In Praise of Superficiality

29

June 13, 2013 by Katia

The hardest part about my day is staring at my growing pile of unread US Weeklys and coming to terms with the fact that the day is over again and who am I kidding, this is now officially a collection instead of reading material.

I grew up in a house where we spoke Russian and used the term crapfun (crap fun) coined by my mom. Crapfun was born out of a need to linguistically address concepts as pivotal as “guilty pleasures” and “craptastic” missing in the Russian vocabulary. This seems like a good time to point out, that this is also the nation that produced this:

Phillip Kirkorov – Diva. For nekkid guys, continue watching

Now you see why someone had to step up to the plate and invent crapfun. The problem with crapfun as a definition is that crapfun is not always fun. Because watching something like this, for example, unless you’re a die-hard fan, is no fun.  Enter hate watch, a term I came across in a Mama Pop article By Jeni Marinucci. Add hate watch to craptastic and guilty pleasure and you’ll begin to understand the vast realms of crapfun as both an activity and a genre.

Not too many people will admit to engaging in crapfun, because behind every crapfun loving soul stands a scandalized group of friends like so totally above this kind of superficiality, but some will. And those are the people that I would like to hang out with, because while they can take some crap of the fun kind, they’re not full of it. And they too are probably wondering:

Why does superficiality get such a bad rap?

The superficial is perceived as shallow, hollow, lacking any layers or depth and therefore strictly external. But hey, doesn’t the shallow keep us from drowning ? Doesn’t the external tell us exactly what to expect? Can we not cut superficial some slack then for its benefits? Yes, I know, there is no challenge in that which is strictly shallow and no secrets in what’s only external, but who said anything about strictly and only?

I’m not here to defend the superficial guy or gal whose lack of substance derives from ignorance. I’m here to defend selective superficiality as a deliberate choice. Engaging in superficial crapfun activity doesn’t make YOU superficial the same way that engaging in some weekend rollerblading doesn’t make you a professional athlete, as any reasonable non-superficial person would tell you.

Here’s a probably very partial list of some superficial things I’ve been known to do:

  • Watch The Bachelor religiously.
  • Read US Weekly and catch up on gossip online
  • Buy Vogue and People Style Watch  for the pictures
  • Shop for things that are not immediate necessities
  • Spend way too much time on social media

In an ideal world, I’d be doing all of them. In an even more ideal world, I’d be doing all of them, all the time for a living. IRL there’s a pile of magazines lying unopened on the floor next to my side of the bed and it’s not that I had a headache or didn’t want to. It’s just that between my 9-month-old, 4-year-old and blogging on my breaks, Amanda Bynes had to give.

Some of the activities on this list, if not all, have earned me a raised eyebrow from people who know me, my academic background  and book reading habits too well to be raising any eyebrows. They also knew my personal situation of being a slightly overwhelmed mom on maternity leave, raising two young children with my husband away from our families. Hold the violins. What I’m trying to say is, that if you decide to be openly superficial, loud and proud, the kind that leaves their US Weekly lying on your coffee table open on the Jersey Shore exposé, know that you’re destined to be walking through a mine field. People are often too self absorbed to take your situation as an overwhelmed mom, an overworked employee or both into consideration. They won’t applaud your efforts to JUST TRY TO FUCKING UNWIND with some legal substance, but rather use your US Weekly as an excuse to admire themselves at your expense. I could argue that each one of the activities on my list can be enjoyed on both a superficial and a more profound level, because superficiality, points out my wise husband, is not about what you’re doing, it’s about how you’re doing it. But the eye brow raisers won’t care, which is why I’m coming out to you in hopes that you do.

Ever since I’ve started watching The Bachelor a few seasons ago Mondays are much less painful. The show is a bottomless pit of bad taste and drama and I have the best crapfun time hate watching it. Why should I deprive myself of this pleasure, especially when I can live tweet about it and bond with others who think the same way. Twitter, rightfully deemed by all those Kirkegaard readers in your life as a time waster, can also be viewed as a great tool for practicing concise self expression and allows you to admire others for their ability to do the same. For some people any type of fascination with fashion symbolizes vanity and is all about the external. News flash from ancient Greece, when they formulated the laws of symmetry, they knew that the way things look had the power of bestowing a sense of harmony on the observer. Matching my son’s socks, to the underwear, to the outfit gives me a quick fix of harmony.

So you see, in some cases what we deem as superficial can actually serve as a gateway to something, uhm, deeper. But the thing is, it doesn’t have to, because the superficial has its own merits. For the tired SAH or on leave parent superficiality, however it manifests itself, is often restful and therapeutic. For the tired working parent, in a reality of constantly chasing after and stressing over, the superficial can paradoxically serve as a way to connect with ourselves by doing something which is strictly for us, and which is a means only to one end, bringing immediate satisfaction and relaxation while not being (with the potential exception of shopping) as harmful as some of the other activities designed to do the same.

So why are we so scared of being deemed superficial? Do we all have to walk around being deep all the time? Isn’t that what high school and Anne Hathaway are for?  In the core of this fear lies the surrender of control over your definition to others. If you know who you are and are confident enough in what you bring to the table, does it matter that someone else calls you superficial only because it allows them to convince themselves that they are not? That constant preoccupation of theirs with appearing deep, isn’t that a little, you know, external? God didn’t make us superficial OR deep, he made us both. Embrace it, come out.

*********

This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post on the subject “The Hardest Part of my Day”. Please visit our wonderful hosts:

Janine at Janine’s Confessions of a Mommyaholic

Stephanie at Mommy, for Real

Kate at Can I Get Another Bottle of Whine?

Dawn at Dawn’s Disaster

29 thoughts on “In Praise of Superficiality

  1. I am so going to use the term “crapfun”, because damn that really is a great way to describe it isn’t it!! But seriously, I think we all do indulge in certain things that may be deemed by all as superficial, but agree that it does help keep us sane and really shouldn’t get a bad rap. Thanks for sharing this and linking up with us, too Katia!!🙂

    • Katia says:

      😀 I’m glad the term caught on! Yes, I think my mom pretty skilfully concocted that one. Totally agree with your take on superficiality, Janine!

  2. OK, friend. If I knew you in real- life, I’m pretty sure you would be my BFF. As I was musing along with the crapfun analogy, I thought, “Hmm. I suppose my recent indulgence in watching the Bachelor would count as crapfun.” Then I got to your list, and I snorted out loud. Yep, we are kindred spirits. I too love to hate-watch it, because by the end of the day I don’t have ANYTHING in me that would make possible a viewing of a deep independent film or WWII documentary on the History Channel. Not deep. Nothing wrong with a little crapfun, no sir. I loved this post. Once agin, you proved your capacity to be hilarious and deep all at once. Wow.

    • Katia says:

      Why hello, my twin from another mother😀 I am thrilled that my Bachelor obsession is something you can relate to and thank you so much for your comments, always so supportive and (dare I say) deep. Hugs.

  3. Jean says:

    Oh Katia, how I love your writing. I had a friend in college who called things that were crapfun “eating potato chips.” My mom buys People and US Weekly and keeps them all for us when we come to visit. I SUPPORT your Bachelor/Bachelorette habit. I also have it too.

    • Katia says:

      And I support yours! And YOUR wonderful writing! It always warms my heart reading your comments and thank you so much for the retweet. I’m heading over to read your post!

  4. Yes, we are kindred spirits too. I used to be embarrassed of my obsession with entertainment magazines and try to sort of hide them behind my copies of the New Yorker and Atlantic Monthly. But now I embrace it! People, Entertainment Weekly, InStyle. I also watch The View and other junkie TV shows. Seriously, I think it’s important to stay a little bit connected with popular culture. (Although I can’t say that I do a great job….) Really, I think it’s the job of parents to understand the world that we’re raising our kids and that includes TV, celebrities, etc. So we should watch TV and read magazines for the sake of our kids. (Okay, maybe you can try this a bit too far pretty easily…)

    • Katia says:

      You have no idea how happy it makes me feel that you and Stephanie watch it too. For all my rhetoric I still felt a little embarrassed to come out to you two…

  5. basicallyb says:

    This is my new word too! Thanks to my dad & my strict upbringing, I can only watch an hour of crapfun at a time on tv or else I feel like I wasted my day. Shockingly enough, he’s the one that watches all the crap these days.

    • Katia says:

      An hour of crapfun might be just enough to keep us going.🙂 I’ve cut down on tv significantly since I blog, basically just watching it once a day in the eve with my husband, but I make myself available for the two hours of craptastic crapfun that is The Bachelor.

  6. Can I be your kindred spirit too??? You are an amazingly funny writer and I so enjoyed reading this! I LOVE Mondays just for the Bachelor/Bachelorette. Some of my colleagues wonder how a feminist and Women’s History teacher can be so addicted to the Bachelor, but I call it my guilty pleasure. In fact, most Tuesdays the social studies teacher lunch room at my school is full of conversation analyzing the Bachelor (including some of the guys who only watch it “because their wives make them.” whatever). I’m joining you in praising superficiality!!

    • Katia says:

      Oh, my husband’s wife sometimes makes him watch too. This is how I know his male boss watches it as well🙂 Bachelor watchers are everyone, we might as well just come out. Thank you so much for you lovely comment and I’m honoured to be a kindred spirit of yours!

  7. I LOVE the term crapfun and am so going to start using it. Awesome. And I hear you on the crapfun magazines becoming a collection rather than reading material. My collection of People mag has done the same thing. I miss them.

  8. […] In Praise of Superficiality (iamthemilk.wordpress.com) […]

  9. “…superficiality as a deliberate choice.”

    I totally support that concept, though I prefer the phrase ‘eclectically inclined’. There is something about information that is (nearly) irresistible and my only hope is in constructing an iron-clad schedule for my days, otherwise I am off following a trail curious facts, intriguing news and endless implications.

    I still prefer the morning as the time (of day) when the slate is cleanest…at least until I leave and enter the ‘real’ world.

  10. Considerer says:

    Noooooo I like it. It’s good. Heck, I spent a whole post earlier in the week describing a fantasy garage of cars I can never hope to afford. I love the superficial, at least at a thinking level🙂

    • Katia says:

      I love that idea! I am not into cars but I could easily describe a walk in closet I don’t own full of shoes I don’t own either🙂

  11. Roshni says:

    Almost every evening, I go onto youtube and watch makeup videos and Tyra Banks shows where she’s screaming at some random model! Now, I know that I am watching crapfun!!
    Brilliant article, Katia!

    • Katia says:

      Thank you so much, Roshni! Yes, I used to love watching America’s Top Model, it’s the best kind of crapfun out there. Not sure why I stopped!

  12. I’ve used craptastic a lot, so why not crapfun? It’s as good as any. I think people love an escape – I know I do. When I go to the hairdresser’s, I devour all the People and US Weekly that I can. But many want to seem above it, which kind of cracks me up. Why wouldn’t you want to have a little fun making fun of these people? They get paid gazillions to do it!

    • Katia says:

      I LOVE craptastic, it’s such a great word! And yes, I totally agree with you, most people need to prove they are above that, which is so silly, because we are all watchers of others.

  13. Melanie says:

    I do a lot of the same types of things you do… the guilty pleasures and there is oh so much guilt in them! And I agree, when you’re in need of a word and there isn’t one that’ll do, it’s a fabulous idea to just make them up! A lot of the Bloppies swear I made up Awesomesauce. I didn’t (I wish I had), but I do make up my fair share!

    • Katia says:

      Awesomesauce is awesomesauce! I love it! I don’t feel as guilty about my guilty pleasures anymore. Maybe it’s because I’m old🙂

  14. […] Sometimes crap is just crap. Sometimes it’s so much more.  […]

  15. […] term coined by the ultra-brilliant Jean, AKA Mama Schmama, whom I very much hope to meet for a crapfun party in my room, oh sometime in […]

  16. iamthemilk says:

    […] * Crapfun – Crapfun […]

  17. […] not a Kim Kardashian fan myself on one hand and an avid consumer of crapfun on the other, I clicked right over to the Time Magazine article titled “This Photo of Kim […]

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Tired. Going from 10 months of staying at home with the kids to full time work is disorienting.  I have to redefine what my involvement in their lives looks like. I have to go dig for my creativity, it's not readily available. I have to make room for friendships that were already pushed to the outskirts of my mommy life. What was previously inaccessible, existing in the "so near yet so far" category - books, blazers and heels - became a staple in this old new reality in a matter of days. Tired and disoriented but also content, supported and appreciative. #momsofinstagram #random #randomthoughts #changes #workingmom #tired #tgif
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