Irby is forty, and increasingly uncomfortable in her own skin despite what Inspirational Instagram Infographics have promised her. She has left her job as a receptionist at a veterinary clinic, has published successful books and has been friendzoned by Hollywood, left Chicago, and moved into a house with a garden that requires repairs and know-how with her wife in a Blue town in the middle of a Red state where she now hosts book clubs and makes mason jar salads. This is the bourgeois life of a Hallmark Channel dream. She goes on bad dates with new friends, spends weeks in Los Angeles taking meetings with "tv executives slash amateur astrologers" while being a "cheese fry-eating slightly damp Midwest person," "with neck pain and no cartilage in [her] knees," who still hides past due bills under her pillow.
Into The Gross
I live for a glamorous lifestyle blog featuring some gorgeous ingenue with piles of secret wealth that she never divulges to the unsuspecting slobs on the other side of the screen. How does she afford three-hundred-dollar eye cream if her job is listed as “freelance editor,” and why is it tossed so casually on her nightstand like she wouldn’t cry if she lost it? I want to admire her floating through a bright and clean apartment in photos so beautiful and overexposed that it hurts your ugly regular-person eyes to look at them as she describes the minutiae of her daily routines, but all the cat dander clouding my eyes makes it difficult. “Maybe I should try alkaline water,” I murmur to myself, as I squint through the unidentifiable goo dried on my phone screen, making a mental note to look up what “adaptogens” are after I search for the cheapest gratitude journal on Amazon. “Wow, she got that skin just from vitamins??” I sigh, taking a sip of a warm Crush grape soda I opened either three hours or three days ago. I subscribe to so many of these blogs and newsletters, I can’t even tell them apart. Partly, I’m curious about the stuff people buy (oh, I am not curious I am actually obsessed and, if I pee at your house, I will make note of the hand soap you use and immediately copy you if it’s fancier than mine, but in an admiring way not a Single White Female way, I promise). But mostly it’s just straight-up awe, because I love STUFF so fucking much, and I want to know how people get to be so pretty and chic.
I buy a lot of face washes from targeted Instagram ads, but no one gives a shit about what I use probably because I have chin whiskers? Plus, if a hip photographer with cool shoes came to my home, the cats would definitely bite her and we don’t have a single glamorous white wall to use as a backdrop. Even if we did, would anyone be interested in pictures of my stacks of discounted K-Beauty face masks from Big Lots? Um no!!! Still, being featured on a stylish lifestyle blog is my biggest secret dream, and because I am too disgusting to ever be asked in real life, I want to tell you how mine would go:
I like to wake up naturally, gripped by a heart-pounding panic as the sun slices through my eyelids at noon, when it is perfectly aligned with my bedroom windows. I wince against the sun’s blinding rays, a sick feeling spreading through me. It dawns on me that I have already wasted an entire day. AGAIN. I grimace loudly as I slide off the bed and feel around blindly with my toes for the orthopedic flip-flops I keep close enough to find without my glasses on. Sure, I probably could shuffle to the bathroom gripping every flat surface I come into contact with along the way, but who are we kidding? I desperately need the arch support. I have to pee since I’ve been horizontal for several hours, and all the fluid on my legs has pooled backward (upward? what is physiology?) into my bladder. Then I grope through all the bottles in the medicine cabinet until I find the one that feels like Aleve. I get the liquid-gel capsules because they look more science-y and futuristic, and after fumbling with the arthritis cap, I get one lodged in my esophagus despite the fact that I have dislocated my neck desperately lapping at lukewarm faucet water as it slips through my cupped fingers to wash it down. It crosses my mind that I should just stagger back to my room and get in bed and try again tomorrow but—guilt! So I return to the toilet instead (my Kegel muscles no longer hold urine in like they used to) and will myself to just turn the shower on. Turn it on, just turn it on, you can do it, turn it on. I risk shattering my phone in the sink trying to queue up a podcast, probably Who? Weekly or The Read, which I listen to because they’re both very popular and entertaining, but also, if I turn the volume all the way up, it helps to drown out the noise of my washing. I consider doing a single one of the approximately ninety-six beauty treatments littering the vanity and erupting out of the plastic shoeboxes I hide them from my wife in, but I already drank a tablespoon of water, so what else is there even to do?
In the shower, I use a big block of Irish Spring and because I am black, I was raised to always use a washcloth no matter what, so I do. I also scrub my scalp vigorously with anti-dandruff shampoo, which is a thing beautiful people never have to use. (Just once, I want to read one of these profiles where a slender, shiny-toothed model is like, “Hey, bitch, I have psoriasis!” while aggressively slathering T/Gel onto her roots.) I don’t shave my armpits or legs, but somehow I still take an inordinately long time to get clean. After my shower, I use Neutrogena body oil, because you can get a giant bottle super cheap at Target and it smells like rich people. My towel smells like mildew, but I ignore it!
Yoga, meditation, and calming morning rituals are for people who actually wake up in the morning, so instead I skip all that and launch into my day, gathering everything I brought up to bed last night when I was pretending I might work instead of watching TV. I load it all into the pink Baggu I schlep with me from room to room, because, listen, I am not walking back up these stairs until nighttime. I wear the same thing pretty much every day: a tucked-in T-shirt, high-waisted sloth pants, and a Madewell sweatshirt. Despite my having what is obviously an impossibly flashy and lavish lifestyle, I regret to inform you that Madewell is not a sponsor.
Breakfast was over four hours ago, so I start with lunch. I once read one of these profiles where the woman featured talked about alkalizing her body at the start of the day with lemon water, and I am being 100 percent sincere when I say that sentences like that fucking mystify me. What does that mean? How did she learn those words?? I go to the doctor every other day and never has one of them told me about alkalization. Alkalining? Alkalinization? THE NEED TO BE ALKALIZED. I’m in awe of people who talk like that with a straight face, and let me tell you: the shit stuck. So now I start my morning (I mean, afternoon) by drinking some room-temperature water from the pitcher on the counter with a few slices of Meyer lemon from those little bags of them you can get at Trader Joe’s. It has done absolutely nothing for me, from what I can tell, but later on, when I eat an entire jalapeño-and-pepperoni pizza and feel bad about it, I can think to myself, “Bitch, remember when you alkalized?!” and feel clean.
We live up the street from a middle school, and children are already on their way home, for fuck’s sake, so I don’t feel bad having six Diet Cokes in a row. I’ll finish my water, but, like, I don’t ever want to be too hydrated. All these magazines tell you how you should really be drinking your weight in water every day, and all these movie stars would have you believe their skin glows because of that water bottle they’re carrying around, and I believe them, but also, why doesn’t anyone ever talk about how much peeing you will have to do? I no longer have a pelvic floor, Jennifer Aniston. I cannot just be gulping down smartwater with reckless abandon!
After consuming all the liquids I’m going to for the entire day, I settle down to work, which I’m really going to do as soon as I put on a little cream highlighter and blush that no one else is ever going to see. My work: I occasionally write jokes on the Internet for free because I am the last person on Earth who still has a blog. Sometimes I have freelance projects, but there’s nothing right now. No one is going to pay me to write another book about nothing for at least the next two years. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything new or exciting to say online and absolutely zero paying scams, so my heart sinks as it dawns on me that I have gotten up and gotten dressed just to read what other people are saying on Twitter. This is the glamorous life of a writer!