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August 25, 2004
the price of cool
After this weekend's shopping binge, I decided, for lack of a better analogy, to purge. Earlier, I'd noticed two trash bags filled with Steve's old clothes hanging out in the hallway downstairs. He told me he was planning to take them to Beacon's Closet to sell them. Since my clothes-to-storage space ratio was suddenly higher than acceptable, I decided to copy the idea.
Parting with some bits of my wardrobe was easy, but other pieces gave me pause. Just because I hadn't worn something in over a year didn't mean I wouldn't suddenly decide to wear it this year. In the end, though, I (mostly) chose cleansing over hoarding.
Last night, I asked Steve if he wanted to go with me to sell the stuff.
I don't think I've yet made it evident: I live next door to the hippest neighborhood on Earth. Williamsburg is populated by people who are mostly just slightly younger than me, mostly white, mostly privileged, mostly "artsy," and mostly consumed by a fascination with the pop culture of their 1980s childhoods. There's more to them, I'm sure, but sometimes it's hard to tell, because image supercedes all else. Hipsters (who, of course, reject the term "hipster") have anointed themselves the arbiters of cool, and it isn't worth arguing with them, because if you aren't one of them, you likely don't care about what's considered "cool."
Right. Steve and I lugged our trashbags down Wythe Avenue, both fully aware that the hipster resale value of the garments we were rejecting was about to, in some way, determine our personal coolness factor. We both felt that we were donating a fair number of worthy clothes, but we joked that we'd each walk away from the selling experience with about two dollars. We had to allow for the possibility that we might simply not be cool.
The people behind the selling counter at Beacon's Closet are professional hipsters, and they take their jobs seriously. They told us it would take them about fifteen minutes to assign a value to our lives.
We split up to browse. I tried on the rejected jeans and sweaters of others and thought about how circular and incestuous the whole thing was. Indeed, Steve was attempting to sell back a number of clothes he'd bought at Beacon's Closet last year. In a way, the system is like swapping clothes with friends; you all have similar tastes, and your boredom with a certain shirt doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad shirt. At some point, the tide of cool changes, but widescale fashion movements take some time to fade out.
After about twenty minutes, we returned to the selling counter for the moment of truth. When I saw that one of my sweaters had landed in the cool bin, I felt giddy — "I knew that would make it," I thought. Then I noticed my bag on a rack and saw that it was still pretty full. I was told I could either take $12.86 in cash (30% of the value of the items that made the cut) or $23.58 in store credit (55%), and that, if I wanted, I could leave my other stuff there to be donated to charity. Steve faired significantly better, reaping $31 in cash/$57 in credit.
Of course, his real triumph was in hipness points. According to Williamsburg, my roommate is almost three times cooler than I am.
Man. At least I'm tall.
August 24, 2004
Increasingly, I am becoming aware of my brain's tics, of ways I avoid real thinking by wandering off into comforting places in my head. Much of the time, this means thinking about things I want. I fantasize about new clothes, picturing myself in situations in which the clothes will enhance my radiance. I imagine how a vintage record cabinet, tasteful new bedroom curtains, and elegant yet modern new sheets will enrich my home. I envision myself playing with new software programs on a speedy new notebook computer.
All of this daydreaming sometimes builds up and spills itself out into a shopping spree. On Sunday, I went into the city and spent a number of hours trying on clothes and buying them. By the end of the day, I felt exhausted and tarnished.
Like many people, I enjoy shopping — or at least, I enjoy acquiring things. I can enjoy the process of shopping, but I always think about the psychology of choosing my favorite things from among a limited number of options, and how, in a given store, I only want certain things relative to how much I don't want the others that surround and color them.
This psychology goes along with the fact that I sometimes buy just for the sake of acquiring, without considering need or even want. I want something, and this thing isn't bad, even if I don't really need it, so why don't I just buy it? Will I use or wear this thing? Maybe not, but I really don't want to have wasted my time coming out here, and after all, maybe I will use it.
I'm not sure it's worth trying to change this kind of behavior, because it's pretty harmless (I never make big purchases this way), and it temporarily satisfies a need. Except that, if I've bought things purely to quell a desire for newness (as happened on Sunday), I feel disgusted with myself. I look at the new underwear I've just bought and notice for the first time that the butt reads "LUST," or I realize, as I put a new shirt in my drawer, that if I saw someone else wearing it, I'd think, "Cute cut, awful pattern."
When I violate my own standards of taste because I so need stuff, something else is at play. I think, though, that buying things I don't want and realizing what I've done shakes me up enough to do the aforementioned real thinking. It's an early part of the process of assessing where my life is lacking and figuring out how to deal with it.
All this isn't to say that I don't have a legitimate need for new things these days. I recently sat on a bench covered in tar while wearing my favorite dress, and I lost a good sweater last ISBN. I don't feel guilty about wanting and getting things, as long as they're worth having.
August 21, 2004
i've been waitin', for a photobooth, to come into my life
Been awhile since you've been treated to this, huh. And now with an added bonus: this guy I found on the beach!
Cute, isn't he. I look a little hesitant in the first photo because we were only just starting to get acquainted. Also, the one in the lower left was actually taken in 1972.
This year's photobooth fun happened a couple of weeks ago behind the curtains of the same Ocean City, NJ booths featured in the earlier photos. The weekend vacation was nice, but I could have stood about five more days of the Jersey shore. This time next week, though, I'll be in Maine, vacating away.
August 20, 2004
high school cafeteria redux
OKCupid, which I have trumpeted before, is much more than an online matching site. I mean, sure, I like to get mail like this from strangers (note that my profile is sparse and says I'm seeing someone):
I really don't have any real reason for writing you. You just seem... Bloody brilliantly hillarious. But that's an opinion. Green. I like cats so there. :-D But I like animals in general, so that's probably why. Are you a monkey perchance? They're fun. It's in the profile I think. Anyway, love to hear back from you if you're up for it. Maybe hear from you soon.
The real fun of the site is that it lets me indulge in high schooly behavior like, for instance, doing mocking readings of people's profiles with Andy and taking user-created Seventeen-style quizzes about my personality. Even better, I can see how good I am at guessing whether someone is a virgin or whether someone's gay based on the photos they've chosen to post.
Maybe there's something a little cruel about those games, but maybe not. Photos we choose to represent ourselves to the world reveal something about who we are, in ways we intend and ways we can't help. I respect the people who invented a game that tests my assumptions about just how telling a photograph can be.