Wednesday, August 24, 2016


This is a GREAT piece from NPR on fun that's no fun for some - but if you listen, please also read. Because this piece is monochromatic.

Okay, and in the what is old department, we have irony … which, like anything else, is STILL not new again. Does anyone remember the scene from Name of the Rose, where Brother Jorge argues against the idea that Christ ever laughed? It’s a more important question than most of us are really able to comprehend. The turn-of-the-millennium context is strong, but I might quibble with one or two points on the Protestant history in this essay. But the overall point is: one generation ALWAYS complains about the next. (This one is for Jeff Sypeck, as we were so recently discussing the subject of hand-wringing elders!) I would argue the statement that people are especially self-aware these days. And what we’re dealing with nowadays is less “irony” than a couple of decades of SNARK, which has become exhausting.

Walt Whitman, recognized, in 1871, that "the aim of all the litterateurs is to find something to make fun of."

Enclothed cognition has been getting a great deal of attention. NPR’s recent piece by Invisibilia included the issue of feeling in control – a test subject who participated in one study protested that she preferred to feel like she was more in control – but, of course, we take control over this in the choices we make out of our wardrobes in the first place, right? I have had countless discussions with others at the office in any one of my squillion different jobs and offices, about how multiple people seem to be dressed the same way on a given day, or about wearing bright colors to wake or emotionally perk ourselves up.

I personally feel I exert a great deal of control over my emotional state and my readiness for a day based on how I choose to dress. It’s one part of the reason I set out my clothes when I come home rather than trying to choose something in the morning. Planning saves me time and pre-caffeinated “thinking”, and it gets something done I won’t have to manage in a stressed-out state. I also have a little fun with it – ooh, what jewelry will I take out on the down, what style will I deploy? And I go to bed knowing it’s one less thing to deal with. It’s also a decompressive time at the end of a work day. I come home, feed the kids, put Pen in her yard, and Goss and I go up to the quiet bedroom, where I shuck the day literally and figuratively, and plan the next one. It is a peaceful ritual, and gives me quiet time with The Grey Poobah, while Yellow Poobah enjoys some decompression of her own in her beloved yard.

On August 8, as I languished in the Atlanta airport with thousands of other victims of the Delta outage,  one of the things I noticed was the number of people who were dressed WELL. I was not one of these people. When I travel at all, I tend to dress not merely for comfort, but actually for invisibility. When I was young, this was a mechanism to deflect attention to whatever attractiveness I possessed, and to make my way with the least resistance. Flying or driving, I did not want to be approached - traveling alone, nobody wants company at the rest area or sitting tightly packed on a plane. A woman doesn't want to be subject to her own appeal. With age, I continue the comfort-lack-of-style as a matter of practicality and owing to how sick I get.

There is a freedom (hah) in ageing-woman invisibility, but for a lot of us it is also painful. If your figure has also changed with the years, it can be difficult to survey a crowd of thousands and to feel invisible. Or, worse, to think of being seen - for the dowdy old thing you have become. No longer caring.

Mr. X is coming in my direction at some point in the next several months. Invisibility is a problem, and frumpy is a not-having-it deal breaker. So I have invested in some comfort clothes that are less ... beige.

Okay. Enough of that.

Now on from enclothed cognition to ... well, how about literally another way of thinking?

… that Botox thing, where empathy is constrained by the paralysis induced by the botulonum toxin? It’s called embodied cognition. Huh.


Jeff said... know, I had a similar conversation with my in-house Diane, and it made me realize that I'm not shaking my head at Kids These Days. What I'm regretting is the culture that we and the generation before us have bequeathed to them, a culture with fewer real choices in art and expression masquerading as more.

That said, I think you're right: we're stuck on snark. Irony and even snark are great tools, but it's weird when such large chunks of the culture revolve around them. It's perfectly normal for younger people to roll their eyes when some old dude like me tries to point out to them that there are whole new imaginative and emotional worlds waiting for them if they expand their horizons, but I'm increasingly realizing it's my responsibility as an old dude to play that role, even though it can be more than a bit alienating. Ah well--I never was Mr. Popular anyway!

DLM said...

Fewer choices masquerading as more: yes, that's it exactly.

I don't hang with the Mr. and Ms. Populars of this world. They tend to be a thoroughgoing drag.