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By Emily McQueen May 20, 2021

Cottagecore and Consequences

Illustrated by Coline Cadilhac

I eat my toast, peanut butter and banana for breakfast. I sit drinking my coffee and staring out my window. A neighbor smokes a cigarette, another works in his garden in his painted jeans.

My professor starts the Zoom class.

I see myself on the screen and notice that my hair looks horrible. I try to quickly put it up, but it still looks bad. I give up. Hopefully the people in my program accept me. I’ll look better in person.

I’m making my way home from the pharmacy with a bottle of conditioner in my purse. The antique store is open, filled with ceramic cows, strawberry lamps and old rocking chairs. I would love to own more of these objects in my home, or even to buy a cottage because I have always dreamed of living full time in nature. I get home and type “cottagecore” into my Pinterest search-bar.

*

Eight days later, the decision has been made and my suitcase has been packed. I am leaving, going off the grid. Since last week, I have been putting my plan into place, buying flowy dresses, cute baskets and ceramic animals at the thrift store. I hope to meet others in the forest when I go, but if not, I have my books and their authors to hold my hand.

Sitting on the train to Mont-Saint-Hilaire, I look out the window as the city fades into suburbia, into fields. Since the pandemic, the city has lost all its original charm. I was trapped in a polluted, urban setting. Nature, however, is beautiful. Nature will permit me to live a peaceful life.

*

Eight hours since I got off the train, I’m being eaten by mosquitos. My stomach is grumbling. I can’t feel my feet. Nature is beautiful, but this isn’t a peaceful life. This life is achy, scratchy, hungry and cold. I tried to make myself a place to sleep, but ceramic cows and flowery dresses don’t help me no matter how cottagecore they may be.

*

 

 

 

In my mom’s car looking out the window, I see the fields move into suburbs, into the city.

“Do you want some water honey?” she asks.

I don’t reply. I want to melt into the car seat and disappear. For the first time in my life, I feel embarrassed in front of my mom, the woman who changed my diapers.

Basically, my plan failed after only a couple hours. I could no longer take it so I ran out of the woods to car windows, asking drivers to let me borrow their phone. I do not look like a Pinterest cottagecore girl but a female Rip Van Winkle, ripped clothes and the whole deal. 

I have to tell you, nature is beautiful, but for my life, the city keeps its charms: showers, takeout, lights and bars.

About the author

Emily is a first-year student in Liberal Arts.

About the illustrator

Coline Cadilhac is a first-year Illustration student.

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  1. space-default-avatar

    Clah

    August 28, 2021

    ‘I have always dreamed of living full time in nature’. I have the same dream. Isn’t it attractive, those miraculous rivers, forests, mountains? So mysterious. Our nature is such a beauty. However, there is a learning, an adaptation time required to be able to enjoy all that it can offer, because who doesn’t feel relieved to go back to their shower, their lovely nights and the cosiness of their house? Yet, I swear that with the good people, the discomforts of nature are to be forgotten. They are to fly away, away to another universe, in order to be replaced by moments of pure joy and happiness, colored and unforgettable moments. I am able to say this because I lived it. For three weeks, I was living of friends and stars, of canoes and tents, of dried food and merriness. I would do it again anytime. You know, it was such a beautiful journey that I almost forgot the mosquitoes.

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    Michela

    August 31, 2021

    After reading this line: “I tried to make myself a place to sleep, but ceramic cows and flowery dresses don’t help me no matter how cottagecore they may be.” I was reminded of the saying “the grass is always greener on the other side.” Thinking something is so much better but then actually crossing over to the other side, the illusion evaporates. Being stuck in a mundane routine wishing to experience something new and then actually taking the leap, for it to turn out the opposite of what you Imagined is devastating. Giving into the ideas and influence of social media has its own dangers, it always seems so simple to go out and change your life as seen online but, there are always hidden intricacies. There are times when I do, in fact, want to run away into the forest and never return but my thoughts do not come to fruition. There will be obvious repercussions I would not want to face and my own fears holding me back. This short story is most likely how it would unravel. Being influenced into having this big idea to leave home, then executing it, only to miss the comforts of home within a few hours.

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    Kitenge

    September 1, 2021

    Not everyone can survive in nature. Some love it. They love the experience, the quietness and the different sounds that you can’t hear in the city. Unfortunately, both you and I have a dislike for the woods. Something about, as you said, the mosquitoes and the cold air make the woods unpleasant to spend time there.
    “Eight days later, the decision has been made and my suitcase has been packed. I am leaving, going off the grid.” is my favourite part. Even though the woods are not suitable for everyone, I believe going off the grid is an experience everyone should get to live, even if it’s only for a couple of hours. Disappearing and being left by yourself is frightening, but also comforting. You have to hear yourself. In the city, we have little to no time to stop and process our silly thoughts. It’s also that moment where you have no choice but to confront yourself. There’s nowhere to hide. There’s no one around to save you from your personality, hence the frightening part.

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    Eden

    September 3, 2021

    More and more because of the pandemic, we have glamourized different ways of living, especially country living. We are tired of staying in our own homes and cannot see the millions of others outside our doors. It makes sense that we would dream of something different, since we never dreamed our lives would be so different as they are now. What our author seems to find particularly of note though, is the fact that this glamorization of another world is wholly consumed by materialism. When preparing for their quest, the main character is “putting [their] plan into place, buying flowy dresses, cute baskets and ceramic animals at the thrift store.”  The narrator doesn’t know what living in the country entails; they know only the aesthetics of it that need to be bought. Quite the cautionary tale.

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    samuel.macintyre@dawsoncollege.qc.ca

    September 4, 2021

    There is definitely something to say for the various idealized aesthetics like cottage core, especially when the standard currently in North America is to hide in our modern suburbs and cities. The contrast between our desires for a change of pace, one of charming forests and comfy cottages, compared to the reality of nature not always conforming to our wants. I think this goes to show how any environment has their own advantages and disadvantages. Living in a city is convenient with a lot to do but it can often end up being claustrophobic in many ways, leaving us feeling disconnected from the world. Nature brings us closer with the world and is beautiful. but it also has its own wrath for us to contend with.

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    cj.shep

    September 6, 2021

    The grass is always greener on the other side. There’s a sense of familiarity in this story, this experience. We’ve all sat down and thought, if only I could have those, do this, change that. A detriment of social media is the glorification of different realities. Though they may seem easy and full of joy, most things worthwhile come with hard work. “Nature is beautiful, but this isn’t a peaceful life. This life is achy, scratchy, hungry, and cold.” I adore this part of the piece because it’s so human. It’s the realization that we’ll need to roll up our sleeves and get to work if we want it to succeed. Our instincts whisper to step down, surrender and go back to our comfort zone. Nonetheless, to grow, we must push our boundaries and follow through with dreams and goals. By doing this, we’ll soon realize that to flourish, the sod simply needs some dedication.

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    Maria Galitcaia

    September 7, 2021

    I found this article very absorbing since I perceive it as an anecdotal critique of the unrealistic lifestyles and standards propagated on social media. It is interesting to see how quickly Emily McQueen, the author of this text, falls in love with cottagecore and how even more rapidly her expectations of the rural lifestyle escalate as she dives deeper into the forest. 

    “Eight hours since I got off the train, I’m being eaten by mosquitos. My stomach is grumbling. I can’t feel my feet. Nature is beautiful, but this isn’t a peaceful life. This life is achy, scratchy, hungry and cold. I tried to make myself a place to sleep, but ceramic cows and flowery dresses don’t help me no matter how cottagecore they may be.”

    I think the moral behind this story is that most lifestyles shown on social media like cottagecore and Vandwelling are purely aesthetic, polished, and not realistic representations of reality. The insects, discomfort, weather inconveniences and other realities of rural life are not shown in pictures of girls in flowery dresses with handwoven baskets. She highlights the fact that she still finds nature beautiful, but it seems like after that experience her views on cottagecore as a way of living drastically changed.

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    Pera

    September 8, 2021

    To me it’s clear that this is meant to be a critique on the romantic lens things appear through on social media. From the beginning, we get a small glimpse into the character of the narrator as she prepares for a Zoom call.
    “I see myself on the screen and notice that my hair looks horrible. I try to quickly put it up, but it still looks bad. I give up.”
    As an early line in the story this foreshadows how the narrator is concerned with appearances and gives up quickly, and also that may have lacked the foresight to fix her hair beforehand.
    This is comparable to the way she was concerned with the aesthetic appeal of cottagecore, but not the practical aspects of rural life.

    However, I do have some criticism towards this piece. There are some decisions the protagonist makes that make her seem downright delusional as opposed to just being a wishful thinker.
    From the wording of the story, it seems like she is going to a cottage:
    “...or even to buy a cottage because I have always dreamed of living full time in nature ... Eight days later, the decision has been made and my suitcase has been packed.”
    But the narrator apparently has to “make [herself] a place to sleep”
    To me, this removes some relatability from the character since most people would be more practical than that, but may still not be averse to the glamorization that comes with social media aesthetics. I find it exaggerated that she would plan for eight days without thinking of bringing so much as a tent, and instead brought house decorations, for example. 
    Also, I was a bit confused at first by the progression of events at the end, as she goes back home. I thought it was in chronological order, so that could have maybe been worded better (or maybe it was just me).

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    Student

    September 8, 2021

    It doesn’t always work out when you try new things and try to be more open about diverse lifestyles. Stepping outside of your comfort zones may appear to fail at times, but at the end of the day, you can say that you tried something new and that you now have a better understanding of your preferences. I believe that curiosity is what sometimes teaches us new skills and allows us to try new things. Nonetheless, because we are so accustomed to it, we are sometimes better off in the comfort of our own houses.

    Emily’s narrative is fascinating to read and relate to.
    « I have to tell you, nature is beautiful, but for my life, the city keeps its charms: showers, takeout, lights and bars. » I would have to strongly agree on that issue; I, too, believe that we are fortunate to live in such a beautiful environment; nevertheless, the insects make spending time in the woods miserable. Assuredly, living in the woods full-time isn’t for everyone.

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    cless

    September 8, 2021

    Everyone has this idea of what their perfect life would look like. Mine includes lots of travelling and many, many dogs. Just like Emily, I’ll go online and look at all these romanticized versions of what I want but, it’s impossible to fully know what it’s like until you’re in it. Imagination often will bring out extremes, whether positive or negative. But the reality can be revealed to be; “achy, scratchy, hungry and cold.” That doesn’t mean it’s not a good way to live. I think Emily had this idea without fully understanding the breadth of what she had gotten herself into. Dreams are destinations but the journey is often uncomfortable and hard. I think Emily went into it too fast and maybe life in nature isn’t for her. Or, she gave up too quickly and needs to give it time.

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