Scrolling designer consignment site, The RealReal, something irks me.
No, it’s not that I, a 20 year old with an entry-level income and a non-existent savings account is once again shopping for gently worn luxury pieces which as of recent, incur a painful 10% foreign import tax; it’s the employment of a particular word. A word used as the collective noun under which items you want to save and keep track of aggregate to form a feed.
Where other shopping sites would opt for the generic use of ‘Wishlist’ or ‘Favourites’, The RealReal skips Facebook’s borderline apathetic ‘like’, shrugs off even ‘love’ and goes full throttle with what the dictionary describes as to ‘preoccupy or fill the mind of someone continually and to a troubling extent’: ‘Obsessions’.
I mean yeah, I’ve saved 26 pairs of loafers but I don’t think that’s fatal.
Coincidentally, it’s also the hyperbole of choice for fashion and beauty Youtubers; their assertions of ‘I’m OBSESSED! with this next item’ ever present in a ceaseless production line of haul videos, in which the items idly being held up to focus, will probably only ever appear once more on their Insta feed, if at all.
And when people can’t blatantly flog their Obsessions, they are spoilt for choice of socially accepted euphemisms in which to conceal them. They are able to talk candidly about their fixation on selfies, networking, or ownership of only things that spark joy, as long as these compulsions are called ‘empowerment’, ‘hustle’ or ‘self- care’. This approach of fluffing everything up into a full-blown ideology is also how Obsession is used to supplement personal preferences for profit. For example, Jai’s simple predilection for wearing minimal makeup is turned into a cult of no makeup-makeup. Right.
It feels similar to what Lauren Berlant calls ‘Cruel Optimism’; something like ‘your desire for the exact thing which is an obstacle to your flourishing’. Optimism becomes cruel once the object of your striving, cancels out the very thing it promised you would acquire. Like putting on a face of makeup every morning before work with the intention of getting ahead, when in actuality, the time and money spent ‘looking professional’ is proven to be shrinking your paycheck witheach layer of mascara so tenderly applied.
Obsessions are condemned insofar as they are productive, for Capital, that is. If what you’re obsessing over does not demonstrate your compliance in a world hell bent on the constant creation of economic value, it is not a ‘good’ obsession, so apparently you should let it fade.
In this way, Obsession merely serves as a purpose in whatever context it finds itself; presented at the right times and obscured at all others. It usually translates to spend money, add to cart, click the link in the description down below.
If all that it takes for us to become obsessed, is to Google search for a sheer foundation, receive an online order, run our mouse over the icon of a heart, it follows, that all it takes to engage with these ‘obsessions’ is to rapaciously consume to the tenth degree of every desire, continually and to a troubling extent.
Return to issues
I am still about to order loafers though.