Joan of Arc + Narcissus =
A match made in IG purgatory
I am a lady of taste, and I am stubborn. I’m the kind of friend who will take your recommendations with an enthusiastic “Oh, cool!” but six months later, I still won’t have watched or read what you recommended.
I do mean to follow the recs! But I also do things in my own time. I can’t read historical fiction if the weather isn’t just right, or romance if my mood isn’t perfectly nestled in that sweet spot between desire and despair. TV shows are a commitment months in the making. Movies I rarely watch alone.
This extends so far as to make me feel invincible to any influence(rs). On IG, I follow exactly three, one of those out of pure scientific fascination (a Mormon mommy blogger! Who needs KUWTK?)
As for celebrities, I stick to B list and below. January Jones, the definition of eccentric rich white woman. I have a soft spot for Dakota Fanning because of Uptown Girls, and her sister Elle because of The Great. Ben Barnes because I have discovered that unfortunately I am not immune to the Darkling.
Regardless, my tastes and interests age like fine wine, or brew like that civet poop coffee. I take great pride in being singular, independent, unpredictable.
Yet somehow I’ve become someone who clicks on Instagram ads?
This is a source of great distress to me.
The platform is increasingly unusable, or at least unpleasant. I’m still upset that posts appear out of order. The marketplace is more accessible now than notifications or even the post button.
And yet. The ads algorithm. The devil on my shoulder. The hand in my unloveable hand. My enemy and my inexorable fate. It knows me better than I know myself.
A few weeks ago, IG showed me a pair of safety pin earrings from Bauble Bar. I’ve never bought anything so fast. The spirit of some practical yet punk ancestor rose up within me and screamed that the earrings were the coolest things she’d ever seen. After the head rush faded I was shocked at myself. I didn’t even compare prices.
Jewelry is one of my great weaknesses (that and thinking I’m interesting enough to write a newsletter). I like to glint and glimmer in the sunshine and in dark alleys. I like gold because it matches my hair and complements the black clothes I tend to prefer.
I absolutely cannot afford to buy gold on a regular basis. Most people can’t. Humble circumstances have never stopped me having an opinion, however, or yelling about it.
If there’s one thing these IG fashion companies know how to do, it’s design their website to make their brand appear expensive, classic, and desirable.
If there’s one thing these IG fashion companies don’t know how to do, it’s make good jewelry.
Case in point: I recently went on a quest for a Joan of Arc necklace.
Sadly, affordable Joan of Arc necklaces in genuine gold are hard to find, and vintage gold medals nearly impossible. I searched high and low. I went on Catholic supply store websites. I trawled the depths of Etsy listings. I even peeked at eBay.
Anyway, I settled. $24.50. Gold-plated.
A couple weeks later I got both story and post ads on IG for Awe Inspired’s Goddess collection. Lo and behold, a Joan of Arc necklace. $175. Gold vermeil.
I just find it disrespectful, is all.
Even in the ads—even in this safe space in which our desires are perfectly, eerily curated for us, like the dark surface of Narcissus’s pool—we cannot be free.
Not free of the endless pressure to compress ourselves from a person into an image. Not free of Instagram influencer culture, in which the false is more recognizable and palatable than the real. And not free of the tyranny of gold substitutes, masquerading as high quality, long-lasting jewelry.
My Bauble Bar safety pin adventure doesn’t count, because I was possessed. But if you pay more than 50 bucks—maybe 75, at a stretch—for gold-plated jewelry, you are handing free money to these pretentious websites.
What’s worse is I can’t block them. On Twitter, I take great pleasure and pride in blocking every account they dare to sponsor on my feed, dodging Jack Dorsey’s assumptions about me like rubber balls, or knives.
It’s not so simple on IG. So long as I keep ogling Etsy listings in my spare time or lingering too long on a pretty picture of a ring between stories, they’ll keep pushing jewelry ads at me.
They promise me glinting and glimmering, and it’s all a façade, and it’s so depressing.
Even more so because I couldn’t even afford the façade if I tried.
I’m just praying they don’t start pushing skincare. I’m going through my quarter-life crisis, in which every morning I inspect my skin for wrinkles. I watched a five-minute skincare ad on YouTube the other day. The actual video was ten minutes.
O Joan of Arc, pray for me.