I Hate A Pop-Up

Before social media, Instagram, and FomoFeed, there were pop-ups that had nothing to do with pictures. There were pop-up stores, cafes, restaurants and bars. There were cute little bakeries. There still are in my neighborhood. And I love those! I love the little ephemeral experience of buying a t-shirt from a mom who bakes now that her kids have started grade school and she has time on her hands. Thanks, Susan! I love the pop-up convention because the first event dissolved into a dumpster fire. You go, Keith!

But I’m realizing in the day and age of The Gram is that pop-ups are not a chance to peruse the wears of a jewelry maker fresh from college. Nope. Now, pop-ups mean taking pictures in large setup exhibitions where you look like you’re having fun. But, there’s really a child pooping in the ball pit you’re trying to get your perfect #fomo pic in....hope you enjoyed that #yolo.

“You’re just a curmudgeon. Live a little” you might say. Don’t worry, I know how to enjoy myself! I went on a superhero tour! I get it! This pop-up disdain is more nuanced, like Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. It started slowly, with the Museum of Ice Cream. The “museum” was cute, there were samples, and the sprinkle pit wasn’t as disgusting as I imagined it would be. It was a little ridiculous, but it was still a manageable amount of camp.

Then there was the Brit & Co. pop-up, where I waited in line for a dollop of sorbet, and promptly gave up on taking any pics. The crowds overtook the pleasure of anything offered at the pop-up.  There have been pop-up brunches and themed bars that are insanely expensive, but the pictures look good. There was the Rose Pop-up at the Rainbow Room. They can’t make a good poke, but, boy, was that donut good!

My point is, I love a pop-up when I know what I’m getting. I’m getting a cute marketing experience and maybe some rose cotton candy. Or a sorbet. Or a t-shirt. I know what brand I’m partaking in and I endorse this style of capitalism.

What I don’t understand is the Egg House. Who are you? Seriously, who did this? I don’t know! Was there a brand, a store, and item for us all to enjoy? Or was this someone’s elaborate plan to get a group of people into a room with an egg named Ellis? Forgive my confusion, but the Egg House was an oddly concocted mess. I understand a pop-up as a quick and dirty marketing tool. The Egg House solidified my understanding that a pop-up is now less about a brand. And it’s all about The Gram. Can someone explain it to me? How is paying $18 to wait in line to take a picture with a cactus lamp a thing? Is the <3 really worth the money?

I complain because I’ve been duped into several of these pop-ups in the past few months. There was the Egg House, the Genius Studio, the Dolce & Gabbana Millennial Clubhouse. Is everyone really having that much fun taking pictures on their phones? Why are people waiting in line to take a “boomerang”? A friend explained it to me as an art exhibition. But is it? There is something to be said about modern, immersive, interactive art. But how is that replicated in a ball pit of egg-colored balls?

I think that what irks me the most about these #FOMO (aka Fear of Missing Out) experiences is how entirely superficial they are. Is anyone really having that much fun in those photos? I’m certainly not. Where is the fun of waiting in a line to climb into a carton for three seconds, only to have the mom behind you ruin your photo by letting her toddler cut the whole line? (Seriously, parents at the Egg House did not know how to handle their children. I feel for you, but also, this is not a Chuck E. Cheese.) The pressure to be happy or sassy or whatever you need to be to take a great insta-shot is not my thing, and it makes me question everyone else’s image too. You can’t point a camera at me and tell me to smile like I mean it. I have an Asian Mom for crying out loud!

Instagrammable food is also something of disdain to me. Rainbow bagels, cotton candy burritos; they look like they taste terrible. Are we exchanging experiences for snapshots? Food dye for flavor? Am I too old for this shit? To the people who spent $18 for the Egg House, why? You could have bought 9 tacos. Or 18 pizza slices. Now you have no tacos, no pizzas, and a bunch of photos that don’t show the couple fighting over an egg lollipop. Was it worth it?  Next time you got to a pop-up for photos, think about whether or not your actually having fun. Or whether it’s all for The Gram.


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Melissa has lived in all four time zones in the contiguous United States. A former actor in Seattle, WA, Melissa now resides in NYC as a content creator. She is the producer of the We're Not All Ninjas podcast, which she also hosts with fellow Hapa Mag writer, Alex Chester. Melissa also writes for online blogs Nerdophiles and The Nerds of Color. Find her @NotAllNinjasPod.