The decline of civilization is generally recognized, of course, as a gentle rolling slope of hubris, hurt feelings, credit crises, white flight, inbreeding, book burning, dog-eared Marxism, climate change and decadence, but naturally some peaks - or valleys; here the topographical metaphor begins its own decline - are more outstanding than others, and thus I submit that if you want to know when for me it was all washed up, it was when they announced that It would be beige and only beige.
It was, I think, the very inscrutability of Its beigeness that did it. This great land of individualism had been presented with a Canvas so blank and sub-tile that the projections upon It and implications stemming from It were embarrassingly idiosyncratic; one clever wag later noted Its startling similarity to the color of the emperor's clothes.
For days afterwards, we looked and looked for meaning in It, until we found ourselves exhausted and convinced that there was far more interesting things to discover in what It was not and thus could have been. Entire worlds sprung up, conspiracy theories awash in La Raza, Bilderberg, and cannibalism, single-serving blogs of cats wearing Them (their faces bizarrely pugnacious, forcing you to laugh by daring you not to), reality show promotions, YouTube musicals, beige crayon effigies (later determined to be oppressively toxic), at least one riot in Arizona (the first of 12 states to make wearing One mandatory. Vermont banned Them outright, and fights a thriving black market.) A performance artist out of Fresno covered her entire body in Them and drove around the city proclaiming herself the modern Lady Godiva. Venezuela cheekily released its Own, bearing our familiar tricolor scheme: infringement lawsuits and assassination attempts ensued. Al Sharpton went on Oprah, Tom Tancredo went on Rush, and George Lopez got an inordinate amount of mileage out of a pair of women's nylons placed over his head. Suddenly we were everywhere, and we were nowhere, and even the most mild-mannered of housewives could be found in grocery market aisles and fitness centers bitterly mouthing, "Not even a little green?"
But by then we were already doomed, and so let us revisit the milk mid-spill. As the press conference hit its stride, the collective tone of newsroom disappointment was palpable. Certainly it came as a shock to the public, who had been wildly waving standards of seemingly limitless configurations of red, white, and blue (those splashed with rebellious grey proved to be, ironically, the most eye-catching nominees.) As a fashion model (Scandinavian) showed It off, cameras shuttering greedily in their natural habitat, the commentator on the channel we were watching was silent, perhaps waiting for instant poll results to properly attune his own personal reaction. This singular moment, when the talking heads were robbed of speech, I laughed out loud and threw my arms around a man I had never met and explained in precise detail what I have already conveyed to you, that we were witnessing the end of an era. The man stared at me strangely, but in the ensuing seconds of radio silence, I could see he caught my drift. He took one last long look at It, threw his whiskey sour down his throat, and made two steps for the door, in search of dollars or sense to be made.
Eventually the commentator coughed, subconsciously shrugged his shoulders, and offered, "It is a very vibrant beige," and in that contradictory assessment we had finally found America.