Description Seduction

If you are a lover of words as I am, you may find yourself a willing victim of description seduction. I say this because I have been utterly gobstruck by descriptions such as these:

  • “One-of-a-kind luminous and lustrous sunrise-pink baroque pearl, set in a glimmering platinum band ring, engraved with Art Deco scrollwork”
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald, in his book “Crack Up,” describes the stars as “silver pepper”
  • “The dying sunset streaks across the horizon in fingerpaintings of purple, pink, peach and gold”

Seductive descriptions are standard in the food world, too. Have you ever been to a restaurant where the menu reads like poetry? The offerings sound so incredibly wonderful, so unique, so delicious, so–well, seductive?

Someone very dear to me recently had this experience at a good restaurant near the coast; there was a scrumptious Caesar salad on the menu that sounded amazing. Along with the usual Caesar salad ingredients, the menu described it as having “homemade black pepper croutons.” The restaurant is known for its fabulous homemade bread, so of course, why wouldn’t their Caesar salad have homemade croutons? Black pepper, no less!

The salad arrived in all its garlicky glory–and studded with prepackaged croutons. This obvious (and disappointing) discrepancy was brought to the attention of the waiter and the manager, and both gave a lackluster “I’m sorry” as a reason/excuse. REALLY?!? That’s supposed to make up for phony-baloney croutons?? The person who told me about this left a clear message about how disappointing the whole Caesar salad episode was by leaving the aforementioned croutons on the plate like a jailhouse line-up.

This is only one example of description seduction. Another is when you hear about a new book by an heretofore unknown author that promises “Action!” “Intrigue!” “Amazing plot!” “A story that rings true throughout all time!” “A book for the ages!” so you pick it up at the bookstore (naturally, you can’t wait for the paperback, so you spring for the hard cover copy). You have already poured yourself a glass of the good wine (the one you save for births, weddings, and getting 80% off on a pair of designer shoes), you’re in your comfy chair, dinner has been served, eaten and the dishes put away–in short, it’s your time to enjoy this fabulous epic.

Thirty-five pages in, and you see it for what it really is–a real stinker. The plot is weak, the protagonist is a self-serving idiot, and the plot twists are so tangled that they simply poop out before the story even gets off the ground. It’s so terrible that you do the unthinkable: you skip to the last chapter before finishing the book. (I know, I know–it’s just the worst thing anyone can do–I’m so sorry I had to say it here.) And, no big surprise for you–it still “stinks on ice,” as my grandmother used to say. A big fat waste of money, wine and time.

Or how about the last time you applied for and got what you were sure was an amazing job? The description sounded right: “Assistant to Company President; duties are accompanying the president to all company locations, managing the president’s schedule, organizing the president’s files and books, and keeping on top of the president’s emails.”

But no. The second you’re hired, you are given a badge with a terrible picture of yourself on it, a handbook of company policies and procedures (which you later find out that no one ever reads or even pays attention to), and a desk and chair right outside the presidents oak-paneled door. You start work doing these things:

  1. You get a copy of the president’s schedule, which turns out to be so out-of-date as to be absolutely useless, plus the fact he keeps his real schedule to himself. You later find out that most “lunch meetings” are actually trips to bars, strip clubs and the occasional massage.
  2. You keep the president’s files and books all right; you just have to make sure that you don’t mix up the real books with the cooked books.
  3. As for keeping track of the president’s emails, that’s easy—he never reads them. Ever. Most of his computer is dedicated to Facebook, golf scores, NBA basketball schedules (he has season tickets), and a few porn sites.
  4. As for accompanying the president in his travels to different company locations? While the latest company brochure boasts of locations in Maui, Shang-Hai, Mumbai, Belize and Tahiti, those locations have been closed for months. Everything is now in Cleveland, OH, Fargo, N. Dakota, Temple, ME, and Blue Ball, PA. Furthermore, it turns out that the president doesn’t like any of those locations, and will send you instead while he relaxes in Miami, FL.

Then, talk about getting seduced by description, there are dating websites. You could be looking at a photo that’s a dead ringer for George Clooney, stating his interests in base-jumping, surfing, jazz piano, saving the whales and cooking healthy and delicious meals for the homeless every Sunday. When you agree to meet, you find yourself face-to-face at Denny’s with *Mortimer Snerd with an inhaler in his breast pocket, Kleenexes clutched in one bony fist, a ring of dandruff on the lapels of his blue WalMart suit, and a pronounced overbite. The first thing he asks is if you mind splitting the check. Fabulous.

So, if any of this applies to you, please don’t feel bad. We’ve all had those weak moments, and have fallen from grace (which is a lot like walking home in the morning, wearing the same clothes you had on last night, and with your panties in your purse). Damn those seductive descriptions and phrases!

*One of Edgar Bergen’s famous puppets.



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