Now is the time to be as hot as humanly possible. There was a lot we couldn’t access during lockdown, like travel, dates, and family. But, the few things we could access — skin care, workouts, online shopping — gave us a much-needed sense of control. Maybe 2020 wouldn’t be the year you got in a relationship, but, once lockdown was over, you’d be too hot to resist — a product of the post-pandemic beauty boom. Maybe travel plans were postponed in 2020, but by summer of 2021, you’d have the travel wardrobe of your dreams, all packed up and ready to go.
But, even though we’ve had the best intentions when it comes to our hotness, life, in general, has been less glamorous. Yes, we’ve tried our hardest to look and feel our best at all times, and maybe more so during trying times, but even when we feel our hottest, our vulnerabilities have never felt more apparent. This is why you’ll find the hottest people online frequently humbled by the same ailments: irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), iron deficiency, and depression.
Instead of letting these things redefine us, becoming an asterisk on our hotness, we double-down. We assert that “Hot Girls always have iron deficiency,” and remind the world that since all Hot Girls have stomach issues, claiming anything from IBS to acid reflux serves as a dual declaration of hotness (Emma Chamberlain is one video away from being an IBS spokesperson). Asthma and eczema? Also Hot Girl Ailments. Body problems — but not just any body problem, these body problems — have now, in the last year, become Hot Girl* problems. It’s a trend that, cruelly, spiked in popularity at the height of a coronavirus pandemic. Since “pandemic” has come to describe our society’s general state of being, let's remember that it primarily indicates a worldwide prevalence of disease. COVID-19 is lethal, it’s mostly disabling; and yet, here we are, creating memes that let us whine about all kinds of non-lethal afflictions, while also bragging about our good looks.
Are Hot Girl Ailments the height of self-absorption? It looks like the same people online who are eager to get started on Hot Girl Summer 2: Here We Hoe Again and trying their hardest to project main character energy, while also staring down the barrel of some seriously sad memes, are the same people who enjoy identifying with a video about spending half the day on the toilet. Maybe it’s another example of Pick-Me-ism, like “complaining” about your lack of strength or tiny hands. In one sense, it’s easy to dismiss Hot Girl Ailments — a combination of both a base enthusiasm for the way we look and a glib attitude toward your problems — as cheap and immature. But, easy is also cheap and immature, and perhaps the whole thing is not that deep.
Part of the appeal of Hot Girl Ailments is that it feels nice to know your body doesn’t have to function perfectly to feel sexy. I won’t lie — I get a little ego boost if I’m identified as a scatologically-challenged individual. I wonder all the time if the allergies that make my face red and skin scaly are perceived as “Hot Girl problems,” because I find I’m less overwhelmed by my problems if they’re Hot Girl problems™.
A quick note on hotness: I’m not talking about inner beauty or even outer beauty. I’m talking about hotness in the post-capitalist, I’m-hot-you’re-not kind of way. The kind of hot that anyone can create and define for themselves — even if it is ruled by transience, and demands upkeep. Hotness is confidence in the way you look — it should be intimidating and almost scary to others. When you feel hot, you feel powerful and protected. Hot only recognizes hot. Because how we conceive and embody hotness in our culture is inextricably tied to currency and capitalism, hotness is excess. Because hotness is tied to youth (or non-aging), hotness is about trying to pin down that which is ephemeral and fleeting. And, like all excess, it’s unsustainable.
The New Age Bimbo proposed that an investment in our own hotness is as much an investment in ourselves as it is a divestment from the intellectual conventions of white supremacist patriarchy. But there’s a dark side: Re-emergence is also putting us under great pressure to look our hottest, to be Solar-Powered Coconut Girls smiling on Lorde’s beach. But a Hot Girl Ailment is almost that one vulnerability we allow ourselves. It’s making fun of ourselves while bonding over our chapped assholes.
Now, a note on illness: It’s always there to remind our bodies how fragile our existence really is. If hotness is an effort to make the ephemeral permanent, then illness is a constant reminder of how nothing is forever. If hotness requires effort, then illness finds our bodies despite all our effort; it laughs at how hard we try. Both health and hotness exist on a spectrum. So when it comes to what we’ll now call Hot Girl Ailments, the standouts –—IBS, anemia, depression — although chronic and oftentimes disabling, as far as illness go, they are largely invisible — they mostly do not affect your ability to look conventionally “hot.”
Does the concept of a Hot Girl Ailment romanticize illness? Maybe. It definitely walks the fine white line of heroin chic, but so far, nobody is profiting off Hot Girl Ailments — at least, not financially, though maybe we are, socially. When you talk about your mental health struggles with your friends, there’s always a moment where someone cracks a dark joke and the group can relax and laugh together. The concept of a Hot Girl Ailment serves the same purpose. You struggle with pebbly poops? It’s only proof of how lethally hot you are, and how the proverbial “they” don’t want to see you shine. It’s nature’s sick way of imposing balance on us Hot Girls, and, as angels walking the Earth, we must accept our lot in life and take these mortal hindrances in stride. When the body’s weaknesses make us feel less powerful, celebrating how good we can still make it look can go a long way.