#6: depression rooms, american girl, & pores
some things on my mind this week.
Hey guys! Thanks for clicking on another installment of hey howie. As always, I really appreciate your readership. I decided to cover a few different ~items of discussion~ that have been on my mind this week. They’re all a result of my wandering into weird corners of the internet. I hope you enjoy these little tidbits from my ruminating thoughts. If you’re feeling it, leave me a lil’ baby comment.
tiktok depression rooms
Ever since I wrote about getting my life together last week, the ~phenomenon~ of ‘TikTok depression rooms’ has been at the forefront of my mind. If you’re unfamiliar with the TikTok depression room term, I shall explain. (Or watch this example vid.) People all over the app are posting videos of their super messy rooms (some are, like, VERY messy), followed by a time lapse of them cleaning the entire space. The TikTok users explain that their disorganized state is the result of mental illness (typically they mention experiencing anxiety or depression) (hence the name), and many of the posts encourage people to try cleaning up their mess if they can muster up the wherewithal, too.
Not only are these videos incredibly satisfying to watch — I love ASMR-esque cleaning videos in general — but they also create another secret entrance into the ~other side~, as I like to call it. Videos like these are an exercise in vulnerability, in people letting us see something they might find particularly shameful (assuming one takes pride in their space which, it’s fair if you don’t). Through that moment of courage they let others see they’re not alone. Maybe it gives them a reason to get up and help themselves change. I really like finding these little community holes on the internet.
I’m continuously impressed by the internet’s capacity for facilitating both good, honest human connection and such vapid harm. I guess the TikTok algorithm did right by social media and data-purging here. Though, perhaps if we (read: the government) provided legitimate resources for those struggling with mental health, we may not need an obscure corner of the internet for us to find and support each other through emotional turmoil and uncomfortable living situations. Just a thought.
an american girl doll masterpiece
Another point in the internet’s favor this week: Twitter reintroduced me to a deep memory. Someone posted about the importance of the American Girl book The Care And Keeping Of You, and how the book was basically biblical for young girls during the early 2000’s. And yes, as you might have guessed by now, I am one of those girls on which it had a significant impact. I would literally go into my bathroom and bring this book with me, examining my ~lady parts~ (boobs, vagina, etc.) and let’s just say it made me feel normal, for once, to know that my body wasn’t the only one changing. (I got my period at 10! Which means I was already needing a bra, getting acne, growing pubic hair by ages eight and nine. The horror. I felt like a weirdo and scared about what was happening to me, hah.)
My fond memories of the book led me to do a little research dive into its history. (The book had its 20th anniversary in 2018, and it circulated the best-seller lists many times post-original publication date.) I read that while the book had some of the greatest depictions of puberty for young women at the time (which is a major win!), it was still largely heteronormative, and even left the clitoris out of its numerous vaginal diagrams. (I didn’t remember this and it kind of disappointed me to find out they’d leave out something so obviously important, but upon further searching I can confirm that early versions of the book were in fact clit-free and super hetero.) (By hetero I mean they would write things like ‘you might start feeling a certain way about boys…’ You get the gist?)
Basically though, for all of the American Girl Doll Company’s flaws, they certainly tapped into a niche of tween-dom that I very much appreciated as a ~serious~, deeply introspective little kid. Their books were like my portals into the real, grownup world I desperately wanted to be included in, as I always saw myself as too mature for the child-like status in which I was typically regarded by the adults around me. Take A Smart Girl’s Guide to Boys: Surviving Crushes, Staying True To Yourself, & Other Stuff, for example, which legitimized my feelings of horniness and crushing despite how young I was at the time. (Hoping this is a judgement-free zone, lol.) It also gave me permission to act on my feelings, something that was largely missing from the public school and (Catholic) religious education classes I’d attended in the past. There were also books like A Smart Girl’s Guide To Money: How To Make It, Save It, And Spend It and The Feelings Book: The Care And Keeping Of Your Emotions, both of which made me feel like I was a *person*, a being that was capable of taking action and providing for herself, if she so desired. (I remember I created a “budget” for myself in my diary after reading the book about money, hah.)
Perhaps TikTok and other social platforms now act as the younger generation’s source of this embarrassment-reducing (and life-affirming!) information. I think it’s great that there are spaces of the internet where, surely, this kind of info is accessible to young people. (There are all kinds of sex-positive educators on TikTok!)
That said, I do believe there’s still an importance to the concept of physical books, of the unabashed diagrams they provide of young people’s pubescent changes and the crowd-sourcing of expert-backed information. A book is a safe space where kids don’t need to pine through an algorithm and discern which information is right from wrong on their own. On the other hand, nowadays kids also have shows like Big Mouth. If only that animated series had been around during my pubescence, hah.
I’ve been looking at my pores a lot lately. At the blackheads I’ve acquired given my skin’s poor adjustment to mask life. In fact, the internet keeps telling me to look at my pores. To fix my maskne. To retract the holes in my face. To make them smaller or less oily. I’m sure you’ve heard much of the same, and these are often a topics I write about as a journalist who covers lots of skincare, makeup, and dermatology content.
However, I’ve decided to give up on interacting with pore-discourse for now (if I can). The fact that our society has gone so far as to police the smallest opening, the teeniest little circles on our face, makes me, in short, mad. It’s like they’ve run out of places on our bodies to fix. (As if labiaplasty wasn’t enough.) I’ve literally been staring at myself in the mirror my entire life, constantly self-checking. How is my skin today? Do I look tired? Has my figure changed? Is my hair greasy? I’ve spent far more time than I’d like to admit mentally picking at my body’s every bit of self-betrayal, every hair out of place.
I guess the 2021 version of this issue for me is getting “mad” about the accumulation of closed comedones (that’s ~science~ for those little white bumps) or blackheads around my mask area. I get a jolt of shame, like I’m not ‘doing enough’ because I’m passively allowing my face to get like this, because I’m not actively channeling my energy into blackhead reduction and finding the perfect acne product solution. I’m exhausted by the world’s hyper-fixation on skin. (Or maybe, I’m just exhausted of my own.) I’m sick of looking at myself in the mirror. It’s boring and predictable. I know that my human worth is more than a minuscule blackhead dot on my nose, as is yours.
Things I Loved This Week
This article about ‘The Care And Keeping Of You’ in The Atlantic.
After watching Inglourious Basterds with Ale and Aditya, I can’t stop thinking about whether or not I think Quentin Tarantino is sexist? Here are some articles I read on the subject, lol.
This week’s Off Topic newsletter called ‘On The Apology Outfit’ written by the amazing Ama Kwarteng.
Pad Thai from Sticky Rice in the Lower East Side.