So You Wanna Be a Sickly Victorian Woman
How to perfect the art of convalescence.
Congratulations! You’ve “got the morbs.”
There’s more to being a sickly Victorian woman than just being carried into the garden to see the sun once more before the tuberculosis renders you completely immobile. Embodying this lifestyle takes discipline and dedication: You must cough with intention, brood with conviction. Luckily for you, this guide is here to help you along the way toward harnessing your full potential as a pallid babe in poor health.
First and foremost, you must cultivate a space that promotes the lugubrious energy you wish to exude. That Himalayan salt lamp, for example, will not serve you well if you are to be in a perpetual state of decay. Even a soft glow can thwart any momentum you’ve gained towards unbridled withering. Limit yourself to candlelight. Invest in black-out curtains. A good rule of thumb here is: if you think it’s dim enough, go dimmer.
In addition to your D.I.Y sick room, you should take stock of the company that you intend to allow in and around it. Will your friends commit to propping you up in bed with no fewer than forty-seven pillows and to watching over you while you wistfully stare off into the distance for an indeterminate amount of time? Will they drape a thick, wool blanket over your lap anytime you sense a draft? Will they commit to facilitating said draft for the sole purpose of draping a thick, wool blanket over your lap? Whom do you trust to correctly dose your arsenic bath? Being feeble takes a village!
Speaking of arsenic, just because you’re languid doesn’t mean you shouldn’t care about self-presentation. In fact, appearance is critical here—just like your health! You need to enforce a strict skincare routine if you want to achieve the look of early nineteenth-century ailing, which notably consists of an extremely pale complexion, a fever-y flush, and a set of dilated pupils and watering eyes. Unfortunately, your drug store creams and lotions have no place in this regimen; replace them instead with one of the most poisonous plants in existence: the belladonna. Just a few drops of extracted nightshade will make your eyes pop! Delicately painting over your features with cosmetics derived from toxic chemicals such as antimony, cinnabar, and vermilion is guaranteed to give you that borderline translucent glow. To keep your face fresh, be sure to coat it with opium overnight, followed by washing with ammonia upon waking.
Install a dumbwaiter.
Now, for the most important part: your bed. Thankfully, any bed can be a deathbed when you properly devote yourself to decrepitude. Still, you should heed the importance of your immediate surroundings while you languish. To achieve maximum deterioration, it would behoove you to hang bed curtains. Although not required, a canopy will help instill a sense of feng sui, except bad. If possible, someone should be by your side, leaned over with their head in their hands, for at least an hour or two per day. And this may go without saying, but: pillows. Lots of them. Bonus points if they have tassels.
By now you should have enough direction to pursue your endeavor of being ill while being covered up to your neck in black lace. Now, go shine—but not too much!
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Art by: James Jeffers
Editorial assistant: Jesse Adele
You can follow my other unhinged missives by following me on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. My debut memoir, Born to Be Public, is out now.