Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Unnecessary Fear of Hipsters

I have a couple of long-time phobias, both of which involve groups of people: geniuses and hipsters. (Were I to run into a genius hipster, I might have to just hurl myself in front of a Metra train.) Geniuses are probably the more problematic category for me (logic being I could possibly impersonate a hipster, but my genius level is gonna stay whatever it is), so I'll deal with that another day. Cute hipster girls in particular have caused me the most "I'll never be that cool" type angst. Today, I want to work through my fear of hipsters with you, because I think I'm finally coming to understand a few things.
I picked up a copy of Caboose zine (#5) at Quimby's last week (I'm all about zines - okay I've read two or three), written by Liz Mason, who works there. It was a whole dollar, so I figured what the hell. Inside were a few essays that were surprisingly entertaining and of particular interest to me, one called "I Was On A Reality Show," and another about her fandom for Madonna. So here's the thing. First of all, I knew she had been on this reality show, as I had seen it myself, and didn't spend much time wresting with the decision not to mention it, because, well, my assumption was that in spite of the fact that she was on it, it would not be cool to mention that I actually watched it. I may not be a hipster, but I do have a so-called literary reputation to maintain. But anyway, the piece was a really fun read on many levels, first of all with regard to the minutiae of what goes into a reality show - we all know at this point that they're edited and that a substantial amount of the "reality" is contrived - but she goes into some hilarious detail about it. But what I found most engaging about it was her honesty about briefly getting sort of sucked into that "I'm gonna be on TV!" mentality, worrying about what to wear, and how her hair looked and all that. It was really funny, and the revealing thing for me was (shhh, I'm sure no one knows this secret - actually now I realize everyone but me knows this secret): in spite of the appearance to the contrary that hipsters don't care what you think, it turns out that hipsters are people too, and that their carefully mussed hair and vintage clothes are thought about, and that some of them even - gasp! - go to the gym. (There's another essay about that in this issue.) Further, in the next piece, she reveals her love of Madonna (albeit with some criticism) - Madonna! I may be just on the cool side of VH-1 in my musical taste (if that's possible), but even I would hesitate to mention that I too, have seen Madonna in concert (about a gagillion years ago, I think it was that tour where she had the pointy gold Gaultier boob outfit) and that it was in fact a highly entertaining show. After all this, I ran into Liz on the street and mention how much I enjoyed her zine and she was really excited. All apologies if I'm blowing her cool cover, I still think she's cool, but see, I'd had it in my mind that hipster code did not allow such emotive displays of anything other than utter disdain or extreme coolness.
What's ridiculous about all this is that I know some people consider me to be a hipster (I have tattoos! I wear vintage! I like old stuff! but - my musical taste alone puts me decidedly outside the group - and at one time in my life I read Tiger Beat), my husband is something of a hipster, we both have hipster and non-hipster friends (they're all extremely cool, don't get me wrong), but as always - it's not advanced psychology here - in junior high and high school, although hipsters hadn't even come into existence, I was decidedly uncool. My best friend was also uncool, although she did become popular around ninth grade, after which I coasted on her glory until graduation. So, my conclusion, which you readers have come to long ago I am sure: hipsters (and probably even geniuses) are people too. (Not movie stars though, that's a myth. They start out human, but are highly susceptible to becoming pod people, and only a select few of them are immune to sheets with lower than a 400 thread count. This is why I love my friend Bob, because he's on a TV show but he's the kind of guy who won?t hire a housekeeper because the house "Howwsse!" is too dirty.)


B said...

why don't they make Tiger Beat anymore...seriously? Hey, Betsy! We should start our own magazine. I could photograph all the writers and artists of chicago in sexy/innocent postures and then write about what their favorite ice cream flavor is!!

Wait...that's a great idea!!

you could be the editor/chief/fanclub president

Betsy said...

Actually I think that's a genius idea, Byron! You could do it like a zine. Cuz one: I think writers should be rockstars, and two, talking about writing alone gets to be boring after a while: we have feelings about ice cream too! You should be the editor/chief/fanclub president though. I'll just be the executive editor. Which will be one of those titles that means absolutely nothing.
You're way too young to know about Tiger Beat. I have Tiger Beats that are a dozen years older than you! We can steal formats from them!

Teodoro Callate said...

You know, that whole "musical taste" thing as a hipster litmus test is always misleading. Hipsters in 1988 wore spandex and had bad hair just like everyone else. In 1992 it was flannel. In 1998 it was a cowboy hat. I don't know what it is today, but whatever it is, the same people would have worn something different...and thought and worried about it...if they had grown up in a different year and era.

My good friend Tom would joke about how he wore a corporate logo on his shirt "because he's ironic," and he hoped that one day everyone would figure that out so that they would realize just how deeply ironic and hip he actually was, since he didn't really look like it. The result of this would be that his logo would no longer be hip and ironic.

I don't know what that means, other than that we can probably all wear what we want to wear and listen to what we want to listen to, and THAT's where the true hipness is.

Betsy said...

Well put as always, Ted. I actually thought Tom was super conservative at first, and then one day I was like, Oh my god, he is really funny and not at all conservative! And of course, this is why making these judgments can be so bad - and that what is cool just comes down to who the person is.

Teodoro Callate said...

Further thoughts:

In 1995 or so it became SO incredibly hip to dig the Carpenters, who were originally the anti-hip group of the 1970s. Same with the Bee Gees. No love in the 80s. Lots of love in the early 90s.

In the 1980s, Johnny Cash couldn't get recognized on the street. 1997 hit, and BAM, the man was The Man because Rick Rubin said he should be and he did a Soundgarden tune.

Country music? No love. Until 1998, when Cowpunk became the mandatory genre of the Chicago music scene.

Rap music? Violently hated by almost all white people in the 1980s, until they realized that it was hip, and in the 1990s the genre was hijacked by white college kids.

Hipness chased is hipness lost. Hipness aquired is personal hipness over time, which is only gained by being true to your own originality.

I will now go back to my blog, where I have posted about Pottery Barn.

Betsy said...

So are you saying that back in the early and late seventies, when I was listening to the Carpenters and the Bee Gees (and Barry Manilow and Elton John and Abba) when they were BRAND-NEW, I was actually so forward-thinking that I was cool and nobody knew it? I LOVED the Carpenters.

Teodoro Callate said...

YES that is what I am saying. And I'm saying that your love of the Partridge Family is nothing to be ashamed of. SING yo bad self!

Music should make you happy. To those that it makes miserable, I offer a hearty, "whatever!"

DAM said...

Ted, I'm totally hip to what you're saying.

Betsy, why did you put Barry Manilow in parentheses? While I was once ashamed, I am now a proud Fanilow. He's better than parentheses. He's italics. He's all caps. He deserves it. Looks like he made it.

Back to the hip thing. Low rise jeans are what my sister once called hip huggers. I didn't like them then and I don't like them now. I'm too un-hip not to have given in to the trend. (Hey, when your 8-year-old cousin asks why your jeans are so high, you stand up, lower your jeans and take notice. OMG, I gave into a child!)

The genius thing...I peaked a long time ago. I'm not unlike the quarterback who peaked in high school. Only my situation is far worse...I peaked when I was a toddler.

Betsy said...

I did not mean to lessen Barry Manilow's significance by putting him in parentheses. It was merely a stylistic choice.

Jackie said...

Re: hipsterdom - "But 'cha aaaare, Betsy, ya aaaaare!" I'd easily trade whatever sort of pathetic attempts at coolness I make on a daily basis for all the coolness contained in your pinky finger.

People call me a hipster, and I am all like, "whaaa?". Like, I seriously disbelieve why anyone would admire my "style" or even want to be like me in remotely any fashion. (Well, except the adorable hubby/baby thing.)

About geniuses: I mean, did you read my post on the whole Ware/Clowes/Raeburn panel at the PRBF two weeks ago? Ghod!

Betsy said...

I did - we should both get over it.

jackie said...

Word. And by "word", I mean "werd".