Monday, July 22, 2013

Pondering the Concept of Hipster

I never worried about whether people thought I was a hipster or not, which is a statement fraught with conflicting meanings:  to worry about whether you are thought of as a hipster can and does mean both that:

If genuinely interesting people are saying to themselves, “Oh, she’s a hipster,” it probably means they’re writing you off as being a sort of mainstream or shallow version of an artistic/outsider person


If someone isn’t thinking of you as a hipster, it could mean they don’t notice that you’re interested in counterculture stuff, like that your visual cues to signal that you are interesting aren’t working at all, and the really old gap skirt you bought at a thrift store looks like it was something bought NEW at a Gap store, etc.

The label of Hipster is one of those ‘damned if you do and damned if you don’t’ things.  I never worried about whether people thought of me as a hipster because my artistic temperament came from having a genuinely poor, mentally unstable and interesting mom.  So like, I never tried to ‘look poor’ like hipsters sometimes do, because my mom really is poor, and she gets pretty dresses from thrift stores because that’s just how she was raised, not because she’s making some fashion statement as hipsters are wont to do with used clothes, so by proxy, that’s how I am about clothes, so since it was a natural part of my upbringing, I was never faced with having to make a concerted effort to buy used clothes, the way I’ve noticed many hipsters who were raised at least middle class do.  They’ll be at a Target and have this type of internal conversation:  oh this black and white striped T-shirt is so cute, it looks like Jean Seberg’s in Breathless, but if I wore it, strangers who shop at Target will know I shop at Target when they see me in it,” and with me, I’m just like “Fuck it, this Mossimo striped shirt is only $6, I’m getting it.”  Another reason I never had to struggle much with the fashion issues that plague some people stuck in this whole hipster/not hipster quagmire I guess I’m in is that I never had very good style.  Or I should say that I am conscious of always having been attracted to attractive people who don’t dress well, so that led me to feel like it’s okay when I don’t dress well. 

Also, a lot of hipsters pretend that they have a chip on their shoulder, because there’s something very cool about being invulnerable, and that’s really what hipsterism boils down to, being thought of as cool in an artsy way.  I did used to worry about my vulnerability showing through, but then I got enough street cred from horrible things happening to me to never have to worry about how I come off.  When something really horrible would be happening to me (heart surgery, physical attack by skinheads when I played my first show, etc) I’d think to myself “I’m never going to feel fully part of this world again – I’m always going to feel separate.”  And that’s an air that hipsters cultivate as part of showing their uniqueness, being separate from everyone else.  This may sound like I think I’ve had a bad life or something, and I really don’t – I think I’m very lucky – let’s just say I think I had an unsheltered, not bad, life.  And when something bad happens to a person, like when someone has heart surgery at a young age like I did, the consoling thoughts they have depend on what type of person they are – a religious person would probably feel like the fear and physical pain of heart surgery made them closer to God.  But I was always interested in being known and being a part of art and music and culture in general in some way, so the type of consoling thoughts I often told myself had to do with never doubting my worth again.

Anyway, when the concept of hipsterism comes to my attention, these are the conflicting instincts I have, and this was the case when I attended Day One of the Renegade Craft Fair at the Los Angeles State Historic Park on Saturday.  It just seems so bizarre and laughable the way things catch on and  become trendy.  For instance, my husband and I made some really good pickled carrots a few years ago and used to want to sell them.  But then we started looking at what a hassle it’d be to be certified for stuff like that, and we both work full-time so it seemed too time-consuming …. Then I started to notice a lot of pickled foods on Etsy … and then I read about pickling being the new hipster craze that Portlandia is/was doing a running gag on.  Somehow, pickling has become trendy, and my husband and I were following a trend without even noticing any outside influences that might have gotten us wanting to pickle.  So guess what there was a lot of at this crafts fair?  You guessed it, PICKLES!  And guess what else there was as lot of.  YARN!  And what do I love to do as my favorite hobby?  Knit and crochet, with …. YARN!!!!  And what else do I love?  The Royal Tenenbaums!  What did I buy at the craft fair?  An illustration of my favorite scene from The Royal Tenenbaums!  Also notable is my love of saying and writing words like cock and tits and fuck, as well as my love of a woodland-y motif, like foxes and deer.  LUCKY ME!, there was a booth there selling t-shirts and mugs with drawings of cute little woodland creatures on them and cursive-written “Cunt” and “Cock” etcetera.  So, what I’m trying to say is, other than being one of the few ladies there with her husband and baby in tow, this place was right up my alley, though I hate to admit it.  Aesthetically I seem to be subject to a lot of the same whims of the type of people called hipsters.  At the same time I felt really different from the other people there, personality-wise.  The main reason for this is that most of the vendors seemed rather unmotivated.  I think that the fair technically started at 11 am but that some online publications got it wrong and said it started at 8 am.  We wake up at 6 or so most days so we were there at around 9, but we weren’t the only ones.  There were at least a hundred other shoppers milling around, but 1) the convenient parking was reserved for vendors, not customers (lame) and 2) vendors that were set up looked completely uninterested in selling anything – almost every booth I passed seemed like its owner was just fussing over little details.  I was so curious (this question may sound rhetorical but is genuine):  is this how most of the vendors make their main living?  Or is it a hobby?  And if it is the main living for most of them, do they just live really cheaply so they don’t care about being motivated, or are they trust fund kids or something?  I just cannot conceive of paying to have a booth at a craft fair and then just standing around talking in front of your merchandise so that nobody can see it and taking forever to set up.  There’s something about leisure that seems so disingenuous to me, and dressing poor when you’re not seems insincere as well, and I think apathy is tacky when there’s no edge to it – like when Kurt Cobain asserted his apathy in his lyrics and his rudely spacey interviews, it was like he was apathetic to keep from being mad or too depressed for words, but the sort of feet-dragging blah of this fair was just like … was everyone just waiting for customers to go away so they could post selfies on instagram or what?  Jesus, people, be more uptight and old already! 

Miley Cyrus's Brother

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