These past few weeks, every media outlet on the Internet, from Vogue to CNN, has been commemorating the hottest trends of 2012: donating to Kony 2012, taking placenta pills, wearing peplums, compulsively watching the Weather Channel. The lists go on and on.
But what will we all become obsessed with in 2013? No matter the fad, the following offers a template for novice style writers who want to get started on their coverage of The Next Big Thing.
AM I crazy or is everybody suddenly doing this thing? Some say it started among teenagers in Tokyo, some insist the fashion crowd brought it back from Paris, and others call it a homegrown Big Apple phenomenon. “Wherever it came from,” says Denise Carleton, 38, a publicist in Park Slope, “when you walk into a coffee bar in Brooklyn it’s happening at every table, and it’s not just the kids.”
Looking around the living room one Sunday evening, it dawned on me that it was trending in my own apartment. Moving quickly through denial, I went right to the bargaining phase: what if everybody agreed to stop doing it for, say, a week? The hue and cry! You’d think I’d just suggested giving up our high-speed wireless.
My teenage daughters told me that I didn’t get it; their entire popularity-rating index was grounded in this thing. Not to do it would make them look like retrograde losers. They might as well wear gunnysack dresses and those puffy hairdos from “Big Love.”
Sales of accessories have increased exponentially since Justin Bieber was videotaped by someone’s smartphone doing the thing backstage. Gretchen Mol confessed her secret love for the thing to Jon Stewart, who, needless to say, disapproved. Michelle Obama deflected a question about whether her daughters were doing it, saying they “aren’t there yet.”
The West Coast has its own version of the thing, according to the life coach Donna de Marco, 34, of Venice Beach, Calif.: “It’s a little more industry-based, a little more spiritually enlightened, but otherwise it’s the same thing.”
But has it traveled from the coasts to the heartland? I called up the only person I know west of Bucks County, Pa., my old Yale roommate Angela Matz, 41, a professor at Oberlin: “Of course it’s happening here. Living in a college town, the students import whatever’s happening from the coasts. But it’s more of a seasonal thing. After all, it gets cold here.”
Some have found the thing, well, addictive. In a desperate attempt to get it under control, Rebecca Marlin, 28, a set designer, meets weekly with an intergenerational group in a church basement in Chelsea. “We have the bad coffee and the folding chairs and we’re pretty close to a 12-step program. It’s not easy to stop doing the thing that everybody else is doing!”
Still others refuse to believe the thing is a thing at all. “Just because some style reporter has to fill column inches doesn’t mean it’s a thing,” sniffs a skeptical Tina Dupuis, 42, a Random House editor.
So is this thing a passing fad or is it here to stay? According to Timothy Turner, 36, an associate professor in cultural studies at New York University, “There’s always been some version of this thing; this is just its latest iteration. Things change according to cultural norms and cultural norms are always changing.” He recently gave a paper at the Modern Language Association entitled, “Is This Thing the New Normal?” Spoiler alert: it is.
But what if you’re completely lame at doing it? What if you’re in that slightly older demographic that mastered Napster, the Macarena and The Facebook but find this a bridge too far?
Not to fear: coaches and private studios are popping up all over Manhattan to offer remedial classes. Megan Delahunty, 29, who runs a Greenwich Village studio named Thingamajig, says: “Look, you’re not going to have the same kind of facility as those who don’t remember Ross and Rachel. Don’t just throw up your hands. Do something about it.”
But what will Ms. Delahunty, whose classes run $300 an hour, do once everybody’s learned how to do it? She shrugged blithely as she disappeared into the office with her next client, a 40-ish investment banker dressed in head-to-toe Prada: “They can learn how to do it better. And besides, there’s always the next big thing.”
Wendy MacLeod is the playwright-in-residence at Kenyon College and the author of the play “The House of Yes.”