Boring is the New Special

One of my mantras is “Give me a random Tuesday over a holiday any day.” Which is a grammatically strange mantra, now that I think of it because you can’t really have a Tuesday any day; it has to happen on — well — a Tuesday.

What I mean by that is that “normal” suits me.  “Special” is less compelling. And a corollary of that is that normal can be special. Simply because it’s so normal. Or it’s glorious in its normalcy. I know this might seem odd from a woman who espouses “spaciousness” at every turn, but sometimes the most expansive thing we can do is to consider the beauty of the mundane, to not need to have something novel and dynamic every minute. If everything is exciting, nothing is exciting.

I read something today that helped me see that I have always enjoyed the mundane, and not just enjoyed it but embraced it. Actually I’m a sucker for anything boring because it’s ironic to find boring interesting. So imagine my delight when I found out about a conference in London called “Boring 2010.” You can read more about it in The Independent.  I’d love to meet James Ward, its founder. That’s my kind of guy, a celebrator of boring!

There were topics at this conference that ranged from the exploration of whether milk tasted different based on where it was purchased, how to organize and display one’s ties, the beauty of parking garages, and that perennially favorite topic, sneezing (one presenter has spent three years cataloguing all his sneezes).

I’m reminded of the play, The Nerd, by the late Larry Shue.  It’s one of my all-time favorites. Do you know Shue’s work? In it there is an attempt to run off a particularly unwelcome houseguest by playing a game of “watch the apple core turn brown,” the most boring activity that can be imagined, even in Terre Haute, Indiana, a town that symbolizes stagnation, according to the playwright.

And I’m reminded of one of my favorite movies, True Stories, in which the brilliant David Byrne (one of my heroes, not a boring man) celebrates a generic Texas town, Virgil, with a “Celebration of Specialness,” replete with a parade featuring lawnmowers, baby strollers and Shriners driving tiny cars. With its quirky look at ordinariness, this is the movie that most speaks for my love of the mundane. See it!  You don’t want to miss such lines as “They’re calling it a celebration of specialness.  But this place is completely normal,” and “Do you run out of Kleenex, paper towels and toilet paper at the same time?  You know it’s true!”

And I’m reminded of how many times I’ve suggested to engaged couples, flush in the “romantic weekend” phase of their relationships, that they should wander a town with a reputation for being boring.  The idea is to force themselves to walk into every last china business establishment (silk flower emporium, auto parts store, meagerly supplied office supply store) and be sure that their relationship can survive normal life, the reality check of symbolically boring places and days. It’s an important test.

Watching apple cores turn brown, counting our sneezes, having a parade to celebrate the specialness of a not very special place, wandering small-town sidewalks, sitting around on a random Tuesday… these are guilty pleasures of the simple-minded or simplicity-minded among us.  They are a sort of recess.

In a world that’s gone mad with non-stop, multi-channel stimulation, sound bytes, noise pollution and options, options, options, I’m putting in a plug for the beauty of “boring.” It might be the most exciting thing you’ve embraced lately.

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