"ASPIRATIONAL ENVY"

I had to laugh when I read this NY TImes article about Kinfolk Magazine last week.

A quotation that gave me pause and cracked me up:

"Like Martha Stewart Living in its ’90s heyday, the magazine seems to be eliciting a brew of both keen hatred and aspirational envy."

I can't help but agree. A part of me loves to hate on it. Sometimes it's all a blur of crown braids and flannel and impractically styled vintage props; ill-disguised advertising for various "handmade" or "craft" pieces; and essays that all seem to say the same thing: less is more, but only if your less is made of beautiful and expensive things that are unrealistic for much of our nation or even regular subscribers to the magazine.

But when a friend of mine finishes up his issue, he always offers to pass it on to me, and damned if I don't always say yes.

Because I also love it. I'm obsessed, really.

How do they pull it off? I always wonder, as I flip through the pages of gorgeous photography, drooling over the very expensive curated collections of table linens and handmade ceramics in perfectly light-washed rooms or fairy-like backyards.

When I finish reading an issue, I'm usually thinking something like,

I've really got to get my hands on that gray and white striped linen tea towel. That's what will really take my bread-making to the next level.

or

That girl's got it goin' on with her oxfords and linen dress riding her vintage bicycle down that cobblestone lane precariously delivering those three elderberry pies in her wooden front basket. I'd sure like to be doing that!

and then I think, wait, what just happened in my brain? That's not real! "Aspirational envy."

When I stop and think, it's weird of me to aspire to have an abundance of spending money and more free time in order to curate and construct social scenes instead of, oh, I don't know, just baking bread with a friend because it's delicious and bond-forming, and serving it on an Instagram-unworthy, beat-up cutting board while wearing the same stained apron I've had since 7th grade that features lady bugs and says "These pesticides have polka dots" in puffy paint.

But easy as it is to mock, I see the beauty in where they're going. I do. I appreciate their efforts to support small-scale artisans, chefs, and crafters. Many of them represent my generation's creatives. I appreciate the slow-food sentiment of more time spent enjoying meals with friends. It's just hard to believe there aren't publications that don't do that in a more meaningful and less affected way.

Here's a great satirical video mentioned in the NYT article starring actress Lizzy Caplan in all her glory that more or less sums up what I mean by "affected."

Then again, I suppose if Kinfolk were less contrived it might not have as much eye candy or elegant design. And, I think, much like Martha Stewart Living, it's their carefully designed and marketed brand more than their actual message that keeps us wanting more.

If anyone knows of publications out there that combine truly great, honest, and exploratory writing with great design, I'd love to hear about them!

Meanwhile, I'll be pretending I'm not anticipating Kinfolk's next flawlessly designed issue.