Thursday, May 18, 2006
I am working at a very *hip* place this week as a temp, and by hip I mean nobody smiles at you. Like, ever.
Now, I’m not a very hip person, by which I mean I smile at people all the time. Sometimes I even cross my eyes at them and make silly faces. Also, I own a Color Me Badd CD (which I always blame on my best friend Anna, but actually I bought it myself. What, it was 1995! By the way, sorry, Anna -- you would never listen to CMB un-ironically, though you DO own a lot of Poison and Skid Row CDs, which is why you made so much sense as my beard. But I digress.) I’m more of a ‘40s jazz kind of a girl. I take cabs home if it’s after 11:00 and I’m alone. I frequently shop at Old Navy and the last concert I went to was the Philharmonic in the Park. Basically, I’m into personal safety, cheesy pop songs, and making eye contact. Hip = not me.
I keep thinking I want to be a freelance writer, but I’m starting to fear that it requires that je-ne-sais-quoi, that elusive hipness, that effortless lack of manners and perfectly coordinated shoes. Though born and raised in New York City, I have a kind of aw-shucks naiveté when it comes to life. I am always at least a little bit unkempt. I believe in true love and not spitting on the sidewalk. When I served on jury duty I actually wanted to give a little twelve year-old Chinese girl money because she broke her tooth in a car accident. My fellow jurors talked me out of it because, as they said, she "wasn't a very good actress". Now, don’t get me wrong – I like these things about myself. Somehow, though, I don’t think they translate.
At my old job, there was this guy who would always loudly announce everything he did. It wasn’t Tourette’s or anything; he just liked to cap off a Google search by standing up and saying “Wow – there are fourteen different places to buy swords in Manhattan.” If he was on the phone with someone, he’d give us all a review of the conversation as soon as he hung up. I thought that this was annoying. I did tons of research and made tons of calls, but I sort of figured that I should work softly and carry a big Excel spreadsheet. I figured that if the work got done, my job was done. Little did I know that a little self-congratulatory PR would have gone a long way – that guy still has his job, while I am temping at the uber-hip frown factory.
There is a guy at this hip culture Mecca who sits behind me, and yesterday he asked me what kind of music I listen to. I bristled, because this kind of question is never innocuous if asked by an unsmiling person. They might as well tack on “so that I can judge you” to the end of all of their questions. I had just listened to this guy name drop all day and organize his iPod to shuffle between many indistinguishable whiny emo songs, so I knew right away that “jazz” would elicit, at best, a smirk and dead silence. I didn’t want to expose myself to scorn or scrutiny, so I did the only thing I could think of: I was mean to him. “I don’t listen to what you listen to, if that’s what you’re asking.” I said, not looking up from my computer screen. I heard him exhale sharply, and then, a moment later, the music changed. Somehow, by being rude, I had out-hipped him.
I’m not proud of myself for this, I have to say. The world may be in the midst of a massive cultural identity crisis in which men who wear small girls’-sized t-shirts and skinny jeans are hailed as apostles of coolness (and, you know, it’s not even cool to say cool now, is it?) and frowns are considered “artsy”, but I’m proud of my totally, totally square existence. I would rather stay in and make it a Blockbuster night than be seen at a trendy bar, I would rather drink a glass of Cabernet than anything-tini, and I would rather wear non-nipple-bearing apparel, make an impression on a scale, and not read “The Unbearable Lightness of Being” on the subway. I am still a sucker for John Cusack and I don’t really like reading subtitles. I like restaurants with signs on the door and the longest I’ll wait to get in anywhere is 20 minutes. I don’t belong to a gym, and yes, I do still go to Jazzercise with my mom. What? It’s really fun. In short, I don’t really belong here.
And by here, I mean this millennium.