2006.05.03 Can't contain her love of magnets

Written by David Green.


The unexamined life is not worth living, says Socrates, and who am I to argue with a dead philosopher?

Whenever I think I’m going overboard overanalyzing my actions, or being too self-aware, I remind myself that Socrates would approve. He’d understand the mental wrangling that led to this conclusion: it’s probably time for me to admit that the funky ceramic bread box, festively painted with bold red cherries, was not a wise purchase. The first few times I put something in it—half a loaf of bread, a few cookies, a couple of rolls—I forgot the items existed and you know what befalls the combination of forgetfulness, a warm dark environment and wheat products. Mold—big time.

I know the bread box purchase was the result of a long-standing pervasive desire to contain and conceal my clutter, but I’m not making many dents in that department. If anything, it’s clutter control chaos at my house.

Yet, I keep buying containers—big baskets, little baskets, plastic baskets, cloth bins, pottery crocks—and funky ceramic bread boxes. It’s a trend in my buying habits lately. But I’ve got bad trends busting out all over.

As I was wrapping presents for Kym Ries’ birthday last weekend, I realized that I have a serious problem with another category of merchandise—magnets. I just keep buying them—in lots of different forms and for lots of different people. I’m beginning to think I’m downright ill with this tendency. And I don’t even realize I’m doing it when I’m doing it. It’s only when I get home and examine my purchases that I start to wonder what my problem is.

It occurred to me as I was wrapping Kym’s presents that both of them were purchased at the gift shop of the Museum of Modern Art. MOMA’s store is as big an attraction as the museum itself. Loads of wonderful items at MOMA and what do I buy as a birthday present for Kym? Magnets. Cool little magnet hooks and a sheet of vibrantly colored little square magnets featuring shapes in contrasting colors, such as a pink circle on a green square.

Kym, gracious as she is, seemed delighted with the presents, even as I bemoaned my sickness for magnet purchasing.

“All the magnets on my fridge are from you,” she said.

Oh, no! For shame! I’m giving her the same old present over and over, just a variation on a theme!

My overloaded refrigerator door is testament to the fact that I love magnets in all their incarnations. In addition to the usual business card magnets and powerful magnets whose sole purpose is the serviceable act of attaching recipes, photos, aprons, postcards, etc. to the fridge, we have a large magnet of Michelangelo’s Statue of David, complete with clothing and accessories to dress his naked body, and in a similar motif, a framed Mona Lisa with accessory magnets to give her a head of curlers, for example.

And then there are the magnetic photo frames in a variety of styles, magnets of eyes, noses and mouths to alter the facial features of people in photographs, and Fractured Phrases magnets that allow you to mix up popular sayings into new ones: “Dead men make good neighbors.” “Good fences tell no tales.”

I’m also a big supporter of Magnetic Poetry Kits (word magnets that come in a variety of themes) but we have so much other stuff on the fridge we don’t use them very often. I like to give them as presents—just ask Kym.

One of my favorites is Magnetic Poetry Mixed Up Country Songs. This kit provides words and phrases from real country songs which are mixed to create new ones.

“If the phone don’t ring you’ll know it’s me” can be used to make “If you’re my wife I’m kissing the phone,” and “If the phone don’t ring here’s a quarter. Call someone.”

“I keep forgetting about you until I get your biscuits.”

“I’m so miserable I don’t know whether to kill myself or go bowling.”

Yes, a life without magnets is a life not worth living.

Who could argue with that?

– May 3, 2006
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