Monday, June 16, 2014

Apex Hides the Hurt

I'm going to start this post with a rather lengthy quote from the book Apex Hides the Hurt, by Colson Whitehead (2006).  Go with me.  The narrator is a nomenclature expert--he names products for marketing projects.  Interspersed throughout the first third of the book is the story of Apex:

The number-six adhesive bandage in the country wanted to recreate itself as the number-two adhesive bandage in the country.  There was no use trying to overtake Band-Aid, the number-one adhesive bandage.  Band-Aid had recognition and fidelity across generations and generations.  Generations and generations of accidents and the scars to remind people of what Band-Aids had helped them through.  The name was the thing itself, and that was Holy Grail territory.  But you could try to catch up with that, become number two, by claiming a certain percentage of future accidents as your own.  So men schemed....

And here he tried to re-create the consultant's pitch for his listeners.  The man walked around the conference room table, provoking the good men in their good suits to reconsider the basic laws of their profession.  Band-Aids are flesh colored, the man said.  Most adhesive bandages are flesh-colored.  Are advertised as such.  And it did not occur to anyone to ask, whose flesh is this?  It ain't mine, and with that the man pulls back one sleeve to reveal his wrist, and the skin is there....

They devised thirty hues originally, later knocked them down to twenty after research determined a zone of comfort.  It didn't have to be perfect, just not too insulting.  What they wanted was not perfect camouflage but something that would not add insult to injury....

It was easy.  Apex.

He had been saving it for awhile.  It had come to him in a dream that everything was Apex.

Of course the summit, human achievement, the best of civilization, and of course something you could tumble off of, fall fast.

Was: waterproof, flexible, multicultural, recommended by four out of five doctors in a highly selective survey.

Apex was a name you could rely on....

He saw the first ads for Apex.  They said Apex Hides the Hurt, and he said, of course it does.

(Excerpts from pages 87-101)

I love this metaphor.  "They said Apex Hides the Hurt, and he said, of course it does."  This metaphor is beautiful and works on many different levels.

But I'm going to take it in a different direction in the interest of writing.  This is the second time I'm going to ask you to go with me during this post.

Apex hides the hurt to cover a wound, and, of course the hurt is a literal cut and a metaphorical racial comment about flesh-color.  Covering something up doesn't make it go away.

I have written about my struggles and insecurities about writing.  I have been a closet writer most of my life, and sharing my writing has become one of the most difficult challenges in my life.  I cover it with academic discussions and teaching others about writing.

Several people told me recently (in different conversations) to rip off the Band-Aid.  Sending out some of my work to a few of my writing buddies recently was more difficult than I thought.

But I did.  Apex hides the hurt.  Now rip off the Band-Aid.

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