Do I Want to Be a Hipster?

“I wanna be a hipster,” she says simply, pointing to her biblical tattoo and short-cropped hair in the middle of a conversation about her favorite folk music lyrics. “I’ve decided. I wanna be a hipster!” She is one of my best friends, and I generally respect her taste a great deal. But I don’t know how to react.

Maybe you can relate with her.

Maybe you most certainly cannot.

Maybe you’ve been enthusiastically jabbering on about your favorite band, independent film, art collection, or philosopher, when suddenly your conversation partner shakes their head and says, “Oh, you’re such a hipster.” You stand there in your plaid shirt, lace cardigan, maroon skinny corduroys, and vintage oxfords unsure of how to take this–and even less sure of how to respond. “Do I say ‘thank you?’ Do I shrug shamefully? Do I adamantly deny it?” This last course of action is the most dangerous, because many people believe that the strongest mark of a hipster is the inability to admit that one is, in fact, a hipster.

I felt that a lot of this trouble could be cleared up by settling on a concrete definition of what it means to be a hipster. Of course, no such definition exists. Even less-than-scholarly Urban Dictionary offers about seven encyclopedia-entry-sized explanations of this cultural phenomenon. Even so, this one seemed like a safe place to start:

“Hipsters are a subculture of men and women typically in their 20’s and 30’s that value independent thinking, counter-culture, progressive politics, an appreciation of art and indie-rock, creativity, intelligence, and witty banter.”

That doesn’t sound too repulsive, does it? Especially for an Urban Dictionary definition. Those can get grody.

Honestly, I want to be a lot of those qualities described in the above definition. I am a lot of those qualities. I love me some intelligent, witty banter and independent thinking. I’m a huge fan of art and indie music. I keep close tabs on progressive politics. I’m creative. I’m in my twenties.

Am I a hipster? And more importantly, is that a bad thing?

What People See as Desirable About Hipster Culture:

Creativity and experimental fashion

So the style in the hipster world is pretty fly. It’s incredibly diverse and usually an eclectic mix of a variety of other styles–bohemian, punk, preppy, scuzzy lumberjack, etc. I know labels are the worst, but words are what we use to make sense of the world, so deal with it, hipster readers. My point is, their fashion and beauty creations tend to be interesting and refreshing.

Also, this gallery of celebrities re-imagined as hipsters is my favorite thing since Benedict Cumberbatch photobombed U2 at the Oscars.

Refusing to get caught up in fads

I dislike sweeping fads as much as the next person, although a job in marketing basically means I have to make a career out of studying them. So when a chunk of the population says, “No, thanks,” and continues to do their own thing despite social pressure, I enjoy that. I appreciate the courage to be oneself without needing the approval of the masses. I knew a girl in college who got engaged to her boyfriend without a ring because they didn’t see the point. I think that kind of freedom has to feel so good.

A genuine appreciation for the arts

Yes, some hipsters only listen to the music they listen to or watch the movies they watch because no one else does. Others, however, really look for a higher standard of quality when it comes to the media they consume. While the masses are content to watch Transformers, hipsters call BS and curl up with The Iron Giant instead. I also notice that hipsters are more likely to be interested in theatre and visual art. Sure, it can feel like snobbery at times, but I really admire it.

A genuine appreciation for vintage culture and nostalgia

I am all about nostalgia lately. I cry thinking about bygone days when people didn’t take a miniature telephone/computer with them every time they left the house. I like it when hipsters value the past and the simple life. They upcycle grandma’s old jewelry and dad’s old trousers. They ride bikes and tune up old record players. This kind of respect for the things of the past is heart-warming to me.

Enjoying knowledge for the sake of knowledge

This might not be an “official” hipster trait, but it’s something that I’ve noticed. Hipsters generally like to know things about the things they like. They make a hobby of gaining knowledge about their hobby. These are the people who read Bukowksi for fun and study coffee growing and roasting techniques. Fine by me. If you care about something, invest some time and effort into it, I say.

P.S. But remember no one likes a know-it-all.

Frugality and resourcefulness

This kind of goes hand-in-hand with appreciating vintage goodies, but hipsters really are responsible for thrifting being as popular as it is now. No, it wasn’t Macklemore. We were doing it before it was cool.

A desire to discuss important topics

Again, maybe not a hallmark of all hipsters, but it’s a trend I’ve seen. Those I’ve encountered who fit the hipster mold are eager to engage with others about social justice issues like feminism, marriage equality, and human trafficking as well as political and economic topics. I personally find it delightfully refreshing to encounter people who are not only educated about what’s happening in the world around them but who also think and feel passionately about those happenings.

What People See as Repellant About Hipster Culture: 

Refusing to acknowledge genuine talent and quality just because it is popular or “mainstream”

This drives me freaking nuts. Yes, Lady Gaga is an overrated mainstream fame-monger. That does nothing to change the fact that she is a stellar vocalist and an out-of-this-world performer. Just admit it! Millions of people love her for a reason! Why does that deter you from admitting she is good?! I can’t even . . .

Seriously, I have never been able to wrap my head around the “They’re famous now, so I can’t like them anymore” thing. They’re famous because they’re good, for crying out loud!

Condescension or snobbiness

You’ve all felt it–judgment from a holier-than-though hipster who felt the need to inform you that your fedora is actually a trilby or that your Chai tea isn’t fair trade. Nuff said.

Excessively expensive or excessively abnegating lifestyles

These are two sides of the same coin. (Abnegation is a 50-cent word for denying yourself things you want). Both extremes are bad as far as I am concerned. Some hipsters are the style who will blow their money on organic everything and memorabilia signed by the Smiths. Others are the kind who won’t wear shoes or eat chocolate in order to make a statement. I’m not a fan of either.

WORST EVER: Caring about being different more than they care about interpersonal connection

This takes the cake in terms of bad hipster qualities. It’s unfortunately come to be the signature of hipsters everywhere. These people find their sense of self in participating in only aspects of culture that are unknown or “underground.” Often the minute these bands, or anime series, or clothing brands, or whatever begin to become popular, their hipster followers will abandon ship and move on the the next heretofore undiscovered thing. It’s as if the only way they can be truly unique is to like things that hardly anyone else likes.

They form their identity based on the things they enjoy rather than the people they enjoy them with.

The irony? Now hipsterism itself has become popular, so the hipsters have nowhere to go. They’re having a massive identity crisis.

So Who Do I Want to Be?

In light of acknowledging the positive and negative aspects of hipsterism, what can those of us who are “on the fence,” if you will, conclude about who we want to be going forward? I can only speak for myself, but I think I’ve learned some important lessons in studying hipsters.

I want to be myself first of all. And I want to be with people second.

Being myself means that if I do or do not like or care about something, I will be honest about it–to myself and to the world.

Being with people means that I will never let these passions alienate me from those I encounter. I will embrace connection.

hipYes, I occasionally enjoy some obscure and/or unpopular things. That just means I’m all the more delighted when I meet someone who shares that interest. If we have that obscure thing in common, odds are we have other things in common and we’ll probably hit it off! Yes, my style of dress is a little unorthodox sometimes (not so much anymore,) but I do it to feel happy and free about my appearance, not to scare people away. Yes, I value academic intelligence and being politically and socially aware, but why would I want to keep those things to myself by avoiding people who are not “up to my standard?”

I want to love and be loved, and if I can love on someone while we both love on existentialist philosophy, Chvrches, Attack on Titan, matcha green tea, blackbox theatre, pad thai, and Modcloth, that does not threaten my sense of self at all.

Why can’t we all embrace intelligence, activism, resourcefulness, creativity, critical consumption of media, multiculturalism, and other admirable qualities without trying to label such things as being counter-cultural and “hipster?”

Alienating ourselves from others through our cultural identity is unhealthy, but so is mindlessly consuming the pop culture fed to us on a large scale. That’s why I love the fact that hipsterism is not a subculture anymore. Hipsterism is becoming mainstream because people are realizing that they can explore the culture beyond what is readily accessible to them and in so doing encounter others who are also happy to challenge the status quo.

Yes, we are all forming our own identities, but our identities are tangled up in the people we let into our worlds. Let’s fill those worlds with the things we love and trust that they will attract people who we might come to love as well.

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How to Live Like a Tourist Everyday – Part 2

This post and its predecessor were written for ROC U’s blog about being a college student in the Rochester, NY area.

In case you missed Part 1, it’s here.

Now that we’ve gotten the terminology down, here are three tips to help you start your illustrious career as a citizen tourist right now.

1. Eat out.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “You acknowledge we’re broke college students, and now you want us to eat out more?”

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The truth is, to know a community is to know how its people live. To know how people live is to know how they eat. Restaurants, cafes, pubs, farmers markets, and locally specialized grocery stores (hello, Wegmans?) can give you this insight.

Stop some people on the street. Ask them where they like to eat. It’s so simple it even rhymes.

Also, if you haven’t already, it’s time to fall in love with Urbanspoon. This amazing website (and now app) sorts restaurants by customer rating, geographic location, price range, and more.

This is the “Cheap Eats” page for Urbanspoon Rochester. Go wild!

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Click here to read on at ROC U’s tumblr.

How to Live Like a Tourist Everyday – Part 1

Today I am blogging over at ROC U blog, a tumblr populated by a group of journalism students at Roberts Wesleyan College. My post is about the best lesson I learned while studying abroad in Europe.

We hear the word “tourist” and immediately think of money-sucking “tourist traps.” We do our best to master prior to our vacations the walk and talk that will make us “not look like tourists.” We brag upon our return that the quaint places we frequented in our travels weren’t the least bit “touristy.”

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But if we turn to our good friends Merriam and Webster, tourism is simply defined as :

noun \ˈtu̇r-ˌi-zəm\ 1. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

How nice. Who wouldn’t want to do that? So why should pleasurable travel have such a bad rap?

Well, probably because the very next (and increasingly more common) definition is :

2. the business of providing hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc., for people who are traveling

The problem with tourism, as with many modern art forms, is that it has been turned into an industry.

Click here to read on at ROC U’s tumblr.

Ready for a Remodel

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The seating area in our living room

Josh and I tell everyone who asks us that we love our apartment. Despite being located in a low-income (see: super cheap! yay!) housing area in a Rochester suburb, we find it to be spacious, tidy, and chic–not to mention full of recently replaced features such as new carpeting, new paint on the walls, and new kitchen cabinets.

As our lease is coming due this next month, we have no intention of relocating. We love Rochester culture, we love living on the west side of the city, we love our local family and friends, and we love our little bungalow. We don’t even mind the snow! Of course, after a year living anywhere most people would be ready for a change of scenery, and we certainly are! Watching HGTV nonstop has us itching to update our space 🙂 The victims are our bedroom and living area. We’ve decided to switch up the color schemes and accessories in each space.

Stay tuned for how we make this change without so much as opening a can of paint! For now, here are some “before” pictures of the two rooms.

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Entertainment center and work space across from seating area

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Because the rooms’ colors are so neutral, we’ve picked an accent color for each space and decorated with random accessories in that color

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My grandma cross-stiched this for our wedding gift ❤

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Moving on to the bedroom!

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The fan in the background kind of ruins the ambience here . . . but get a load of my palatial bed!

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This rocking chair is a gift from my grandpa for our future nursery 🙂 I suppose the teddy bears will be more appropriate in there than in our bedroom . . .

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This bookcase of leather-bound classics (which I consider as the focal point of the room) was a gift to my little sister from her great-uncle. She gifted me only the ones she “didn’t enjoy reading now and then.” Lucky me!

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Yes, that picture frame is empty. Don’t judge. I haven’t decided what to put in it.

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Pictures of these rooms post-remodel are in the works! Mostly because the remodel itself is still in the works . . .

What I Wore: This Is Snow Awkward

Okay, so the reason that I didn’t list where I bought all of my outfit elements in the caption like we bloggers are supposed to do is not because its been months since I have posted a What I Wore and I forgot the protocol.

It’s actually because I was pretty embarrassed about all of the awkwardness of this outfit.

  • So everything on my body in this pic was purchased at either Target or Walmart. Budgetista at her finest up in here.
  • Except my coat which is from Spain. I guess that’s kind of cool.
  • My husband and both of my parents all said independently of each other that this beanie makes me look like a homeless person.
  • My friend Ben said, “Nice orphan hat,” when he saw me at church. I guess orphan is better than homeless person . . .
  • Those white things around mt ankles are huge insulated hunting socks. It’s 13 degrees here.
  • I’m actually wearing huge earrings that go perfectly with my dress, but they’re kind of invisible in all of ma hurr.

If you live in my neck of the US, happy snow day! I hope it’s an awkward and awesome one.

From Braveheart to Booritos

Oh, the things I choose to do with my “free” time . . .

Josh and I weren’t really planning on celebrating Halloween when we first got married. Halloween meant costumes, and costumes meant money, which we didn’t have . . . so when I surprised my hubby with two matching Braveheart costumes made completely from scratch (materials totaling $20 for both), he was tickled. Embarrassed as I’m sure he was, he agreed to sport the outfit like a man to show support for his artsy and frugal wifey.

We wore our DIY costumes proudly that first Halloween together, even putting in a good 45 minutes to paint Josh’s face blue like the film icon he was emulating. We headed to our first ever Halloween party that Saturday night–and proceeded to get locked out of our car in a Walmart parking lot in costume. I texted my friends to let them know that we would be late, and received an unsympathetic “you do know the party is tomorrow night, right?” in response. We didn’t go through the ordeal the following night in order to attend the party.

Fast forward to year 2 when we excitedly donned the costumes yet again (no one had seen them the year before) to walk through our first ever haunted house. On the one hand, this was a terrible experience, as we quickly realized that the adrenaline spike created by being severely startled every 15 seconds is not our idea of fun. On the other hand, several of the very talented and highly creepy actors in the haunted house even took a moment to moan or shriek (still in character, mind you) “Nice costuuuume . . .”

That year, All Hallows Eve proved an interesting and memorable experience all around, but as we quickly ripped off the uncomfortable get-ups the moment we got home, we realized in horror that we had no photographic evidence of our two-years-in-a-row charade!

Here I called myself a blogger and an amateur photographer, and I had documented neither of our family’s Halloween experiences (both of which just so happened to showcase my own creative handiwork).

Note the wallet ad cell phone tucked under his belt. He is too cute!

Well, this year, after spending all of yesterday resigned to the fact that we would not be celebrating Halloween after all, we found out from dear friend Kristen that Chipotle Mexican Grill was offering $2 meals to anyone who showed up in costume!

William Wallace and Princess Isabella made their final appearance, this time immortalized forever in digital form.

I wonder what creative DIY couple’s costumes we’ll be donning next year?