07/28/2014 09:27 am ET Updated Jul 28, 2014

Why Not Admit We Didn't Wake Up Like This?


Last week I got a long-overdue haircut at a salon I’d never visited before. The stylist asked how I usually do my hair. "Oh, I never really brush it or blow-dry it or use any product," I said. “Can you just cut it so it looks good without any effort?” He laughed. "Women always want to say they didn’t make an effort and look great anyway." For women who are into a certain look, the idea of admitting that you spent 30 minutes washing and tousling your hair and putting in products to make it look dirty, then another 30 selecting the perfect worn-in denim and slouchy T-shirt, then another 30 applying mascara and re-sculpting your not-overplucked eyebrows, is decidedly out of fashion. Beyoncé does not sing, “I woke up and spent some time in hot rollers and then did my makeup like this.”

It’s this impulse — to pretend we aren’t working to achieve a look or meet any standard — that makes websites like Gwyneth Paltrow’sGoop and Blake Lively’s Preserve so easy to mock. Gwyneth and Blake did not wake up like this. Their sites blend the aspirational perfection of Martha Stewart with the life-guru platitudes of Oprah and add a materialistic twist of One Kings Lane. They are about "curating a life." They consciously uncouple. And consciously decorate cupcakes. And consciously select fonts. Gwyneth’s goal is “to help her readers save time, simplify, and feel inspired.” Blake is hereto “inspire your home, your style, and your tongue.” They may reduce their mission to mere “inspiration” and embrace the same easy-breezy aesthetic that a lot of women in their demographic do, but their guidebooklike sites betray them. So do the price tags. Describing exactly how to achieve that just-thrown-together effect promotes the opposite of effortlessness.

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