Texture Matters

We are hyper opinionated about texture even when unaware of its influence. And it is good to be aware.

By Abigail Flanegan

How many times has someone told you they didn’t like a food and then explained that it was a “texture thing?” They could enjoy the flavor of the food, but the texture that held the food together was not pleasing to them. I might buy one shirt and not a different one for the same reason. The weight of the fabric, softness of it, whether it catches on anything, whether it has a nap or not: these are all things that I think about when deciding if I “like” the shirt. I might not even think about it! My decision could be as simple as whether or not it feels good. This feeling is really the result of texture.

Why do people avoid stepping in puddles of mud? Why might someone prefer whiteboards to chalkboards? Why is cornstarch mixed with water so wacky? Texture is not something that we think consciously about very often. More often, it presents itself hidden within thoughts of whether a food is good or bad, or whether this object is pleasing or not. Texture affects more of our decisions than we might notice. I’ve stopped reading some books because I disliked the texture of their pages. Texture impacts whether we will wear that lotion, whether we will enjoy that food, and whether we will like that new couch.

A friend of mine once had a very interesting perspective on the texture of crunchy peanut butter. They said, “I like crunchy peanut butter. It tastes fine. The only problem with crunchy peanut butter is that the whole time you’re eating it, all you can think is I’m eating crunchy peanut butter. With each bite that crunches you think, This peanut butter is crunchy.” We don’t always think about texture, but sometimes we can’t stop thinking about it.

Some might argue that texture isn’t important in our day to day lives. They might say that the only time we pay attention to texture is when it’s an unpleasant texture. From this perspective, we might be better off without noticing texture at all, because we only notice it negatively. It’s my opinion, though, that this line of thinking suggests inattention to detail in our lives in general. If we only notice unpleasant things, we miss out on a lot. If we pay attention to the details we are surrounded by, we gain access to a whole world of simple pleasures.

We recently marked the end of October. Though fall may technically begin in September, October and fall are nearly synonymous to me. Fall affords many opportunities for wonder. The changing leaves are the obvious example–the red and gold and orange trees are enchanting. Not only the leaves change each fall, though. Something changes in the texture of the whole world come the first cool winds in October. On the first of the month my family went on a hike in Spearfish Canyon to see the fall colors. A fog hung in the air beneath the treetops on the trail. My little sister commented that you could “feel the mist in your lungs.” The air was definitely not summer air.

There’s something about fall that makes it different from the other seasons. A part of this is the distinct texture of each season. The way the leaves crunch in fall and the grasses crackle more than they sway gives the texture to these months. Soft leggings replace my summer shorts as the weeks get colder. My mom pulls out her recipes for creamy soups. Fuzzy blankets and socks resurface after a hot summer. The textures of the atmosphere and objects around us influence our perception.

Texture can influence what we eat, what we wear, what we buy, and where we go. It’s a minor detail that can make something instantly pleasant or unpleasant. In a way, texture is the framework that holds all of our other senses in place. And when we notice it, when we pay attention both to the textures and to all of the details in our lives, we can gain a lot of appreciation and joy for the smaller pleasures life has to offer.

Photo: Pile of leaves by Aarthi Ramamurthy on Flickr