OF LIES, HAPPINESS” and he starts crying and drops the pie and goes home and then I’ve got pie on the floor to clean up. It’s a messy simile. It’s a messy combination of feelings.
So what do I do? What most of us do -- I try my best and pretend I know what I’m doing, pausing periodically to melt down utterly and admit to anyone who will listen that I’m way more at sea about life at the age of 32 than I ever thought I would be. Admittedly, I’ve always set unrealistic goals for myself. When I didn’t win an Oscar at 14 I worried that I was a failure in a sincere and real way.
I’ve been keeping an eye on what I’m doing to soothe myself. In the past -- it’s been food. Always with the food. Not so much now. Instead, I’ve been pouring all of my spending money into Korean (and occasionally Japanese) beauty products.
If I were talking to my therapist about this new obsession (and that’s what it is) I would rationalize it thusly: It’s better than emotional eating, right? But you aren’t my therapist, you lucky creatures. So I will rationalize nothing. I think self-care and soothing technique is progress! If anything as I’ve struggled over the past lifetime six months to normalize my relationship with food again, dropping five dollars on a disposable face mask derived from caviar seems like the opposite of eating until I feel sick. I’m taking care of myself. I’m taking of myself by lathering my skin in caviar cum, sure, but it counts.
I don’t know where I picked up the idea that tending to your body was an act of vanity. For now I’ll chalk it up to the voice in my head who constantly derides me. The Regina George inside us all who reminds us that while it might be fine for other people to get a facial or a massage -- we don’t deserve it. We have nothing to be vain about.
Stores like Tony Moly and The Face Shop tend to shut up her though -- because it’s hard for anyone to rip into another person when they are presented with a face mask stored inside a giant plastic tomato. While I’ve always loved makeup and lotions and potions, the typical American presentation -- sterile or a luxury item and therefore untouchable -- has never inspired me to happiness. Instead, I cower and apologize and listen to a person half my age expound on lip-liner and just nod desperate for approval.
I don’t know if the guy I’m dating is my boyfriend -- I call him that, but I tend to put a question-mark after the word. I don’t know if I’m going to succeed as an editor. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get back to my tentative detente with food, or believe that I deserve good things. But I do not that soft, clean smelling-forth I concoct using Shiseido’s Perfect Whip makes me happy. Just like I know that lining up my Egg Pore treatments on my windowsill will make me grin. Whether or not they will actually do anything to make my nose look less blackhead-riddled remains to be seen and is, at the end of the day, of extremely little import.