Her nighttime routine consisted of forty different steps involving fifteen products and five parts of her body. First, she lit a white wax candle. Sweet, pink-petalled freesia swept into the room. Her head swam. Sitting cross-legged on the floor, she meditated for ten minutes using a loving kindness app. “I forgive you,” she intoned, under the Benedictine guidance of a honeyed British voice. It was said with a genuine attempt at feeling, with the overwhelming desire to summon a revelation like the ones promised to her in the ads for therapy, and she waited expectantly, shivering in the center of her room in synthetic fleece pajamas. But when the tundra of her mind refused to react, she gave up easily, unsurprised—but bitter, nonetheless, at the notion that meditation wouldn’t work on her dog of a brain.
With a shiver of fear for what new pimple or freshly mottled patch she might encounter on its rolling hills and pockmarked fields, she moved onto her body. She twisted around in the dirty mirror to examine every hairy, blue-veined scrap of skin. She ran a roller of imitation green jade over pads of fat, lips pressed together tightly, eyes averted. She scrubbed at her elbows with an intricately woven towel imported from Korea. She applied a mud mask, then a sheet mask, and then a UV light mask. She cleansed, exfoliated, and moisturized her face. Balms, liquids, creams, gels. Baby blue, Pepto pink, grass green. She flossed and brushed her teeth with something battery-powered. In the warm yellow light, her bubblegum-flavored gingiva shone in her mouth like the gilded edges of an illuminated manuscript. (A decorative glint of blood along her lip line from overexuberant flossing.) She meticulously conditioned every strand of her dyed hair with animal fat before braiding it into a loop that she pinned into place. The clips she used cost fourteen dollars and were shaped and colored like monarch butterflies.