It comes as no surprise to longtime readers of Hoarded Ordinaries that I love old, abandoned things. There’s something character-rich about the look of rusted metal, broken glass, and peeling paint. Strict adherents to the Protestant work ethic would see something morally reprehensible in an abandoned vehicle left to rust, but I grew up the lucky inheritor of a Catholic, working-class shiftlessness. We aren’t exactly lazy, the Irish and Italian stock I come from…but we aren’t uptight, either. Immune to the thought that we have to prove our salvation through strict, clean living, we instead live hard, rust young, and trust God to clean up our messes. The stuff we leave lying out back isn’t trash, it’s salvage: a nearly worthless treasure laid up where moth and rust might corrupt, but no sane thief ever breaks in and steals.

As I age and my body necessarily shifts and sags, I find myself even more enamored with decrepit and fading things. The cracked and peeling side of a semi truck trailor says something that the shiny and smooth surface of a new vehicle does not. These days, I’ve made a conscious decision not to color my hair, letting it fade into a mousy blend of brown and gray: a brunette’s version of rust. Although I’ve nothing against those who choose to be bottle blondes, brunettes, or redheads, a sprinkle of salt gives a dash of seasoning in time and taste with my generational season. “This,” I often think when I consider my dye- and makeup-free visage in my bathroom mirror, “is what 38-year-old hair looks like, along with a 38-year-old face.” In a world full of bottle blondes and Botox, it’s easy to forget how maturation looks, unadorned.

I suppose my preference for old and sagging things along with my refusal to buy beauty from a bottle makes me counter-cultural: how can I fuel the GNP if I fail to Stop and Shop? When your tastes are cheap, you can afford to be lazy. Not needing a makeover, extreme or otherwise, means I have the time and wherewithal to go shopping for images, seeking out the poor and peeling in forgotten corners overlooked by glitz and glamor. I must, I must, I must increase my rust: an incantation which a truly catholic God has no trouble granting.