Thursday, March 10, 2011

Faux Flowers Tacky? Says Who (and Why Do Their Opinions Matter)?

Browse a number of wedding forums and it quickly becomes apparent that one topic that just will not go away is the question of whether artificial flowers are tacky. The consensus is capricious.

We know the arguments each way, so I won't rehash them here. What I'd like to address instead is the spirit behind those impassioned arguments. It's the same spirit found behind arguments about the best band, the best cola, and the best fusion restaurant, and it's ridiculous.

Other people don't have to share your tastes.

Again, other people don't have to share your tastes. And you don't have to share theirs.

At some point in school (when I attended, it was the second grade), we learned the difference between opinion and fact. How soon we forget that difference. More importantly, how soon we forget that when it comes to matters of taste, other people's opinions just don't matter.

And neither do ours.

When do opinions matter? When can stupid opinions actually lead to harm? When those opinions allow us to justify cruelty to others. We might find certain political moves morally reprehensible. We might flinch at certain religious rhetoric. And we might find ourselves belittling those who disagree with us in matters of politics, religion, or - flowers.

When opinions matter, we feel morally compelled to share them. Well, many people do. I do. And I don't think there is anything wrong with that; in fact, I believe sharing important opinions and the reasons we hold them is vitally important. One of my strongly held opinions is that attaching negative labels to things that are simply not to our taste is just mean. Using a bad name doesn't cease to be name calling just because the name is attached to a person's expression of self rather than a person's whole self.

Tacky is a word I reserve for things that are inconsiderate, things that reflect bad manners. By that definition, artificial flowers are not tacky. I certainly can't make anyone agree with my definition, and I can't make anyone stop using the word to belittle the stylistic choices of others. But I feel compelled to try.

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