# of pages written: 4, and did some good brainstorming
# of days left to write 1st draft: 114
A few weeks ago I was hanging out on the beach in Wellfleet, watching the sun set and drinking a beer with Stefan and some of his friends. I was telling them about how I had been at the gym earlier in the day, and one of the headlines on the CNN news channel was “coffee shop bans conversations about annoying hipster topics.”
Everyone laughed. A red-haired girl wrapped her beach towel around her bare, freckled shoulders. She was still wearing her bathing suit, and the temperature was starting to drop.
“Crazy, right?” I said. “I was like, really CNN? This is breaking news?”
“Wait,” the red-haired girl said, “what’s a hipster?”
Everyone groaned. Her boyfriend patted her on the shoulder. “You know, babe, like skinny jeans and black-rim glasses.”
“I guess we shouldn’t talk, though,” I said, “we’re drinking PBRs right now.” I held up my can of beer.
Several people started protesting, claiming they’d been drinking PBRs since “before they were cool.”
“Wait,” the red-haired girl said again, “I still don’t understand. What’s a hipster?”
“You know,” I said. “They’re in a band–”
“A shitty band,” a guy with shaggy hair and a beard interrupted.
“And they don’t shower very often,” I continued, “and they listen to really obscure bands and they own a record player and they drink PBR.”
“PBR isn’t hipster,” the shaggy-haired guy argued.
“Says the boy with the enormous beard,” I said.
“Oooh! Burn!” Everyone laughed.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “Did I offend you? I didn’t mean to insinuate that you’re a hipster. I’m sure you’re not.”
“No worries,” he said. But I could tell I had offended him, and only hipsters are offended when you call them a hipster.
Oh, hipsters. How I love this topic. You could really spend hours analyzing the word, the culture, all the various nuances. You could make lists of things that are or are not hipster. In fact, back in 2008, my dear friend Andrea was confused by the word, so I emailed her this helpful definition:
things hipsters like, according to Eva:
-bikes, especially track bikes
-making and fixing your own bike
-drinking PBR, or Miller High Life if PBR is unavailable
-messenger bags (aka satchels)
-obscure bands – must be so obscure that no one but (possibly) other hipsters have ever heard of them
-playing in a band
-80’s heavy metal
-either being vegetarian/vegan, or used to be vegetarian/vegan but have said “fuck it” and gone back to eating whatever because it’s cheaper
-playing games ironically, especially dominoes, chess, kickball, and Scrabble
-bad horror movies, especially zombie movies, especially obscure zombie movies
-drinking your coffee black
-being bored with life
-working as a bike courier, dishwasher, or at another low-paying job that gives you flexibility for when your band goes on tour
-calling everyone dude or bro, just to be ironic
-having a degree (probably from art school) and not using it
-wearing dark colors (often band t-shirts)
-making fun of people
-having a dog
That was almost five years ago now, and I think the definition of hipster and hipster culture continues to morph, and, it seems, calling someone a hipster continues to become more and more offensive. Hipsters do not self-identify, and, in fact, the number one definition of a hipster should be: denies that he/she is a hipster.
Last spring I went to visit my dear friend Chris in New York, and we decided to go to Brooklyn for an art opening. Before we left the apartment, Chris said, “Eva, you’re going to love all the hipster sightings. The number of hipsters in Brooklyn is absolutely off-the-charts ridiculous.”
But then, as soon as went got to the subway, Chris turned to me with a worried look in his eye. “But don’t talk about–” he glanced over his shoulder, “hipsters,” he hissed, “now that we’re in public. It’s not cool.”
“Oh, I know,” I said. I’m well aware that talking about hipsters while hipsters might be lurking nearby is a big no-no, especially in Brooklyn.
Today at the gym I was listening to a podcast called A Way with Words , which explores the meanings, connotations, and origins of words and phrases. It’s not really a favorite of mine, but I had been intrigued by this particular episode because they were discussing the word “hipster.” They, too, noted that no one is willing to actually to stand up and say, “I am a hipster.”
Isn’t this strange? I mean, some people are definitely hipsters, otherwise how would we all know what they are? Secretly, I bet hipsters know that they are hipsters. But they don’t want to admit it – why? I started wondering, is there any other phenomena like this?
Yes. Yes there is. And you should know by now that I’m equating it to writing.
It used to be when someone asked me if I was a writer, I’d say “no, I’m a high school math teacher” or “no, I’m an orthodontic assistant.” I didn’t want to admit to being a writer because I thought it sounded pretentious or ridiculous, and I didn’t want to be subjected to questions about what I was writing and where had I been published because the answers would make me feel like even more of an asshole.
I didn’t like to say I was a writer because I wasn’t sure if I really, truly was one. A real writer, I thought, would mean that I went on book tours and had novels on bestseller lists. If I admitted to being a writer, I might feel like a poser (remember that word from the 90’s?) I mean, yeah, I have my MFA in fiction writing, and I’ve published some stories in literary magazines, and I write a little something on most days, but is that enough? I’m not freaking Joyce Carol Oates or anything – so can I really call myself a writer?
Plus, I didn’t want to admit to anyone that I actually wanted all those mainstream “real writer” things. I acted like I was cool with being a high school math teacher, and I talked about writing ironically. “Yeah, it’s something I do sometimes. Whatevs.”
Come to think of it, when hipsters like uncool or mainstream stuff, they only ever like it “ironically.” It’s a means of protection, I think.
I’m starting to think maybe hipsters are a lot like I was. They don’t want to admit to being hipsters because they don’t want to sound like assholes, and plus, deep down, they’re worried about coming off as posers. Yeah, I live in Williamsburg, they think, and I have an ironic mustache, and my art-school girlfriend has a sleeve of tattoos, but is that enough? I’m not Henry Rollins or anything. I’m not dating freaking Zooey Deschanel.
I think that’s why the label of “hipster” goes hand-in-hand with the notion of being a poser. Because it’s what the hipsters themselves are worried about. And when you call them hipster, they become offended because what they hear is, “you’re not the real thing.”
Well, I’m here to say that I am a writer. I write. I’m a writer – the real thing. And I’m not going to be scared to admit it any longer. And for all you hipsters out there – you shouldn’t be ashamed either! I promise you, if you answered yes to at least a handful of the criteria in my list above, you are a hipster — the real thing. Be proud. Stand out from the other hipsters by admitting that you are one.
At the beach in Wellfleet, I apologized a few more times to the shaggy-haired, scruffy-bearded guy and then said, “oh yeah, I never finished telling you guys about the CNN report.”
“What’d they say?” the red-haired girl asked.
“Well, they interviewed the owner of the coffee shop – he was in San Francisco – and they asked him what he meant by annoying hipster topics. He said, ‘you know, like how awesome Eraserhead is and how there should be gluten-free PBR, and using the phrase ‘no worries.’”
I looked at the shaggy-haired boy and smiled at him. “I thought it was funny. I mean, I say ‘no worries’ all the time, but I’m definitely not a hipster.”
* * *
I also read this the other day, and I have to admit that I like several of these bands.