Sunday, February 25, 2007

On Choosing the Cover of One's Book

"Don't judge a book by its cover" is a proverb recited to remind those who would listen that the true character of a man or object cannot always be discerned by outward appearances.

One who would fail to listen might commit himself to wedding a girl because of her outward beauty, only to find her lacking in morals, sensibility, or faithfulness. One who would heed the advice may purchase a house despite its need of cosmetic touch-up because he has a vision for what the house could become.

The proverb lends itself to many situations, and is often applied in a suitable context. Its wisdom is understood by even a simple mind; the desired effect in its recital is typically achieved without additional commentary.

Men and women would almost universally accept the general wisdom of this proverb, yet I find that we are quick to decorate or polish our own metaphorical "book covers" and expect others to judge them as we would wish. Below are a few ways in which I find this most curiously expressed.

Care Where I Vacation Syndrome - I am no more certain today than I was the first time I saw an "OBX" bumper sticker of what is hoped to be gained by letting the world know where you vacation. Is it an attempt to communicate one's superior taste in vacation destinations? It certainly can't be done in hopes of expressing one's uniqueness--I could spot ten "OBX's" and at least 20 "LBI's" in a week if I was looking for them. If there were a place on earth where I loved to vacation more than any other, I would let as few people in on the secret as I could and then expend whatever loose change I had in my pocket to mail next summer's rental deposit--not to buy a bumper sticker.

Care Where I Shop Syndrome - What self-respecting person willingly pays money to advertise for clothing companies? Why anyone buys and wears hoodies with nothing but "GAP" across the front, or tee's with "Old Navy" and an American flag across the chest is far beyond me. It's stupid. I don't care where you shop. Really, I don't. How much you spend on clothes is between you and your wallet. Why do you want so desperately for everyone to know where you bought your shirt? The more telling question may be, Do you care that much about where other people shop that you project those same thoughts on to everyone else? I don't know who to blame with this, because each of the major retail stores is just as guilty as the next. The "Abercrombie's" and "Banana Republic's" bother me most because they're the priciest, but dumb "Old Navy" print tee's are nearly as bothersome.

Care What Sports I Have My Kid Signed Up For - This is perhaps the most puzzling to me. Do you, Mrs. Mom or Mr. Dad, really love soccer (or basketball or hockey or cheer team or wrestling, etc. for that matter)? Is the best way for you to pay homage to your kids' current favorite game to fix a static cling the shape of a soccer ball to the window of your Yukon? Or do you just do it because they passed them out with the jerseys and you don't want to be perceived as unsupportive of your kids? Team-personalized stickers for middle-school teams reek of elitist families bragging that they have enough money for Johnny and Susie to make (read: afford) the traveling team. The generic hockey pucks or megaphones just ring hollow. I have less of a problem with it if you're doing it because Johnny or Susie really loves his or her sport, but if Johnny or Susie doesn't realize how much you're already doing to be supportive of their sporting exploits, maybe you should make them aware and re-command control of the leash. And if you're afraid that being the only van at practice without "team spirit" will scar John or Sue, then maybe you should grow a spine and find something better than "O" magazine to read while you wait for the end of practice.

Care What Charity I Support - See my 09/24/05 post titled "Show Your Support" for more on this topic. It's not that I expect unbelievers to heed Jesus' command to "not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing," but it does appall me to see how external people are with their "good deeds."

I don't have enough to say about Care How Pimped My Vehicle Is Syndrome or Care How Good My Kid's Grades Are Syndrome to devote an entire paragraph to each, but each category's members fall under my same general sense of disgust and disapproval.

Not that you should care.