We were unlikely friends. She being 15 years my junior, fresh out of high school when we met. She is tall, thin, athletic, and personifies the girl next door image. She has a million dollar smile with perfect teeth that are so white, it’s almost unnatural. Her hair is virgin, untouched of dyes & chemicals, it’s silky & shiny, and her baby blues can pierce your soul. Every parent wants a daughter like her. Every parent wants their son to marry a girl like her. Her Facebook updates are usually sentimental lyrics from a country song I’ve never heard. She works out everyday, counts calories, reads books, does sudoku puzzles, loves to hunt & fish, and gets her kicks cleaning. She’ll strike you as naive and sheltered, but once you know her, you’ll realize she is worldly and deep, clever, devious even. I almost fainted when she showed me her tattoo. Funny though, she is now in grad school and still hides it from parents. She is basically everything I am not. Yet, we get along fabulously and have been friends for 5+ years.
I think we enjoy each others company because we are so vastly different. Both of us are filled with a desire to acquire knowledge and we have a lot to learn from each other. I love the way she tells stories. Her eyes get wide, she is fully animated, face and hand gestures throughout the story, tucking her hair behind her ears every few seconds, but it’s so healthy, it just swoops back down across her cheeks. I can tell she likes to share her experiences with me. She knows she is taking me down a road I have never traveled and I listen intently, absorbing everything. When the tables are turned, she props her elbows on the desk, rests her chin in her palms cupping her face, doe-eyed, and only focused on me. I love that. My storytelling is similar to hers except I say, “You know what I mean?” and “dude” way too much. (That’s something I’m working on.) Every once in a while, she asks me something and I’m caught off guard. Usually because it’s something that comes up in ordinary conversation with my regular crowd or it’s a reference to something I’m used to everyone around me knowing. (Pop-culture, mostly.) And that is what led up to the day she asked me, in complete seriousness…
“Hey Liz, what is a Hipster?” I liked her emphasis on “is.”
A million things were running through my head. I had visions of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the can, mustaches and beards, dudes on “fixies” riding around SoCo, skinny jeans, organic coffee and tea in recycled bio-degradable to-go containers. Girls with scarves, tights with boots, cats, knitting, a collection of Apple products, and hundreds of memes with the caption, “You’ve probably never heard of it.” Throw in a liberal arts degree, Whole Foods, and words like “ironic,” “progressive,” “indie,” and “vintage.” It was hard to explain it to her. Luckily, the internet is chock full of resources specifically for times like these. With a quick google search, I was able to pull up ‘Anatomy of a Hipster’ and give her a basic idea of the Hipster-look. But the Hipster-attitude was more difficult to address. It’s a state of mind. I desperately wanted to take her to Austin. I desperately wanted to take her to Houston. I wanted her to meet my friend, Chris who now goes by Topher and has been since ‘That 70’s Show’ got popular. He likes to send me inbox messages without a message, just a link to a song from a band I never knew existed. Something inside me doesn’t want to like it, but I always end up loving it and adding it to a Spotify playlist. I wanted her to be introduced to the culture. Some things aren’t easy to explain, you have to experience it to really know it. Every generation of twenty-somethings has a lifestyle they subscribe to. Before the hipster, there were flappers, beatniks, hippies, new-wavers, punks, and more. They have the need to stand out while fitting in. Or is it fit in while standing out? I can dig that. They seem to think they are wiser than the generation before them, pretentious, and more educated, but let’s face it. It is a phase marked by the eagerness at becoming a young adult, the inner-rebel, a slap in the face at our parents and society… Then, you reach your 30’s, become a spouse and parent, responsible and sensible, conservative even, yet still cling to parts of the style, attitude, and music. At nearly 40, I still channel my 20 year old self. It’s part of what molded you into the adult you are and while I wouldn’t want an electric blue mohawk at this stage in my life, I have moments in the bathroom where I pick up the clippers and think about. Sensibility steps in and stops me.
Look, nobody likes labels. Who wants to be boxed in to one specific culture or sub-culture? We all like to think we are well rounded and can fit into any group. Shoot, ask a hipster if they are, in fact, a hipster and the answer will almost always be a resounding “NO!” Why the shame? There is nothing wrong with being who we are, whatever that may be. This whole “Death To Hipsters” movement is both sad and lame. Let them have their moment, let them have their mark in history for future generations to revise, mutate, and make their own. Besides, who’s to say you can’t learn something from them? And on that note, I’d like to thank Chris, erm, Topher, for having introduced to some of the best music I have ever heard. Thanks for knowing stuff before the rest of us do, Hipsters.
Topher, if you are reading this, I want to say I’m sorry if it seems like I’ve been condescending towards Hipsters, you, and your choice to go by a nickname. We are kindred, my friend! You know me as Liz, but from the time I was born until I reached high school, I went by Beth. (That’s what the folks nicknamed me and others knew me as.) I always preferred Elizabeth over Beth and once I reached the 9th grade and started a new school, I made a fresh start. Sure, the kids I went to elementary and middle school with still called me Beth, but there was a whole new set of people that I introduced myself to as Elizabeth and I liked it. I remember my first day of school in Ontonagon, Michigan. I was a junior and was sitting by myself, pissed that I had left my walkman at home. Then, Tanya (Guddy) O’Connell, always the outgoing extroverted one, walked up to me and introduced herself. I said, “Hi, I’m Elizabeth!” and she invited me to come sit with her and her friends. When we reached the table, she said, “Everyone, this is Liz… Liz, this is everyone!” Without even realizing it, Tanya had given me a new name and 20 years later, it has stuck with me. I remember Laurie, Mary, Carissa, Melissa, Dawn, and the rest of the girls all being very friendly and welcoming. It was too late to go back or correct her. By first period, every person in the school knew me as Liz. I love that story. The birth of a nickname, founded by benevolence and one girl brave enough to include me in her circle.