“I asked you a question and I didn’t need you to reply
Is it getting heavy?
But then I realize, is it getting heavy
Well, I thought it was already as heavy as can be”
-Iron and Wine from “Waiting for Superman”
Being in your late 20’s is a weird thing. I am 28 now. I live in Kansas City, a city that I would have never though I would ever reside in back when I was in high school. In the six years since I have graduated college, I have been to many different places, experienced many different things, been through different relationships and relished my own unique joys, and walked through my share of painful valleys. Furthermore, it’s amazing too how life, culture, society has changed in the six years since I left Gonzaga and made my way toward Culver City, California. Back in 2009, the touch phone was still a luxury, twitter was just becoming relevant, and I’m sure there was still a size-able minority that still thought MySpace was a legitimate form of Social Media.
However, the biggest rise in the past six years has been the emergence of the Hipster. Yes, the coffee-drinking, flannel-wearing, Chuck taylor and rolled up jean sporting socialite that has become such a recognizable figure in our society. Much like the Beatnik to the 50’s, the hippie to the 60’s, the yuppie to the 80’s, the hipster is the “culture” of the 2010’s. Some people embrace it thinking of it as the new progressive approach to life. Others despise it as a hypocritical figure of 21st century consumerism. Whatever side of the fence you find yourself on, the “hipster” will generate debate in all kinds of communities and forms.
The “hipster” debate always strikes a chord with me though because it is tough for me to not find myself falling into that taboo demographic. After all, I am in my late 20’s, PBR and Miller High Life tend to be my beer of choice (typical for hipsters), I have found myself shopping for flannel shirts at thrift stores as of late and I have grown to adore Indie folk bands (such as Iron and Wine, Mumford and Sons and Low Roar), even going to concerts here in Kansas City, which is something very atypical of me (I have never been a concert-goer until this past year). So with this being the case, why do I to hesitate to consider myself a hipster? Why do I still feel anxious to categorize myself as someone that is characteristic of the decade that we currently live in?
The answer to that question is really two-fold, stemming from both my previous relationships here in Kansas City. The first part centers on my second-to-last ex who I moved here to Kansas City from Pine Ridge for. In all honesty, she really was a hipster. She listened to that indie folk music (though she also tended to listen to a lot of hip-hop, so she was kind of a “uber-hipster” I guess, if that does exist), she always wore beanies, she tended to be very anti-consumerism with her shopping, preferring farmer’s markets and thrift stores (which was mostly due to her best friend, who was totally on that spectrum), had tattoos, and also smoked and preferred cheap “non-popular” beer (i.e. not Bud Light). After we broke up, though I found myself enjoying a lot of the same interests, I did not want to admit it because it brought up painful memories. Memories of her, both good and bad, whenever I engaged in these “hipster” activities. And that is why I did not want to typify myself as such a person: it would put me in her category, and not only would it make me recall less-than-stellar memories, but make me feel as if I was her, which would make me feel worse, almost masochistic, since I was embodying her in some way by embracing “hipster-ism” even though the ending of that relationship had been so painful and life-altering that October through January of last year. It sounds strange of course to think like that, but it’s funny how a relationship, both current and past, can alter our mindset or approach to mainstream activities, even if it is fun or gears toward our interests.
So, I didn’t want to be hipster initially because of my first ex. But that was only the first part. The second part centered around my last ex, who was a Latina woman in her 30’s who had 3 kids. This woman was the total opposite of my first ex (i.e. not hipster at all). She liked Latin and pop music, she tended to be more traditional when it came to buying food, clothing, etc (i.e. fell in line with the common consumer trends), and didn’t see how the “hipster” lifestyle was attractive or ideal in the slightest. It seemed like the perfect fit. Not only was I with this attractive woman, but she was the complete polar opposite of my last ex. If anything was going to drive me away from being a “hipster”, it was this woman and this relationship.
Instead, I found my tendency to gear toward the “hipster” ways pop up from time to time. When it came to BBQs, I would buy PBR or High Life, and she would make a remark about that. She constantly made note that my personality would be a better fit for one of her single “hipster” friends rather than her (this was probably a sign that this relationship was not going to work: when your girlfriend suggests that maybe you should be dating their friend rather than her because you share a like for flannel, a band or a certain brand of beer). Of course, I tried to fight against it: I liked Romeo Santos, I tended to fall too “in-line” with society to be categorized as a “hipster”, I was done with the “single” scene typical of someone my age. And for about 11 months, we were able to believe that, think that was the case, and carry our relationship as if we were really truly meant to be with each other despite our difference in personality, and specifically my own “lingering” personality characteristics being suppressed (though willingly on my end at the time).
Of course though, things did not work. That relationship ended for a multitude of reasons, but one of the subtle reasons? I was too hipster for her. I didn’t fit in with her personality, how she did things, etc. We were too different, going in two different directions, and we have not spoken since we broke up in November. Sad in many ways of course, but in the end it was a good thing. Though I didn’t realize it at the time, I was being someone I wasn’t, just to be in that relationship, thinking that was the main way I would be happy (being in a relationship with kids and raising a family, i.e the mindset of every 20-something in the Midwest.). As the months passed though, I began to come to the realization that it was good that I wasn’t in that relationship anymore. I wasn’t happy in that relationship at the end of the day. I wasn’t myself. And when you’re not yourself, it’s hard to maintain any kind of happiness, no matter how awesome or beautiful or supportive the other person in the relationship is.
So since that endeavor ended, I have been single since. And in my own “solo” status, I have grown to understand myself a little more. And for some reasons, being “hipster” comes back to the forefront. Was being a “hipster” such a bad thing? Was I a hipster in the purest sense? No. I didn’t have tattoos and didn’t plan on getting anytime soon. I don’t wear bottleneck glasses. I don’t live on my parents’ trust fund account. But the other aspects? Yeah, I guess I can consider myself hipster in that sense. But did that make me happy? Did that make me feel comfortable with myself? Or would it be another crutch, much like that last relationship with the 30-something-year-old mother?
In April, I bought tickets to the “Middle of the Map” concert at the Uptown Theater that featured Sean Rowe, Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear, Strand of Oaks and Iron and Wine. It was something uncharacteristic for me because I didn’t go to concerts. I didn’t see myself as a “music” guy by any means, let alone enough of one to go to a concert that featured the artists above. But I had my own “fuck it” moment and decided to do it, to do something different, even if it cost money and was out of my comfort zone. Would it be a hipster fest? Perhaps, but maybe I could determine if this was something I wanted and was comfortable with or if it was just a phase, a inkling that didn’t lead anywhere.
Sean Rowe and Madisen Ward and the Mama Bear killed it, while Strand of Oaks left a lot to be desired (I can’t get into a band that’s trying to be indie folk and metal at the same time; it’s like Mexican-Asian fusion cuisine…just doesn’t fit IMO). But what really hooked me, changed things for me that night was Sam Beam (i.e. Iron and Wine), especially his rendition of “the Trapeze Swinger”. This isn’t an exact version, but the video below is very similar to what he performed at the Uptown that April night.
Amazing, right? Well, after that night, that performance, my perspective on everything just changed. Being there, listening to him, along with a completely attentive crowd of 20-something hipsters dressed in flannel, rolled up jeans, bottleneck glasses, etc, I felt completely at ease. In that eight-plus minute acoustic performance, I felt as if I had broken from chains of anxiety, doubt, and to be perfectly blunt, shit. It was as if I had fallen back into a river and while lying on my back, I was just letting the water float me down the river, away from everything, away from my first hipster ex who brought me to KC, and my last relationship, which I still pressed about since I felt guilty about not only leaving her, but her children as well. As I floated on this river with the sounds of the “Trapeze Swinger” ringing in my ears, those two figures (my exes) simply started to disappear in the horizon, as the river took me somewhere else, somewhere new, somewhere where I could be truly myself and happy. It was a feeling I hadn’t felt in a long time, and certainly not at any point in my tenure in Kansas City since arriving in July of 2013.
And that is what I figured out about being “hipster”. Am I a hipster in the purest sense? It is it something I strive to be? Is it something I hold as collateral over other people to show I am better than them? Of course not. That is not me. It will never be me. However, I am hipster to some extent, and there is something freeing in that. I can say I am hipster not because I am comparing myself to someone or some time in my life, but simply because it is what describes me and brings out the best me and puts me in a good place. I wear flannel that I buy from the thrift store because I like the way it looks and it is cheap (4 bucks!). I get pour over coffee from “Oddly Correct” in Kansas City because it is delicious coffee. I wear Chuck Taylors for the first time in my life and they feel comfortable. I actually give a damn about music, especially Indie Folk. I can spend my nights listening to Iron and Wine, drinking PBR and playing Solitaire and be totally at peace. Maybe I’m not 100% hipster and maybe most hipsters who I bump into may “poo-poo” me thinking I am trying to “fit in” or “conform” in a non-genuine way. Despite what others may perceive or recognize though, in my mind, I consider myself a majority hipster and that is fine…
Because more importantly…I feel free.
“Freedom hangs like heaven over everyone
Ain’t nobody knows what the newborn holds
But his mama says he’ll walk on water
And wander back home…”
Iron and Wine from “Freedom Hangs Like Heaven”