Sunday, January 6, 2013

Miami is a Holdout

The Online Etymology Dictionary tells me that the expression lifestyle or life-style had its origin in the writings of the psychologist Alfred Adler (1870-1937) but that its current usage dates from 1961. My own memories more or less resonate with that. When I still labored in the economy, I didn’t watch the culture except now and then. Distracted. But the sixties left a definite mark. At some point along the way after that era, style freed itself of life- and began to have a life of its own as (for Brigitte and me) a synonym for decadence across the board. Today being Sunday, the New York Times’ Sunday Styles section (the paper also has a Thursday Styles section) again reminded me of this interesting emergence.

Style is rooted in the Greek stylos, pillar. You can see it, of course, a kind of big, thick, rounded stick. In Latin usage it became stilus, a stake, a writing instrument, hence a mode of writing. All of us budding writers in the 1950s hoped that we’d develop a style uniquely our own. As the baby boom exploded it became every kind of individualized mode of anything, lifestyle. Then it shouldered aside fashion, came to mean clothing worn for ego-boo, and now embraces everything so long as it is sufficiently decadent.

I made a quick check to see if the NYT was alone. No—but with variants. The Washington Post has Style. Looking to the other coast, I see that the San Francisco Chronicle is right in line. Style section. The Los Angeles Times has a section it calls Image, but it features the same content, and in its magazine it has LA Style. Looking north I see that the Minneapolis Star and Tribute has a Lifestyle section and a Style subsection. In the middle, the Chicago Tribune is conformist but the Kansas City Star is a step behind; it only has a Lifestyle section. Looking south, I see the Houston Chronicle holding up the style-flag too. The holdout is the Miami Herald. It staunchly maintains an old-fashioned subsection called Fashion & Beauty; signs of infection, however, are present. Within that section the paper maintains a Style Calendar where it tracks how fashions change.

Just shy of a year ago we got to know Florida and learned that it was really something else. Much like California, it is a genuine country with vastly different regions. And if you are just a person in a car, trying to get through Miami, you get the full sense of that vast city’s overwhelm. It is not so easily moved with the times—especially when you need to ask directions in a neighborhood where nobody seems to speak English. But I had once coped in Spain, and therefore I coped in South Miami too.

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