Tag Archives: Fun

I Have No Style

Russ is still sleeping off his post–Spring Break hangover. So this week all you loyal Reasonably Ludicrous followers will have to deal with something different: me, Sam.  My writing style is notably different from Russ’s  in that he is fun and I am not.

That’s not entirely accurate. It’s that Russ can find happy, collaborative humor, the kind that everyone can enjoy together. I can’t do that kind of humor. The only way I can be funny is to point out when there is a problem. Usually I’m the subject of my own humor, because as I have proven time and time again, I am an exceptionally easy target.

I often wonder if this self-deprecation is an inherent quality of my upbringing. It’s not unreasonable to speculate that some few formative experiences molded me into a shuddering mass of neuroses, and that the long institutionalization within the hearth of the American School System fired me into the man that I am today: somewhat lumpy and increasingly fragile. It’s only now that I’m exposed to the cool air of reality that I realize there’s not a glaze in the world that can fix the cracks in the clay.

But you didn’t come here to listen to me sculpt abstractions; you want some concrete. Well here’s the truth, folks. I was, tragically, born without a sense of fashion.

I was doomed from the start. Near-sightedness prevented the development of crucial pattern-recognition, leaving me unable to distinguish the hideous from the complex. My parents, naïve fools that they were, decided to allow me to pick my own clothing. And for whatever god-forsaken reason (maybe because of Todd next door, who was always grilling fish in them) I attached myself to Hawaiian Shirts.

I would wear them everywhere. Their combination of formal and fun made them perfect for literally all occasions:

Parties!

Class!

Church!

The Beach!

Utility has always guided my decisions in some way or another, which was why I also liked to complement my ensemble with cargo shorts (keeps you cool, and so many pockets!).

It took me well in to high school to realize that these outfits were actively hindering my acceptance into the fold of mainstream society. Rather than alluring, peacock-like flair that drew attention towards me, these rainbow colored masterpieces of tessellation were actively alienating me from the opposite sex I had heard so many great things about.

Had I had a traditional childhood, I’d have been blessed with elementary-school bullies who would have stomped my ‘style’ out of me before I had time to grow a collection. But either I went to a particularly nice school or I was too tall to be pushed around, because the only person who told me I looked like an idiot was my sister, and that’s what she always said anyways so why would I listen to her?

So I continued on, dimly aware that I wasn’t exactly ‘stylin’’ but that was okay because I had a style all my own.  In fact, it was that sense of individuality and aversion to peer pressure that solidified my resolve to continue wearing Hawaiian shirts. I wasn’t going to do the ‘cool’ thing, just because everyone (and I mean everyone) told me I should. They were just imposing their conformist ideas of ‘fashion’ on me because they couldn’t handle how unique I looked.

Gradually, however, the social stigma overcame the joy. The joy of integrity is worth only so much to a pubescent high-schooler. At some point I caught on that if I was going to get ahead in this world I was going to have to put the Hawaiian shirts away for good.  So I phased all but my favorites out of the rotation, and eventually those went as well.

I could never bring myself to get rid of them completely. To this day some of them hang lonely in the corner of my closet back home, hoping beyond hope that the next time the door slides open it will be me, ready to take them on a trip. But instead it’s my cat, looking for a damp place to hack up a hairball.

Now this might have been a simple, bittersweet-but-ultimately-happy story about a boy putting away childish notions to become a man. But that’s not the kind of story I tell. My lack of fashion sense isn’t limited to Hawaiian shirts, you see. It’s a constant, malevolent force, just looking for a new way to manifest itself. It worms its way through my psyche, waiting for me to make a choice just bad enough that people will gently chide me for my lack of self-awareness. But the joke’s on them, because that will simply convince me that I should continue on my way, just to show them they don’t own me.

In college I was finally able to grow my hair beyond my collar (I had gone to a Catholic school with a strict dress code against facial hair and hippies), which I overcompensated for by not cutting my hair, at all. This was a brilliantly freeing notion to me, because my hair had always worked against me in high school. It grew quickly and unevenly, and I would comb it into all sorts of terrifying shapes. But now I would embrace my hair and allow it to become what it had always wanted to be. There was a brief phase of white-man afro, after which it collapsed from its own weight and became a kind of shaggy mane. I thought this was awesome. I decided I would grow it out until it was a ponytail. But my normally sprouting-like-a-weed hair-growth rate slows to a crawl right after about 10 inches. I managed to tie it all back, but all I could produce was a little puff ball.

I know what you’re thinking. This is the hair of a bad-ass muthafucka. But my social calendar from that period, if I kept a social calendar, would have told a very different story.

Nowadays my hair is a much more reasonable length. I wear t-shirts with only one funny picture on it once, as opposed to many times over and over again. If I have a formal occasion to go to I have a selection of ties, which have tasteful patterns and no pictures of the Cat in the Hat.

And yet still, I am haunted. Recently I was visiting with Sarah and Karen, these two girls that I had taken a trip with the previous summer. Somehow, I don’t know, somehow they got to talking about how poorly I had dressed on this trip.

Apparently it had been the subject of much hilarity, none of which I had been privy to. I had actually been a source of regular entertainment for them, wondering what eye-gouging ensemble I’d put together next. It had been so bad that our other friend Mark had actively avoided being seen with me in public.

“Remember the jeans shorts?” Karen burst out, and they both collapsed into hysterics.

I made a mental note not to wear my jeans shorts when I saw them again the next day.

Did you know that jeans shorts are a fashion faux pas? Because I sure didn’t. But they are. There’s even a derogatory term for them: jorts.  It seems that Jorts (which redirects to Shorts on Wikipedia) are the kind of clothing suburban moms wear, and only when they’re hanging out around the house, not you know, out. This is apparently common knowledge, and according to Karen has been so since the early 2000’s. I’ve been wearing jeans shorts for the entirety of my 23 years of existence, and this is the first I hear of it.

This does little to allay my perpetual suspicion that everyone I know is keeping secrets from me.

••••

What I don’t understand is, if they felt so strongly about my fashion choices, why not they tell me? Why allow me to repeatedly make a fool of myself in public? Why bother to protect my feelings in the first place, only to reveal the horrible truth to me afterwards, when there’s nothing I can do about it?

“Well it wasn’t really a big deal most of the time”, explained Sarah. “We were out of the country, so you just looked like a tourist.” After all, it wasn’t until we had gotten to New York that Mark began actively avoiding being seen in public with me. He had people to impress, whereas in China everyone was going to stare at the gay black man no matter what he wore, or how unstylish his companions.

So with tact not dissimilar to my fashion sense I will transition into a conclusion about all of this, which is that fashion is context-dependent. You judge what’s acceptable based on perception of surroundings, a mix of conscious and subconscious notions of stylistic relationships and your current surroundings. It’s how you know that something is ‘inappropriate’ for an occasion—style is judged by how something responds to normalcy. There’s a reason they call a sense of style ‘taste’– like taste, style is entirely based on the subjective accumulation of perception.  And if it’s subjective, I can spin it in my favor.

So it’s not that I don’t have a sense of fashion. Rather, I have a limited palate. I’m a ‘picky’ stylist, in that I make choices not based on what other people think when they see it, but rather what appeals to me personally, for whatever formative experiences led me to that conclusion. Sure, my nipples may poke through this shirt like tiny little pebbles. But it’s 100% cotton! Not hanging up my pants doesn’t make me a slob, it makes me a hipster! Hawaiian shirts are cheesy now, but I’ll be hailed as a visionary in a matter of decades! You just wait.

Advertisements

24 Comments

Filed under Observations, Sam

Rich People Are Scary

Remember all those computer science friends I jealously mentioned back in the first post? Well now they’re working at startup companies with so much promise that venture capitalists are racing their yachts at ludicrous speed to arrive in time to be the first to invest. In fact, Brian (the roommate) was so tempted by the allure of nautical-themed, computer-science glory, that he hopped into his silicon-covered wagon and trekked to California’s gold rush 2.0, leaving me to my own devices in our apartment.

Not long ago, I used to work amongst those people, but when the company realized how unimportant writing is to the success of a video game, there was a bit of downsizing. They attempted to make it up to me, however, by granting me a one-weekend stay in their six-bedroom, three-yard, one-pool mansion.

Within minutes of my arrival, their productivity was reduced to a full-scale, mouse-pad-Frisbee war that soon devolved into a highly alcoholic game of Settlers of Catan. Sometimes I have the distinct feeling that nerds don’t know what to do with huge quantities of money.

We pulled ourselves together the next morning because the founders had an important social function on a yacht filled with potential investors and their absurdly hot girlfriends, who I found out later were united by a common affinity for wealth. Now, I was the black sheep of the company, but there was an extra spot in the car, so after a brief automotive nap, I found myself stepping onto a massive, fancy boat, attempting with all my strength to fight my hangover and make a good impression on the surrounding millionaires.

Initially, I tried my hand at small talk, only to receive looks of complete and utter disdain from  numerous beautiful women, a not entirely new experience. One deigned to talk to me long enough to regale me with the tale of her company’s camping trip, during which her coworker had slept without a tent and woken up all wet.

“She certainly didn’t know what she was dewing,” I said, and the girl literally moved one chair over just so she wouldn’t have to be next to me.

I wanted to save face but couldn’t think of anything that would help me recover from that abysmal foray into the world of conversation, so I just sat there, staring into the comforting endlessness of the ocean, trying my best not to be noticed. Luckily, I was soon summoned to meet the owner near the prow of the ship. I’d never met wealth-based pseudo-royalty before (though Christian Slater once told me he liked my shirt), and as I headed toward the bridge, my stomach fluttered with excitement.

The moment I laid eyes on him, however, I burst into hysterics, which is a suboptimal way to make a first impression. He was at least 50, the quintessential cliché of pompous opulence: reclined on a large, luxurious cushion of presumably exotic origin, a glass of fine wine in one hand and a small, fluffy dog yapping with ceaseless delight in the other.

As his 20-something girlfriend, also of exotic origin, sidles up a little closer to him, our group sits down on some tacky Astroturf amidst a circle of lowly peasants bequeathing gifts upon him in an attempt to curry favor. The moment he opens his mouth and greets us with his thick, Eastern-European accent, all I can think of are the countless Eurotrash villains Bruce Willis has dispensed with a vengeance.

I introduce myself, but it’s one of those moments when you can tell the person considers you to be as inconsequential as a speck of dust, which, I suspect, is the fate of most specks of dust. After responding with the minimum required number of hmms and hrms and not making the slightest attempt to mask his disinterest, Richy McWealtherson resumes his conversation with an attractive young woman and they start joking about Tetris, of all things. Apparently they’d watched a competitive Tetris tournament, and this experience had led the boat king to an epiphany: finally, the baron of all technology could understand how the masses might enjoy something as pedestrian and lowbrow as football. I chime in with “Yeah, Tetris is a lot easier to get into. You’ve only got like a half-dozen players to follow.” They both just stare at me. “You know,” I continue, trying my best to salvage the situation, “like L-block, the square one…”

“There were far more than six people competing in the tournament we observed,” Richy replies, peeved by my disgraceful ignorance. My friends are horrified that I’ve offended their potentially life-changing contact, but before things can get any worse, another worshipper arrives with a bottle of wine. The king points to Juan, one of my friends, and says “go open this,” fully expecting his command to be obeyed with haste and groveling, which it is.

I then have to hold my tongue while the pharaoh and the wine-giver transition to discussing the zombie apocalypse. Somehow, he manages to ruin even this topic, sucking all the joy out of it like a zombie-eating vampire. It’s as if he knows the conversation is widely considered to be pleasurable, but he has no conception of why. Like an alien in human skin, he imitates our species’ smiles and mannerisms to determine how best to conquer us, yet cannot grasp why we might engage in such frivolous endeavors as love, laughter, and debating hypothetical, world-ending scenarios.

Moments later, Juan scurries back and hands me the bottle—cork 80% of the way out—and some glasses, and tells me to start pouring while he gets more cups. I give the stopper a swift yank, only to have it completely disintegrate in my hands. All these tiny bits of cork are flooding into the bottle of wine, and I glance up, horrified that I’ve been exposed as a despicable, wine-ruining plebian. As luck would have it, the wine-giver still has the king’s attention, though the rest of the retinue is staring at me like I’d just murdered their first-born child.

I leap up and sprint into the heart of the boat, frantically searching for some tool that can help me remove the rest of the cork. I weave in and out of computer scientists and beautiful women until I reach the kitchen, but the only things on the table are some plastic cups, a carrot cake, and chopsticks. After briefly employing my lateral-thinking skills in an attempt to deduce the connection between the three, I simply grab a chopstick and start stabbing the cork until whatever parts still had a little bit of structural integrity give in to my brutality and fall into the wine, which is about ten percent cork at this point. I haphazardly siphon it into cups (thus utilizing 2 of the 3 tools available to me), fish out the cork with my fingers, and then pour it back into the bottle, doing my best not to spill it everywhere.

It’s actually sort of working; the only problem is it appears that some hideous, and likely poisonous, fungus has been growing inside the bottle ALL ALONG! I’m suddenly very worried that someone is attempting to bump off the non-terrestrial, millionaire vessel owner (probably to gain an inheritance/become the new overlord of his species) and place the blame on me, the unsuspecting and incompetent cork puller.

After all, why did I feel the need to sneak off with the bottle of wine? Why did I head down to the kitchen where I could tamper with it alone, unobserved? I’m about to hurl the bottle overboard in a frantic attempt to save myself, when in walks the king’s girlfriend. “Ah, there you are,” she says, and ominously explains that everyone’s been waiting for me. Too afraid to voice my concerns, I hand her the wine and follow her back to the prow. I cringe as she pours out a full dose of poison for all the guests, but before my friends can drink it, I surreptitiously point out the fungus, and we all watch in dismay as king and girlfriend quaff it with hearty abandon.

Luckily, nobody died, so maybe that guy’s immune to poison by now. Or maybe it was some kind of “cultured” wine, like the cheeses that are supposed to be old and disgusting.

After making a whole swath of faux pas and bad impressions, I escaped the royal party and ended up talking to one of the hot girlfriends who happened to be an English major turned author. It seemed that she had avoided the post-graduation English-major blues by being stunningly attractive and not entirely socially incompetent. I stuck with her the rest of the time.

When we got back to the mansion, I drank away the memories, and, in a moment of metaphor, climbed onto the roof and shed all the physical possessions that were weighing me down. I mean, what good is a boat if you never even leave the dock because there’s a chance it might get scuffed? I wanted to live in the moment, to be the kind of person who judges people not because of their status, but because judging them makes for good comedy. But mostly, I just wanted to jump off the roof of the mansion into the pool naked, because nobody’d done it before and there’d be the added benefit of burning a scarring mental image into everyone’s brain. Oddly, I haven’t been invited back since.

25 Comments

Filed under Stories