That question was the subject line in an e-mail I received from MatchesFashion.com. The e-mail was advertising the most popular pieces… dresses, and shoes, and earrings… which had been purchased the previous week.
Favourite pieces, popular looks, okay. But obsessed? Really? I love the red outfit from Victoria Beckham, below. At times I almost drool over it. It inspired my recent search for something similar. But I’m not obsessed with it.
I originally published this post in December 2017. But I’m still at my Mum’s at the moment, and what with everything that’s been going on this week, I haven’t been doing much writing. So I hope you don’t mind a reprise post. Fortunately, or unfortunately, the premise is still relevant.
|I admire this look. But I am NOT obsessed.|
I sometimes despair, folks. I mean, why oh why is the internet so “obsessed” with being obsessed? Why do we use so much hyperbole on-line to talk about sweaters, or shoes, or fancy, festive partywear?
No, no… you don’t have to answer that.
That question is actually a literary device called a rhetorical question. In fact, it’s a rhetorical question with a soupçon of hyperbole…. says the former English teacher… a bit pedantically, and somewhat sarcastically, with a long-suffering sigh.
But to answer my own rhetorical question, I know, and so do you I’m sure, why the internet is so preoccupied with hyperbole, and why everyone is simply “obsessed” with everything they write about. The internet is a big place, with millions and millions of websites, and everyone is competing for attention. I get that. But jeeze. We toss words around so loosely. Many times utterly oblivious to their meaning. When everyone is obsessed with everything, the meaning of the word is lost. Isn’t it?
|I love this look. I may try to emulate it. But I’m not obsessed with it.|
So, let’s do a little exploration into word usage and meaning shall we? The word “obsession,” when not being used by us fashion bloggers, and purveyors of fancy fashion on-line, actually means “a recurrent, persistent thought, image or impulse that is unwanted and distressing.” Such thoughts do not go away when we try to “ignore or suppress” them. Those who suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) actually use compulsive behaviours in an attempt to relieve distress caused by their obsessive thoughts (source.) So. Not about shoes. Or dresses. Or earrings. Or even shopping. Not even close.
While driving downtown the other day, I listened to a pod-cast about OCD, on the CBC radio show Now or Never. In the program Trevor Dineen, one of the co-hosts, talks honestly about his battle with OCD, how it took over his life, and almost ended his life. He talks with his parents, about their fears and worries, and about their difficulty getting him the help he needed. And Dineen also speaks with other young sufferers, and their parents. It was an illuminating, and moving program. I sat for quite some time in the car in the parking garage at the mall just to hear the end of the show. You can read about it yourself here, and even listen to the whole pod-cast, if you’re interested.
|Here’s another look I’m NOT obsessed with. But I like this suit, and the whole minimalist vibe of this outfit.|
Now, you might say that I’m totally over-reacting to a simple e-mail. That maybe the writer of the e-mail was using the term “obsessed” figuratively. Okay. I grant you that I can get a bit cranky about language usage and such things. I remember ranting a few years ago that it seemed as if everyone was using the word “absolutely” absolutely all the time. I wrote about that rant here. I’ll also admit if I go back and look at some of my other posts on this blog, I’ll find that I occasionally refer to being “obsessed”… with something… usually to do with my hair.
Not to get defensive, but in my defense, I was using the word “obsessed” deliberately, as hyperbole. Although in the case of my hair, it’s not all that hyperbolic. Ha. Hyperbole is overstatement, “massive and blatant exaggeration.” So obviously exaggerated that its effect is humourous. And I’m generally trying to be funny when I say that I’m “obsessed with my hair.”
Still. Hyperbole can wear thin. Like anything that’s overused. Even if the writer uses a word in full understanding of what it means, even if it’s used figuratively, I’m growing tired of hearing how everyone is “obsessed” with everything.
Maybe we should start a new language cult. Not the cult of overstatement, but of understatement.
I grew up on understatement. When I was a kid, if you inquired after a person’s health or state of being, no one said they were fantastic or fabulous, neither were they ever exhausted, or devastated. When people asked my mother how my sisters and I were doing in school, even if we were getting all A’s, she probably said, “Pretty good.” Mum might be bursting with pride at school closing ceremonies when we won prizes for first in the class, but she never told others we were brilliant. We were just good kids, doing well in school. Actually, maybe that’s not understatement, but just reality.
I like a bit of understatement. Maybe it’s my Irish, east coast roots. Maybe it’s just my generation, and the influence of the generation of people who were adults when I was a kid. We weren’t encouraged to think too highly of ourselves. Or to exaggerate either our good fortune, or our bad. There were always people who were better off and people who were worse off, we were told. I’m not saying that we should resurrect the bad old days when we couldn’t talk about feelings, or praise someone else, or ourselves. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t get excited about things. Especially about fashion. Heaven forbid.
But I do think that when we live in such a weirdly unreal time as the twenty-first century, when so many have so little and are likely to lose even that, when climate change may and probably will wreak havoc on our planet, and when people feel helpless to make politicians listen to what really matters, that saying I’m “obsessed” with a dress or jacket I might wear to a Christmas party is a bit lame. And in poor taste. I mean, there are so many important things to “obsess” over.
Especially when I know full well that to be truly “obsessed” is not funny. And no picnic. In fact it would be no exaggeration to say that dealing with OCD can be devastating.
Now. I’d better wrap this up. Before I degenerate into total, and totally uncharacteristic, seriousness. I’m going to close now and go see what I have in my closet to wear to an upcoming Christmas party. My shopping day at Nordstrom last week was unsuccessful. Well, except for the lovely chatty lunch that Liz and I had.
I have a few potential Christmas party pieces in my closet with which I am… not obsessed. My leather trousers, of course. Which I like very much and which still look fine, despite my advancing years. I have a few options to wear with them which will be suitable. I may wear my burgundy Akris sweater and jeans. I’m considering dressing down this year instead of up. Which is actually what I did last year, but never mind.
Gad. That last paragraph is insipid, isn’t it? Luke warm. Tepid. About as enthusiastic as limp lettuce.
You know, this understatement thing might take some getting used to.
How about you folks? What are you obsessed with right now? Maybe the overuse of the word obsessed? All that hyperbole on the internet? Do tell. I can’t be the only one who gets cranky these days.
57 thoughts on “What Are You Obsessed With Right Now?”
Momentarily not being with the program: clothes are an interest but I am obsessed with our awful political situation. Unrelated: I apologize for poorly written posts: it is so hard to modify/edit on this device.
I hear you…. I know a lot of people who are obsessed and perplexed and saddened by politics these days.
Try being American. 😫
It seems like there is an ‘ obsession ‘ with certain words sometimes . The current word here is amazing . Not interesting or beautiful or moving , delicious , accomplished , astonishing etc – always amazing . Sometimes I feel like there’s only one adjective left in the world . Sorry to rant but I’ve got a nasty , not amazing , head cold & I’m rather grumpy . Enjoy your party .
Wendy in York
Head colds call for being grumpy, I think. Also hot tea with lemon and honey… or rum? And a good book.
YOU are (even occasionally) despairing? Oh no… I hope not… You always look fabulous and approachable and you do not come across as obsessed whatsoever. I must admit, though, that the barrage of images (especially) of "fabulosity" makes Real Life for most of us a little tougher at times.
(By the way, my obsession with shoes does not mean I am constantly buying them or wearing them. I just consider them "art.")
As for clothing obsessions… We aren't all tall and thin. We don't all have a budget with much disposable moolah. We don't all have anywhere to wear fancy things even if we have a few!
More fabulous (and we need more of it) — real people talking about real lives and things that really matter, all the while enjoying sharing some of the pleasurable pretty side. A little aspirational attentiveness is always a nice thing — and motivational. It's the degree to which it can burst our (real world) bubbles and make us feel badly about ourselves that is the challenge.
On that note — all apt and able adjectives of heated hyperbole aside… YOU are eternally elegant, due in part to your smartness and down-to-earthness (creative license), much appreciated by your readers.
Pleasurably pretty… that sounds good. Thanks for the kind adjectives!
Fortunately I am obsessed with nothing at all. Having had direct experience of a loved one being in the grip of OCD and its friends anxiety and depression, I am more than content to be content. Like you I loathe this tendency to talk of being obsessed with trivia, addicted to stupidity and passionate about ephemera…it seems that you have to be on the edge of madness to show your interest and commitment. Cannot live without…is another. Usually lipgloss or Touche Eclat. Sometimes it all feels as though we are caught up in the Masque of the Red Death. Meanwhile, I shall counter this by reading ancient whodunits and doing cryptic crosswords; restraint is all when we live in crazy times.
Yes… the edge of madness sounds about right. When everything is described with superlatives, how do we know what is just plain good? Goes along with too many exclamation points. I used to tell students that when they used exclamation points it was like shouting. And when everyone's shouting we can't hear anybody, right?
Love this post. One of the words used often by bloggers is "swoon". So tired of reading that. I was raised much like you and have worked with people who have mental health diagnosis and it is awful to live with. I am fine not being "obsessed". Hope you find a swoon worthy Christmas outfit!!!
Thanks, Christa. Yes… swooning. I've almost swooned once or twice in my life when I was very young and was asked out on a date by a boy who I had a huge crush on. And sometimes when I haven't eaten and my blood sugar level is very low. Ha.
A little obsessed with velvet. I think I bought one too many velvet tunics this year.
Uh oh. How many is one too many?
Great post …love how you vary your topics! I've thought long and hard but I really don't think I'm obsessed about anything. Although I do get pretty excited when I think about going back to Switzerland. I don't think I'd say I'm obsessed…others in my family would probably disagree! 🙂
I'm certainly not obsessed with clothes or shoes … but handbags!?? No, still not obsessed!
Hope youre having a good week Sue.
Excited… but not obsessed…sounds good. Lots of snow here today. Good day to be retired and put off going into the city until another day:)
Thanks so much for writing a post about this ridiculous usage of the word "obsessed". This has been bugging me for at least a year (or whenever it was I first noticed being obsessed had become a thing in the marketing world). How sad, I say, that people invest that much energy in what I conclude to be nothing more than passing fancies. And how sad to place fashion at the pinnacle of one's purpose. Talk about "first world problems"! And thanks for pointing out that many people truly suffer with obsession – how must they feel when they read about people being obsessed with a pair of earrings or a certain shoe? Our cultural insensitivity to mental health issues is not one of our endearing qualities (and that's an understatement).
Enjoy shopping your closet!
I don't mind overstatement when it's creative and funny. But being "obsessed" with a sweater just sounds disrespectful to people who struggle with OCD.
I've noticed that when it comes to fashion blogging that much of it has been taken over by a 'younger' generation that seem to have forgotten that there is such a thing as a Thesaurus that allows them to look up something called a 'synonym' so that they don't have to constantly use that one word: AMAZING. Seems nearly every fashion blog that crosses my computer screen this year has a high usage of the word AMAZING. Hopefully the year 2018 will move them on to a newer word that they can overuse.
That's what Wendy said…that she was tired of "amazing." Time to move onto a new word… you're right.
I agree with you. Is that understated enough? My pet peeve is an older one, when bloggers overused the word "voila". My problem with it was how many people misspelled it. Oh, and the reminds me of another one. He/she is a real trouper. I'm not using hyperbole when I say it is always misspelled as "trooper".
Ha. Thanks for that. Use of trooper instead of trouper "got by me" as we say down east. Worse than a spelling error, in my opinion, but using the wrong word entirely.
Oops, you're right. It's not misspelled but misused.
This post was fun. I was inclined to say Amen, but I don’t know whether that is appropriate. Being foreign English is not my native language and I still stuggle with a lot of it. Which makes reading your text very enjoyable / entertaining.
The words I use a lot online in comments are Fabulous and Fantastic. Or Awesome. Indeed inflation of these words. It just sounds inappropriate to say “That outfit looks really nice on you”. I can hear the cry of the blogger: “NICE???! NICE??! Is that all? After all the thought I put into this? Nice is a cookie!” But we definitely created this hype.
Thanks, Greetje. I know what you mean. It's like the comments on blogs have a level of language all their own. Nice sounds like criticism. Like when our husbands ask us a question and we answer "fine" with a bit of tone, and actually mean "not fine at all."
Like Phoebe, I fight an obsession with the political situation in this country (the US) and have to force myself to stop refreshing my apps. Ugh.
As for clothes, right now it's FRIGID (and windy) and I'm focused on staying warm. But definitely not obsessed. There is definitely a lot of hyperbole out there now. Maybe it's because the written word on the internet is without emotion so that adds some? Or tries.
You're right… it's hard to express emotion using only the written word. I actually like a bit of hyperbole, when it's not overused. But it's hard to even think about the current political situation in your neck of the woods without hyperbole, these days, I guess.
Might you be a little obsessed with obsession? Love how you link ideas for your posts hugs and Hygge etc. Know what you mean about the language of the internet. Might it not also be an aspect of the way language evolves. I'm thinking of cool when it's not chilly, deadly when it's not actually lethal, mad without insanity or anger and more recently sick when it's anything but. Maybe there's a generational aspect too. And of course hyperbole suits many of the super edited and showcased lifestyles displayed in blogs and instagram accounts – present company excepted of course- phony language for a phony world. Iris
Oh… well spotted, Iris. I do get a bit hot under the collar at times about language. You should hear me when I read a blog and the writer doesn't seem to know the difference between your and you're… or maybe just doesn't proofread enough. Then I vent to Hubby and go back and proofread my own published posts just in case I missed something. I love the figurative use of language… otherwise reading gets boring. The evolution of "sick" as a positive word by kids a few years ago still makes me laugh.
Thanks for sharing. I like to be around people who inspire me to be a better me. You do that for me. I would add the phrase that irritates me – I'm in love with _______. The blank is a "thing" or "place" -not a person.
Ah, thanks, Kathy. Yep… "in love" is very different from "loving" isn't it?
I did get a bit obsessed tonight watching the Alabama senatorial election results roll in — checking and refreshing my Washington Post and NYTimes results feeds, reading and posting on Twitter and FB, etc. Yeah, that was some old-school obsession. 😉
But sometimes a girl sees something so cool happening she's just gotta obsess! Yes, tomorrow I'll have an obsession hangover but as another girl from the South is alleged to have said, "… [T]omorrow is another day." 😉
What a night! 🙂
Ann in Missouri
No wonder! Glad it turned out the way you wanted it, Ann. And thanks for my morning chuckle:)
Re: Ann's obsession–I, too, am in the US and right now I'm "obsessed" with the twitter account of Roy Moore's horse. As a Canadian now resident in the States for almost 40 years, I pine for my native land's inclination for understatement. Must be why three of my four favorite blogs are by Canadian women.
Thanks very much. Roy Moore's horse? Wow, does it post intelligent comments? Ha. Not saying anymore… she said zipping her lips shut:)
The use of therapist diagnostic language to inappropriately describe trivial concerns might originally been intended as humor, but it comes across to me at least as insensitivity. I try hard not to do it…..
I know. Sometimes it slips out but really…people use words so loosely in general.
Well,I've lost my comment :-(. Let's try again
This is an excellent post (thought-provoking?Great?Amazing!)-we need more reviews about language we use. I could,even as a non-native English speaker,understand your dissatisfaction and despair. Language is corrupt
I grew up on understatement,too. As I'm still learning and ,while whispering to my imaginary ears-"it is nice or lovely and I like it "(a very outworn verb), I will look for and write:amazing,gorgeous,marvelous,magical…..because it may seem very boring to write five time beautiful this and beautiful that
I'm not obsessed with anything
Sorry about the comment thingie Dottoressa. Thanks for persisting:) I always love your comments.
Hey Susan, thanks for this post. I don't usually come across posts like this.
Keep the posts coming!
I think that amid the din of the Internet, many people fear their understatement may come across as damning with faint praise. There is a generation of people for whom punctuation, especially periods, are the written equivalent of a knife in the back. Without voice inflections or eye contact, it is hard to know how we come across. I am not one for emojis (what if I use the wrong one?!?!) and have no idea how to generate them on my desktop computer.
As for obsessions, like Phoebe I am consumed by the political debacle that is unfolding. I also have started filtering every action and purchase through the lens of its environmental impact, and when I fail to do so am upbraided by my kid. It takes a lot of bandwidth, which I would say qualifies it as an obsession.
You’re right… when everyone is overstating, a simple positive comment comes across as criticism… almost.
Can’t believe I didn’t comment on this last time around. I am with you. I cannot abide overuse and throwaway chat about obsession and addiction. Neither are acceptable. Neither are in any way healthy. Real obsession and addiction ruin lives. And to use it in connection with buying more stuff is infantile. If you are in any way obsessed by a pair of shoes, you need to think hard about your value system. There are many more important and immediate things to consider. Like you, I am a pedant when it comes to this sort of language mis-use.
The other one I hate is the comment “ this ———- is everything.” Argggg. That one gets up my nose. 😩
One more before I get on with the day…when something has landed. And it isn’t a plane.
And when something has “dropped”… I didn’t know what that meant for a while.
It used to be that when someone asked you how you were, the correct answer (According to my mother) was , “fine thank you. And you?” She always told us people don’t really want to know about your sore throat, etc. I’m going to try a social experiment this week and do that and see how it goes. It feels that that response might seem curt or even sarcastic these days when “great, super, terrific” are the more common answers.
Try that and let me know how it works out. 😀
Amazing. Obsessed. No problem. Reaching out. Sigh. Tired of hearing those. I love your writing and musings on life, travel, family and fashion.
Oh, the old “reaching out”… so sick of that one too.
When anyone responds with Awesome and No Problem I get heart palpitations. I have embarrassed my daughter by telling a young waitress that the Grand Canyon is awesome, but the sandwich I ordered is only a sandwich.
Ha. I’ll have to remember that.
Hey Sue, I totally identify with your peeves about the language (I live it in two languages) and the overuse of psychiatric diagnoses when ordinary adjectives won’t do (living with and raising people with OCD, I know it is not a picnic). Agree with what D. A. Wolf and Anne Green and many others say as well. But you know what? It’s just not worth getting cranky about. I go to the internet to escape “real life” – mostly reading only the science news and blogs I love. So it’s easier to just be amused by all this.
But it’s so much fun to rant every now and then.
Absolutely! I should know… Complaining seems to be the Israeli national sport, and I take part in it regularly. 😉 I just meant it’s not worth getting really upset about. Keep up the lovely blog!
P. S. I keep debating whether emojis at the end of sentences come before or after the period…
Ha. Before the period I think :).
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