Treatments, tweakments and tirzepatide.
There’s been a trend where women have been interviewing men about the Roman Empire on TikTok, astounded to learn how often they think of it. Based on the data pool, the stunning takeaway is that most men think about it daily or weekly. Who knew? And what’s the equivalent for women?
For me, my body is my Roman Empire.
It’s never not on my mind in some way — thinking about how I feel inside it that day, how what I put in my mouth might or might not affect it, how others perceive it, how it makes me dodge camera lenses and miss life experiences because I can’t make peace with it. I might be the only girl in New York who declines the BFA photographer at parties. And it’s not because I’m cool and humble; I don’t want to see pictures of myself.
If you have subscribed to this newsletter for a while, you may remember I have written about my struggles with body image. These feelings heavily reactivate me since moving to New York. Not because I’m triggered by comparison but because having my routines completely uprooted threw my weight loss trajectory for a loop.
I’d lost about 25 pounds on Semaglutide (Ozempic) while in Atlanta but stopped taking it while packing and relocating to Manhattan. In that time, I gained about ten back, which stresses me out profoundly. I had to find a new provider in the city, and I got on Tizrepatide (Mounjaro) a little over four weeks ago. So far, no recent weight loss has given me major panic.
Living inside my brain is hell when I don’t feel good about myself. That isn’t radical. Most women can relate. Moving here has been incredible in so many ways, but there’s a little black cloud hovering above me at all times, berating me for the progress I’ve lost by gaining any weight back, paranoid that everyone who meets me thinks I’m chubby.
Emily atshared a piece about “Hotness Creep” the other week, exactly what it sounds like. She writes, “This is the perfect term for something I’m always experiencing. I see women around me slowly making tiny tweaks and changes to themselves — Botox, lip fillers, chin filler, hair coloring, hair treatments, hair products, better workouts, smarter workouts, etc. and suddenly, they look shiny and rich and perfect all the time.”
That’s me. I am hotness creep. I do all the things to cumulatively improve my appearance just a tiny bit here and there over time. Makeup is fun; I love how a little mascara grants a few millimeters of beauty. I get Botox, fillers, and laser treatments. I go to a fancy hair salon and get expensive facials. I work out at Equinox, do my little pilates sessions and detox in the sauna. And it all adds up; it does. I do look better; I do look younger. It all works if you can afford to maintain it.
But I’ll tell you right now, it doesn’t fix anything. Not if there is broken stuff — like with me and my body image.
So I try to be careful, to keep myself in check and not let it all go too far. I work furiously so I don’t spin out about the way my stomach looks. I find the most light-handed injector possible, so I don’t project my insecurities onto my visage by getting pillow-faced. I try not to pile on the makeup so I don’t become mentally accustomed to seeing my face another way. If someone tells me I’m pretty, I try to say “thank you” and not “Oh my God, no, I’m not, so untrue”. The mental gymnastics are constant and exhausting.
I wanted to be honest with you about this. We all spend so much time making, weighing, and consuming beauty recommendations! I’m not going to present them as though they fix everything. They’re fun, they help a little bit, and I think taking care of yourself in ways that make you feel good is essential. But I’d be lying if I told you these things made me feel, on the whole, like I am beautiful. The inside of my brain is sick, and I’m not sure I will ever see myself that way despite objectively seeing who I am as attractive. That isn’t a fix I can buy; I know this! It’s fucked up, and I get the stressy depressys about it all the time.
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To me, beauty treatments are almost perfunctory — a way of keeping up with the Jones’. I do get joy from them! I started this newsletter because I wanted to share the why of the things we buy, not just tell you to buy stuff. And my why is fucked up sometimes, that’s the truth. The culture I operate within, patriarchy and privilege, creates that truth.
Below the paywall, I will drop some of my favorite NYC providers since I’m constantly asked to share. My conflicted self-image aside, I believe in how a facial or haircut or a teeny bit of Botox can make you feel more beautiful and in your power. The people who can wield that are pretty special, I think.
I don’t want to demonize products or treatments; I also don’t want to present them as answers. I don’t have answers. But I do have you, and if you’d like to talk about this stuff, I’ve left a lot of open-ended thoughts here that you may want to jump in on. The comment section is open.
NYC Beauty Black Book: