Guy’s World: The Metamorphic Symbolism Of Toast
Toaster: Liminality, metamorphism & Symbolism In
The ultimate symbol of adolescence is not the pierced tongue, not green hair, not Limp Bizkit CDs and not tribal tattoos. It is the toaster that represents the transformation from tyke to teenage dirtbag and beyond.
The first steps to independence are taken when a child stops asking his mum to make him sandwiches and has reached a height whereby he can get the bread himself, put it in the toaster (adjusting the darkness knob to his preference) smear peanut butter as anarchically as he pleases, then watch cartoons and pretend mum and dad don’t exist.
While those first apron string-cutting steps are taken well before puberty, the emotional attachment to the toaster remains throughout adolescence and into the flatting years – indeed many thirty-plus bachelors without a dried herb in their pantry have a well-loved toaster prominently featured on the kitchen bench, along with a few scattered knives (a couple of them burned from spotting buds) a chipped plate, a bag of bread and some essential spreads.
The toaster represents the freedom to fend for oneself with only the most rudimentary of cooking skills. The metamorphic symbolism is restated with every batch of toast – the bread goes in raw and soft, and emerges hardened, seasoned, crisp and ready to fulfil its destiny. The bread becomes the toast as the child becomes the adult.
The toasting process is really very brief, but feels interminable while you’re hovering over the toaster with a knife in your hand, just as the liminal years feel like a lifetime while you’re living them. Nothing makes sense, everything sucks and you don’t know who you are. But you know how to make toast.
Some friends of mine, at around age 17, started a metal band called the Conventional Toasters. The music and lyrics were pretty puerile, as you’d expect from a bunch of sweaty teenage boys who liked smoking pot and playing metal. They didn’t have girlfriends, but there was plenty of toast at band practice.
Scote, another band of teenage misfits playing out in Wellington just as I first started going to bars, had a song called Robot Toasters. They probably thought they were being weird and wacky, but Robot Toasters powerfully expressed the towering significance of the toaster in the teenage psyche.
“They’re trying to get me now,
the evil robot toasters,
Basically I had to get away,
I had to climb buddha’s buttery tummy”
The nightmarish central motif of the teenager’s friend, the toaster, turning sinister compellingly expresses the anxiety and confusion of adolescence.
With the advent of the Internet, teenagers can articulate their mistrust of the adult world without starting a metal band (although that remains an option). Typing “teenage toaster” into Google proffered the most compelling evidence yet in support of my theory.
T.O.A.S.T.E.R. - Totally Outrageous Almost Sane Teenagers Evaluate Reality - can be found at http://members.tripod.com/~toaster-page/toaster.html. This site gave me confidence in the acuity of my amateur teenage psychology, and confirmed that the toaster’s symbolism is equally significant to both sexes.
Remain seated at all times...... and never underestimate the power of the Holy TOASTER.
~ lindsay, editor in chief, webmaster
See also… http://www.angelfire.com/ms/fairychild/, where the girls of T.O.A.S.T.E.R. speak about promoting fear and paranoia, the wrath of an angry toaster and something they call Toastertarianism.
The evidence is compelling.