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Author: Elisa Gabbert

Beauty Is Youth, Youth Beauty

For a few minutes last week, I misbelieved the title of this post was the real Keats line. I had been thinking about youth and beauty, and youth in general. I read part of a weird essay in which the author said she laughed when Kenneth Goldsmith called a writer born in 1981 “young.” Kenneth Goldsmith was born in 1961. He probably—like me—thinks anyone younger than him is young. I was born in 1979. I think of people born in ’81 as quite a bit younger than me. In Denver, I co-host a monthly reading series that takes place in...

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The Bravery of “Basic”

“Normcore” vs. “basic”: In 2014, these two word-of-the-year contenders valorized and demonized, respectively, the quality of being default. I hate both terms, normcore typifying the ever-present equation of money and style, the idea that “mom jeans” or socks with sandals is a cool look as long as you happen to be a hot young DJ. “Basic bitch” was hilarious when Nicki Minaj said it in verse, but the condescension is unbearable when it’s used without irony, and reminds me of the hordes of iPhone users who expressed disgust when Instagram became available for Android. The horror of accessibility! Tied...

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On Popular Girls and Money as Style

I recently went to a birthday party where all guests were expected to dress like a character from Twin Peaks. I didn’t watch the show when it was on, and have only seen a few episodes in the years since, so I used Google image search to get some style inspiration. Naturally, the character I most wanted to dress like was Audrey. Her fashion seemed imitable enough: a tight sweater, a pencil or a plaid skirt. Alas, I don’t look like Audrey: I’m blonde; I’m not “curvy”; I have some freckles but no well-placed, high-contrast beauty mark providing punctum...

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Why I Am Not an Ashbery

By now many of you have likely seen—thanks to the small world that is social media—the fun and silly application known as Poetweet, which scans your tweets and creates from them a sonnet (or other formal poem of your choosing). I was trapped in New York, alone in my friend’s Brooklyn apartment, when I discovered it, and was completely delighted by the resulting poem. (Rob Horning has written compellingly about the ways that algorithms, such as Buzzfeed quizzes, repackage our online personas and sell them back to us, allowing us to consume ourselves like ironic ourobouros.) Here is the...

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Some Notes on Packing

Last week I packed a suitcase for an 8-day trip, then the first leg of my flight was canceled and rescheduled for two days later. I couldn’t be bothered to un- and repack, so left my suitcase as is, by the door, for two days. But what seemed like the right amount of clothing for eight days looked like far too much for six days. Why? Because when you’re packing for a long trip, you’re not just building in more days of clean shirts and underwear, you’re preparing for the greater chance of encountering chaos. If meteorologists with access...

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On Styling Tricks

While I was visiting my parents over the holidays, I spent an evening flipping through an old Better Homes & Gardens decorating book, published in the early ‘80s, that I loved as a child. Suddenly, all the styling tricks were apparent to me: aside from the fact that every room had track lighting and a ficus tree, someone had gone in and added transient details to make the rooms look “lived in” before photographing them: an open bottle of wine or obscure European liqueur and two empty glasses on the living room coffee table; a bowl of green apples...

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Notes on a Trend

This fall, just as it was beginning to get cold at night, I saw this amazing sweater on a blog—I clicked through to the retail site and found it cost over $600 (currently, at 60% off, it’s only $248). For the next few weeks, it followed me around the internet via the cookie-based advertising technology known as “remarketing.” I had no intention of purchasing this outrageous sweater, but I began to fantasize about finding a similar, less costly item. I Googled something like “big cozy ethnic print sweater” and discovered pages upon pages of images on Pinterest: oversized open...

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