I often fall in love with strangers like one falls in love with an expensive pair of shoes. There’s the whole ‘love at first sight’ thing, then you put them in your cart, and spend the next six weeks working out how you can afford them. There’s the whole ‘love at first sight’ thing, then I bookmark every article written about them, or by them, and spend the next six weeks working out how I can become them. They are professional muses of course, and I never become them, because I am not them, I am me. Just like you never really buy the shoes, because you are not a billionaire, you are you. (If you can afford a new pair of Gianvito Rossi’s every six weeks, none of that will make sense.) I tell you this story only because it is important you know my current professional muse, Taffy Brodesser-Akner, a New York Times Magazine staff writer and author of the novel of the year, Fleishman Is In Trouble. Although some would call me biased. Love, of course, is blinding.
I am not just reading Fleishman though. I am devouring her Twitter feed and have navigated The New York Times via her author page for the last week. There is the painfully hilarious Bradley Cooper profile he was not into and the painfully hilarious Gwyneth Paltrow profile that stole the internet for one great week in 2018. Taffy appears to specialise in painfully hilarious. And as I reread the Paltrow profile, documenting the controversial rise of Paltrow’s wellness brand, Goop, I stumbled upon a line that hasn’t left me alone since. “The minute the phrase ‘having it all’ lost favor among women, wellness came in to pick up the pieces,”she wrote. “It was a way to reorient ourselves — we were not in service to anyone else, and we were worthy subjects of our own care. It wasn’t about achieving; it was about putting ourselves at the top of a list that we hadn’t even previously been on. Wellness was maybe a result of too much having it all, too much pursuit, too many boxes that we’d seen our exhausted mothers fall into bed without checking off. Wellness arrived because it was gravely needed.” And as we live out our permanently busy lives, with technology blurring the lines between work and home, it has become mainstream to adopt wellness and self-care as corrective measures to our existential busyness. And I am beginning to think we have come full circle.