This is day 19 of a 30 day New Year’s Resolution.
The entire advertising industry is based on the idea that some spotless, shiny, pristine whatever it is suddenly materialized at just the right place, at just the right time.
Cars zip along shadow-dappled country roads, down hills past fields of wheat.
Pats of butter melt on stacks of “hotcakes,” steam rising ever so gently.
Women eat salads and laugh.
It’s not that driving on a country road, breakfast, or salad-bonhomie is fake or false. These are three real-life pleasures. It’s that all three of these take real work to make them happen, and in reality, there’s always something rough around the edges. Country roads smell like cows. Hotcakes make my tummy hurt.
Salad-eating women are laughing at us for paying $5.00 for a bottle of canola oil, vinegar, and guar gum.
But advertising wants it to look easy and perfect.
The fashion industry gives in to this, as well. Flip through any fashion magazine and see men staring off into the distance while leaning on a Vespa. Sure, the pocket square is in disarray in a display of sprezzatura, and there’s some 5 o’clock shadow, but the pocket square was put into place with a tweezer and the scruff is carefully cultivated.
Maybe there’s no way around it. Pictures of imperfection don’t sell suits.
But there is balance. Wabi-sabi, a Japanese aesthetic philosophy, accepts transience and imperfection. Practitioners and artists who honor Wabi-sabi allow things to be, to do, to act according to their nature. And in the real, material world, nothing is perfect.
As a teacher, one philosophy I follow with students is not through sprezzatura – studied nonchalance – where every stumble is choreographed. Rather, I allow a bit of my rough edges to show. I am fully human. Fully adult, fully responsible, fully trustworthy, and fully human.
My approach to style is similar. Believe me — I’m not throwing on whatever, each morning, as styley-liars might suggest they do. I’m a dork and I’m honest, so I think about what I do and I admit it.
But I accept my own, inherent Wabi-sabi. In the past, I have flopped many outfits. And in the future, I will flop many outfits. Sometimes it takes a try or two before I’m willing to walk outside. These are not the outtakes of my Style Story – they are part of it.
How many parts of your journey to who you are, now, would you excise, in the name of perfection?
None, I hope.
Which brings me to the selfie-stick. It’s hilarious. A stick to hold your camera so you can take a selfie? Brilliant comic-artist “The Oatmeal” gives it a well-deserving send-up, and certainly, the selfie-stick deserves a little ribbing. For that matter, so does the selfie.
But who has a professional photographer to follow them around while they practice sprezzatura? Who has a cobblestone street in their backyard to walk down while looking down at their watch? Who has a low, whitewashed wall to sit on, to while away the afternoon?
Not me. Not you.
And our arms are only so long.
And we take pictures and write because we celebrate life and style and all of the imperfections that make us human.
So do I use a selfie-stick?
To take selfies is human. To use a selfie-stick — divine.