Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary, Or, Saturday Morning at 7:42am


Do you ever get an uncontrollable urge to contradict popular memes? If only for the sake of argument? While I have vowed never to become she who grumbles that society is going to hell in a handbasket, one who finds fault daily with the points of modern thought, I give up when it comes to overly popular concepts. I mutter, under my breath, as the media rehashes ideas.

Oh what the heck. Let’s mutter out loud.

For example, anyone else tired of the French? Not as actual humans, they’re lovely, as is their architecture and embroidery. But as benchmarks for skills of all sorts? It was probably The French Make Better Parents Than You that put me over the edge. I worked as a camp counselor in France for two months, when I was 18, and I lived the good and not so good of that country’s child-rearing ways.

I scarcely dare mention French style.

Yeah, yeah, I get it, Parisians are less prone to totally dowdy outfits than, let’s say, tourists in Santa Barbara. But that’s an imprecise comparison and lack of precision always renders me both ornery and logical. We need a tighter analysis.

If Paris has 2.2 million people, we might reasonably compare Parisiens to the most stylish 2/3 of Los Angeles’ 3.8 population, relying on the political gerrymander to choose whichever cluster of zipcodes gives us the best result. Where’s the book on Pacific Palisades Style, we wonder?

Or take Houston. A city of 2.1 million, it matches up quite well to Paris. Houstonians do a bang-up job of raising their children. They’ve also got amazing food, by the way. Who will write that manifesto?

OK. We’ll leave the French alone. And wave to Tish Jett’s book, as we go, which is lovely.

Can we move on to the much-celebrated introvert? The book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, markets the introvert’s case well. We know that Them What Invents The Language Own The Discourse, a fact that makes the logical almost as ornery as any afore-mentioned imprecise comparisons.

The logical find themselves parsing out statements. For example,  what if we actually had a world that DID stop talking? Without extroverts, who will run the meetings? I mean, nobody’s going to write a book entitled “Loud: The Power of Extroverts” and think it a good thing. But have some compassion. It’s not easy to be the one compelled to present, the one who glad hands, the one who stands up.

In the end, I have nothing against either the French, or introverts. I understand that the French have become a symbol of graceful restraint, in both aesthetics and mores. (Except the male politicians and their behavior towards women, of course, but we so need the idea of French that we ignore that cognitive dissonance.) I also understand that introverts have suffered through How To Make Friends And Influence People for decades, and are now having their moment in a time characterized by the irritating talk of millions.

It’s the principle of the argument. Let’s honor the human capacity to reason.

Were I the marketing sort, I’d start a new meme, In Praise Of The Logical, arguing for more rigor all around. Ah, but if it took off I’d probably find myself taking the contrary stance and arguing the case for pure sentiment.

So in that vein, my friends, have a wonderful weekend. Or feel free to share any contrarian urges here, you’re amongst friends.

 

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30 Comments

  • Yes the French worshipping can be a bit much sometimes.

    As an introvert, I love extroverts, they’re fun and make my life more interesting. It’s the loud, in-your-face, glad-to-be ignorant-and closed-minded sorts that get to me. Seems to be way too much of that going on.

    Logic and rigor? Good luck with that, there seems to be less of both all round…or am I just being a curmudgeon…an introverted curmudgeon of course:-)

    09/07/14
    1:09 pm
    Lisa said...

    @LauraH, Extroverted curmudgeons are that Rage Comix graphic:). http://memebase.cheezburger.com/ragecomics/tag/do-the-dishes

  • Yes! Yes! Enough already.

    Also, in the spirit of Saturday morning crankiness, I offer my over-it contributions:
    – adorable children (selling, well, everything)
    – perfectly manicured lifestyles (as seen on Instagram and every magazine spread, ever).
    – And, and, isn’t Facebook over yet? I’m tired of knowing too much about everyone, all the time.

    09/06/14
    12:35 pm
    Susan said...

    As someone whose houses have been in a couple of magazine spreads, I want to point out that the idea of a perfectly manicured life is a fiction. Great care goes into styling and preparing a house for photography–and this is done by people who do this for a living! It is fascinating to watch and you marvel that the end result is actually the place you live.

    09/07/14
    1:09 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Drew, The idea of a perfectly manicured life may even be a pernicious fiction.

  • Cupcakes. Kardashians. Nail art. I’m ready for all of these to recede from the collective consciousness. :-)

    My Francophilia is tempered with a dose or realism. While I admire the ideal as I understand it (style, lifestyle) I’ve posted before about how there really are frumpy people in Paris too (and not just the tourists). I think child rearing in one culture doesn’t always translate to another, whether Tiger Mothers or bébés who know which fork to use for the first course. No culture is a monolith. To me it’s a matter of take what you like and leave the rest.

    09/07/14
    1:10 pm
    Lisa said...

    @déjà pseu, Wisely stated, as always. The Kardashians are having an impressive half-life.

  • Having spent time in France over the years and having had many french friends I would say that they do have a certain structure and etiquette (I am talking about what one could say the middle classes here) that they adhere to fairly rigidly. They do put a lot of emphasis on presentation which includes they way they dress, present food etc. It is more confirmative than one could say the slight eccentricity of the Brits.

    09/07/14
    1:10 pm
    Lisa said...

    @chicatanyage, Confirmative, I like that term.

  • The aggrandizement of vulgar dead celebrities, can we talk? High heels. Irrational criticism of political power figures when they take too much time trying to make rational decisions because heaven forbid our leaders should be thoughtful and analytic. Gluten-free. People, get OVER it! Oh, and coconut oil and quinoa. Both excellent, both so over-done it can make you crazy.

    09/07/14
    7:46 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Rosie, We can talk! We BELIEVE in talking!

  • Yes, it all gets to be a bit much, and I hate anything that smacks of “you aren’t good enough”. I think “Loud” would be a perfect companion to Quiet, and I am an introvert. But I am also social and get so tired of people assuming that you have to be a constant chatterbox or a shy retiring nerd who runs from people. Well, that is a bit of an exaggeration. But I did love this post.

    09/07/14
    7:47 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel, I think, at the next level of detail, the constructs of introvert and extrovert start to crumble. In the end, we are all just who we are.

  • I, too, am very over Gluten Free and other food fads for those who don’t have a medical condition. And yes, it does influence who we invite for dinner at our house as I hate having to wade through a laundry list of dietary restrictions–unless there is a real medical need. In that case of medical need, I am happy to do it.

    What else I am over? The 50-60 something woman concerned about every sign of aging. And, I am over the idea that a matron of a certain age should never allow herself (heaven forbid) look matronly. If I have to look at another injected lip or scary altered face, I think I may scream!

    Thank you for letting me vent!

    09/07/14
    7:48 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan, We all need to vent. Through our wholly unaltered mouths;).

    09/07/14
    7:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Susan, We all get to vent. Through our wholly unaltered mouths;).

  • I just love reading your blog . . . that is all. Bonne weekend!

    09/07/14
    7:52 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Robert, Thank you! Hope yours was also a good one.

  • I’m over constant selling, selling, selling to promote a simple life. ;)

    09/07/14
    7:53 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Amy, I have often confessed my troubles with minimalism!

  • After my summer in France, gotta say, I’m over it. France has a dark underbelly that no one discusses. It’s no bastion of perfection. I love French culture, but (and I never thought I’d say this) I’m very happy to experience it in French Canada. You get all the nervy with less than 2% of the political extremism.

    09/07/14
    7:53 pm
    Lisa said...

    @K-Line, Do tell, what is “nervy?”

  • LOL! This one hit home, as I’ve been grumbling to myself about how many style/fashion blogs I read which take their Francophilia a bit too far for my tastes. What especially grates on my nerves are the ones (written by the non-French and often non-French speakers) which casually throw in a French word or phrase here or there, gratuitously and sometimes with incorrect usage. This just strikes me as 1) pretentious, 2) trying too hard.

    OTOH, as an introvert, while I don’t necessarily feel that we need to be “celebrated”, I do like the idea of allowing more people to understand our unique natures. :)

    09/07/14
    2:28 am
    Wendy said...

    @Olivia, Olivia , this is the letter I was starting to write . It puzzles me that some American women bloggers revere French culture so . In the UK it doesn’t happen the same , perhaps because a lot of us visit France regularly & have learnt that they are all individuals – like us . Some of the Parisians are very snappy dressers & one or two are worth following stylewise ,but there are plenty of the ‘others’ . I’ve seen many stylish women in the US too , they don’t need to focus on France .
    And yes , dropping French phrases around raises eyebrows here too – As in “Moi – pretentious ? “

    09/07/14
    7:55 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Olivia, Miss Piggy is the best Moi-er I know;).

  • I imagine if you look a little you can find some fat French women.

    The danger that I see is that we’re all quick to generalize about nearly everything and it leads us to always be thinking the grass is greener elsewhere.

    09/07/14
    7:56 pm
    Lisa said...

    @RoseAG, Generalizing is the human methodology for meaning – but I think that’s a good point in terms of greener grass.

  • I’m over technology that is obsolete before you get it home, reality shoes that are anything but real and the focus on the next “in” thing. I like my grandmother’s china and silver, true friends and interesting books that I may have read before.

    As an introvert who often leads meetings and makes a living talking to large groups of people, I am thrilled that introvert stereotypes are being exposed — we aren’t all cowering in our corners!

    09/06/14
    5:49 pm
    Susan said...

    I’m an introvert also, but anything but shy. One of my majors in college was public speaking! That just goes to show that people are complicated. I’m glad that introversion has been explored.

    09/07/14
    7:58 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Lynn, And I am glad for true friends.

  • Bravo! While I greatly admire French culture and style I’m so over the notion of the innate superiority of anything and everything French. And living in the Bay Area, I so often see a similar attitude about all things “San Francisco”. SF is my beloved city, but I love visiting my best friend in Houston to get my fix of delicious food, gorgeous homes, and a glimpse of the amazing sense of style so many Texans possess. So there. Thanks for letting me be so Mary Mary quite contrary! It’s such a relief.

    09/07/14
    8:01 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Janey Ann, Every now and again, I think it’s just fine to kvetch. And then we go back to our usual gracious selves;).

  • For much of my adult life, I have found these cultural memes a bit like never ending high school. Someone got lucky enough to be picked as “the voice” of the masses and the masses follow like sheep. I think many people have forgotten their ability to think for themselves or believe in anything contrary. That’s why its called popular belief. I personally take issue with “the food police” but I won’t go there now.
    Oh please be contrary! I can’t get enough.

    09/07/14
    8:03 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Kerry Steele, It’s a funny thing, what gets picked up, what gathers steam.

  • I hate the people who talk about their dietary restrictions all the time. But I also hate, maybe even more, the ones who talk about how much they hate THOSE people. Let’s all give it a rest. Eat what you want and stop telling people about it all the time. And to the critics of THAT group, I don’t want to hear about it from you, either.

    09/07/14
    8:06 pm
    Lisa said...

    @dodo, So we’ll all just say f**d from now on!

    Or else just eat, happily.

  • Lisa,
    You’ve allowed the collective contrarian room to rant. Apologies. (And thanks for “keeping it real” on your blog).

    09/07/14
    8:06 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Drew, No apologies needed, and I appreciate you all allowing me the moment of less than perfect civility.

  • i appreciate the sentiments, but i don’t think “meme” is the word you want here.

    09/07/14
    8:09 pm
    Lisa said...

    @lauren, A meme (/ˈmiːm/ meem)[1] is “an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture.”

    The question is whether a meme needs to be more tightly packaged, I suppose.

  • Pulling up a chair to the “you kids get off my lawn” club here, I am over the following aspects of popular culture:
    The inescapable pervasiveness of advertising/marketing, especially of the “personalized” variety.
    The ubiquity of sensationalist, fear-mongering news headlines/stories (oh, and “news” that’s not news–the latest on Kimye, for example).
    Overcomplexity of functions in appliances, electronics, cars. Obscures usefulness. Wading through unwanted features is a time suck. Don’t get me wrong: I love diving into detail and wallowing, when it’s my choice; I want all else streamlined.
    The fixation on cultivation/curation of the virtual persona, particularly as a dangerous distraction among developing adolescents.
    The color gray in home decor and fashion.
    The Kardashians, reality TV, celebrity worship/reporting on steroids.
    Thanks for letting me indulge my inner curmudgeon!

    09/07/14
    8:19 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Debbie (Artsy in Boulder), Your inner curmudgeon is brilliant!

  • And I thought this was going to be a post about gardening! You know…”How does you garden grow?”…Mary. But maybe if we follow that thought..gardens, compost, worms… opening cans of…
    I particularly love your blog when you do a post like this and the comments just keep on coming. Loved reading everyone’s rant. I’m with Déjà Psue on “cupcakes, Kardashians, and nail art.”

    09/07/14
    8:20 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Sue B @highheelsinthewilderness.blogspot.ca, The comments here are almost always the best part. Unless I post pictures of my kids, of course;).

  • I’m so sick of hearing about French style and Paris – I almost don’t want to go on a trip again there. You’re completely right if you compare the percentage of Parisians to any other large, cosmopolitan city in the US. And personally, I’ve always liked English country style more, both in clothing and decorating.

    But Paris is a beautiful city, and I’ve just stopped reading the Francophile blogs, which has helped.

    09/07/14
    8:20 pm
    Lisa said...

    @kathy, I think we let the wave break, and die down, and Paris will still be Paris. And a little wave to France is always welcome.

  • AHAHAAH yes! I think Francophilia goes well with the current pared-down, androgynous styles…but I’m not a pared-down, androgynous person, so it doesn’t do much for me. You are on the tomboy continuum so you must be under le French press quite a bit.

    I find French clothes overpriced, French food dull (where’s the hot pepper?), and French music – when was the last time a French song enraptured the world?

    Lastly, I live in the South Pacific, in New Zealand. They are not beloved here due to French nuclear testing in their (still) colonially occupied Polynesian islands, and related French terrorist action against Greenpeace (also still a sore spot though it took place in the 80s). The trendy culture/food in NZ at the moment is all things Central and South American.

    09/07/14
    8:21 pm
    Lisa said...

    @Sadie von Scrumptious, I think I laugh too loudly to ever have French style. And has New Zealand discovered Peruvian then? My FAVORITE!

  • I thoroughly enjoyed these rants, but the anti- gluten free rants pushed my buttons. My children have celiac disease and have to follow a strict gluten free diet. At first when “gluten free” became a trendy diet, there was a sudden increase in availability of GF foods. This was lucky for us! (Side rant: WHY is Gluten free TRENDY? It is such a hard diet, not easy to follow, not delicious, and not more nutritious!) But now there is a backlash against “gluten free”, and people don’t take it seriously. Many Restaurants are no longer careful about ingredients or cross-contamination. We have eaten safely for ten years, but in the last year my kids have gotten gluten contamination 9 times. Gluten makes them very, very sick and they don’t feel well for 4-6 weeks. This is not trendy, this is an illness! Thanks for letting me rant, I feel better now ( ;

    09/07/14
    9:55 pm
    Anan said...

    @Carol,

    Agree. The gluten-free diet is not a passing fancy. I have a friend who spent his life in the bathroom several times a day before figuring out it was the wheat gluten. He is now symptom-free after going gluten-free.

    Read “Wheat Belly” as one of many good sources explaining what has happened to the wheat plant over decades. There is far more gluten in wheat than what it had originally, due to genetic messing around. Hence, the rise in gluten problems.

    Even my cat became extremely ill when I tried a her canned food containing wheat gluten. Scared the hell out of me.

    09/08/14
    4:53 pm
    Susan said...

    Carole, my rant about gluten free had the caveat that it DID not include those with a medical issue (like Celiac disease). THAT I can handle and I take great pains to prepare food (in consultation with my friend(s) who have this disease) that is safe for them to eat. MY issue is those who inform me , “this month we’ve decided to go gluten free to see if we feel better”, or “this month we are eating only beef, no chicken–we’ve gone Paleo.” ETC. ETC. Sorry if I offended. Perhaps I was not specific enough in my rant.

    09/09/14
    11:05 am
    Lisa said...

    @Carol, If we take a look at this conversation, and first thank everyone for contributing:), I think we can all agree that celiac disease is real and difficult, and nobody would ever disagree that sufferers need to be supported. The issue of gluten-sensitivity is hotly debated, new studies come out all the time. For those of us who eat everything, it can be difficult to deal with the current high degree of food danger awareness, for those who feel it’s a real phenomenon, it must be hard to be scoffed at.

    When I opened the doors to ranting, I guess the assumption was that we all know that we wouldn’t say these things to people’s faces:). Thank you for your civility, even in a rant environment.

  • As a marketing sort, I rant a lot about the horrors of marketing – to the point of yelling at the TV if I ever happen to catch an ad with the sound on.

    One of my main bugbears is stimulating the perception of need i.e. ‘this cream will make your skin look poreless’ (but what the heck is wrong with pores? That’s how skin works!) ‘this deoderant will give you soft underarms’ (do we need or want soft skin on our underarms? is this actually an issue?). Dove is one of the worst for its supposed ‘real beauty’ thing which is actually super-fake and still pushing anxiety.

    Also, this trend towards ‘storytelling’ and ’emotion’ i.e. an ad for bank that conflates a friend buying you dinner with the bank lowering their charges. Um, not the same!?!

    I work for a charity and fundraising marketing is some of the worst for pushing all the emotional buttons and being very nearly deceptive.

    Unfortunately, the powers that be agree that these are the tricks that work. Reflecting reality, reasoned arguements etc. only work on the tiniest percentage of the population so people generally don’t do it.

    09/09/14
    11:06 am
    Lisa said...

    @Eleanorjane, Where would marketing be if we had no emotions! So. Many. Charts:).

  • I just finished “Quiet…” actually. Would highly recommend it for both introverts and extroverts. It doesn’t praise introverts and berate extroverts – it tries to explain the physical and psychological reasons as to why one might be introverted. There’s a broad spectrum on both sides and both types can use understanding of the other to work together.

    I, too, have been explaining to people for years that being an introvert does NOT mean that I’m shy, retiring or nerdly. It just means I like my alone time to recharge my batteries. I love parties and people, but I do both on my terms and will retreat when it gets overwhelming.

    09/09/14
    11:07 am
    Lisa said...

    @Carol, Sigh. Perhaps I have to actually read the book:).

  • Can you hear me screaming YES YES YES from here?

    There •are• some value differences among the French (and French Canadians, where I live) that translate to different buying, eating and “living” behaviours. But women who lionize everything French are perhaps longing for something other than just a better wardrobe. Often they are responding the value of slowing down and savouring life. (Which is kind of funny since Paris is one of the most high-pressure places in the world!)

    re parenting: love, presence, and compassionate discipline exist in all cultures, and I suspect a reinforcement of “good manners” correlates more to socioeconomic status than nationality.

    09/09/14
    11:11 am
    Lisa said...

    @Duchesse, I think you are spot on when it comes to the “savouring life” thing. Which, of course, the French over all do a very good job of making products for. Excuse the dangling participle please, just got back from Santa Barbara and it’s a long drive:).

  • The use of the word curate to refer to anything that is not a museum collection.

    Oh! My burden is lifted!

    09/09/14
    11:11 am
    Lisa said...

    @Patsy, I think I’ve been making my feelings about that usage known for, oh, let’s say, 2 years now? Totally agree.

  • Wait, I forgot to rant! The phrase “pop of colour” and its usual jarring effect. Making either dyed or grey hair a moral issue. Small plate restaurants. Designers who sell linen clothes whose tags specify dry clean only.

    09/09/14
    11:12 am
    Lisa said...

    @Duchesse, Couldn’t agree more.

  • Body hair discussions.

    09/09/14
    11:13 am
    Lisa said...

    @mademarian, Ha! Or the need to depilate so intensively these days:).

  • http://www.theguardian.com/fashion/2014/sep/08/how-to-be-parisian-move-to-paris
    Just came across this

    09/09/14
    11:15 am
    Lisa said...

    @Wendy, “talented bohemian iconoclasts…” hahahahahahahaha.

    09/09/14
    8:58 pm
    déjà pseu said...

    @Wendy, I adore Hadley Freeman!