Last year I was gob-smacked to read in a major newspaper that a young woman was profiled for “curating” the bracelets on her arm. Oh, come on. “Curating,” a word which was reserved for aesthetic considerations of the highest level, has devolved to mean “choosing?"
For one thing, that usage broadens the category exponentially, robbing it of all usefulness. Don’t we choose pretty much everything these days? Our furniture did not arrive via stork, what I wear involved rudimentary personal shopping, as did what we find on our plates. There are precious few of us who don’t make a series of daily choices, big or small. If anything, there is too much choice, a situation implied by the French phrase - un embarras de choix - but there is not much riding on most of these choices and we would never think to dignify them with the term "curation."
Just for the fun of it, let’s play reductio ad absurdum for a moment:
- Unfortunately my curated collection of single mitts cost me two fingers and a thumb last winter. Dang.
- Last night Jon critiqued my carefully curated supper. It seems that the lima bean/cooked cabbage/kiwi casserole which explored subtle vegetative greens failed to speak to his aesthetic thirst for primaries.
- We plan to go canoeing next month so I had better start curating the gear.
Actually, around here there has been a stark reduction in curation lately. I long to return to the days when changing the bed actually involved choice. In a reverse-Cinderella, our linen closet has become the pumpkin of attic access, so for the last four months, it’s been strip the bed -wash and dry the bedding-put it back on the bed. Curating the sheets -- a lost dream.
My tiny heartbreak aside, if we are going to fool around with a perfectly functional and specific word, I have a suggestion. Let’s take it away from the art world, which has allowed it to celebrate such things as a meat dress. Apply it instead to what matters. Encourage schools to help children explore and evaluate the qualities of social relationshps - true friendship, for example. In effect, teach kids to curate their souls.
Now we have a ballgame.