End the pumpkin-spice takeover of fall!

The season isn't about pumpkin candles and cute crafts. It's a poignant reminder of our mortality

By Jessie Ann Foley
Published October 11, 2013 11:00PM (EDT)
   (<a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/gallery-210232p1.html'>Stephanie Frey</a> via <a href='http://www.shutterstock.com/'>Shutterstock</a>)
(Stephanie Frey via Shutterstock)

The other day, while scrolling through my Pinterest home page, I saw that one of my online friends had posted instructions for how to make a pumpkin sculpture out of a dryer vent. The following evening, at happy hour, I shared this observation with Katie, one of my real-life friends. She responded with the very question I’ve been asking myself for awhile now: Just when the hell did the fall season become an excuse for such rampant dorkiness?

Listen, everybody loves the sounds and smells and colors of fall. It’s a beautiful season: still warm enough to go for long walks, but chilly enough to remind us of the coming winter and, metaphorically, the relentless passing of time, the finite character of our existence and nature’s fearsome indifference to human suffering. Depressive English major types like Katie and me love that kind of stuff, which is why we object so vehemently to the beautiful bleakness of autumn being hijacked by pumpkin dryer vent sculptures and scarecrow appliqued sweatshirts.

Why is it that as soon as the leaves begin to change, people begin glutting their Facebook pages with announcements that they ate some candy corn/wore a cozy sweater/drank some apple cider/emitted a pumpkin spiced fart? It’s one thing if you have children, because children are sweet and innocent, and have neither the desire nor the wherewithal to ponder the human condition or the inexorable march of time. But you do, and if you think that wrapping yourself up in a hand-knitted scarf and sipping a caramel cappuccino will somehow cushion you from the creeping thoughts that steal into all of our hearts when the flowers begin to die, then I must politely suggest that you put down the taffy apple and try to understand that the gift of your existence is just too poignant to turn into one giant scrapbooking project.

It’s what I call the Yankee Candle-ization of America.

Because, you see, the Yankee Candle Company has practically trademarked the very idea of quaint. Their “fall collection” (who do these people think they are—Yves St. Laurent?) includes new scents like Cozy Sweater, Pumpkin Wreath, and November Rain.  This means, potentially, that a whole new generation of children will come of age associating the phrase “November Rain” with a candle, and not with the greatest nine-minute music video ever conceived, in which Axl Rose promises Stephanie Seymour to “never mind the darkness, we still can find a way.” Guns and Roses understood that nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain. But what about the rest of us?

And November Rain isn’t even the most objectionable new member of the Yankee Candle family. This ignominious honor goes to the “Turkey & Stuffing” scent. When we were younger, my dad coined a phrase for the nasty smell that emanates from the mangled remains of your turkey carcass, swaddled in plastic wrap and filling your post-Thanksgiving fridge: “Turk stunk.” If my father had known you could bottle up and distill Eau de Turk Stunk in a pretty beribboned jar and charge eighteen dollars for it, maybe he could be retired somewhere warm by now.

So here’s my challenge to all of us as we make our way through the month of October: let’s all try to quietly enjoy the pleasures of fall without making a big goddamn deal about it. Let’s drink our pumpkin spiced lattes without comment. Let’s eat our leaf-shaped cookies without putting the recipe on Pinterest. Let’s hang our kid’s hand-outline turkey drawing proudly on the fridge, without Instagramming it for all to see. And instead of filling our homes with the artificial stench of Turk Stunk, let’s go for a walk with our loved ones outside and experience the lovely and fleeting scent of real November rain.

Jessie Ann Foley

Jessie Ann Foley is a high school teacher and writer whose work has appeared in McSweeney’s, The Chicago Reader, Writer’s Digest, Sixfold, Hypertext, Great Lakes Cultural Review, and other magazines. She is a Chicago native and writes a blog, Dispatches from the Northwest Side, for Chicagonow.com.

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Autumn Candles Cuteness Fall Pumpkin Spice