The Pleasure Of...Target(s)

(Titles are hard, okay!) On consumerism & goal-setting, plus singleness and cake,

I wrote last week about the pleasure of spending time with friends for no externally-motivated reason beyond you want to and you can: no holiday, no celebration, no anniversary, no pressure. I might have mentioned that the three of us went to Target together. I never go to Target in New York, because I’m not completely insane, but in suburban North Carolina, the wide-open aisles and the sheer size of the place are straight out of my deepest urban-European fantasies of American consumerism. The hot-ticket Marimekko and Missoni collaboration items that get snatched up online are just hanging around on the clearance endcaps, ready to pick up at $6 for (to take a random example now sitting on my coffee table) a glass tray and $3 for a scented candle in the matching multicolor zigzag print. I also bought an all-purpose (and I guess, on-brand) festive paper garland that says Joy. I got some clothes and fresh hand towels and a pair of replacement cabinet knobs for the bathroom, which are shiny and pink copper and the best kind of house upgrade—for about seven dollars and less than seven minutes, I got a little something that makes me a little happy every damn day. Perhaps it is bordering on insane to go to a chain store on vacation and buy cabinet knobs to bring home in my carry-on. But, well, it’s what we do.  

This isn’t really about Target, or about my friends and our idiosyncratic vacation habits in particular, but has to do with the conundrum of choice among the endless possibilities for acquisition we’re presented with every day. There is plenty that is environmentally damaging and perhaps even morally wrong about big-box stores like this, but I generally believe that it’s less about what we buy than *how.* Or rather, we should talk more about how. It is obnoxious but also true that the things in my home and wardrobe I love most are the things with stories and memories attached that aren’t just « J. Crew was having a sale! » Posters from gallery shows T and I visited together; art our friends created; things we bought on vacation, or received as gifts, or bought with prize money, or to celebrate big professional wins. At the same time, there’s also real and repeating joy in the things we bought that fit, that work, that are well-made and built to last, even if they came from a chain store on sale. (Living-room curtains in a pattern I love. The stainless-steel kitchen work tables. The solid burr coffee grinder. A pair of heavy, mint-green Vornado fans.) Making space for these things, and making them last, is an underrated joy. And it’s the choice that matters, amid all the clamor and endlessness of holiday consumption.

Right, holidays. For freelancers the end of the year is always a challenge to balance the onslaught of social and financial obligations at a time when editors are running out of money and time to commission anything. Fortunately a few projects I pitched earlier are coming to fruition around now, so I’m going to end the year in a reasonably strong place, busy but mostly just with following through on earlier commitments. So I have the luxury of stretching in new directions, taking stock, and setting targets for next year. There’s still enough time left in the year that this list-making and goal-setting feels optimistic, not panicky. Thanksgiving is a nice time to do this, but the couple of weeks after that holiday tend to feel like some of the busiest. My favorite season for this is the week between Christmas and the new year, the long festive hangover of chocolates and pajamas, at least in my ancestral homeland, interspersed with the odd brisk walk and setting up new plans and journals for the new year.

That end-of-the-decade what-have-you-accomplished meme barely lasted half a day before the backlash and ironic takes began, but taking stock of the year, if not the whole decade, is something I value getting the chance to do. Marinating and ruminating on what’s next without feeling the pressure to make it happen right now. 

My Writing, Elsewhere

In a rare bout of hot-take-itis I tweeted about Emma Watson’s self-partnering stance, and that evolved into a longer piece that I am quite happy with. Much of what’s there—about the history of coverture, and the problem that single women pose to capitalism and patriarchy, is taken from my book, so as ever, go pick up a copy if you want to read more!

Foodie Pleasures

I think this cake is the best incarnation so far of my loaf-tin adventures: Orange Olive Oil Pound Cake, via the wonderfully named Eugenia Bone at Epicurious. Now I am going to finish it, and go make a start on this slow-cooked bolognese for the weekend. Happy Friday.