I've had a slew of bad habits in my time.
For a long while, my go-to bad habit was cigarettes. "Oh, I will open the mail AFTER I SMOKE THIS CIGARETTE!" I used to think, as I pulled out a Marlboro Light 100. And for the five minutes it took to indulge in that little stick of nicotine and rat poison, I'd have forgotten about the f*cking mail.
The older I got, the more responsibilities I was suddenly confronted with, and the more I turned to my trusty cigs as a way to avoid them.
Finally, at the ripe ol' age of 24, I gave myself a long, hard look in the mirror: "Zara you've got to quit this! Your complexion is jaundiced, not to mention you're slowly killing yourself. It's not even chic to smoke anymore, not even in LONDON. Get over it, girl."
So I quit the cigs and never looked back. And thank goddess because no one wants to kiss a smoker in this day and age. And I love nothing more than to kiss (a not-bad habit I will never quit).
Did I magically start opening the mail and answering the phone when I broke my bad habit? Yes.
For about two weeks.
Until I discovered the thrill of online shopping. I traded one nasty habit for another.
When I shop online, I transform into a shopping junkie, and I promise you, it's not a pretty sight. I feel my pupils dilate as a strange euphoria overtakes my bones, and I just CAN'T STOP MYSELF. Suddenly, I'm swimming in a gorgeous sea of badass leather jackets, sexy cut-out dresses and pastel blue crop tops. I want to stay there forever. It's safe there.
I'm brimming with nerves and adrenaline as I click, click, click and CONFIRM MY ORDER. I don't even ever have to type my credit card in thanks to my wicked, destructive, enabling BFF, PayPal.
Whenever I'm confronted with the banal pitfalls of reality (paying bills, opening up mail, feeling my ~feelings~, making phone calls), online shopping is my go-to way of avoiding reality and living in my fantasy.
Regardless of how much I adore this bad habit, it brings me down. Let's be real: I don't have a trust fund, and I live in the most expensive city in America. I got bills to pay. I've got therapy sessions to fund. Girl also has to eat occasionally too, you know?
But when I look at the people I know, no matter how "perfect" they appear on their Instagram accounts, they all have some sort of vice. So I started thinking -- what do our go-to bad habits say about who we really are?
Well, let's start with the bad habit I'm the most acquainted with....
Those of us who shop for clothes incessantly are total divas who don't live in reality. Fashion is all about projecting a fantasy.
And I mean what's the most beautiful part of online shopping? The complete and utter illusion of it all, baby. We want to live in puffy pink clouds of the Internet, not the harsh fluorescent light of the department store.
When you shop online, you don't need to confront the cheap textures like you do in real life. You don't have to try on an unflattering dress in a horribly lit dressing room that makes you want to extreme diet and sends you down a dark, self-hating shame spiral.
Everything is PRETTY online. And we just want everything to BE PRETTY. We want to pretend that everything will fit our gorgeous bodies perfectly and that money, well, money isn't real, now is it, darling?
I mean if you don't have shopping bags as evidence of your reckless spending -- it didn't even happen right?
This was once a bad habit of mine in my dark, dirty youth. When your go-to habit is texting that toxic EX, well honey, you are in a phase of your life when you just can't let go of the pesky past.
The moment we're feeling insecure, need a little boost of validation, are a little drunk drunk or just feeling reckless, we turn to the past to provide us with a little quick fix.
We don't want to move forward with our lives and meet someone new. Yet we don't want to get back together with the ex. We are stagnant. We aren't moving forward or backward. We're stuck, and we will continue to stay this way until we decide that the lack of motion in our lives sucks, and it's time to move on.
And I promise you, it will happen. (But the sooner you cut the cord, the effing better, so girl, don't send that text.)
Reality TV binges
What better way to avoid your own dismal reality than to become immersed in the lives of strangers? Especially a stranger with a big Hollywood house, a sh*t ton of drama, loads of of pink martinis and a dysfunctional family. Bring it on.
I have friends who lose days to reality shows, regularly. And girls, I've done it myself. And it's always when I'm unhappy in my own reality and want to lose myself in someone else's.
Also, I'm convinced reality TV is akin to a cocktail; it's soothing and comforting in the moment, but all it does is assist us in avoiding feeling our dreaded ~feelings~.
"Hold on, I WILL get ready for the party, but first, I'm going to have a quick swipe sesh!" we will tell ourselves on a rainy Saturday night.
Cut to two hours later, and we're still curled up on the couch in ugly sweatpants swiping the lonely night away. Honey, we are swiping our LIVES away.
People who incessantly Tinder are highly sexual creatures who are not getting laid IRL. Yet they're super-shy (like me), so picking up someone in a bar feels waaay too overwhelming.
So the Tinderers get their sneaky little flirt fixes from the safety of their smart phones and never really have a real-life boyfriend or girlfriend -- until one of those swipes turns into true love.
So you love to gossip when you're a feeling a little low? Well you're in good company because I adore a salacious gossip session more than I love chocolate truffles or a glass of cheap white wine.
You, my fellow big mouth, are a curious kitten who needs to know everything about everyone. Oh, what did she wear? Oh, what did he say at the company party? Who is sleeping with with the conservative divorcee down the road?
And you know why we gossip? So we don't have to confront our own ugly demons. We project our fears and insecurities on to the outside world, so we don't have to look within ourselves.
And the people we gossip about the most frequently? They're usually mirror images of ourselves.
"Oh that Sandy really likes to drink! Did you SEE all the wine bottles in her trash can!?" you will purr with your nose in the air (as you sheepishly gaze into the slew of empty bottles sitting pretty in your own trash).
Picking your skin/biting your nails
The skin pickers and the nail biters! We like to self-destruct rather than hurt anyone else, isn't that so?
We are a bit compulsive, but we would never, ever tell you that. In fact, we're usually hiding something BIG. We've got a dark secret we're swallowing. The only thing giving us away: our obsessive picking and biting. Blows our cover every damn time.
We prefer to blame ourselves for everything going wrong, rather than anyone else. We turn inward when sh*t goes down, unlike the salacious gossips.
But my fellow face-pickers and nail biters, we deserve some self love. Let's be a little kinder to ourselves and know that it's OK to say how we we're feeling. We don't need to take our anxiety out on our sweet, suffering selves.
A wise woman chain-smoking at a Florida bus stop once told me, "Cigarettes are the best company." I was 16 years old, and this adage forever stuck with me.
You don't feel so lonely staring out into the starless sky at 10 pm when you have the wonderful company of a toxic little ciggy.
In fact, cigarettes can add a bit of romance to any bleak moment. Smokers are lonely people, desperate for some romance. We're just looking for some good old-fashioned company, and our sweet cigarettes are always there for us.
We've often been let down by people in our lives, us sad smokers. We'd rather alienate ourselves in back alleys with a Marlboro rather than go and make friends at the party. (They'll probably just f*ck us over anyway.)
People who buy lottery tickets (as opposed to ex-texters) live in the bright lights of a perfect, exaggerated future.
Lottery ticket buyers are a hopeful, bright-eyed group of rare individuals. They believe they are one of the ~lucky ones~. And sometimes, well sometimes, they are lucky. Sending all that hopeful energy into universe can work wonders.
So keep buying yourself that ticket, if you can afford it. You're not hurting anyone.
Oh, so you're feeling kind of sad, darling? What are you going to do? F*CK THE PAIN AWAY, just like Peaches told us we could in her epic anthem.
I mean what's more meditative than sex?
People who turn to compulsive sex want to feel pleasure and need to get it from another human. The vibrator, the drinks, the books and the music just don't cut.
You need to feel the crushing weight of a body in order to catch a little temporary feel-good. The problem comes when you're using other people like a substance instead of treating them like humans with feelings.
Social media addiction
People who are addicted to social media are obsessed with curating a perfect perception of who they want YOU to think they are.
They live for the cheap thrills of clicks, and likes, and comments, and love to smugly document their kale smoothies and trips to the outdoor yoga studio.
But why do you feel the need to show us every perfect part of your perfect life? Because life is far from perfect.
BUT AT LEAST YOU CAN PRETEND IT IS OVER THE INTERNET. NO, YOUR HUSBAND ISN'T GAY, AND YOU'RE NOT ON THE VERGE OF A MELTDOWN. EVERYTHING IS GREAT BECAUSE YOU HAVE 1,000 LIKES ON YOUR AIRBRUSHED SELFIE.
Binge eaters live in the heat of the precious moment. That chocolate tastes so good melting on your tongue; what's the point in stopping when it's so much f*cking fun? We only live once, so let's never stop eating chocolate, EVER.
Cut to 2 am when you're in drastic pain, doubled over, already feeling the dreaded sugar hangover. Your head is pounding. Your heart is racing. You feel SICK as hell. And you did this to yourself.
But really, binge eating is a metaphor for all of our bad habits. Bad habits are just little vices that make us feel good in the NOW. Bad habits are all about avoiding the real, un-fun things that are inevitable in life. Bad habits are our forms of escape.
And you know what? As long as we are in control of our bad habits, and know when we truly have to stop -- are they really all so bad? I mean, it's a tough world. Let us girls enjoy some cake once in a while. So long as the cake doesn't dictate our every move of course. That's when it's time to get help.
Otherwise, everything in moderation...including moderation. Right?