That morning with M, it became obvious idiosyncrasies are no longer a selling point. No surprise to her but I found it rather sad. Personal powers of imagination have been packed away. Professionals have been brought in. “Duh,” M didn’t say, though I could tell she was thinking it, as she explained to her friend who has been living under a rock that agents often convince sellers to pay anywhere between $3000 and $12,000 for a stylist. The stylist‘s job, like someone cleaning up a murder scene, is essentially to remove any traces of your real identity and replace it with a neutral-toned fantasy lifestyle. Late Anodyne Modern, at the lower end. High Gaggenau at the other. Just like everyone else’s.
“But what about all your own stuff? What happens to it?” I said.
“Storage,” M said. After that, the owners just have to remember to punch the cushions the right way, pile on the throws and pick the leaves off the gravel when inspection time rolls around. All that’s missing is one of those perpetually serene, cashmere-clad couples who live in designer catalogues and spend their days smiling knowingly at each other over steaming cups of coffee, legs tucked up on modular lounges, or drifting thoughtfully through immaculate kitchens, dressed in white and never messing the bench space by actually cooking. Stylists are probably hoping they’ll soon be available in bot-form.
It was kind of a relief to see that the stylist in one of the houses had hung four identical picture frames in a row, right above the driftwood arrangement, but forgotten to take out one of the dummy backing sheets and replace it with an actual picture. I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean to leave the Target logo on display but it was strangely comforting. A flaw in the glass. A sign of a human hand. (Although I do hope that person wasn’t paying $12,000 for Target styling).