It began innocently enough.
I noticed a man wearing leather suspenders. A professional guy, wearing them at work.
Is this a thing? A fashion trend that I have missed? It would not have been the first.
Perhaps it’s an individual statement. But what was it saying?
And where does one find such sartorial splendor?
So, like anyone with a question these days, I turned to Google.
Hitting enter prompted a brief moment of panic with the thought that I am doing this on my work computer and the hope that I don’t end up with a list of let’s just say creatively recreational sites.
I clicked on the “Suspender Store” link (suspenderstore.com) and found an extensive and impressive collection of suspenders for sale.
This is how I’ve become haunted by suspenders.
The man in the ad, a debonair yet rugged fellow wearing a smart pair of leather suspenders and a quasi-cowboy hat follows me across the Internet.
I search for recipes for quinoa (does anyone really know what to do with it?) and he’s there. The New York Times, the Washington Post, and many others. He’s in the corner, leaning against the porch rail, lasso rope in hand.
He even made a cameo as I tried to find the obituary of a friend’s relative. There he was, offering suspenders of condolence.
This man — not smiling but not smiling in that man model way — has been sporting his suspenders of ubiquity across my online life for days.
I tried to shake him, my suspender man. I googled “beets.” Nothing. Nary a root vegetable ad has appeared.
A friend suggested I try “deluxe mouse couches” — and I ended up with furniture shaped in the silhouette of Mickey and Minnie. I was hoping to find love seats for tiny rodents, but no luck. Maybe there’s an untapped market there. Ummmm ... probably not.
Is this what we’ve become? Show a passing interest in something, just a question, really, and it’s stuck to you like digital glue?
Our online selves have the potential to be nothing like us in real life — part of the allure, I suppose. We can “be” whoever we want to imagine ourselves in some ways, but in others we’re increasingly defined by the choices we make, or that are made for us by some magical computer brain.
I wonder how long suspenders man and I will be together. Until he — well, his algorithmic overlords — realizes that I am never going to be a customer. Perhaps it’s the childhood memory of being smacked in the face with the little metal part you clip on to your waistband — three words: Mork from Ork — or maybe it’s a lack of imagination when it comes to accessories today. But I’m not going to buy them.
Suspenders man is part of a larger phenomenon — how easy it is to create these landscapes of what we see, based on what we have already seen.
It’s a tomato soup and toasted cheese existence — my favorite lunch, consumed with remarkable consistency as a child. I know its gooey goodness, its familiarity. I know it will make me feel content because it has hundreds, if not thousands, of times before.
Contentment has its place. But it’s not a challenge. It’s not a thrill. It’s safe. There’s no way to be surprised or expand ourselves with words, art, music, food, experiences we don’t already know. What a limited existence.
I hope suspenders man finds a new person to follow. I wish him well. But no matter how often he appears, I will not succumb to his elasticized charms.
Predigested life is no way to live.