In Praise Of Being High Maintenance

Collage photo via Getty Images

It’s not about being selfish, it’s about putting in the work

Last August, in a fit of pique, I bleached my hair platinum blonde. I had been highlighting my naturally dark hair for years, but the effect of gradually getting blonder was never quite as dramatic as I hoped or feared, and because I had always been something of a wuss, hair experiment-wise, I calculated that age 30 was the correct time to do something radical. Before I paid an extravagant sum to the man in a Vivienne Westwood toga who would chemically destroy my hair, I obsessively Googled the process. There are many, many posts out there about the process of bleaching your hair, but all of them had a warning in common: This is a process that would be high maintenance.

“High maintenance” is something I had been afraid of being my whole life. It implies a kind of finickiness and fustiness, someone who would prefer not to get their shoes dirty or their hair wet. The woman it always called to mind was the would-be stepmother from the Lindsay Lohan reboot of The Parent Trap, a woman who the twins effectively scared off by taking her on a camping trip where dirt and lizards and retrospectively pretty mean pranks were involved. 

But, as I’ve gotten older, I’ve also recognized that “high maintenance” is a not-so-subtle misogynist code word, usually deployed to take certain women down a notch. The standards that women are expected to adhere to are, by definition, incredibly high maintenance. Plucking, bleaching, moisturizing, exfoliating, expertly applying eyeliner, selecting garments to distort the natural shape of your body—what are these things except an incredible amount of maintenance? But it’s frowned upon to admit that this work is actual work, that it’s not just time and labor but also a good deal of money that women are expected to shell out in order to look a certain way. For a culture that fetishizes work, America really hates to see that work in action. What we want is magic: that one silver bullet to transform your appearance, solve your financial woes, change your life to a healthier, more robust one. Witness the number of products it takes to achieve the “no-makeup makeup” look, or all the “just one trick” clickbait pieces on the internet. Life is entropy, and we would all rather have a shortcut than wade through the ongoing turmoil. It makes sense, but it’s rarely possible.  

“High maintenance” is a double-edged sword, proof that no matter what you look like, women can’t possibly be allowed to just be. If you follow all the dumb, arbitrary rules, and you’re put together just so, if your hair is well-kept and your teeth are white, and you’re dressed modestly but stylishly, if you’re suspected of actually taking measures to look good, well, you still get criticized for being high maintenance. You can still get Anne Hathaway’ed—work your whole life at being good at something, and you’re still going to get knocked down a peg for looking like you’re trying. No one wants effortful chic.

It’s also a phrase that’s deployed to make women’s emotional needs seem impractical and burdensome, to discourage ambition, and to make sure that if you’re asking for something, you also feel guilty about it. Next time someone describes someone as being “high maintenance,” replace the phrase with “has strict emotional boundaries,” and see if it doesn’t make as much sense. Obviously, yes, there are people in the world who ask too much of their friends, who are oblivious in their privilege, who require being handled with kid gloves. But more often than not, people have good reasons for their requests, even if they seem idiosyncratic from the outside. Slapping a label on a person whose emotional state you don’t understand, or don’t wish to put in the work to understand, is both easy and lazy. 

So I decided to embrace high maintenance-dom. My hair now has the constitution of an asthmatic Chihuahua—it must be babied and cared for, rather than my usual method of ignoring it until it starts looking like the end of a frequently used broom. And I found that in a weird way, it was good for me to have to pay more attention to some hard rules I set for myself, even if they were just vanity-related. I don’t wish to conflate capitalism and self-care—paying someone every eight weeks to touch up your roots is not what Audre Lorde was talking about. But I have always had a tendency to try to act more laid-back and more laissez-faire than I actually am. There’s no pretending that bleaching your hair the opposite of its natural color is laissez-faire.  

And so I tried to expand this notion to other issues in my life more weighty than hair, things that might stick with me after I give up on my Courtney Love era and return to a less finicky routine. I made an effort to be empathetic to people whose emotional boundaries didn’t make sense to me, and I tried to be more transparent about mine. I tried to stop acting like I was okay with things that bother me, even if a cooler person would just let them go. A cooler person would probably stay for another round, but the person I actually am knows that if I don’t get to bed by midnight on a weekday, I’m going to feel gross the next day. A cooler person probably wouldn’t need to delete Instagram for the weekend when it gave them creeping anxiety. But I am not a cooler person, I am just a messy, regular human. Putting your messy regularness on display is generally discouraged, but it's also essential. The goal isn’t to become a selfish monster, but to admit that life requires maintenance. It’s fine to put in the work. You don’t need to apologize for it. We all need to maintain, one way or another.  

Screenshot via YouTube

The band shared details about their new St. Vincent-produced album that will drop "you into the world of catastrophe"

Sleater-Kinney just shared more information about their St. Vincent-produced album and dropped a new single.

Per Billboard, Sleater-Kinney revealed that their new album, which they've been teasing since early this year and will be their first since No Cities To Love from 2015, will be called The Center Won't Hold. It's due out on August 16 via Mom + Pop Records. "We're always mixing the personal and the political but on this record, despite obviously thinking so much about politics, we were really thinking about the person—ourselves or versions of ourselves or iterations of depression or loneliness—in the middle of the chaos," Carrie Brownstein said in a statement. Corin Tucker further noted that the new album will "[drop] you into the world of catastrophe that touches on the election."

Janet Weiss noted that the band will "explore a different sound palette" with this album, and pointed to St. Vincent as the reason behind it. She said that St. Vincent "has a lot of experience building her own music with keyboards and synthesizers so she could be our guide to help us make sense of this new landscape and still sound like us."

To satiate us until then, the band released a lyric video for new single, "The Future Is Here," which is very grungy. Bump it, below.

Sleater-Kinney - The Future Is Here (Official Lyric Video)


This is so satisfying!

Even Jon Snow knows just how unsatisfying the final season of Game of Thrones was, and he's ready to apologize. Well, a deepfake of him is at least. A heavily-edited version of Snow's speech from the fourth episode—just before the bodies of those lost in the Battle of Winterfell get burned—now features Snow apologizing for the conclusion of the show and lighting the script on fire.

"It's time for some apologies. I'm sorry we wasted your time," Snow begins. "And I know nothing made sense at the end. When the Starbucks cup is the smallest mistake, you know you fucked up! We take the blame. I'm sorry we wrote this in like six days or something," he adds, before signaling to his peers to light the script with torches and "just forget it forever." "Fuck Season 8," he says before the pages begin to crackle and burn.

If there were more lines left to alter, we would have loved to see Snow also tackle how messy Brienne of Tarth and Jaime Lannister's story line ended up, as well as Bran's kingship, Cersei's boring demise, and the water bottle appearance.

Watch the entire deepfake and try to heal the wounds left by HBO below.


Photo by Darren Craig

It premieres today, exclusively via NYLON

In LP's song "Shaken," the most recent single from her 2018 record Heart To Mouth, she tells the story of seeing her lover out with someone else—ouch. Today, exclusively on NYLON, she releases a cheeky animated music video that pokes fun at the song's heightened drama and perfectly demonstrates all the angst that comes with falling hard for someone.

"She looks at you like I used to/ And I'm just sitting in the corner sh-sh-shaken," LP sings, as the visual—with art by Maayan Priva—depicts the singer hanging out in a bar, watching the girl she likes meet up with another girl. Despite the situation's inherent drama, "Shaken" is less of a ballad and more of an upbeat bop. LP told us she loves the way "this little video captures some of the fun of the song, and its inherent comical anxiety." Sure, heartbreak isn't that funny, but our (sometimes) overly dramatic reaction to it kind of is.

"'Shaken' feels like a bit of a wild card on this record," LP says. "It's the closest I've come to writing a musical, which I hope to do one day." We heartily endorse this idea: Please, LP, give us the queer jukebox musical we crave.

Until that day comes, though, you can watch the music video for "Shaken," below.

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Photo courtesy of Sony Pictures.

This cameo has the Beyhive buzzing

I went to see Men In Black: International alone. Which would have been fine if it wasn't for the shock I received when I saw two specific characters on the screen. Unable to keep it to myself, I shared a curious look with the stranger next to me, who was obviously thinking the same thing as me. "Is that them...?" I whispered first. "I think… so," she replied. Then the two men in question started to dance, and we were both sure: "Yep, that's them."

It was Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, better known as Les Twins. Fans of Beyoncé will recognize the duo as the talented brothers who often accompany her on tour and in music videos. In Men In Black: International, the two of them play shapeshifting entities—they're more like energy forces than aliens—who pursue Tessa Thompson's and Chris Hemsworth's characters throughout the duration of the film. The twins' ability to manipulate their bodies in ways that are graceful and otherworldly really helps sell them as extraterrestrials and is fun to watch.

So if Thompson in a suit or Hemsworth shirtless weren't enough motivation, here's another reason to go see it. If you look close, you can see them in the trailer below.


Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue

"I am honored to share this bonding experience with my own daughter"

In a heart-warming Instagram photo, Serena Williams shares the history of hair braiding and the importance of the tradition. The tennis player shared a photo of herself braiding her daughter Olympia Ohanian's hair and spoke about how "honored" she was to be able to "add another generation" to the tradition of the practice.

The photo shows Williams attentively braiding her daughter's hair while Olympia smiles, obviously loving the experience. Williams noted that hair braiding was created by the Himba people in Namibia, Africa, and that "we have been braiding our hair for centuries." "In many African tribes braided hairstyles were a unique way to identify each tribe," she continued.

Williams pointed out that braiding is a bonding experience. "People would often take the time to socialize," she wrote. "It began with the elders braiding their children, then the children would watch and learn from them. The tradition of bonding was carried on for generations, and quickly made its way across the world."

Williams closed her post with a sweet message about her daughter, saying that she's "honored to share this bonding experience" with her.

See the post, below.