There is a Tiktok prompt that is broadcast online asking users to share the media media that they cannot see. For Beth Wawerna, Fenders Director of Brand Copy by day and front woman of the rock band Bird of Youth by night, this is night lotion. While not on Tiktok, Wawerna runs an Instagram page devoted entirely to screenshots of TV and movie characters cheering themselves up at night. “I tried looking it up online to see if anyone else noticed, and when I didn’t see that much written about it, I opened the account,” she explains.
Wawerna has been publishing sporadically on Night Lotion since 2015. The slow cadence is a direct result of the nature of their subject. “One of the special things about night lotion is that it has to find you,” jokes Wawerna of Zoom. “It’s not like going back and watching four seasons of This Is Us again to find it.” It also has specific criteria for what qualifies as a night lotion moment. Of course, the setting has to be night. Usually the applicator is a woman. And it’s always used as some kind of emotional touchstone.
“My favorite night lotions are when a couple is fighting,” says Wawerna. Angry Night Lotion is rubbed in quickly and furiously, with emphasis on the torso and elbows – a position that mimics the locked, fearful body language of the crossed arms. Adds Wawerna with a laugh, “Has there ever been a moment in your life where you argue with your significant other and think now is a good time to pump out some jergens?” Then there is Sad Night Lotion, which is used as a guide for contemplation. You can probably imagine: the main character is staring into a mirror and slowly massaging cream on his face and neck. There’s Sexy Night Lotion – Wawerna cites Miranda as a good example wrapping her legs in lotion while having phone sex over Sex and the City. And finally, unstable night lotion, or lotion used to signal to a woman, is “actually unraveled”. For example, in The Assassination of Gianni Versace, you don’t have to see Judith Light (as Marylin Miglin) hop around on White Goop to know she’s going through shit.
Once you are aware of this, you may notice moments of night lotion everywhere. Because of this, Wawerna has a note on her page – there are almost 40 references in the address inbox that she has not yet published. “To be honest, I don’t know why this trope is everywhere,” Wawerna thinks aloud. “Sometimes I wonder if it’s laziness, or if these scenes were mostly written by men, or if the hands arouse visual interest.” The puzzle is probably why it still fascinates her over five years later. However, one thing is perfectly clear: women simply don’t use lotion this way in real life.
“I never put leg lotion on the bed,” muses Wawerna, “and when I put the lotion on the second before bed, it’s coarse and sticky and weird.” A quick poll in the Into The Gloss Facebook group shows that most women agree – in fact, around 90 percent of respondents said they apply lotion after a shower, not at bed or right before bed. If you sleep in cotton or silk, applying lotion before bed is an easy way to completely negate the purpose right away. Also, you’re more likely to find a large bottle of lotion on a teen’s bedside table than on an adult woman’s, and in real life the way you rub them is no window on their soul. “I put lotion on because I live in LA and my elbows are damn dry.”
Wawerna points out that her goal with the account is not to make fun of real women and their lotion habits. Instead, she wants to highlight a particularly weird way in which women who were written for the screen are a little shaky. “I don’t apply lotion this way,” she asks me at the end of our call, “do I?”
Photo via ITG