She gets on wait lists for the new “It” bag, which she knows is the “It” bag because it has been declared so by the magazines and editors she follows religiously. Yes, it is a lot of money, and she knows this, but the expense is less a deterrent than a perk. Without a vulgar logo stamped all over the fine leather, only those who recognize the most exclusive brands and most of-the-moment styles will know that this is the “It” bag, and those people’s knowing (or envious) glances will mean more to her than a thousand compliments. This bag will put her in a caste, one of both financial and aesthetic importance. She doesn’t just have money, she knows exactly where one is supposed to spend it.
She works late hours, getting a contact high from the feeling of being in the office – from fulfilling the very specific image of Professional Woman she’s had in her head since she was young. She posts photos of her tailored work outfits, with their bold splashes of color and statement jewelry. She posts photos of her late-night desk, with the perfect wall accessories and her little plastic container of takeout. She posts photos of the city view from the window nearest her. She secretly gets a thrill from telling people “sorry, I can’t, things are crazy at work right now.” Nothing makes her feel better than being busy.
She drinks Diet Coke and iced coffee, and often forgets to eat. It’s not a problem she has with food, you see, it’s just that she’s so busy she often doesn’t notice that she’s hungry until she is trembling at her keyboard and has trouble steadying her line of vision. She has gone an entire day with nothing but a small bag of Swedish Fish to nibble on, and quarts of caffeinated drinks to delay the feeling of emptiness. When she notices her clothes getting looser, she suppresses the feeling of excitement. It’s not that she doesn’t want to eat, after all. It’s that she doesn’t have time. And if her collarbones become more pronounced as a result, and she looks more elegant in a shift dress – well, that’s just a side effect she’ll have to live with.
She spends money on a gym, a good gym, one with rich, dark walls and modern fixtures and steam rooms on nearly every floor. She wants her body to be crafted and toned, not just thin. She wants to feel strong, wants to run a marathon someday. She’s been talking about the marathon she hopes to run for several years, but each year, her work schedule absorbs the time she would have been using to train. Work takes priority, after all. She tries different workout classes and stays with them for at least a few sessions, but can’t help noticing how she feels worse after each – after seeing the other women in the class, how their workout clothes fit nicer, how they move with less effort, how they seem to never sweat. They probably don’t have a good job. They have the time to work out.
She meets up with her friend after working out, making sure to specify that she just “hit the gym” after work, and making a note that she “got out of work early, thank God.” They spend most of the time talking about work, too – what’s not going well, what they’re working on, who they can’t stand. The catharsis of shit-talking slowly transforms into more anxiety, as neither party is offering any tangible solutions. Complaining feels good, though. They have two drinks and two appetizers each, and the bill comes to 34 dollars per person, with tip. She briefly flinches over the check, but reminds herself that she hasn’t been out to drinks in over a week and a half, and therefore she can allow herself this treat. She walks home slightly drunk and checks her bank statement in bed, promising herself that she won’t waste money on a pointless Tuesday-night buzz again. (She will.)
She goes home to her apartment, clean and put together and tastefully decorated. She grabs cold noodles out of the refrigerator, feeds her cat, waters the plants on her windowsill, and opens her laptop. She alternates between her work email and an episode of a show she’s been half-watching on Netflix. She invests in neither, really, but can’t enjoy one if she knows she’s also doing the other. She feels tired, so she moves to the bed, where she opens up her phone, and finishes the evening by scrolling through social media until she falls asleep with the phone on the pillow next to her. “You up?” a man she doesn’t want to see anymore texts her.
“Guess not,” he texts, fifteen minutes later.