RSS Feed

The Middle

I try to fight the urge to be hip and non-conformist merely for the sake of refusing to follow fashion. If I needed a reminder, I found it the other day on, in a piece that elegantly and hilariously laid out for me the inherent ridiculousness of making choices solely on the basis that they are not mainstream. Some things that “everybody likes” are good, and everybody likes them for a reason.

I am, however, bothered by the homogeneity of a world in which The Middle is elevated, celebrated and often the only game in town. I like the soft center of a good oatmeal cookie, but the real sensual delight for me is in the edges with their crisp and concentrated essence. In restaurant offering, perfume, clothing, books and popular music these days, I see a pattern of sameness and safeness that undoubtedly comes from the need to survive in a tough economy, but which seems to leave the world all soft center with no crispy surprises.

I have always loved perfume, and the scents that attract me tend to be strong and not typically “pretty.” I love the sharpness of chypre, the surprise of masculine leather or tobacco note, or a dark and moody incense. I have noticed that all perfumes available in local stores smell the same to me these days; they are all sweet, inoffensive, and virtually indistinguishable from one another in their floral/vanilla/laundry soapiness. Perfumes that I loved in their original incarnation have been re-formulated to hew to the safe middle ground; Chanel’s Coco is now the lighter “Coco Mademoiselle,” and most of the beautiful, interesting Dior fragrances I used to love have been made over into crowd pleasers. Although I am not a drugstore perfume buyer, I did recently engage in a little sniff testing which revealed the not surprising fact that they all smell pretty much the same – like Christmas cookies with flowers in them.

According to an article in “Elle” magazine, mainstream perfumers have figured out the notes that are non-threatening and perceived as pleasant by most people; that’s what sells, and that’s what’s available at Macy’s and Walgreens. If I want to smell like something that arouses my senses and makes me feel powerful, sensual or simply like myself, I have to stalk the online outlets that sell vintage scents and the products of perfumers catering to those who do not wish to smell like Floral FusionGlade or Apple Mango Tango Gain. I do not want to smell like freshly baked cookies, spring flowers or fresh laundry. I want to smell like a Parisian prostitute who has tumbled out of bed and wandered into a cathedral redolent with incense, by way of the opulent leather seats of a vintage Rolls Royce. This is not about nonconformity for its own sake; it is a matter of self-expression and making life juicy.

I could go on about this forever; most movies are either predictable action thrillers or predictable love stories, most bestsellers are chick lit or police procedurals, most Top Forty songs involve idiotic lyrics and a smattering of auto-tuned Bieber or Spears, and most restaurants in this town serve dumbed-down and denatured versions of “Italian,” “Mexican” or “Chinese” food and/or a safe assortment of salad-with-chicken, burgers, and preternaturally huge platters of nachos. There are fringier options, but they are always fraught with difficulty, particularly in my neck of the woods. We had one art film house which went broke and folded, so there is Netflix. There are a few interesting, authentic restaurants in this town, but they struggle, and often close before we’ve had a chance to try them. Books and music are easier, but there are almost no independent booksellers in the college town that I live in. The Middle sells, and unless one lives in a city, The Middle is what’s available.

I am bitchy, arch, elitist, and probably many other things I can’t think of at the moment. I readily admit that. I have mellowed considerably through my years as a mother, an observer of humanity, and an appreciatrix of looking below the surface. I read the “Twilight” books, I have been known to enjoy a family dinner at Olive Garden, and I’ll readily admit that some bestsellers and blockbuster movies are popular precisely because they’re really, really excellent. A lot of the time, though, wading through the pillowy softness of the warm, sweet and safe Middle, I am longing for the disarming, potentially offensive wakeup call of all that is crisp and edgy. I so adore the bite of chypre scent, the crisp surprise of pig ear, and the tumble of thoughts at the end of a movie that raises more questions than it answers. Those are the edges where the sugar is a little burnt, but infinitely more interesting for its complexity.


About imagineannie

I feel like I'm fifteen - does that count? I'm lots of things, I get paid to be the Managing Editor for a local news publication, and I love my job. I am also inordinately fond of reading, animals (I have four), elephants, owls, hedgehogs writing, tramping in the woods, cooking India, Ireland, England, avocado toast, Sherlock Holmes, Harry Potter, Little Women, Fun Home, Lumber Janes, Fangirl, magic, Neil Gaiman, Jane Austen, YA books, not YA books, classical music, Salinger (OMG SALINGER), Brahms, key lime pie, indie music, podcasts, sleeping in, road trips, marmalade, museums, bookstores, the Oxford comma, BBC, The Miss Fisher Mysteries, birdwatching, seashells, kombucha, and stickers. Not a huge fan of chewing gum, jazz, trucker hats or dystopian and/or post-apolcalyptic fiction (but I'll try anything).

3 responses »

  1. Hi,
    I have been reading you for awhile and really wanted to just say hi and I love your writing. I have had the urge a lot of times to contact you, but felt silly. The first time was when you posted the recipe for Topopo salad. I am from Lansing, and I think I followed behind a lot of what you have written about in terms of growing up there. I bet we were at the old El Az some night at the same time. I don’t live there anymore but it’s still home. So your writing has helped me when I feel homesick. Which is a lot, apparently. Anyway, I didn’t know how to email you and don’t want to be inappropriate. Related to this most recent and lovely blog, I do know of a terrific place in Madison, WI that custom blends hundreds of scents into lotions, soaps, etc. Let me know if you want the details. I used to live in Madison and bought most of my gifts at the shop. It’s a wonderful place. Thanks for sharing your writing.

  2. just stopping by to wish you the happiest of new years! imagine! a brand new page to write on! God is good! love you girl! xoxoxox

  3. Love this paragraph! “I do not want to smell like freshly baked cookies, spring flowers or fresh laundry. I want to smell like a Parisian prostitute who has tumbled out of bed and wandered into a cathedral redolent with incense, by way of the opulent leather seats of a vintage Rolls Royce. This is not about nonconformity for its own sake; it is a matter of self-expression and making life juicy.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: