For the past year, my articles have been devoted to the glorification of one thing: dorkiness.
Also the ’90s. And “Harry Potter.” And accidental celibacy.
But admittedly, the first concept can unequivocally encompass the latter three. Dorkiness casts a rather entertaining shadow over all my interests and attributes, so it consequentially percolates my every satirical soliloquy.
I moralize awkwardness and goofiness. Not only because they’re emblems of my own routine behavior, but also because heralding their significance makes me distinctively self-deprecating. Distinct is the key word here, because ultimately my goal has always been to be different. Call me a freak any day of the week; I’d rather express nuttiness than normalcy.
“American Beauty,” a movie devoted to making young female moviegoers uncomfortably attracted to Kevin Spacey, articulated it best. While getting groped by the same wrinkly, sexual hands that beheaded Gwyneth Paltrow in “Seven,” Mena Suvari’s character says, “I don’t think there’s anything worse than being ordinary.” Is that not the overarching theme in all of our lives? Whether understatedly or very ferociously so, you have to admit that some part of you wants nothing more than to be above average.
That attitude manifests itself in a variety of ways. And for me, there’s been a developmental spectrum of how I demonstrate my divergences from the mainstream. In the early stages, I was just a weird little girl who desperately wanted to act alternatively to the boy-crazy, giggly girls around her. So instead of flirting during recess, I’d pretend that I was being possessed by Elizabethan-era ghosts. This is the time of my life where my teachers would misguidedly label me as “imaginative” rather than “a lunatic.” Later on in high school, I embraced cynicism for the sake of cynicism. Eventually in my college years, I became an overly involved overachiever. The path was a bit convoluted, but each juncture demonstrated the same desire to be different and, indirectly, impressive.
For as long as there has been pop culture, there has been pop counterculture flaunted by pockets of people rebelling against the social norm. The beatniks, the hippies, the goths—every decade has its own twist on oddity. Nowadays hipsters are a heavily contended subdivision of our sociological stratosphere, being as popular as they are unpopular. Society hates them and they hate themselves, an unusually reciprocal disdain.
Recently, several major publications have ranted against the ironic ambience of our generation. As someone who lives her life like there should be air quotes around her at all times, this resonates with me. I became a sarcastic bastard at the same age I realized my boobs had stopped growing—11ish. So it’s no surprise to me when someone calls me a hipster. Whether due to my high-waisted jeans or my general disposition, I admittedly appear to associate with this ironic archetype.
And I know that true hipsters aren’t allowed to admit their hipsterdom, but I don’t embrace the epithet because I have a purely flannel wardrobe or because I read obscure anime comics just to be kitschy. In the purest sense, a hipster is just another evolution of those who dare and desire to be different. So gee, it feels good to be a hipster.
Earlier I alluded to the fact that wanting to be different can be coupled with wanting to be impressive. Impressive and different are both stark contrasts to ordinary, so it makes sense that they are at least arbitrarily related. I’ve struggled with the insecurities of being unimpressive a lot since graduation. There are so many easy ways to seem impressive at Duke—through your social clout, your grades or your extracurriculars. Out here, the labels are more ambiguous. Obviously that’s a good thing, but it can be a little disorienting at the same time. I’m no longer LDOC co-chair, or a FAC board member or DUU VP. And now I’m no longer writing for The Chronicle.
This is the last article I’ll be writing for the Socialites. Being an anti-social Socialite wasn’t something that was necessarily impressive per se, but it was something I was proud of. It was something that challenged me creatively and intellectually, and now it’s coming to an end. When you reach the end of something, you feel obligated to exit with significance. That’s how senior year felt. Like if every weekend wasn’t legendary, then I was doing it wrong.
Expecting significance from myself distracts me from the unadulterated purity of momentary fun. In moving on from things like the Chronicle, I’m letting go of things that I rely on too heavily to make me feel impressive.
Though I will always be a little bit freaky and a little bit geeky, in some other ways it’s time to grow up.
Lindsay Tomson, Trinity ’12, is currently applying her Duke-developed skills of sarcasm and awkwardness in the real world. This is her final column of the semester.