I’ve been watching the ‘Goop Lab‘ on Netflix. Gwyneth Paltrow, who has been on my awareness radar since forever – as we are the same age – heads this series of programmes about self-betterment. Goop is the domain of privilege and moneyed responses to life’s challenges, and employs what seems to be an army of staff. They check stuff out on everyone’s behalf, and make unsolicited recommendations. Concepts like micro-dosing psychoactive drugs, or how to best achieve orgasm (this episode is hands down the Goopiest; the most out there). I try to imagine what emails fly around the ether in their achingly cool Californian office. I try to imagine Gwyneth, as CEO, directing an overrunning meeting, or a wayward agenda, wearing good dresses, with good hair.
The show has been met with a torrent of judgement, nay-saying and what can really only be described as hate. I am interested in the emotion of hate and often say to people who express it: ‘hate is a strong word.’ It is, and I know it, I sometimes carry it around with me, slip it under my tongue to dissolve, but I don’t succumb to it. The hate for Gwyneth and her peers is curious because it borders on hysterical. Perhaps people don’t like what they don’t fully understand. Or what goes against accepted wisdom. Of course life won’t be that much better, day to day, just because of vaginal steaming, but what I find fascinating about those who hate Goop is that they feel it so very keenly. My view on watching, was that Gwyneth comes across as more likeable than expected, that she is evidently self-aware, that she is actually similar to a lot of women I encounter, who in their midlife grapple their way through a myriad of challenges. Ageing, bodily changes, diet, health, relationships, self-analysis. There is nothing new here, it’s just that it’s packaged in a sublimely galling way for those who don’t share her money or her opinions or her preoccupations. And perhaps, she does not acknowledge that what is being presented by Goop is, in effect, the highest form of frippery.
But back to hate. There is a conflict, an ongoing tension between our new ‘woke’ tendency to feel tolerance for all facets of society, and the polarity of hate. Hate towards those who injure us, or hate towards those who exhibit values which are at odds with our own. Or towards those who don’t take responsibility for their actions. Part of being woke is not only developing an awareness, but it is also understanding one’s own place in the world, and taking ownership of it. This is something I think a lot about as I have been forced to carefully consider my own actions in recent months. I don’t act without consideration, even in what I write here. What could be called overthinking translates into deliberateness, acting with diligence in what I do, say, and write. The irony is not lost on me also, that Gwyneth is the founding proponent of ‘conscious uncoupling’, a methodology now embedded in our appreciation of what it is to leave a marriage with your sense of family intact. For all that we may judge this term as ludicrous and impossible to replicate, what it appears to have achieved for she and her ex-husband is a way in which to live in harmony after divorce.
Meanwhile, a sojourn into the world of TikTok (the app where people post short lip-synched videos) is worth noting, purely to see how hate is being metabolised by the younger generation. The emotion is being taken up, owned and repurposed in a way that is almost incomprehensible to those of us in midlife. There’s something about living with and being around teenagers that keeps me abreast of their cultural development. Their generation’s ability to adopt new methods and to exceed expectation is unsurpassed. Although conversely, I note they only get dressed when they are actually leaving the house. In between time, they stay horizontal, in bed or on the sofa, with their phones or a laptop. They do not subscribe to accepted times of the day at which to eat; cereal for lunch (Crunchy Nut), lunch at 3pm (carbs), dinner, snacks, more cereal. They live for their friends. But their lens on the world is worth considering. Caring what people think of me is increasingly less important as this phase of my life wears on. This is not uncommon amongst my cohort but nonetheless I care startlingly less than I used to. But whilst all of us may care what people think, my children are simultaneously open and accepting of new concepts. And they are willing to poke fun at themselves. I can not see them objecting to their own version of Gwyneth in twenty years time. Live and let live, they’ll say.
TikTok is, to the uninitiated, a terrifying, liberating, sensory overload of what the young truly think. It is an exposé into the inner workings, the private thoughts, the eye-wateringly candid truth. My overriding feeling is one of incredulity, but also of quiet awe because it takes bravery to say what you think. And to post it. Nothing on the forum is private. It is open to anyone, and of course this provokes hate in some, adoration in others.
Take Beyoncé (because all roads lead back to her in the end). The hate she felt when she wrote her ‘Lemonade’ album was channeled positively, reframed, taken forward like a jettison of feeling. She knows. And when you know, you know. But my point is, it is deliberate, it is not a strewn garment, it is not haphazard. I guess it’s a matter of deciding whether you want to hate or not. Resist or not. Accept or not. Give thought and consideration, or not. See the bigger, longer-term picture, or not. As she’d say, eyes narrowed and looking forward: ‘think about it’.