If I had a facebook relationship status with Vanity, it would read, “It’s complicated.”
No one likes to admit to being vain. I know I don’t. Vanity is shallowness, and shallowness is lack of character, lack of soulfulness. It is a despised form of narcissism, a gauge of bad personality. Vain people are constantly fretting about their skin, hair, clothing, shoes, accessories, weight, make-up and all other things shallow. They lack maturity and the stoic form of self-dismissal that deep, mysterious folk possess; you know, that uncanny ability to not care about frivolous things to do with oneself and always look at the bigger picture. It is a trait I admire almost as much as loyalty and courage.
The typical example of a vain person would be a Hollywood reality TV star whose more-or-less ordinary life is tracked down in stalker-fashion by a camera crew. We lounge on our sofas and watch as the beautiful lady’s life is examined through a camera lens, and click disapprovingly, remarking that there are more important things to be covered by the media, such as climate change and civil unrest, and why would someone have cameras follow them around every single day, that’s unbelievably vain, can you hear the shallow conversations they are having, all about diets and fashion, I can’t believe they make millions out of this show… Of course, we don’t explain why exactly we keep tuning onto the program.
So, in reference to above title, yes, I am vain. In fact, I get so vain sometimes that, as I’m walking on the street and I recall my moments of vanity, I stand still and recoil in horror and embarrassment, because I can’t believe I could consciously act so pathetically. The moments come rather sporadically. Take, for example, the time I posted my first edited photo on facebook. It was a rather nice-looking photo, made doubly pretty by the power of the editing app on my previous phone (I really miss that phone’s editing app), so I saw it fit to make it my profile picture. The minute it got on my facebook wall, I felt inexplicably nervous, as if I were awaiting exam results. I went to wash dishes and play guitar, and when I came back to check my phone, I had 30 likes. 30! In 20 minutes! I couldn’t help feel a sort of sheepish glee at this ‘accomplishment’. For the rest of the night (until I slept) and most of the following day, I kept on checking and re-checking my Facebook notifications for new likes. It was sad, I tell you. I quite literally became obsessed with that little red pop-up box. By the next evening, my super photo had amassed 60 likes. And I felt like I’d won the lottery. I was on an all-time high; I was on an internet-induced cloud nine. And all this because of a photo. One lousy, facebook photo. It took a reduction in rate of new likes the next day and my friend’s 100-likes-in-an-hour (how is that even possible) new profile picture for me to jolt back to reality and realize I was being foolish and superficial.
Or the time we went for dinner, and I spent one and a half hours bathing and picking out my outfit, then another 20 minutes prettifying myself. We got to the restaurant late, and the food didn’t even taste that good, because I was too busy fretting about my hair(which I had not repaired in a while and roughly resembled a dead mongoose perched on my head) and my dress, which fit way too tightly around the waist meaning I had gained weight and now I was a fat fat girl and my skin which decided to sprout a ripe pimple right in the middle of my forehead to add onto my sunburn and my toenails which were just plain ugly, a problem exacerbated by the fact that I wore open shoes and had not applied polish… I’m not even exaggerating here; I made my mum take about 20 pictures of me and then scooted over to closely examine them and determine whether I was unbearably foul-looking or mildly unsightly, maybe even quirky, which can be taken as a positive. Needless to say, Mum was mildly worried about my sanity. I look back at those photos and I wonder if I was high throughout the dinner, because my appearance was nowhere near as ghoulish as I was convinced it was. I basically wasted a perfectly good evening ‘cause of sheer vanity.
Vanity feels good most times, though. When I get a new set of braids-the neat, thick, long and shiny ones, made (painfully) in Kenyatta market- shinny loop earrings, a smashing dress and cute shoes, I can literally spend the whole morning in the room taking selfies for no one in particular, and swagger outside, feeling extremely hot for myself; I float on the ground, feeling of rather high importance and ranking in the world and glancing at passers-by with a smug look that shouts Mmmmh, ya don’t have to say it, I already know.
That is, until I see someone who looks a hell of a lot better than me. Then I get mildly irritated, and I realize the irritation is jealousy, and that vanity can make me happy momentarily, but will never fully satisfy, because it wants more; more attention, more perfection, more admiration, more stares. It wants to be the most everything in the room. And I can never have it all. No one can. (An argument could be made for some notable exceptions). Vanity is a drug, a parasite. It is reasonably tolerable in small amounts, but if not controlled, it can take over one’s system and render him/her a slave to its shallow demands. Not to mention that it is painfully embarrassing to remember.
Don’t be alarmed, I’m not proposing we all dress up in sack cloths from now on and wage war on Reality TV Shows and Fashion Lines. As I said, vanity is an effective trigger of happy hormones (endorphins, for the fancy folk). Everyone appreciates looking good, and having his/her appearance admired. We need approval to live happy lives- not too much such that we become dependent on it, but enough to feel wanted. Vanity is not all evil. After all, everyone harbors a bit of it. We all have that soft spot for social media popularity, fashion, looks, luxury and swag (Microsoft word dictionary says that the synonym for swag is ‘curtain’). All I’m saying is, let’s not let it take over our lives. Don’t be caught up by the number of likes you get on your Instagram or Facebook, or the number of retweets and followers you get on Twitter, because life is more than that. Get in touch with your deep side. Be self-dismissive sometimes. It pays to see the world through lens that are not pre-occupied with their owner.