Most people do not know that I consider Ina Garten as one of my role models. Before becoming the Barefoot Contessa, she was a White House nuclear policy analyst and overall badass. Now she spends her days cooking for her blog, inviting friends over and spending time with her devoted husband Jeffrey. If you don’t know who Ina Garten was before you read this paragraph, consider yourself enlightened.
As I remarked to my friend Adrian the other day, Ina Garten’s life is my dream. I’d like to have a very successful editing career one day, and then spend my retirement gardening, cooking, designing and entertaining. Ina seems like a wonderful person, and she always has the best ideas. I’d also like to have a husband who loves me as much as Jeffrey loves Ina. I also ask myself on a semi-regular basis, “What would Ina do?” In Internet meme-speak, you could probably call this my #goals. The caption on this Buzzfeed article about Lorde and her boyfriend is the usage I’m talking about.
#Goals is something I’ve been seeing a lot of lately, and I want to parse out its implications. I’m not sure about you, but I’ve seen it used both seriously and facetiously on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. #Goals seems to be different from more concrete aspirations, like “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to lose 10 pounds.” It’s more of an emotional thing, like “Chris Pratt and Anna Faris are my relationship #goals” or “When the neighborhood Starbucks barista knows your favorite drink by heart #goals.”
In this sense, #goals are the achievements in your life that aren’t quite milestones in the general sense but that still mean something to your personal sense of identity and success, and I like what that represents. Your #goals may not be that you want your boyfriend to buy you Tiffany jewelry, but that you want to be with someone who cares about you enough to buy you expensive gifts that have their own significance in themselves. I don’t know if that’s running through the 14 year olds’ heads as they hashtag their social media posts, but the sentiment is there. Or in another example, seeing some stylishly-dressed older people and commenting mom or dad #goals. Beyond the clothes or parenting techniques, there’s a certain level of coolness and worldliness that’s appealing to you. And in both of these examples, the outcomes are very positive — something I’ve noticed that’s intrinsic in #goals. By pointing out something about another person or an idea and saying #goals, you’re being a people person. Whether they realize it or not, you’re paying those people virtual compliments and putting out positive vibes into the world.
But in some ways, #goals has its limits. Elle magazine feels the same way, saying that the label is actually quite reductive. I love Ina Garten and consider her a fantastic role model, but I think that if I had her life specifically, I wouldn’t probably be entirely happy. I make cake from a box, and the most gardening I do is a grow-your-own-sunflower kit from the Target $1 section. I want the wonderful feelings and success Ina seems to have, but even then I have to realize that there’s a lot I don’t see. She might fight with Jeffrey a lot, or she might spend more time coming up with content for her show and cookbooks than she actually does enjoying her life. It seems as if when people use #goals to try and qualify their feelings about wanting something non-material in their lives, all they end up thinking about is the surface. You can say relationship #goals about another couple, but you are effectively erasing all of the non-#goals stuff. It doesn’t come to mind immediately. And plus, I’m Zoë. I shouldn’t strive to be Ina, which is something #goals at least implies about the people who use it.
I still find a lot of good in #goals, and celebrate the good vibes emanating from a simple hashtag. I still want to be as successful as Ina Garten. And I still hope that one day I will be able to enjoy my life as Ina appears to enjoy hers. But until then, I’ll be thinking how I feel about #goals.
How do you feel about #goals? Am I flat out crazy? Let’s talk about it in the comments.