As Requested: An Ode to Taste

80px-Dame_Edna_(6959717624)De gustibus non est disputandum. And still, it is a subject we always return to. Taste is something we all know, but define differently. It is a mark of sophistication, of class – or not.

Taste is also illusive, en aesthetic mind is something that takes a lifetime to develop, and it needs cultivating. Maybe this is why rich Americans spend fortunes on stylists and interior decorators – they have the money to spend on the style they have no training to develop.

In European tradition, which of course means American too since they have very little tradition of their own, ( ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) there are two main schools of aesthetics – the Greek and the Roman. I could give a lengthy lecture on this, but suffice it to say that Greek ideals claimed there’s nothing better to spend your money on than an understatement, while the Romans chose the opposite view – if you’ve got it flaunt it. With a few exceptions, mainly to do with court culture, European ideals have ever since the fall of the Roman Empire been very Greek – less is more, an educated eye detects quality – not quantity. America on the other hand have adopted Roman ideals, which can be seen in public architecture as well as in patriotic rhetorics and in general taste.

This has lead to Americans and Europeans (mostly) friendly habit of bantering over each other’s taste and ideals. Englishmen often find Americans loud and outspoken, while Americans find Brits to be stiff and old fashioned.

I was taught early that anything ostentatious is bad taste. Anything loud is bad taste. Anything gaudy is to be avoided like cholera. Because a lady is rather seen dead than showing a lack of taste. This is never said openly of course, it is just a part of our schooling. It’s silent knowledge. And if you don’t know it, it just shows a lack of education.

I know this sounds awfully arrogant. I would never have expressed myself like this ordinarily, but I’m trying my best to comply with the request of a valued contributor here, who said I have to speak candidly and clearly for him to understand since all this is unknown to him.

So, does it take money to have good taste? Of course not.

If you buy false Gucci-bags it proves you have no money and no taste. If you buy real Gucci-bags it shows you have money, but no taste. If you have taste but no money, you buy good quality second hand or plain IKEA, without pretending it’s anything else. If you have real money and taste, you buy quality with no visible label.

So dear Saad, if you have ever seen a program like The Real Housewives of Bevery Hills, I can tell you that those people seem just as vulgar and strange to me as they probably are to you. Tv-shows like Jerry Springer or Baywatch make me cringe, and I find the language in e.g. rap-music just as offensive as you probably do. But not because I am morally outraged, I’m just aesthetically gobsmacked.

If you’ve got it flaunt it appears just as vulgar to me if it’s a millionaire wearing diamond studded watches as if it’s young people wearing hotpants and bras only. American vulgar culture, as opposed of course to all parts of American culture that are not in poor taste, focusing on flaunting whatever you have hence to me is simply a statement of poor taste.ย Errors of taste are very often the outward sign of a deep fault of sensibility. ๐Ÿ™‚

The above stated is of course a prejudiced generalization, I admit it willingly.ย 

There’s a reason why de gustibus non est disputandum became a quote known by all ๐Ÿ™‚


23 thoughts on “As Requested: An Ode to Taste

  1. @unchained Is it you Ana’s talking about now? The person who has “defected”? :0 Has she been in contact with you? I hope you’re ok. โค

  2. // focusing on flaunting whatever you have hence to me is simply a statement of poor taste.//
    in our eastern culture flaunting our private parts is considered shamelessness. in western culture does shame have same meaning Fiona? (between you are right i know very little about your culture, that’s why i ask you to tell me.)

    if nudity is just considered aesthetically poor do you have laws against it? if yes than it is no more a matter of aesthetic reception or poor taste.

  3. I believe shame to me means something else. What is shameful of course is defined by culture. Would I consider it shameful to walk around naked? No, I think I’d consider it eccentric. ๐Ÿ™‚ I wouldn’t be outraged. It used to be against the law, but it isn’t any more. I believe in the US it is. But then again, in the US there are states where you need to be 21 to go to a stripjoint, while you can buy a machine gun at 16…I saw a couple of young women the other day walking around with shaved heads, bomber jackets with Union Jacks and swastikas – that I do consider shameful. To me, there is no shame in the bodies we have been given. There is however shame in hateful, hurtful behaviour. I believe mankind would do better if we redefined shame. You ask very good questions Saad! Thank you. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. //What is shameful of course is defined by culture. //

    Well maybe. i think religion transcend cultures otherwise Kamasutra (a widely appreciated ancient text on sexual behaviour) was written in India by Vatsyayana, but modern day India is not as advance as west.

  5. Is eating with your left hand shameful? Putting your parents in a home for the elderly? Choosing a seat next to a stranger on the bus, even though other seats are free? Leaving food on your plate? Dancing? It’s interesting really, how we invent shame…

  6. This really made me laugh, Fiona ๐Ÿ™‚ Oh I know so well where you’re coming from. Some of the things you write here could have come straight from my gran’s mouth! And I’m American.. It is very difficult to define good taste, some kids have it and some kids aint… This was really thought provoking, I may have to return later.

  7. there is so much diversity Fiona. one thing that is acceptable in one culture may not be in other cultures.
    Every rising civilization has its impact on world. people try to conform to the standard of most advanced civilization of their time. I think it even effects our standard of beauty. Right now western civilization is setting standards for the rest of the world. In future chinese civilization may effect us in same way and ideals that world believes in right now are subject to change.

  8. Yep it’s me and no she hasn’t contacted me at all. I never use the email address I had for her blog anyway so if she did contact me I’d have no way of knowing. I forgot the password to that email LOL! I’m fine.

  9. Interesting thoughts. I feel taste and shame has a lot to do with upbringing and varies quite a bit even within a country. For example, I am a Midwestern American. When I go to a friend’s home, I immediately remove my shoes. It would be rude not to do so. I have family in the southern states who find that practice very odd and keep their shoes on while visiting.

    Shows like Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and Jerry Springer are vulgar to many Americans too. They are also scripted. “Reality TV” is as real as a soap opera. It is just a different genre.

    For the record, you have to be 18 to go to a strip club but 21 to go into a strip club that serves alcohol. You have to be 18 to buy a rifle or shotgun and 21 to purchase a handgun. You cannot purchase a machine gun but many argue there is not much difference between a machine gun and a semi automatic pistol but that is an entirely different topic.

    Hope you are enjoying vacation with your family Fiona!

  10. You know, from her actions, I wouldn’t put it past her to write threatening e-mails. I have thought to myself now and then that some of the mails I receive might be from her ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Maybe just as well that you’ve forgotten your password! โค Take care, F

  11. Hi Dexter! Thanks for the info – there you go, just shows how prejudiced I am when it comes to America ๐Ÿ˜€ Actually, I love the US. Yosemite is one of my favourite spots on earth. It is a bit strange though to find yourself in a country so similar, and yet so different. Two nations, divided by a common language ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. Unchained, Welcome to the club! That woman treats her blog followers like cult members and she behaves exactly like a cult leader ie Get rid of people who disagree or who communicate with outsiders especially the critics of the polygamy411 cult.

  13. Hey Fiona! I admire that you added the footnote in bold text about prejudiced generalizations. Well, How have you been. How’s little Tamsin doing

  14. Saad,
    I think in our cultures the shamelessness that you mentioned is mainly or only for women. I was thinking about the video you shared of a discussion about hijab. The studio guests, two men were sitting with their legs wide open. Clearly that may not considered shamelessness because it was ok for them to sit like that on a TV show. Why
    I always see this talk of men women bodies being different and that being the reason for more coverage for women for modesty purpose. That can be true for upper body but it’s also true that men’s private parts are more conspicuous when men wearing trousers are sitting with legs wide open. It may not be as pretty a sight as breasts or cleavage (believe me that too is considered a bad taste and shamelessness in west but people respect women’s rights on their bodies). Ok so men displaying their crotches is shameless by both your stated standard as well as aesthetically. For se reason Western men seem to do better taking care of their j**k in public than Pakistani/Indian men acting oblivious of unaware of how unsightly it is sometimes and the public scratching just makes it even worse. The main reason is that they don’t associate shame with male body parts. I never understood why men especially middle aged men in our culture feel its ok to walk around in their underwear in summer around the house and even in the front yards! using the excuse that it’s too hot! Is it hot only for men! Women even after fully covered in burka or salwar kamiz are expected to sit with their legs close together or crossed. I understand crossing legs can be a need when wearing short skirts but same should be true for men wearing loose shorts. I think in west also expectations are same from women maybe more in UK the sitting like a lady thing. Many people here in US are moving away from trends like pink and sparky clothes for girls and are criticizing sexulization of women and even little girls, marketing of sexy dolls,tiny swimwears, etc. I see its more common in US for many women to have a closer body language to men. Many people from our culture will blame US women to be shameless, trying to act like men etc. Basically my point was about your statement that shame in eastern culture is associated with private parts. I disagree, it’s associated with women’s bodies mainly otherwise you wouldn’t see men knowingly/unknowingly displaying their ju*k, scratching, urinating in public

  15. When I talk about women in US I am referring to women I am friends with, ex roommates, young students, middle age women who volunteer with us, those I see in parks, grocery shops, public places. I am not referring to the American women who appear on tv and movies because they are as good a representatives of US women as Indian and Pakistani celebrity women are of our common women. Not even 1 percent of indian women dress like women shown in bollywood movies. Both traditional and modern looks in movies are extreme. No traditional indian women wear kilos of jewelry and heavy make up, dresses and no modern women wear what likes of Deepika Padukon and Kareena kapoors wear. Same is true for US. Most people in US are equally tuned off by people stories on Jerry springer even if scripted and by likes of Kardeshians an all the plastic faces, botoxed lips and unnatural bodies. Our celebrities are doing same and wen worse that no person especially women with darker skin can become sad famous as western looking light skinned Aishwaryas and Kareenas. The first comment that many women from my inlaws side made was about my relatively light skin which they associate with beauty and none of those women ever complemented my Ph D which is a real achievement. That to me is indicative of bad taste that our culture promotes.

  16. //That can be true for upper body but itโ€™s also true that menโ€™s private parts are more conspicuous when men wearing trousers are sitting with legs wide open. //
    i never disputed that.
    between displaying or scratching crotches is shameful too. if we talk about culture than trousers are not part of our cultural dress. it is shalwar kameez. Anyways it looks bad when somebody do that Yack.

    // Basically my point was about your statement that shame in eastern culture is associated with private parts. I disagree, itโ€™s associated with womenโ€™s bodies//
    that’s true onus of shame is more on women in “eastern cultures”.

    //The first comment that many women from my inlaws side made was about my relatively light skin which they associate with beauty and none of those women ever complemented my Ph D which is a real achievement. That to me is indicative of bad taste that our culture promotes.//

    i understand what you want to say laila. it is really sad. we inherit dark skin, light skin, good looks, average looks and it is really no achievement. As far as fairness associated with beauty is concerned it is because of social conditioning as well as ruling civilization is of caucasian whites and we are colonized mentally.

  17. Yes, I posted or tried to post with different screen names and my messages were never posted. It was mainly advice to people asking questions and you can guess how close my advice can be to the advice given by Ana, Ummof4 and company

  18. between their is nothing wrong if people are attracted towards fair complexion. but our looks should not define our worth as human beings.

    i think every rising civilization effect thinking of people and it even defines our sense of beauty. and ‘IF’ that is true, with rise of East Asians(Japenese/chinese), Men will catch ‘yellow fever’. (and please i am not hurling a racial slur, i respect east asians as much as i respect ever other group of people).

  19. Ouch. I figured it was you that got the boot. Since you aren’t there to defend yourself now the claws have sharpened and your character is being raked through the mud with the issue of not having been given talaq. Now Ana’s spreading sht that you didn’t pursue that option just to knock boots and she’s got Miss Anti-Pakistan believing that too. So at first it was a “brave unchained for leaving her husband” then “she was never *really* a muslim so no wonder this happened” and now to “her husband never really loved her, only #2. Weird how they didn’t get divorced religiously, CLEARLY they are screwing when he visits.”
    So…it’s inappropriate to even think about the man you married screwing someone else but it’s totally okay to speculate and spread baseless rumors about someone else because you don’t like them…okay…. Even if you were, so what? But I really doubt Ana is privy to the details of your sex life anyway…

  20. We did the do 7 ways from Sunday when he visited ๐Ÿ˜€ And the talaq not being given had absolutely zip to do with it. I’m picturing M having this moral dilemma about getting in bed with me, questioning whether it’s permissible or not, and laughing myself silly, I gotta say. Even if there had been talaq, it wouldn’t change a thing. He couldn’t care less.

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