Maybelline knew about clichés. She’d been taught all about them in school. Yes, they were clever sayings. Well, they were clever sayings when they had been invented, and they were so clever that lots of people started using them, and then they became worn and tired and automatic. For example, her ninth-
“Now, boys and girls, let us think about clichés. I will begin a cliché, and you will end it. Are you ready? Here we go!” And Ms. Braxton would shout out the beginning of a tired saying, and her students would dutifully respond.
“She’s pretty as....” “A picture!”
“There’s light at....” “The end of the tunnel!”
“Right as....” “Rain!”
And so it would go. The students never missed a cliché.
Maybelline was now an adult, but Ms. Braxton seemed to live in part of her brain. Maybelline noticed clichés wherever she found them, and they were everywhere. Then, one day, in a moment of creativity, a moment of spontaneity, a moment of genius (as she told herself), she decided that the most creative thing she could possibly do would be to rewrite clichés.
And so she began. Whenever she could, she would use a revised cliché:
“We are about to see the darkness at the end of the tunnel.”
“She’s pretty as a photo-
“Right as a rainbow!”
But Maybelline’s project backfired. Instead of being credited with creativity in language, Maybelline was ridiculed because she didn’t use the clichés that everyone else used. Her friends thought she was stupid since she did not connect “pretty” and “picture” or “right” and “rain” or lights with the ends of tunnels.
In the end, Maybelline abandoned her project. She stopped using revitalized clichés and, in fact, stopped using clichés at all. It was much simpler that way and led to a modicum of tranquility. At least for a while. Time will tell. But not in a New York minute.