That question was the subject line in an e-mail I received recently from MatchesFashion.com. The e-mail was advertising the most popular pieces… dresses, and shoes, and earrings… which had been purchased the previous week.
Favourite pieces, popular looks, okay. But obsessed? Really? I love the red outfit from Victoria Beckham, below. At times I almost drool over it. It inspired my recent search for something similar. But I’m not obsessed with it.
|I admire this look. Sometimes I almost drool over it. But I am NOT obsessed.|
I sometimes despair, folks. I mean, why oh why is the internet so “obsessed” with being obsessed? Why do we use so much hyperbole on-line to talk about sweaters, or shoes, or fancy, festive partywear?
That question is actually a literary device called a rhetorical question. In fact, it’s a rhetorical question with a soupçon of hyperbole…. says the former English teacher… a bit pedantically, and somewhat sarcastically, with a long-suffering sigh.
But to answer my own rhetorical question, I know, and so do you I’m sure, why the internet is so preoccupied with hyperbole, and why everyone is simply “obsessed” with everything they write about. The internet is a big place, with millions and millions of websites, and everyone is competing for attention. I get that. But jeeze. We toss words around so loosely. Many times utterly oblivious to their meaning. When everyone is obsessed with everything, the meaning of the word is lost. Isn’t it?
|I’d love to own the sharp suit, and gorgeous burgundy shoes in this Jimmy Choo ad. But, obsessed? Nope|
So, let’s do a little exploration into word usage and meaning shall we? The word “obsession,” when not being used by us fashion bloggers, and purveyors of fancy fashion on-line, actually means “a recurrent, persistent thought, image or impulse that is unwanted and distressing.” Such thoughts do not go away when we try to “ignore or suppress” them. Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) actually use compulsive behaviours in an attempt to relieve distress caused by their obsessive thoughts (source.) So. Not about shoes. Or dresses. Or earrings. Or even shopping. Not even close.
While driving downtown the other day, I listened to a pod-cast about OCD, on the CBC radio show Now or Never. In the program Trevor Dineen, one of the co-hosts, talks honestly about his battle with OCD, how it took over his life, and almost ended his life. He talks with his parents, about their fears and worries, and about their difficulty getting him the help he needed. And Dineen also speaks with other young sufferers, and their parents. It was an illuminating, and moving program. I sat for quite some time in the car in the parking garage at the mall just to hear the end of the show. You can read about it yourself here, and even listen to the whole pod-cast, if you’re interested.
|Here’s another look I’m NOT obsessed with. But I like this sweater, and the whole minimalist vibe of this outfit.|
Now, you might say that I’m totally over-reacting to a simple e-mail. That maybe the writer of the e-mail was using the term “obsessed” figuratively. Okay. I grant you that I can get a bit cranky about language usage and such things. I remember ranting a few years ago that it seemed as if everyone was using the word “absolutely” absolutely all the time. I wrote about that rant here. I’ll also admit if I go back and look at some of my other posts on this blog, I’ll find that I occasionally refer to being “obsessed”… with something… usually to do with my hair.
Not to get defensive, but in my defense, I was using the word “obsessed” deliberately, as hyperbole. Although in the case of my hair, it’s not all that hyperbolic. Ha. Hyperbole is overstatement, “massive and blatant exaggeration.” So obviously exaggerated that its effect is humourous. And I’m generally trying to be funny when I say that I’m “obsessed with my hair.”
Still. Hyperbole can wear thin. Like anything that’s overused. Even if the writer uses a word in full understanding of what it means, even if it’s used figuratively, I’m growing tired of hearing how everyone is “obsessed” with everything.
Maybe we should start a new language cult. Not the cult of overstatement, but of understatement.
I grew up on understatement. When I was a kid, if you inquired after a person’s health or state of being, no one said they were fantastic or fabulous, neither were they ever exhausted, or devastated. When people asked my mother how my sisters and I were doing in school, even if we were getting all A’s, she probably said, “Pretty good.” Mum might be bursting with pride at school closing ceremonies when we won prizes for first in the class, but she never told others we were brilliant. We were just good kids, doing well in school. Actually, maybe that’s not understatement, but just reality.
I like a bit of understatement. Maybe it’s my Irish, east coast roots. Maybe it’s just my generation, and the influence of the generation of people who were adults when I was a kid. We weren’t encouraged to think too highly of ourselves. Or to exaggerate either our good fortune, or our bad. There were always people who were better off and people who were worse off, we were told. I’m not saying that we should resurrect the bad old days when we couldn’t talk about feelings, or praise someone else, or ourselves. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get excited about things. Especially about fashion. Heaven forbid.
But I do think that when we live in such a weirdly unreal time as the twenty-first century, when so many have so little and are likely to lose even that, when climate change may and probably will wreak havoc on our planet, and when people feel helpless to make politicians listen to what really matters, that saying I’m “obsessed” with a dress or jacket I might wear to a Christmas party is a bit lame. And in poor taste. I mean, there are so many important things to “obsess” over.
Especially when I know full well that to be truly “obsessed” is not funny. And no picnic. In fact it would be no exaggeration to say that dealing with OCD can be devastating.
Now. I’d better wrap this up. Before I degenerate into total, and totally uncharacteristic, seriousness. I’m going to close now and go see what I have in my closet to wear to an upcoming Christmas party. My shopping day at Nordstrom last week was unsuccessful. Well, except for the lovely chatty lunch that Liz and I had.
I have a few potential Christmas party pieces in my closet with which I am… not obsessed. My leather trousers, of course. Which I like very much and which still look good on me, despite my advancing years. I have a few options to wear with them which will be suitable. I may wear my burgundy Akris sweater and jeans. I’m considering dressing down this year instead of up. Which is actually what I did last year, but never mind.
Gad. That last paragraph is insipid, isn’t it? Luke warm. Tepid. About as enthusiastic as limp lettuce.
You know, this understatement thing might take some getting used to.
How about you folks? What are you obsessed with right now? Maybe the overuse of the word obsessed? All that hyperbole on the internet? Do tell. I can’t be the only one who gets cranky these days.
I’m doing my best to provide links to the clothes I show in my posts. You need to know that I haven’t purchased any of the items in this post, and I’m not compensated by anyone for talking about them.
Here is a link to that Victoria Beckham turtleneck sweater, worn with the same skirt although the colour looks different. I couldn’t find the black suit worn by the model in the Jimmy Choo ad, but the shoes can be found here. The Ashley Williams sweater is from an ad for Nordstrom can be found here