I have a good friend, a close friend. He shall, of course, for the purposes of this article, remain anonymous.
He's married now, having a baby soon. His wife is a good lass, one of the best you could hope for in this city, a more or less sane combination of intelligence, common sense and education.
A couple of months ago, while they were expecting a baby and going through preparation frenzy, I popped over to discover various paint samples in squares spread over the inside walls. Apparently you put up these samples to see what they look like, and then choose the one you like the most. Then you paint over the other samples and paint the whole room or the whole section your chosen colour.
To do this is probably not simple. You need to go to the paint shop, choose several likely looking shades, buy them, take them home, put them up in these sample squares, meditate or contemplate until your choice comes to you, and then paint over (or take down?) the old ones.
If you were putting up samples of different colours I would understand more. But these are shades, with minute, if at all noticeable, differences.
A quick visit to www.dulux.co.uk revealed a mad, hidden cultlike world. A world of extraordinary pretentiousness and no hint of self-awareness. A world where there are 168 shades of blue alone. Where a dirty mix of pinks, labelled Rococco, comes with this description:
The key to this look is that it is both feminine and strong, much like Madame de Pompadour who was an astute, highly political woman as well as being a seductive, charming beauty. Roccoco is certainly not delicate for delicate's sake. It's a thoughtful, intelligent take on this era's extravagant past- it invites an element of modern urbanisation.
I'm guessing that not many men are buying paints.
This is the description for Feminine Edge:
Sophisticated and strong. The 'single girl in the city' is both worldly and confident. The elegant mix of contemporary, dark tones with pink, fleshy neutrals equals pretty with attitude.
Yep, you guessed it, pink again. There is a lot of pink in this world. And the world of paint samples is a world where nobody is aware of the irony of pink being described as feminist. Pink, the universal colour of woman's sexual subjugation and disempowerment. The colour of cute, the colour of helplessness. Transformed into 'sophisticated and strong'.
Which is what this is really all about. Transformation, subversion. Paint samples are being marketed to women who once were empowered and idealistic...and single. Housewives get to live out their fantasies of 'Dramatic Romance' and 'Aristocrat' with paint styles of the same name. It's this imagery that sells different shades that cannot actually be differentiated with the human eye. Different shades of blue, essentially all the same, have names like Venetian Crystal and Sapphire Springs.
Not that there aren't different kinds of blue at all. Obviously, there is light blue and dark blue. Obsessive compulsives, doped up on paranoia-inducing marijuana and ritalin, could come up with sky blue or steel blue. But Sapphire Springs? Forgive me if I am forced to bite off my own head and eat it. People who buy this paint are buying the name.
But perhaps I am bullshitting.
Perhaps the real reason I find these paint shades disturbing is something that is a lot closer to me and my insecurities. It is hard to put into words, but perhaps it seems extremely presumptuous to me. The act presumes so many things, presumes the agents have solved a bewildering array of questions, demonstrating almost a hubris.
Putting aside the weird and simpering House and Garden world of paint shades and samples, is is it right to paint walls at all? The walls in Lindsay's house already had paint on them. People who own walls have a legal right to paint them, but is it necessary? Should we have paint?
Should we have walls?
Should we have houses?
Could we not live more conveniently and sustainably in canvas tents? Or in warm underground caverns? Or in treehouses? I'm not sure, may be not. But I'm not aware that these questions have even been asked. It certainly hasn't been demonstrated to me that brick houses with solid walls are better. Neverthless, painting them presumes that their existence has been justified. I find this a large presumption, one that is not easily accepted without question.
I understand of course that we must live. We must work day to day, save money, accumulate assets, play the game of society and pretend the myriad things we must pretend. But to me this is all out of a spirit of necessity, acts of compromise in the hope that better and more truthful times lie ahead. I live with the knowledge of my own hypocrisy, but I also know that there is little choice.
But to invest the time, money and psychic energy to put paint samples on your walls represents an extraordinary acceptance of urban society, a complacency with the pedantic and arbitrary modern styles of interior decorating that, to me at least, indicates that you have given up. You have taken your profits and left the game. You don't have time to change the world if your priority this week is Pebble Drift or Royal Regatta.
And this is what worries me most of all. Because my friends are a success. They represent to me all that is possible in the combination of modern society, with all its fakeness and compromise, with individual thought and desire for change. But I suspect that they will not understand my view here, will suggest that what I am speaking in sophistries.
Which is a worry.