Science has long since promised us that global development and mass consumption will lead to a dangerous depletion of resources and an ecological meltdown. We have been fairly warned that we are destroying the world. Some companies and individuals have gained an eco-consciousness, hopeful that they can contribute to the seemingly very little environmental repair that might be possible if we try. Some of us have declared ourselves victims way ahead of the game, accepting a higher level of anxiety and depression, triggered by any and all discussion of capitalism, warfare, coffee consumption, dead bees, obliterated rainforests, this bear and that monkey and her home and their country, it’s all dying, we lay awake knowing it’s all dying and we don’t really do anything because we can’t because we are afraid. I lump myself into said category but, still, the final category of people faced with global warming are the people who don’t think about it and who really don’t care. Kara lives in that category and, living in it as her, I can see why she does.
It could be that individuals like Kara are “part of The Problem” or even “The Problem” but after spending time shopping as her yesterday, I’d like to posit a slightly less accusatory perspective: By remaining blind to the long term consequences of shopping malls and large-scale consumer opportunities, Kara and her unconscious consumer tribe remain open to corporate influence. In playing the idiot, it’s become clear, the happy person is the one who knows nothing, judges nothing, merely takes as given and as seen therefore, Kara isn’t The Problem, she’s just a scapegoat. Kara is just a receptive young woman, happy to report on cultural workings. She does not invent culture. She might think she is a cultural innovator but everything she does is being influenced. The question remains, who is she listening to, who is really influencing her and how are they doing it? I have never really understood how to follow trends or people or suggestions or even advice. I have lived most of my life not being able to relate to women like Kara who happily engage with popular culture without question, without financial restraint and with vigor as if it was her idea. It is never her idea. There is always an influencer.
Kara visited Toronto’s Eaton Center for new shoes and new makeup. The makeup I have been using has been “lame and gross”, apparently, not offering her enough contour or glimmer. Kara is obsessed with looking young. She wants liquid foundation and palettes of skin-toned smears. She wants to walk the streets looking like a photograph and she is willing to spend a significant amount of money and time and life accomplishing this key puzzle piece to her style: She must look good. This drive to look good is part of Kara’s culture. It might be the entirety of her culture, of The culture. She thinks Culture is the type of things she wants but she does not even consider that wanting things is cultural and the competitive need to be the first person to find the thing that You want next is also cultural. Kara is just a member of a very extensive, historically polished cultural practice of Looking Good.
I wondered ahead of time if Kara would have done research to learn what kind of makeup to buy. I figured, instead, she would browse Instagram beauty tutorial posts and equip herself with a fleeting understanding of a pretty intricate art form. Make up is far more versatile than I had previously realized. Kara hastily studies the work of two or three women painting themselves, narrating the process, they might be experts, they probably are not experts but fifteen minutes on the streetcar with the wisdom of few and Kara is a pro. She knows the key words: Dewy, Matte (THE OPPOSITE OF DEWY), Glimmer, Even, Smudge, Shine…adjectives meant to confuse anyone into really thinking that any of this has to do with life. You must be shiny AND matte, you must be dark AND light, you must be subtle AND have “pow”, you must be the things that have been asked of you. It does not matter what is written, if it means “Good Looks Ahead”, it is worth buying. There is no reason to buy $50 foundation but, amongst the rows and rows of brands and beautiful things, within the culture of Sephora, loud music and heavy traffic, steadily the effect of a completely foreign experience welcomes Kara’s immigration into La La Land. Once there, I am not at home anymore. I am Kara in Sephora and the necessity of good brows and concealed flaws and even skin tone and bright lips becomes truth. Kara spends an hour smudging colours on her hands, on her face. Without any knowledge of how to pick a foundation, she finds the one that most describes what Instagram has insisted will look good, a “matte, photofinish, airbrush” God knows. She then walks around reading label after label, consulting with nobody, staring at other women in brief moments figuring out what she can get away with stylistically and then hoping to pick the thing that flies above and beyond “trendy” because even though she is content to look like everyone else, would it not be the coolest if she can find the next thing. She will not find the next thing. It is not here. Everything here is part of Now. The future is not up to Kara because she does not make these products. All she does is use them to Look Good and hope that Looking Good makes her Look Great. Kara is such a pro, she avoids eye contact with the people meant to help. Until a woman approaches—
The Staff member speaks in a loud volume with too big of a smile. Her pronounced friendliness triggers Kara’s escape and suddenly I appeared. Kara is gone. She does not need this staff member and so she looked at her once and then left. I, on the other hand, have a tremendously hard time saying no. The woman is persistent. I tell her I am just browsing, she forces a conversation with me, looking through my basket, asking me what I’m shopping for and I have no idea. I have no answer for her. I can not think of the reason I am here even though the reason was simple: I am here to Look Good but, I am so convinced of my ugliness that I am ashamed to suggest that I am even trying to be beautiful. The woman details why she likes the items in my basket and I hardly listen, she leaves, I rush to pay for my things with my head down buying nothing but the foundation and an eyelash curler that was an apparent “Must”. Kara spent an hour in there, ready to buy the world. I had to go the second I felt alienated which was the second I even arrived. I leave the Eaton’s Center and go home shortly after.
Jolting in and out of a persona has erupted powerful insecurities. The most noticeable immediate transformation is the steps I have fallen away from being able to relate to the world. I have always been riddled with anxiety with regards to the end of humanity, global warming, things I cannot fix or touch in any real way but that I remain angry at and terrified of as my invisible nemeses, mythical in a way. These past few days I have only considered my self mostly because I haven’t sat around and had time to fear. The cynic is drowning in the joy of Kara not because it is necessarily enjoyable to be her but because she is never bored with herself, always fascinated by a new thing that she has discovered that she can bring to the world that she is now responsible for. Nothing she is interested in is important and so, yes, some might call her The Problem: A distracted millennial who is self-obsessed and shallow with the carbon footprint of ten condo buildings and a fiancé she will soon need to divorce. Some might call all of that a problem. But, she didn’t really build herself. She has been built by the signs and the social pressures, the competitions, the chemistry between Young Woman and Modern World which seems to allow either for absolute cynicism and depression or complete falsity and joy. Kara isn’t the problem. She’s just really good at enjoying herself.
Since her time in Sephora, Kara has started her own Style and Culture blog, hoping to become one of the influencers that she has no idea she has fallen victim to. The construction of this online magazine will hopefully reveal: Why trends succeed? What kind of language supports trendsetting? What kind of person can become an ambassador to a trend? These questions are all significant of the way in which culture and ego is formed. For now it seems, either we’re worried about the end of time, or we’re constructing the beginning of time everyday.
You can visit Kara’s blog at www.okkarablog.wordpress.com
You can also follow her on Instagram @karakarrara