Carpet Watch 2005
A Personal Message from Meghan
Congratulations! You’ve clicked on the most important link in this website, Kill Your Carpet. I know what you’re thinking, “kill” is a strong word, particularly when used in conjunction with something as (apparently) innocent as carpet, which already endures so much abuse in the form of people walking all over it and children spilling powdered cherry Kool-Aid mix on it and attempting to wipe up the mess with a wet cloth. I agree that it’s both pitiful and a little obscene to devote so much time and intellectual resources to an issue like carpet when our government is grossly abusing the notion of democracy and the majority of Americans seem more interested in watching people get chin implants on television than recognizing even a fraction of the amount of trouble the world is in. But this is not a political soap box. In fact, soap has no place here. That is because this is a carpet free zone, the cyber equivalent of a hard wood floor, gleaming in the virginal splendor that can come only from a lifetime—and that’s a lot in floor-years—of Total Carpet Avoidance.
You may be wondering whether I mean this literally. The answer is yes, I do. Carpet truly does fill me with anxiety and various forms of loathing. And even though fear of carpet is not yet a diagnosable clinical disorder, I am working steadily to raise awareness of the issue. I have submitted several letters to the editors of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and, frankly, am a bit miffed at their insistence that carpet fear is merely a component of Avoidant/Narcissistic Personality Disorder (301.81-2). On the other hand, we in the carpet avoidance community view our phobia as our greatest strength. So who cares, really? Narcissists? I think not.
But as much the carpet issue hits us all where we live, it also has depth and usefulness as a metaphor—talk about bang for your buck! My essay collection My Misspent Youth includes an essay called Carpet is Mungers, which attempts to decipher how and why wall-to-wall carpet (please note that I’m not talking about rugs, which I consider largely benign) is both an aesthetic pox on the planet and a symbol of the particular existential misalignment felt by those who, like myself, wrap most of their identities around the degree to which the collective “us” must fight the misguided, middlebrow ways of the proverbial “them.”
As I wrote in the essay:
Carpet is otherness. It is not my house and not the house of ninety percent of the people I know. It’s more than just not my style, it’s not my oeuvre. . . Maxwell House is carpet. Total is carpet. All-temperature Cheer is carpet, as is commercial talk radio, dust ruffles, bright-colored clothing, pantyhose, gold jewelry and the United States Automotive Industry. Carpet is the road you congratulate yourself for never having taken. Carpet is the woman at the supermarket whom you are glad not to be. Carpet is the job you held immediately after graduation, before you realized that a career in marketing posed a severe threat to your emotional health. Carpet is the distant relatives you see only at funerals. Carpet is the high school sweetheart you would have disastrously married had you been born one generation earlier.
Are you with me? Yes? Then you’re a neurotic mess and I commend you for it. Does none of the above make sense? Then you seem like an emotionally stable person and I’m envious. If you’re still confused, indulge me while I impart this brief etymology lesson. In the 13th century medieval Latin of England, the word “carpet” connoted a “thick cloth.” By the 14th century, the meaning was refined to indicate “table cloth” (I’m not a fan of those either, but we’ll take that up another time) and by the 18th century “carpet” had become another way of saying “table.” Out of this was born that frequently used and rarely understood phrase “called on to the carpet,” which implies an invitation to place ones evidence or defense on the table for discussion. In that sense “on the carpet” really means “under consideration.”
How perfect is that?
Obviously, carpet is crying out for semantic as well as sociological inquiry. And whether we view carpet as a cultural construct or a hideous floor covering (reader, it is both) there can be no argument that the points on the carpet continuum—that tearful trail that starts with rationalizations like “only the bedroom is carpeted” and all too often ends with a Dodge minivan and a subscription to TIME—is one of the most pressing issues of our era. This goes well beyond distinctions like red states versus blue states. This is about wood versus wool, shiny versus shaggy, making do with a lightweight broom versus needing a million pound Hoover Self Propelled Wind Tunnel Bagless vacuum cleaner. This is about the acoustics of American conversation. With wood floors, that conversation echoes throughout the world. With carpet, you need a mic. And that kind of reliance on technology only hurts us.
Now more than ever, we must join forces to fight the misguided edicts of the carpeted despots that threaten our nation, or at the very least, keep hardworking American houses from rising above their circumstances and someday appearing in Dwell. I am willing to lead the charge but I can’t do it alone. If you, like millions of others, are sick and tired of carpet and just won't take it anymore, I ask that you lend your voice to this growing movement. I am working towards the formation of a Kill Your Carpet action network that will hold a protest on the National Mall or, barring that, participate in the next Burning Man Festival or, barring that, pass out flyers in front of the health food store.
Friend, will you join me?