Yes, I confess, I hesitated quite a bit before deciding to write this chronicle, about five minutes or so. After all, I greatly value my three thousand four hundred and something dear friends, and several among them were already getting quite upset with my insistence on publicly criticizing the new fad in the Brazilian “literary” market: coloring books for “adults.” But I could not resist when one of those friends — much closer than the others, primarily due to fact that she is more conscious than average, very intelligent, and a talented writer — sent me a video mocking this popular “anti-stress activity” on YouTube (“mocking” is an understatement). Then I relaxed, and finally surrendered.
Stop being silly! Act your own age!
I hope its supporters will forgive me, but grown-up people coloring books? Come on. Any way you look at it, it sounds too ridiculous to be true!
Some still tried to convince me that it was an art form, a way to exercise creativity and with that illusion relax everyday tensions, but the video actually managed to screw it up, literally, watch and you will understand. The “thing”, which I had never seen live, was much worse than I had imagined, ranking much lower in the “intellectual” scale. And that’s what I have to say.
Even worse, they had tried hard to make me feel guilty, for meddling like that in other people’s business, and more, for acting as a superior, intellectual being, capable of reading a whole damn book without one simple illustration. For my own good, “I’d better leave people alone, give them freedom to be, allow them to do whatever they want without (my) censorship.” They nearly accomplished their goal, I almost saw myself as a horrible person, the kind who never posts pics of cats on their wall, if you know what I mean. A monster!
Between you and me, I’m not the first to be highly concerned about the infantilizing of adults who don’t even notice, convinced that they are doing their best. In the book I’m editing, for example, about ontological hermeneutics — whoa, such big words — we learn that Paul of Tarsus himself, yes, the “marketer of Christianity” — oops, sorry —, was deeply troubled by this same subject: “But after faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster,” he said (Gl. 3:25).
Believe me; it’s not very Christian to be swayed that way by the “things of men,” mainly of men who only care about making a lot of money. I was so upset that I couldn’t stop thinking about that “phonus balonus,” oh, god, what an old saying! You think? Alan informs me, out of solidarity, like a dedicated husband, that this stupid fad of coloring books is really quite old as well.
It all started in 1950 with a “craft project” called “Paint-by-Numbers”. Before I was born, imagine that, even I could understand: after years of a terrible war, the post-traumatic world was terribly in need of an effective hobby, just as today, with Islamist terrorism taking away our most cherished dreams, as seen on TV. It was loosely based on the notion that Leonardo da Vinci drew a draft on a canvas and then numbered the parts for his apprentices to fill in with paint (I had written “to paint,” but then I erased it). Don’t blame me if this story comes out as a complete fabrication, as the genius of da Vinci gives rise to so much speculation.
The motto was, “A beautiful oil painting the first time you try.”
Like all good advertisement, it struck a sensitive chord deep inside each person: everybody dreams of having certain artistic skills, and very few accept their real abilities, usually limited to tightening bolts. Or type on a keyboard. The problem was that later in time it was discovered (I just found out yesterday) that the whole fad had been fabricated. The huge line of people struggling to purchase the new product had been in fact “bought,” I mean, they had been paid to stay in line and buy a failed product, old story.
It worked. The distressed entrepreneur had invested $500, almost nothing compared to the millions he amassed, more or less like contemporary celebrities who pay people to buy their books, or write fake reviews on Amazon, or… Caramba. The world is full of these little mischievous acts of marketing geniuses, most of them originating in the United States.
When Alan told me this story he was very angry, calling you people names, “these fucking assholes,” he said, “are being victimized by the ‘hula hoop of the art world’.”
A sensitive chord had been touched in his heart, something sacred that he had never told me: “My father loved that crap! He was an idiot!”
We had never spoken of the late Daniel in such crude terms. I was shocked.
After all, the man who never was my father-in-law had died very young, of rheumatic fever complications; the only thing I knew about him is that he had been the first patient in the United States to get an “open heart” surgery; he was even in a newspaper article. Oh, and I also knew that he had come up with the idea of putting soft drinks in cans — can o’pop — but not to the point of having imagined that little ring that you pull to open it without a can opener — half-genius, if you know what I mean. Had he lived longer, he might have figured it all out. Who knows! We would be millionaires!
Yes. Alan and I are united even by the tragedy of early paternal orphanhood: I was twenty when it happened, he was only fifteen — truly traumatic events that leave a mark in one’s life. And that, in the mental endgame, has transformed us into these sarcastic, unpleasant people putting on airs. Intolerant. Unpalatable. What can we do.
And here is another confession: I’ve never felt ridiculous in any way while swaying the derrière in the middle of our street in Belo Horizonte twirling that colorful hula hoop around the waist, ufa; but I was only a child, one can easily understand. All I wanted was to keep the show running. Besides, everyone was shaking their hoops around, how could I alone have dropped the ball?
Have a nice Sunday!