12.07.2010

REAL VERSUS FAKE


The discussion about real (trees, candles) versus fake (trees, candles) seems to have stirred up an existential dilemma among some of our more sensitive readers. One of our wags wrote:

"Life is so perplexing. We have to ask ourselves each day what is real and what is not - what's important and what's not. Is a real tree fake if it brings sadness because of memory, is a fake tree real if it brings joy? Is it wrong to bring a cut live tree into the home even if it is from a sustainably cultivated farm? Is it wrong to bring an artifical tree into the home even knowing a real tree didn't sacrifice its life for my own selfish joy? It's all too confusing. What's right? What's wrong? I just don't know what to do!!! I may have to skip Christmas this year. I'm so confused."

May I offer some help? As in many similar circumstances, simply ask yourself: What would Lacey Davenport do? Of course, I happen to be ensorcelled by Garry Trudeau's Doonesbury collection these days; I've just gotten to the part (I'm telling you, it's like reading Trollope's The Way We Live Now) where Ms. Davenport has entered Heaven, which I am sure she is redecorating as we speak.

I hear Lacey Davenport saying, Real versus Fake? If you have to ask, dear....

A tad Delphic. But that's Lacey. Channelling my inner Davenport, here's what I'm going with:

Fake--but great looking--candles next to wooden window frames, or on tree branches, or near anything else highly combustible. (I'll move those candles in the picture before I light them, not to worry.)


Real--simple beeswax--candles at the table, on the mantle.


Real tree branches (the cuttings from the bottoms of the trunks) in every room, massed in real vessels full of real water.

I'm going with a real tree, if Theo agrees to stick around for a few days to ogle it with me. I like the color, and the fragrance, and the irregularity of the structure. There's nothing I like better than sitting quietly, right before bedtime, gazing into the depths of real branches covered by real plastic-encased LED twinkling lights. (Made in China, no doubt. That should cheer you up, William.)

But if I were going with a fake tree, I would buy one of those sparkling platinum jobs. They're so glam! So cheery, like an adorable old aunt who can't get her lipstick and eyeliner on quite the right target, but she aims to please, and that's the only thing that matters. (David Terry, I'm sure you know the type. And her appeal. Help me out here.)

When it comes to trees, and a few other things I can think of (but not battery-operated candles), fake should never try to look real.

Perhaps the problem is semantic. The plastic is, after all, real, not fake. Must we ask, What is reality? But let's not get our knickers in a twist. Just remember: by the time real looks fake, you're in trouble....And that goes for our faces as much as our trunks. A gentle suggestion: Go easy on the pre-Holiday primping, my dear friends.

Good luck, everyone. I recommend a bit of Christmas music in the background at all times. How about, in honor of dead first marriages and eternal competitive spirituality, Carly Simon's CD, and James Taylor's recording of holiday songs?


25 comments:

Ashling said...

What determines real or fake is how you feel about it. I love a 'real' tree, but can't bear to see a tree cut down in its prime. So I reuse my artificial tree year after year....adorned in lights and glitter and memories, it sure feels real to me. At this potentially magical time of year, let's toss angst out with the old crumpled tinsel and ornaments taht broke in storage, and simply bask in the very real glow of celebration.

Pamela Terry and Edward said...

I pulled up in the driveway of a new client's home once, for our first meeting, and the windowboxes were full of plastic flowers. Really. Yes the plastic is real, but real bad.

Mary Ann said...

As you point out, the terms real and fake are the problem here. The solution, also as you imply, is to substitute criterion that matter to you. My choices at holiday time are beautiful, nostalgic, and safe.

Emom said...

Fake is perfect for commercial settings, or places that require the "look to last", like cemeteries. However, if one is not allergic to the pine sap or pollen, why not use real for the short period of time that it is up? The smell of pine means "holidays" to me.

Room Temperature said...

The whole fake/real discussion goes way beyond the holidays, with plenty of snooty self-righteousness on both sides. I know a woman who mocks the taste of people who stoop to fake trees, fake candles & fake flowers, yet her own closets are crammed with fake Coach & fake Kate Spade, and she claims to have bought "in Paris, years ago" pieces she's skimmed from donations to the hospital charity thrift shop where her best friend's mother works. There are lots of levels of "fake". At my place, I don't decorate for holidays, but there's pine under under the mahogany veneer on my Empire sofa, half my silverware is only plated & I have flame-shaped bulbs in my lamps. Why should I get snooty about somebody's plastic tree?

Best fake tree I ever saw, in the window of a cheap furniture-rental store: Coca-Cola red plastic with shiny silver Mylar needles here & there. If you're gonna go fake, you might as well go all the way.

William said...

Dominique,

Thank you...just reading "plastic-encased LED twinkling lights...Made in China" fills me with holiday cheer.

I was disturbed, however, that you seem to not be including a thermoplastic polymer (Made in China, of course) Charlie Brown Christmas Nativity Scene as part of your holiday decorations this year. The Snoopy Baby Jesus has a battery-operated (no fire hazard, we hope) twinkling nose. It's really quite adorable and on sale this week at CVS for $1.99.

William said...

I am using a fake tree this year made of all recycled components. In fact, my Christmas tree used to be a Buick.

Ronnie said...

For me it's not whether or not it's real, it's how you dispose of it. If you don't like the factory farming of firs and choose to use a "fake" tree, make sure it's a keeper. Of course, if you change plastic trees every few years and they end up rotting and leaching their nasties in a landfill somewhere, ditch that idea. Now, if you buy a sustainable "real" tree and throw it in a chipper to make usable mulch, or repurpose your tree into a natural bird feeder or rent a tree or recyle it sustainably, I say go for it.

That said, my family would only go for the "real" deal.

mary said...

I LOVE THIS POST!! I do not believe that I will ever relinquish my real tree; it may become smaller, though. I have always used the lower branches all over the house and the smell is so happy. One of my cats (now in kitty heaven) used to take his place under the Christmas tree every year as if too say: What could be better: sitting under a real tree in the warm house--THIS IS LIVING.

The Down East Dilettante said...

Okay, I thought I knew where I stood on the issue (purist), but now I'm dizzy...

Watercolor said...

I have a 3 foot tall shiny silver aluminum tree that I adore!! Nothing fake about it! :)

Lori said...

I have to say, I love the Carly/James suggestion....

Cara weston said...

I've always enjoyed the real thing, but having a tree cut doesn't quite work for me either. So, for the past few years, we've gone with a small live pine (about 3 feet high) in a beautiful glossy pot that we can enjoy and take care through all seasons. This season, it's decorated in white lights, silver glitter balls and topped with a handblown silver bird...lovely!

Lines of Beauty said...

Ha! Fabulous post!

Jessica said...

Something to add about the real versus fake - but not about trees! Last week somebody asked me what breed my two *) dogs were and I said they are the genuine Mutts.. so she answered "that's fine, my dog isn't a real one either".

Hehehe. Ofcourse I know what she meant, but she didn't add the word "breed" and I chuckled over this all the way to the car. How to explain to her lovely almost-Lab that he wasn't an authentic puppy ;-))?

*) I have two dogs that differ in everything exept being dog.. ears, nose, colour, tail, fur, but they are so sweet together that the question often is "are they brothers?", which is a nice thought in itself ofcourse, to be so different and still considered family!

david terry said...

Dear Ms. Browning,

First of all, I was just reading the New York Times, was happy to see what looked like a very useful (I'm ordering Christmas presents today) article on new gardening books....and I was midway through it before noticing that it was by you.

Have you alerted your SlowLoveLife readers to this? It's an awfully useful article, so you should do so.

you do (contrary to your statement) know at least one francophile gardener. I'm a particularly fortunate one in that I also have, in effect, actual-french gardeners. My tiny in-laws (a literature professor and a physics professor) were here for the month of October, and I've got a lovely photograph of them lying down with folded arms in raised, wooden boxes. They rebuilt all the raised beds in what I could (if I were even more pretentious) could refer to as my "potager". At one point towards the end of the project, a non-gardening friend dropped by, asked what they were doing (they were assembling the big boxes out in the back lawn, and my mother-in-law waved a hammer in greeting and yelled "We are building us coffins in case we die here. We don't want to cause extra trouble for David and Herve"....

In any case, you might want to reconsider your statement about francophile gardeners.

As for helping you out concerning "adorable old aunts"? I'm afraid I can't be of any use. My father's an only child, and my mother (who's got only one sibling, my Uncle Bobby Lee) is an orphan. My paternal great-aunts and grandmother weren't in the least bit "adorable" in that old-aunty way. Appropriately enough, their names were "James", "Ezra", "David", and "Beuren". They ran a school district, a vidalia onion packing plant, two iron foundries, and an orphanage (Only one ever bothered to get and keep a husband). All in all, not the cuddly type.

I do, still, KNOW the sort who can't quite get her make-up on right. That sort, however, would never (at least not around here) refer to the matter in that self-incriminating way....hereabouts, old ladies declare "I just can't get this lipstick to DO right...yours do you that way ever?"

Advisedly yours as ever,

David "Noel des Enfants Sage" Terry
www.davidterryart.com

P.S. I'm being told by the powers that not only be, but are also bigger than I am, that I don't get to have ANY Christmas tree this year. We'll see about this...

david terry said...

P.S.(2) Since no one else seems inclined to lift this discussion above the realm of the merely anecdotal, this Victorianist (my disturbation was on Thomas Hardy) would point you towards Oscar Wilde (just because it's Christmas doesn't oblige us to keep quoting the same old, shopworn lines from Dickens).

Apropos of your question?....

"The first duty in life is to be as artifical as possible"

----Oscar Wilde.

Resignedly yours,

David Terry

david terry said...

P.S (3) Herve just corrected me at the breakfast table. His mother's exact words were "We are building us sarcophagi in case we die here".

ALSO (FOR PAMELA TERRY): At least your client didn't ask you to HELP her in selecting new plastic flowers for her windowboxes.

Twice per year (in June and all All Saint's Day) Herve and I visit his ancient Great Aunt, Yvonne Chacellier. She spends most of her days rattling and fumbling around, along with an equally antiquated maid, in an 18th century townhouse in Argeles (above Perpignan). Each visit (at least for the past seven years) Tante Yvonnne AND the maid make us take them to the "Pompe Funebre" shop....where they make me (now that they've got their withered hands on an "Artiste") select the most colorful (folks' eyesight is fading, so we want something we can SEE), enormous (and yes...plastic) wreaths. Then, we have to drive them to the cemetery entrance, where they make a point of WALKING (this is a very-very "SlowLife" twenty minutes or more) to their respective husband's and parents' graves. That's what the wreaths are for. Both women are hitting ninety and decided, twenty or so years ago, that they can't count on getting up to the graveyard every week to change flowers. We always end up driving away with a backseat full of faded, grit-covered, plastic, used funeral wreaths. They generally get thrown into the first recylcing dumpster we come across.....which always makes the end of the day feel even tackier than the middle.

----david terry (who is, obviously, avoiding his work this morning)

Anonymous said...

I struggled for many years with a fake versus real tree. For several years I had a very well done fake green tree, purchased wholesale but still quite expensive. It never hit the mark. Then a three years ago I found a flash-trash red foil tree, small, pre-lit with sparkly red lights. It's about 4-feet tall and works well in my small space. It opened a creative door regarding ornaments, also flashy/sparkly, most of which come from India and have unique designs. I'm not fooling anyone or even trying to pass it off as something it isn't. It's red. Real trees are not red. I'm good with my choice. Last week I had to get my house decorated in time for my grandson's 2nd birthday party. Tree up and lit, decorated, and packages wrapped to match at its foot when my tot arrived. He smiled at me, ran to the tree and said, wow! At least until he turns five I think I have no dilemma here. Best wishes for a slow and loving holiday to all.

c said...

my favorite, very upbeat, xmas cd is a mix - fake and real!

Give a listen to "A Fab Four Christmas". It's a double cd, with obviously not the real Fab Four, but a tribute band.

Anonymous said...

Your delightful blog inspires delightful comments.

Jane from Ohio

Judith Ross said...

Theo! Stay home, help your mother ogle the tree!

If she's like me, she remembers sitting in the dark living room, gazing at the lighted tree and singing Christmas carols with her then three-year-old son.

His now 24-year-old younger brother still insists on an X-mas tree with all the trimmings.

Pushing the non-religious, non-Christian mother to do what's right is a dirty job, but somebody's got to do it.

And, honestly, the most "real" thing about X-mas is time at home with those you love.

Thank you for this blog and Happy Holidays!

www.talkingwriting.com

Cristina said...

great (and wise!) post. brava!!

elaine said...

Real snow, there is not decision to be made.
http://glenarborbreathingspace.typepad.com/breathing_space/2010/12/real-snow.html

Karen said...

The coffin/sarcophagi story cracks me up. Thanks for the laugh!