I came across this website Commerce Cream which rounds up all of these shopify sites in one place and I clicked around a little looking at all these lifestyle products. I clicked on the website for Haus, an alcohol (extremely unclear what type of alcohol... Everclear?) brand which purports to be “designed for the way we drink today” and felt disoriented by their hyper-branded product photography, depicting what feels like a perpetual new years eve party.
As of late, images of gatherings feel dissonant. Back in April, I saw a tweet where the tweeter claimed they had a gut reaction to seeing the characters in a movie gathered closely indoors and I remember thinking then, bullshit. Five months deep into this shit and I have that feeling sometimes now when I watch a movie. There's another level of processing that happens when you see images of people together now — was this Before or After. What’s possible in their world? If it’s an image from my own life, I feel a deep yearning.
It’s said that coronavirus has laid bare ___ (fill in the blank.) Inequity. Our government's willingness to let us die. The collective need for networks of support. My personal need for company and communion. The experience of each day staring down a pandemic, economic crisis, and a civil rights reckoning has for me, certainly laid bare how much we don’t need lifestyle branding. I don’t want to say much about how my generation seeks identity through what they do and don’t buy because it's all been said before. The dance we do of acknowledging that social media and lifestyle is a game while simultaneously playing that game to win is losing its social cache everyday. I’m seeing we are not only less likely to play it but more likely to side eye those who persist in spite of everything. We’re talking about what it means for our feeds to go “back to normal” and we discourage one another from letting that happen. This assumes there is power in the performance of awareness and even “resource sharing” in the long term and assumes a “back” and “normal” that is far from universal.
Me, I continue to post — lately, a fried chicken sandwich, sand on Carson Beach, a smoke tree, even a selfie from vacation. I don’t think it’s reasonable or sustainable to think that people will stop posting their lives but I do hope that people’s lives begin to align a little more with the priorities they've expressed for the last few months. Will a platform built and sustained by conspicuous consumption wearing the costume of conscience consumption transform into a platform for meaningful dialogue, deep learning and un-learning? Absolutely not, in my opinion. But it might come to better reflect if anything the new norms and codes of social behavior. We already see this as we post a photo of our full-faces unmasked and outdoors and feel inclined to include in the caption something like “mask was in my bag!” I’ve heard about people seeing shameless unmasked indoor gatherings on Facebook. People have been posting in the last few days about their social media fueled shopping habits and how the instagram ads are “working.” There’s a lot of stuff that I understand buying from an ad right now like things that bring some form of comfort - home and kitchen stuff, comfy clothes, stuff to make working from home easier or more efficient.
Scrolling through these ecommerce sites feels like visiting an archive from a time where there was something to fear missing out on, important things that needed to be signalled. The photos on this Haus website feel even more alien to me than usual, as someone who really only drinks beer and sadly owns zero pieces of velvet clothing. The so-recently ubiquitous high-flash glamorous party-in-motion red-manicure photo style seems like it’s from a different world, which I believe to actually be the original intention. I think the mood they were going for is the kind of event you thought you would attend as an adult when you saw a “day-to-night” look in a magazine. You are Drew Barrymore. You are Kate Hudson, you ARE J.Lo as an Italian wedding planner. The brand is photogenic and aspirational. But now, that aspiration feels doubly like a fucking joke. The original joke being a certain class of people’s desire to host a certain kind of event with certain kinds of people unselfconsciously. The joke now being even for those who could pull off that bit, it’s not available to even them.
I love gathering people and being invited to gather. It is one thing that makes me feel like I am of the world and is a meaningful way for me to connect with people in my life. Bringing people together makes me feel like I have something to offer which is the other amazing people in my life. I need to connect. Earlier this summer, I retweeted a Reductress headline “Woman Now Masturbating to Idea of Picnic." I, too, am horny for a tupperware of watermelon, laughing (remember her?), making my friends laugh (REMEMBER HER?!), locking up my bike loaded up with a blanket and snacks.
I‘ve been thinking a lot lately about how i don't know how I’ll go back to pretending to be a regular person in an office everyday. Literally right now, I’m sitting at my desk in a sports bra and bike shorts, working at my little desk job. Wearing real shoes and a bra, not preparing dinner for later during my lunch break, not feeling like my whole full self in my space during the work day. I’m, thankfully a long way off from having to confront this. More immediately, I sense that way the way I do friendship will change as well. I'm so desperate to have people over and host at home. One of the last times I remember having people over in the winter, I literally made a recipe from Alison Roman’s Nothing Fancy cookbook, THEE canonical text for the fancy thrown together yet perfect lifestyle that is now, I hope, irrelevant. Maybe, right now, I am just tired. and maybe one day I will have energy to again get done up, put on a show, do the thing.
But I think when I have people over again, presumably in the year 2023, I want to be as messy as I feel and know myself to be. This has always been my desired vibe and while I do love to be intentional and maybe a little dramatic (I love a fancy cocktail glass and to put together a playlist — a casual and intimate space is served by being intentional) If you are in my home then, we will probably have grown together through and during this time. You’ll have seen me shiny-faced on an evening zoom. Cranky emotionally worn down on a Thursday morning all-team call. We've sweat under masks at protests, on bikes, on hikes. We’ll have facetimed on walks around our neighborhoods or surrounded by laundry piles at home. We will have been really fucking honest about feeling really fucking bad.
I see that dream picnic for us and we are wearing a lot of elastic and velcro. There’s a spread of food we made all together, or carted from home or from the grocery store on the way there. There isn't a single good picture from the whole damn day.