Beauty blogs are full of “hauls.” They turn up on MakeupAlley: for make-up, skin care, hair products, etc. They turn up as regular posts all over the internet.
I hate hauls.
In an ideal world,
I would consider this present blog “done” and stop writing anything here as soon as I post up nothing at all about new products because I had used nothing that was new to me. I would of course be delighted if another reason for that were the boring practical one that my skin (etc.) had become normal and needed nothing special, or indeed nothing at all put on it.
I’d be ecstatic if the outside world had stopped supplying anything new: no new products, no new formulations and ingredients, just a status quo. That would mean that Folly no longer had any hold over The World, and that Her Praising—Erasmian in spirit or otherwise—no longer had any place in this world; it would become obsolete, a historically-interesting relic and curio.
It would be a new era of triumph and joy if there were no more blogs devoted to beauty, lifestyle, and all things consumerism. No new ones. The old ones would all have “my last purchase ever” posts. All posts after that would be on using up stuff, on reusing and repurposing, on putting stuff of no more use (for its original intention) to some other use so as not to have to throw it out unused. There would be a lot of creative stuff going on, about recycling, repurposing, refashioning.
And the whole idea of “fashion” would change. It would be about refashioning. About the root of the word, façonner: to make; façon: a way or means of doing something; with associations to do with technique, hand-craftsmanship (that sort of “making”), individuality, and style. “Style” is too often set up as the opposite of “fashion”: but this is really an error. “Fashion” has been perverted from that original, individual, creative sense; from being synonymous with “style.”
Spin-off philological / translation studies / cultural studies tangent: French and Italian still have it right: mode, moda mean both “mode” in the sense of means, manner, method, way (of making); and “stylishness” (with a fantastic translation issue as to how this is also used to represent the idea of “fashion”in each of these languages). Good languages to pick, being those of two of the world headquarters of well-dressed-ness and the “fashion industry”; and the languages of the cultures in which our current idea of “fashion” was first expressed (with bonus historical issue on how older and other cultural ideas of “fashion”—China, Rome, Japan—translate (by which I mean translation sensu lato) to the current idea of “fashion”).
No more mass-produced pseudo-fashion.
No more buying things for one season (or even a week), then throwing them away.
No more “fashion” that’s made by someone else (kids in sweatshops), styled / outfits put together by someone else (designers, manufacturers, shops, the “fashion industry” machine), decisions made on what one ought to wear made by someone else (magazines, fashion editors, professional “stylists”).
Reclaim fashion for yourself.
Why I hate “hauls”: they feed on that whole erroneous idea of “fashion” and its associations.
Fashion as totalitarianism: Other people’s fashion, their self-promotion to authoritative status, and arrogant assumption (or, arrogation) of your blind, blinkered, brain-washed obedience. The idea that modern = fast, and in the digital age everything is ever-faster-moving. Heck, fashionistas, get with the times and the programme: Futurism died a death nearly a century ago, and besides, it was hardly something to emulate, what with being all tied in with Fascism.
Fashion as extreme capitalism: Walter Benjamin is still uncannily accurate here, nearly a century after the Arcades Project was started; and Baudelaire, more than a century ago, describes the fashion-capitalism connection aptly. Here’s what a “good” person should do: Buy buy buy. Buy for the sake of buying. Turn buying and having into a religion, a socio-political institution, and an obligation: essential to be a good citizen, with the political (and economic and social) “good” being fallaciously collapsed into moral “good.”
Having it all. Confusing “want” with “need.” Consumerism as over-consumption. Unnecessary consumption. This doesn’t mean we’ve attained a glorious high level of civilization, when everyone can attain (and has the right to) what used to count as luxury. It means that the idea of “luxury” is endangered: not because it stops being exclusive and elitist, but because it stops having any sense. It stops being special, specially enjoyed, as a things that is different from other things. It should be in some way difficult, hard, not easily rapidly attainable. It should involve work. That might be work to make money to buy something expensive (or at least a picture of it). It will always be the work of learning that goes into acquiring good taste, and the wit and wisdom that go into developing decision-making powers. Another word for that: “judgement.” Or, “critical faculties.” Choice isn’t an automatic universal right. It’s learned and earned, its extent and qualities vary from individual to individual, and it’s a responsibility.
The same goes for leisure: leisure activities, leisure time. And loafing; see Baudelaire and Benjamin for further details and how-to manuals. You’re loafing right now: essays are probably the most important literary kind of loafing. Let’s hope they stay that meditative and meandering way; not mooching, just loitering with no intent; unlike the poor “story,” that has been hijacked by marketeers and Put To Use, like so many post-modern clumsy allegories. But essays, they’re safe so far, and might well stay that way: but beware: make them more directed and useful, and they stop being essays. That would be a shame, and bad.
Essays are bloody brilliant. A dozen of what are in my reckoning the finest essayists around:
- Michel de Montaigne, Les Essais
- George Eliot, whose works are available c/o Project Gutenberg and Open Library
- Virginia Woolf
- Bertrand Russell, In Praise of Idleness, whose title piece is here
- George Orwell, some of whose essays are at Wikisource
- Ursula K. Le Guin
- Joyce Carol Oates
- Clive James, whose more recent essays are here
- Margaret Atwood, and her blog
- Mary Beard’s blog, “A Don’s Life“
- David Sedaris, whose “Meet David Sedaris” public readings with live audience may be heard on BBC Radio 4
- Tom Hodgkinson, How To Be Idle, and indeed The Idler magazine
- and many a blog-post bearing the relatively recent “wplongform” tag. Here’s more of that latter.
Luxury, leisure, and loafing have in common their separation from everyday life, from the everyday physical and mental activities about daily grind and hard graft, work, survival; things that need to be done, that look back in time to the pattern of their routine, that look forward in time to future planning. Instead, you take a moment (or longer) out of the day to enjoy something, sometimes in a contemplative and meditative way. It’s being in the moment. Outside the usual flow of time. When all things everyday are pushed to the borders of your field of perception, and you’re being still, in this suspended moment and space.
The best examples which fortunately still remain to us, to all of us, regardless of disposable income: moments of beauty. Many of them are free. Standing in front of an incredible work of visual art, that stirs you to the ends of your toes, and keeps you fixed there, open-mouthed, transfixed, nailed to the spot, unable to move or look away. (OK, some other sorts of transcendent “I can’t look away” moments too, of
ugliness different aesthetics: accidents, horror, other trauma.) Listening to some amazing music for the first time. Listening to some favourite music that stirs you for the umpteenth time. Smelling something mesmerising that’s cooking.
Beauty, luxury, and leisure cannot be everyday things. If they are everyday, then they come to an end. Like the loafing essay: if denatured, something ceases to be.
I worry that magic moments have lost their magic and their momentariness. It looks to me like the replacement for being in the magic moment is shopping: that short-lived high of spending money. Well-documented by psych research. As are its addictive powers—the need for more, more frequent, and bigger fixes; the extreme come-downs; withdrawal; agonies of attempts to kick the habit—and ultimate destructiveness. One reaction to haul-reports may be “YAWN”: what, yet another haul? Tedious. Repetitive. Dull. Boring. Just like the hauler’s senses are dulled by continuing, ever-increasing, excessive hauling.
I worry when I see people walking around all the time who are plugged into their music: driving, on the bus, walking around, working, studying, in the bathroom, eating,… plugged in constantly. That worries me. From a health and safety point of view too (or maybe this is the new criterion for “survival of the fittest”). Now, a life immersed in one’s own soundtrack is interesting, if that means you’ve turned yourself into a living work of art, you’re constantly self-creating, your life is art. That’s wonderful, if it works and it’s true. If human brains have genuinely managed to split themselves so that a person can live doubly, simultaneously, at once—in the everyday world and in the imaginative/escapist/aesthetic world— that’s amazing. And it might mean that humanity is turning (and some of it has become) posthuman, cyber, cyborg.
I hope that being posthuman doesn’t mean, or doesn’t have to mean, incompatibility with having a life. I’m not entirely convinced that the zoned-out e-zombie hordes are living simultaneously in both worlds. Actually, based on interactions, count me unconvinced: bump into a zombie, they need a moment to come out of the other world and into the shared one of external reality. Some-to-many remain blissfully unaware, completely in their own world, and have to be physically assaulted … or ought to be, in some situations of gross rude antisocial inhuman unawareness…
But let’s not let this essay ramble off into a grumpy old lady’s rant about The Youth Of Today and their need to be poked with umbrellas, to try to compensate for the many beatings with big sticks they missed out on in their mis-spent tender years. Back to our main topic: throwaway over-consumptive consumption. It’s all unutterably inelegant, all this crassness and grossness. Lacking in style, all this “lifestyle” business. Lacking in life, too: slaves to consumption, unthinking zombies; writers and editors and shops (and the whole Machine) feeding vampirically on an artificial need they created in others and that will eventually destroy them, if they’re lucky and get out of the consumptive cycle fast via credit card debt.
With most of the “lifestyle” stuff I see around online (except food: the one thing MEANT for consumption!), my very first reaction is:
you poor sad person: get a fucking life.
The first part of that statement is a conditioned reaction: through learning about it, knowing that one should feel sorry for people who suffer from mental illness, such as shopping disorder and that other side of hauling, hoarding: or, obsessive collecting, matchy-matchy syndrome. Manias both, and treatable; in many cases, just with behavioural therapies. Haulers do deserve some sympathy: they may be mad rather than bad.
Consumption and consumerism, their increase and excess, are not signs of good health. Contrary to what you may hear every day in economic news and forecasting, they’re not “healthy” (though they may be “vigorous” in a manly Viagra way). They’re a sign of sickness. A diseased world. Sick: also in the senses of being cruel and destructive.
The second part of that statement, “get a fucking life,” is a gut reaction that may have been tempered by learning and conditioning, but is still damned well there, alive and kicking. Get a life. A life, that is, of your own. Be yourself. If you don’t (think you) have a self, work on developing one of your own. Not copying or borrowing someone else’s. Not being dictated to by Authorities. Not bowing down and worshiping vulgar tasteless Mammon (or, buying for buying’s sake + confusing “worth” with “value,” so more expensive = better; covered previously elsewhere on this here blog). Not confusing “taste” (and beauty, elegance, and all things aesthetic) with “that which has been defined/declared tasteful by the Official Arbiters of Taste.” I’m not going to say “have the courage of your convictions” or “have some guts”: that’s motivational-speaking shite and doesn’t help anyone, especially if they don’t think they have a self (or courage, convictions, guts, balls, etc.) of their own to start with. Persuaded by sick pro-consumerist propaganda that they have no self.
Another reaction to haul-reports may be “BARF”: in reaction to something (the haul in question, hauling in general) that is tasteless. Sure, the items themselves might well happen to be ugly and therefore nauseating. Sartorial pseudo-choices might send a very real physiological shudder up my spine, raise the hairs on the back of my neck, cause me to gulp, and bring a bilious taste to the back of my mouth. Extreme reactions against bad taste.
tasteless fashionable and haul-desirable may be popular, populist, vulgar, mass-produced and of the masses, inescapably everywhere, and reckoned to be “good” because omnipresent, via the idiocratic perversion of democracy. You know, when something’s fashionable and everyone else has it and that makes it desirable and beautiful. Counter-examples: successfully rebelling against such bullying at school (alas, all too prevalent from toddling kindergarteners through to the end, if there is one these days, of adolescence); and Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” That “mass” factor means that nothing stands out from the crowd; nothing can be distinct, distinctive, distinguished; combined with the rapid pace of fashion, that means that nothing can be “classic” and “classy.” The downside of classlessness.
This is not to say that one can only have taste and style, and be tasteful and stylish and classy, if one never buys anything mass-produced or Officially Fashionable. See for example: The Sartorialist and Rookie.
Remember, thought, what the word “tasteless” actually means: lacking in taste. No taste has been involved in the process. And, as we’ve seen earlier, no individual choice has been involved either. Zombie brainless anti-taste anti-choice.
So: have some taste, make your own choices, have a life; and don’t “haul” because that runs counter to all of those things. Hauling is bad. Philology again: though they may well look like they’re the same word, representing the same idea, this kind of “hauling” and “hauls” is not the same as the work done by hauliers; nor is it the same as their common ancestor, good old-fashioned hunting and gathering. Thinking for a moment that they’re the same—or anything other than a wonky metaphor gone wrong—is deeply insulting. No physical exertion, sweat of brow, what some people call “work” or “labour.” No intelligence, mapping, finding and remembering stuff, tracking things down, selecting, choosing, deciding; no limitations by what you can carry home. Nope: someone else did/does that for you. Those fashion so-called “industry” / machine professionals.
There’s no virtue in hauls.
Worse, there’s vice:
- a near-criminal irresponsibility and bad citizenship:
a total disregard for other people, leading them into temptation. They might be weak-willed and/or less wealthy. This is 2013. We are living in economic recession. Ignorance, lack of forethought as to the consequences of your actions, negligence as to their effects on others. All breaches of your duty of care to fellow human beings.
- the infantile confusion of “need” with “want”:
a very first-world problem, for people who have never lived in need and survived it, and who have not been educated properly: because their schooling was all about self-valorising and suchlike, producing preening precious pampered princesses.
And peer-pressure fashionable bullying, from kindergarten to the end of high school (and beyond). And an infantilization: perpetual adolescence, irresponsability, other peopls’s fault. You’ve seen this everywhere: online and IRL. Another aspect of pseudo-“advanced civilization,” that same one that wrecks havoc on luxury and leisure.
- and the classic vices or cardinal sins; I say this as a good honest atheist, but they’re still a pretty good yardstick, and ideas in common across religions, cultures, and other approaches to living an ethical life
a common shopping experience, especially in sales, or if you can’t get something because, say, someone in front of you just grabbed the only/last one.
at first, I thought this was the only one missing. But it’s right there in front of me, staring me in the face. That’s what most of this present post is about: you’re not doing the work, and you’re trying to lead a life of non-work, of constant luxury and leisure.
Go forth and have a life.