We first moved to our town because it felt like a safe haven for weirdoes and misfits. Always as equals, people with PhDs and fancy titles shared their thoughts with unemployed chefs on Nietzsche, the best quince varietals to plant and creeping state surveillance. Whether in our 20s or 80s, our motley crew watched the sun go down while talking about the events in our lives that mattered. We drank too much, danced like crazed things to 90s rave music and sometimes tucked each other in bed before stumbling home on foot. We argued about the future of public education and whether cats were more or less intolerable than dogs. We gathered to commiserate election outcomes and to party in rainbow when the “Yes” vote validated what it never should have had to.
Sometimes it felt like the only thing we had in common was an unspoken agreement to always express who we are, and to let everyone else do the same. We openly loved each other for it. We drunkenly dreamed out loud of declaring our town a republic with the single line constitution: “Article Nth. Don’t be a Dickhead”.
Times were grand.
But these days I feel like an unwelcome paint spill in a sea of beige. The town has slowly gentrified. House prices doubled and then some. Housing commission residents were squeezed into smaller residences in other suburbs. Overpriced AirBnB get-rich-quick landlords proliferated and made neighbourhood streets feel like gums with missing teeth. Subdivisions on the edge of town helped stack lookey-likey half-acre buildings on quarter-acre blocks. Newly-arrived residents with conservative views became louder and prouder – it is now advisable to watch your Ps and Qs at school drop-off and avoid conversations with strangers in the pub. The Nietzsche fans ponder utilitarianism less and nihilism more, though if you say so out loud, far less in town would understand the implicit despair.
The town slowly divides into more distinct cliques; each seems more beige than the last. Annoyingly, some of these have taken on a faux-hippie sentiment which central premise would seem to be the calculation of everyone else’s hippie quotient as a prerequisite to friendship. Points are mentally tallied and used against you on whether you ‘wear’ your baby, whether all your salad ingredients are organic and drizzled in unhulled stone-ground tahini and if you are a ‘real parent’. Lines are drawn based on attitudes toward vaccination. Way too many people actually wear beige. A lot of it is linen.
People’s houses are now ‘staged’ in a socially uniform manner that you can post on Instagram. Any domestic mess must be arty and intentional: an unfolded throw rug on an armchair and an open magazine on a coffee table is a sign of your spontaneity. Furniture must not be gathered from op shops or from trawling hard rubbish; it is preferable to get furniture that lasts only a few years because, you know, trends. It important to have a big ॐ canvas from an overpriced homeware store hanging over the flatscreen: this helps with the feng shui and demonstrates your spirituality. Or something.
Home sweet home. What we lose in personality, we gain in the safety of GroupThink.
I acknowledge the irony in writing this. I know I am being a Judgey McJudgeface. But they started it.
There are still some residents in town from our former Atlantis, but social panic and the pandemic have caused their quiet retreat into their weird, unacceptable hobbies and homes. As for me, the beige feels infective so I work hard at not hating my brightly coloured walls and second-hand furniture, but I sense my former sanctuary closing in on me. I worry about clinging too hard and emotionally smothering my like-minded comrades, which makes me emotionally inconsistent, and then I worry about that and avoid people entirely. I feel weird among the weirdoes.
Where to go now? I don’t think our town’s experience is unique. I probably should have done a Mars One application video. Perhaps it isn’t too late to volunteer for an intergenerational mission to exit the solar system.
In celebration of the Beige Brigade mummy who recently gave a monologue in the park about hoummos on sandwiches, I give you my favourite hoummos recipe [[actually not yet, but it is coming]]. If you source all organic ingredients, make sure you tell me.
** The working title for this post was “Beige Against the Machine” but it turns out that ‘beige’ is actually the machine, so it was nonsensical.
 Because pushing a baby in a pram is to push them away from you. I know this because they told me.
 I know this because I was helpfully informed by the shop attendant that I was purchasing ‘the wrong lunchbox’ because tahini dressing would leak out.
 This applies only to women in paid work out of the home. I know this because they told me about this one, too. But my judgment was delivered with a great deal of sympathy and sorrow so I shouldn’t feel too bad. The sympathy level was about on par with the reassurance on another occasion that my weird, new (and intentional) haircut would eventually grow out and that I shouldn’t worry.
 Beige comes in sandwiches!