I want this bitch’s life
Full disclosure: I took this title from The Cut’s series, I Like This Bitch’s Life.
My high school was all-girls and Catholic. Throughout my freshman year, I was fixated on a group of senior girls. People called them The Barbies or The Tan Clan. Most of them were blonde. But they were all tan and beautiful. Even in school uniforms, they were fashion forward. They had UGG boots before I knew what they were. On free dress days, they sported Juicy Couture sweat suits before anyone else. They were so beautiful. They didn’t wear make up and their hair was always in a perfect messy bun. All of which just impressed upon me how much more beautiful they were.
I loved them. Quietly and from afar. I could not tell my friends because a lot of them were their sisters or knew them from grade school. They did not share my infatuation. I found out their screen names and looked at their AIM profile. I stared at them when I passed them down the hall, taking note of their new handbags. They were so perfect. I wanted to be them.
Our cafeterias were open all day and we had off periods; different groups claimed tables and held them throughout the school year. The Tan Clan sat in front corner table, near South Hall. The following year’s beautiful group of girls sat at the same table. But they were never as beautiful as the Tan Clan.
Flash forward to my senior year, I sat at that same table. With mostly blonde girls, all of whom are beautiful and tan. I got over my obsession with the Tan Clan. That stuff did not matter as much anymore. Nevertheless, I was always very proud of my seat at that table.
Flash forward again, to 2015. I joined Instagram, late to the game, and did not really understand how to use it until late 2016. This is when I found lifestyle bloggers. It took me awhile to understand who these women were. I started following them because one of their beautiful photos was recommended to me. At first, I didn’t get it. (And I know that I’m late to understanding this and lifestyle bloggers have been doing this for years and years but I just got it.) They are much like my modern-day Tan Clan.
I slowly started to realize these women were a part of an elusive club, where they make a living off posting high quality photos of their perfect kids, perfect homes, perfect outfits, and an unbelievable amount of perfect travel. Supplemented with the periodic #ad post.
I follow about two dozen women, who identify as a lifestyle blogger. The term lifestyle is ambiguous and almost anyone with a blog can identify as one. But who I am talking about today are the women with followers amounting somewhere between half a million to over one million. They post perfectly curated photos of their daily life: their families, vacations, outfits, and other things that are mostly mundane from anyone else.
They are all different and I’m not here to make any generalizations about all women bloggers or lifestyle bloggers. For the most part, they grew their strong following by starting as something more specific, i.e. hairstyle tips, mommy life, or photos of their toddler take naps with their new puppy went viral. But they’ve all evolved from their beginnings. Today, they post a lot less on their original blog or vlog where they started. Instead they post a lot more on Instagram, showing the world their daily life.
When I’m in bed late at night, I stare at their gorgeous photos on Instagram, long after I’ve double tapped. Most often their posts feature themselves. The women are always white, beautiful, thin, and have perfect skin. When they show off a new outfit, it always looks good on them and I always like it — even if it is not my style. I find myself admiring their fit bodies in bikinis, then I look to my right at my night stand and see my glass of rose wine and the clean plate from whatever I just binge ate.
Lately, I’ve started to feel like I am the only blogger (or on tougher days, the only person on Instagram) who isn’t married or engaged. Even the smaller accounts I follow, artists, photographers, coaches, small business owners alike, etc. — all the women are married or in long term relationships. #pittyparty. And of course, my lady lifestyle bloggers are always married. The younger ones are engaged. Their husbands are always very handsome. If I have found out their husband’s profession, it is always a professional and prestigious job, like finance or doctor. When I find this out, I take a big gulp of my rose thinking about how the only men who seem interested in me quit college because he “makes so much money at his serving job/selling weed”. #pittypartyparttwo
Usually they have kids, if not, they will soon. And their kids are gorgeous. Blonde and tan babies in diapers at the beach. I don’t even want kids but this shit is freaking cute. The aesthetic is too much to hate.
I cannot seem to find lifestyle bloggers with a similar lifestyle to mine. I know they are out there. But single girls in their 20s fall into something more focused than “lifestyle”. They are often fashion, politics, beauty, pop culture — anything you’d see on Jezebel.com. Perhaps, they are in the beginning stages of the lifestyle blogger evolution? The women I’m talking about are not posting photos of anything resembling my life. They aren’t posting day drinking pics, or making jokes about being broke, or mention anything about their love life other than their “perfect hubby”. I can’t relate to their family life, and I only aspire to pieces of it, but I love looking at it.
Their homes are their dream homes. Most of us hope to get our dream home in our late forties or fifties, but probably won’t ever get. You know the home I am talking about. The impeccably designed and decorated home. First choice for everything. But they have it in their twenties. One 27-year-old blogger, a year younger than me, is building a huge house with her husband in Arizona, completely custom. Oh, but did she live with her parents to scrimp and save? Not for the past five years, during which she’s lived in Manhattan and Hawaii. She has it both ways.
Something else they all have in common: they travel a lot. Weekend trips to Hawaii with their husband and three kids. Two weeks in Australia with the whole fam. Japan. Europe. Jamaica. Sometimes I notice a #partner in a vacation post, which means the hotel comped their stay. But that is not usually the case. They can afford to go anywhere. I have traveled a lot the past couple years, so I don’t know want to sound like I am bitter and jealous because I’m not. I want them to travel — travel more, please! I want to see more photos. I love gazing at their family photos, they look so happy. The scenery is beautiful and she looks great in a bikini or a beach maxi dress, holding a baby on her hip, all of them ankle deep in the ocean.
All of the photos, the babies, the beaches, the hairstyles, along with strategic branding, creates beautiful imagery. This is why I love these women so much. Most of the time they are not selling me anything. They don’t do “unboxing” or “hauls”. They might have started out blogging about organization or makeup tricks, but they don’t do that shit anymore. Their content is purely for my eyeball’s pleasure. Their #ad or #partner posts are sparse and always done well. I can never tell it’s an advertisement unless I read the whole caption. They are legitimately showing me their beautiful lives.
Only 2% of the time do I stop to think, who took this photo? How do they always have such professional photographs? I assume their husbands do most of the shooting, but who does the family photos? Especially when they are on vacation and they don’t know anyone? This type of thinking pulls me out of the fantasy I fall into when I look at their feeds. Their lives are magical and I don’t want to know how they pull it off.
While I appreciate the veil they provide for me, I know that’s not the case entirely. I know they work hard. I am often impressed with a women’s hustle, strategic vision, and passion. They started with a simple blog, years ago, and grew it. Like the blogger who got her start doing hairstyles on YouTube, after six years, she has launched her own hair extension line, which I know is doing very well because the product line expands every month. She is crushing it. And of course, I look at her Instagram stories updating me on the new stuff she’s launching, with no intention of buying her extensions, after all, the one thing I have going for me is my gorgeous, thick and long hair. But I want to know what’s going on with her life and business.
Other times, I’m confused at how/why they make money doing what they do. Their pics are fine. But they don’t post much on their blog anymore. And it wasn’t anything super interesting. Generic takes on food, family, fun. I’m hating a little. Don’t get me wrong though, I thought a lot about this. Some of these blogs are just not interesting enough to deserve the kind of partnerships they are getting, in my opinion. So you have five kids and live in Manhattan. Why does that get you a line of Target suitcases?
Most of the lady lifestyle bloggers I stumble upon are truly impressive to me. Yes, their photographs and seemingly perfect lives are great. They also just have a hustle and entrepreneurial spirit I don’t see in a lot of women I know. They work hard to expand their brand.
Either way, I look with some envy. But the envy does not come from hate or anger. At least not focused on her. It’s on me. I’m mad at myself for not having a successful business. I’m mad at myself for not getting into this game earlier. For jumping around careers. For not being successful at all. Luckily, I shut that part of me off and continue to scroll, getting to more pics of floral bouquets on top of a Pottery Barn dining room table worth as much as one year of my grad school.
And they make a lot of money. This is not hard to figure out based on their lifestyle. Most of their husbands have quit their jobs to help run the business. Companies pay handsomely to #partner with. They don’t worry about money like I do. I know they don’t share the same anxiety I have when I hand over the gas station attendant my credit card to buy cigarettes. One because I know they don’t smoke (their skin is too good) and two, because they don’t worry about their credit limit when buying a $7 product.
I envy everything I see that they have. Except the kids. But I envy the joy and stability they find in having kids and how it adds to the image of the perfect life. I want that. Mostly, I want their bodies. I want their husbands. I want their outfits and make-up. I want their houses. I want their vacations. Yes, I travel, but I want their trips. I want their photographs of the trips. I want their money! I want their lives. More than I’d like to admit.
Why though? I so clearly don’t fit that life. I’m kind of a mess. Clearly, I can’t land a dude like they can. I definitely don’t have their bodies. I don’t want kids. I blog about depression and figuring out what I am supposed to do with my life. I drink too much. Their lives are so clearly not me.
Of course, I appreciate just the beauty of their posts. But sometimes, I wonder if I torture myself going on deep dives into their lives. Why am I so obsessed with them? Do I secretly want that life? Do I secretly believe deep down I don’t deserve it? Do I just like to see that life like the other one million people who follow them?
I don’t know. I don’t have the answer. Just like I can’t answer why I was obsessed with the Tan Clan 15 years ago. Except back then, I can probably attribute most of it to teenage pressure to conform to beauty and popularity. But maybe now I’m facing the same thing. I am still aspiring to be thin, beautiful, rich, and perfect. Don’t get me wrong. I love myself and my life. But I am realistic about feeling self-doubt and not always feeling confident compared to our society’s standards.
I know that there are people who live almost completely unconcerned with society’s standards and the façade of others’ Instagrams. I know there is a large group of people who live completely consumed by image and keeping up appearances. But I also know that the vast majority of us live somewhere in between. And that’s where I fall.
I know that these women are problematic and can perpetuate racial/gender stereotypes that are not helpful/terrible. I also know that they can be kind and loving, to their families and the world, and advocates for humanitarian causes. I know that their images can tell women all sorts of shitty things, (be skinnier, richer, a mom, more successful and a mom). But I also know that they can be inspiring to women aspiring to be entrepreneurs or working moms. I could go on and on.
Like anything else in life, it’s not black and white. But do I want to stop following these women’s lives? No. Do I like their pictures? Yes. Do I want to be mindful of how it impacts me? Yes.
And honestly. That’s all I am going to do right now. I’m doing the best I can. Give me a break.