Clara Scott: The virtue of ritual
The first week of every semester is always a haze of casual inquiry. Why are you in this class? What do you do in your free time? Share a funny story with the person sitting next to you. It goes on and on. But in my Comm 102 class this week, the GSI asked a topically relevant question: What is your media guilty pleasure? The answers from my discussion full of sorority girls and frat boys was pretty similar across the board, from Instagram to Netflix to a minor FIFA addiction that made everyone laugh. For me, I realized that it was YouTube. And not just the classical version of YouTube, full of late-night clips and fail videos, but almost exclusively skincare and makeup taught by beautiful French (or similarly nonchalant) women. They’re calming in a way that I’ve never been able to put my finger on, and I definitely watch too much for it to be good on my eyes late at night. But there’s something indescribably soothing about applying serums and moisturizers in pace with a lilting European accent in the morning and before bed. I think it does the same thing for me that praying might do for someone else. Going through the motions of my skincare routine is a sort of ritual, an excuse to reflect on the day that has passed and the one ahead of me while keeping myself occupied.
Nonetheless my love for beauty videos (specifically ones like those made by Violette, Into the Gloss and Christine Nguyen) is still a guilty pleasure. My friends make fun of me for the amount of products I have lined up hidden in drawers and on my desk, for the hours I probably spend watching these women meticulously apply their favorite creams and lipsticks every year. As I jokingly answered my instructor during discussion, I began to realize how much my little ritual really meant to me. When I look at my skincare habits fiscally, I am shocked and horrified by the potential hundreds of dollars that I’ve spent on product. But as a realist, there is some part of this spending that is an investment in myself that pays off. Not only is my skin fantastic (bar one very fun week every month), but I am also generally excited to do my routine twice a day. As a self-declared workaholic, my ritual of beauty video play-alongs is sometimes the only thing I do outside of writing or reading all day. Everyone has their own little things that make them happy, and for me it’s the feeling of a fresh face, the stinging satisfaction of a peel or the faint taste of menthol as my lip balm sinks in.
In the morning, I roll out of bed to my birds-and-piano alarm of Aphex Twin’s “aisatsana ” and subsequently settle into my desk chair, laying out the things I’ll need for the day. It’s a little “American Psycho” Patrick Bateman, but first; there are serums, then moisturizers mixed together to thwart pollution and dryness, sunscreen, makeup, highlighter and gel and hairspray. All the while, I love to throw on a video in the background ― there’s something uncanny about the effect of someone else making themselves up while you do, like a very chic friend sharing secrets before a night out. It doesn’t even have to be related what I’m doing, but knowing that by osmosis I might pick up a tip or two. Even a hint of the calm and collected demeanor of these women is enough to make these ten-minute intervals of peace and self-care in my busy life worth it.
The famed burlesque dancer and general beauty icon Dita Von Teese consistently brings up these moments in every interview I’ve ever seen her give. To Von Teese, it's the thrill of making yourself into something beautiful, something different than yourself and full of joyful glamour. Like her, I find my own joy in going through the steps of my preparations for the day, in making myself into whatever I want to be at any given moment. The consolation of other women in that process via YouTube or a podcast or even in real life makes those moments even more powerful and effective than they would be alone. It may be a guilty pleasure, but it is pleasure nonetheless, a small happiness in an oft-stressful and clustered world. If I spend 80 dollars on Vitamin C, so be it: There is no price to comfort and confidence.