Thursday, July 17, 2014


It's Time to Address Porch Sign Syndrome

OR F—ING ELSEAre you, or do you know, a middle-aged woman with an empty nest? Then you may need to learn about the dangers of Porch Sign Syndrome, a common and serious problem which causes the afflicted to purchase a variety of wooden signs to place around their home. These signs are easy to obtain: they can be purchased by anyone at a craft fair, in any store styled a “boutique” or “antique mall” in any small town, and through legions of original Etsy sellers. Colors are muted, surfaces are distressed with crackle paint and sand paper. The signs express a philosophy of the simple lifestyle; they advocate the enjoyment of beverages and the forgetting of worries. The rate at which baby boomers are purchasing porch signs in this country has tripled in recent years, probably, and it’s up to every concerned citizen to recognize the symptoms and stop this epidemic. What follows is a guide to recognizing the categories of Porch Signs.

Porch Rules

"Take a nap!"

"Rest and chat!"

"Sit a spell!"

These are all general porch rules. There are others, which range from the generic ("Relax!") to the tasteless ("No Peein’ Off The Porch!"). Failure to follow porch rules may result in ostracization, and it may result in nothing at all. Porch rules signs can contain anywhere from 1 to 50 rules, or however many ways there are to tell a person to chill out. Porch rules signs also dictate the beverages you are expected to enjoy on the porch. Is this a beer porch or a lemonade porch? You won’t know unless you read the signs. Is there a weathered old Coca Cola bottle opener screwed to the wall, with a sign above it containing some stereotypical statement about Irish people and laziness, with big foamy mugs of beer painted next to the words? Congratulations, this is a beer porch! Is there a framed cross-stitch of little birdies that says, “A Kind Word Is Never Wasted”? That is probably not a beer porch. Look around for the glass pitcher of lemonade. Lemonade is all you’re getting on this porch.

Signs of a more pushy nature also belong in the porch rules category. The sign on the little wooden bench that says “Grandkids Only” in mock childlike handwriting next to a rusty watering can with fake tulips in it, when there are no grandkids, is still technically a rule. It’s also a really annoying way to remind you of what you’re supposed to be doing with your life. 

Fancy Quotes

Relaxation brings a lot of things to the surface, like deep quotes about life. Most often, it’s a line from a famous poet, or a line attributed to a famous poet. I’m pretty sure Walt Whitman never said “Life Is Better On The Porch,” unless maybe it was summer and he was talking to a good friend and he didn’t really mean it or, for that matter, suspect that his friend was about to write it down and sell it to a porch sign company. Other quotes will be from unrecognizable sources, and people will read them (something about enjoying life to the fullest! Martinis! Chocolate! Sunglasses!) and they will chuckle politely and think, who is Zerf Bladnor? I should probably know who that is… hope nobody notices that I don’t know who that is.

Join the Club!

This variety is meant to inspire camaraderie. It’s safe here! We’re all friends! Taken too far, it can encourage the keeping of the dark and shameful secret that is Porch Sign Syndrome. Though it might seem welcoming, becoming a member of the "Front Porch Club" can be a binding legal agreement. Be careful. Always take note of your surroundings: if you see a sign for the Porch Sitters Union, and you’re sitting on the porch, you’ve officially become a member. "Leave Your Cares Behind”—that’s an order. "Sit Long. Talk Much. Laugh Often”: even if you don’t really want to, you have to. You joined up. It’s too late. And it's usually posted somewhere nearby that "What Happens On The Porch Stays On The Porch", so really, we shouldn’t even be talking about this right now.


There is generally a flower garden near the porch. This can be a row of store-bought potted marigolds that were dropped into a hole in the front yard last Saturday, or an elaborate arrangement of rose bushes and ferns. These porch signs will boast the wonders and joy of tending a suburban home garden. "Gardeners Get To Stay In Their Beds All Day!" "It's Cheaper Than Therapy… And You Get Tomatoes!" (The thing you don't get, though, is therapy. You have to pay for that, and then you have to go once a week, and talk to someone about how your mom won't stop buying all these goddamn signs and it's really making you sad all the time.)

Several other symptoms of Porch Sign Syndrome may manifest in the form of wine bottle sculptures, miniature wheelbarrows, old-timey wrought-iron baby carriages, a rake that's flipped upside down and made to look like a Santa face, or stone geese with an outfit for every holiday. These items can appear on or near a porch at any time.

It may take some time for the average porch sign addict to stop purchasing and displaying these in an attempt to fill the void of your absence with wooden proclamations about “The Good Life.” Change doesn't happen overnight. But it can happen. This can be cured. Maybe you should point out that most of the signs advocate an easy life, the opposite of a life with several small children, which still other signs advocate. Maybe you should point out that several of the signs fall down when the wind blows, and isn’t it kind of a pain in the ass to pick up the one that commands you to “Enjoy the Breeze!” for the 1000th time? Maybe you should just refuse to go in any store with your mom that’s deliberately made up to look faux time-worn, with dollies made of corn husks smiling stupidly in the windows? Maybe you should just say, “Why can’t you stop buying this shit?”

Even with your best efforts, relapses can occur. Do not be discouraged. Years after overcoming this affliction, your mother may hand you a tiny smooth rock into which someone has carved “FAMILY” and say, smiling, her eyes sparkling with the glittery, nostalgic tears of Christmases past, “Isn’t that neat?!” And you will have to say, “Not really.”


Jona Whipple is a writer by day, librarian by night, and sometimes the other way around. She lives in Chicago and blogs at cupcakeheartbreak.com about all the stuff that happens to her.

9 Comments / Post A Comment


I think Etsy is the preferable option. All this stuff looks like it comes from Walmart or [fill in the name of your favourite big box with questionable labour policies] to me.

The neighbours have always gone in for big statements on or near back porch/deck - half a dozen fully grown palm trees, pool, etc. The current iteration seems to be a kind of mockup of a flower stall, like signs saying 'Flowers 50¢' and a number of wicker and wrought iron shelving units overflowing with plants and huge antique-look table (and a big wooden peace sign on the wall - ? - and loads of outdoor tchotchkes).

It sounds okay but it irritates me, like the faux-naif Marie Antoinette aspect of it, like she's playing at being some kind of little match girl but she really wants you to admire the gentle whimsy of her touch and the money she has spent mocking up her Covent Garden flower seller's stall. Lest it seem I'm being too blamey on the lady, she has given my mom the tour and taken full credit/responsibility for the decor.

There is some dull backstory on these people which predisposes me to not like them a lot but mainly I am irrationally annoyed by their porch, and yes, I am kind of a curmudgeon.

Miranda Loeber@facebook

@puncturedbicycle I never thought about the connection between Marie Antoinette's love of the pastoral look and the modern shabby-chic Etsy thing, but it's so true. History truly does repeat itself, especially when it comes to what is fashionable.


@puncturedbicycle Oh there is something about being rich which makes you long to be poor, but only in a few very picturesque ways. The ersatz nostalgia of it all just kills me. We should all feel free to be nostalgic for the actual past, but Flowers 50¢ lady bought some fake past for the back porch/deck/pool area which is more appealing to her.

It's really that damn 'Flowers 50¢' sign that stands on top of the pile of other things to give me the finger. I think there are two of them, wtf? Except for the faux-child-lettered signs mentioned in the text above, what sign in the world would ever say Flowers 50¢? What the hell does it mean? And why would you buy it? And why would you display it on your *back* porch and then design a whole outdoor area of your home around it?? WHO ARE YOU??

But as I said, only a tiny fraction of my fury about has any rational basis. And 100% of it is fully none of my business. :-)


So Good! Thanks! @v

rhapsody in bleu

I live on the beach. I don't see too much porch sign decor, but ohmygod do I ever see the beachside variety of this same thing. "Life is better on the beach!" "All you need is love and the beach!" "The cure for anything is salt: sweat, tears or the sea." Add a bunch of seashells, some fake flip-flops and some driftwood and your beach decor is complete.


@rhapsody in bleu And oh god the arrows which say 'To the Beach.' Beach dwellers have 40 different words for beach real estate and all know the subtleties of beachfront vs beach block vs waterside. WHY THE ARROW POINTING THE WAY TO THE BEACH??

Sella Turcica

@rhapsody in bleu Substitute "Lake" or "Cabin" for Porch and Beach and you have Upstate NY.


Each Porch has its story.


I have really fallen in love with this article....
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