There are probably only few opening lines in the history of literature that are as recognizable as the beginning of Pride and Prejudice: ‘It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.’ Whether you have read the book or not, more than two-hundred years ago or yesterday: it is not only the perfect beginning, but also wise beyond its years. It perfectly captures societal expectations – just to spend the rest of the novel exploring how messy the realities behind them actually are. And that is a notion I can very much relate to.
It probably takes a lifetime to figure out exactly what you want from your lifetime. I most certainly don’t know yet, but there sure are a lot of suggestions. One of them comes under the label of ‘that girl.’ Whether you watch a short video about how to be that girl on TikTok or read a post on Instagram, that girl is always calm and collected, sleeps eight hours a night and has a skincare routine, she works out but makes it look easy, is always friendly but never fake – she’s the kind of girl they write songs about or (depending who you’re asking) Black Mirror episodes.
Even though the label is new, that girl has always been there. In Jane Austen novels, it’s the popular nice girl who is the best piano player like Jane Fairfax in Emma. In America of the 1960s, it’s the debutante destined to marry rich. For the past ten years, it were vegan fitness influencers. However, the seemingly perfect Jane Fairfax envied by Emma only reconciles with her after she appears less perfect and the ‘perfect’ 1960s housewife trope is usually a set-up for a tragedy and not a happy end. And while many still seek out to become those girls, past influencers have since recounted how maintaining a specific image have left them with serious mental illnesses.
So, what to do with this strive for perfection and its recurring unsustainable cycle? You can’t fight the fact that there will always be the idea of a ‘perfect’ woman of her time – just as much as you can never reach it. And even though you should take the idea of that girl with a grain of salt, it’s difficult to exclude yourself from the narrative. A part of me will maybe always long for an existence where I wake up at six in the morning for yoga and a matcha latte, but that’s not going to happen. I’d love to always be calm and collected, but I’m not. I’m simply my messy self. And maybe, just maybe, that’s not only okay, but also enough.