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Andi Cumbo and I were talking about trends last week, and our dialogue spurred dual posts. Make sure to check hers out, too. And I’m guest posting on Finding Heaven Today, about one of mmy least favorite words: Should.

I have been both the victim and the champion of trends.

In fourth grade, I had a small, staple bound book of shiny pages. In it, I carried my sticker collection. I had puffy stickers, smelly stickers, googly-eyed stickers. I had pages of letter stickers and animal stickers. Glittery stickers. I carried the book to and from school daily, probably more faithfully than I carried my math book. At recess every day, those of us cool enough to have sticker collections met at the slatted bench on the playground. We huddled around, straddling the bench, sitting in the woodchips, poking our heads over each other’s shoulders, vying for top trading stickers.

I spent all my meager fourth grade earnings on stickers. I begged to be taken to K-Mart for more stickers. I asked for stickers as gifts for my birthday and other occasions. All I wanted was stickers.

I was a sticker junkie, tweaking for the next big thing. I needed my stickers like I needed to eat. Maybe even more. I’m not too proud to tell you. Stickers were my thing, man.

Stickers. Stickers are single-use, short-term (very short term) happy fixes. If a kid sees a sticker on his homework paper, he registers the sticker’s presence, knows it portends his excellent virtue and promptly forgets, because it’s time for recess or lunch. The sticker has served its purpose. And I carried hundreds around with me like a case of diamonds.

On the other hand, it took me a year to convince my parents that if I did not get the dark indigo Jordache jeans, I would be the laughtingstock of the entire school, neigh, of the WORLD. You know how this story goes; by the time I got the stupid jeans, the rest of the world (or my junior high) had shifted its affinity to Gloria Vanderbilt.

In the end, neither the stickers nor the jeans advanced my earthly position, as they had so promised, or as I understood the whispered promises of the glossy ads.

Trends are funny. Seemingly out of nowhere, everyone is talking about bacon. Bacon is in everything from birthday cake to apparel. We can’t get enough of its salty, fatty goodness. Dr. Who, the longest running television series ever, is enjoying a new moment in the 21st Century sun as a younger generation becomes aware of its allure. Apparently, a book series is causing all kinds of marital mayhem as ladies are looking to the pages of the books for their, um, needs. (Haven’t read it; too many other books in my queue.)

Even the church has trends. We embrace what is in vogue and toss it about, so many kittens with the same tattered ball of yarn. And while we can make the argument that to stay current is to engage with culture, it is certainly possible to go too far. And from whence do these trends come? Is it counter-cultural to refuse to read the Shades of Grey books or is it hiding a (snobbish and/or puritanical) head in the sand?

Trends reflect a national or communal consciousness, a kind of agreement that bacon is good, or large framed shades are It. Trends offer a way of identifying people, too; the 14 year old Dr. Who fan at my house speaks a language only Whovians understand. It’s fun, it’s harmless. It’s a way to express affinities.

Nothing wrong with that. Unless…

Unless I become willing to sell my soul for shiny stickers.
Unless I trade the supposed authority of the trendsetters for my own personal agency.
Unless I become merely a caricature, a hollow shell of skin propped up by the accoutrements of current culture.

How do you think about trends? Are they important to you? How and why? If you have children, how do you balance trends as a social currency while encouraging uniqueness?

1 Comment

  1. I only like trends when a) they excite me and b) they unite me with people I don’t mind being united with. Before Twilight was explosively overblown, and my reputable friends were saying it was an enjoyable and “fun” series, I bought the first book for my wife for Christmas. She made me sell it, as she neither found it exciting, nor wanted to be a Twilight fan. She knew more about it than I did, and I wondered how I could be blind to something that was on the cusp of the culture’s collective consciousness. Ha! 🙂

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