Note to reader: In this post I will be referencing the ‘Hipster’ A LOT. It probably helps if you know what a Hipster is, so I took the trouble of Googling it for you. Urban Dictionary describes ‘Hipsters’ as:
“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”
People-watching is a phenomenal activity, especially if you are in downtown Los Angeles. I have seen everything from rich people with gold toilet seats (not on them obviously), to the lonely homeless man and a dog running in sunglasses. Let’s face it, LA is a weird place. Walking through Barnes and Noble today, I was struck by how many different people were in the one building. I suppose I noticed it because I seemed to see so many of the same person, everywhere I turned he was there; the straight leg, skinny jeaned, beanie wearing twenty something,wearing owl glasses and holding Starbucks (though one guy was so keen on the whole ‘Hipster’ image he had Coffee Bean instead). Each carbon copy of this person was slightly different- the shirt, the book they were reading, the colour of their hair…but they all looked exactly the same.This struck me as quite ironic considering the idea of the Hipster is to be different and vintage. I suppose then you could argue that these people I observed were true Hipsters because they were comfortable in their style and didn’t possess it simply to be ‘Hipster’. Who knew it was so hard to be different?
We see people dressed like this every day, and I’m not quite sure why this particular stereotype caught my eye, but I found myself formulating opinions and stories about these people. In the space of 10 seconds, I had (presumably) deciphered one man’s entire identity and life story, and all he had done was stand there browsing some books.
He was about as Hipster as they come. He looked to be in his late twenties, was just below 6 ft, and had clean cropped hair with a beanie ‘casually’ slouched on his head. The owl rimmed glasses rested on his nose, just above the acceptably attractive amount of facial hair; not quite a beard, but enough to say ‘I am a man’. He wore a neat shirt and straight legged jeans, not the try-hard skinny legged type teens used to wear 5 years ago, but a comfortable yet stylish pair. In his hand he held a bottle of Coke (points off for being a consumer) and he was leaning over seeking out ideas to decorate his new house. Around his neck he wore a ring, probably once worn by his late father, best friend or grandfather, on top of another silver pendant. As he walked, he carried an air of confidence, yet unpresuming humility.
Now before you go all ‘stalker’ on me, I promise you I didn’t stop and stare at this random guy; I simply noticed him as I walked past. He was so familiar to me; his demeanor and his look were of a friend or the well worn furniture of your grandparent’s house. I knew it, and so I felt I knew him. I saw him up the front leading worship every Sunday at church, I saw him walking round high fiving youth kids and sitting across from them in Starbucks, I saw him with the beautiful fiance or wife who he had plans to build a home with. It crossed my mind that he probably had tattoos under the sleeves of his sweater, most likely biblical text or a cross of some sort. In any case, enough ink to say ‘I’m rebellious but I love Jesus’. And given that I had formulated an entire lifestyle and opinion about this gentleman in a very short space of time, I then decided he needed a back story. He was clean cut, a young adult who had come to know who he was; I decided that as a teen maybe he had experimented a little, strayed from the church or perhaps never knew anything about it. But somehow in this he had found God, reformed himself and consequently gained the fabulous life and wife with it. On the slight chance I was wrong, I was willing to guess that this dude had grown up as a PK (Pastor’s Kid) and while figuring out his beliefs as a teen, had come through this establishing himself as a leader in the church. AND if this was not the case, then I was betting he was the founder of a successful non-profit existing to provide clean water to children in Africa or help teens struggling with depression.
Perhaps it is strange that I consider the story of people so quickly after seeing them. I never even met this guy, and I have penned his entire life story. The fact is, I know that I have no idea who this man was or how he came to be in the Interior Design section on floor three at Barnes and Noble at approximately 2.45pm today. But I see that he, just like me and you, tells his story by the way his behaves, dresses, the graces he walks with. There is a very strong chance I misread Mr. Hipster and instead of being a Jesus loving, sentimental husband he is actually an aspiring actor or yogini, setting up a life with his equally as attractive partner. But as I’ll never see him again, I’ve decided to go with my version of the story, and I’ve decided to make it end happily.
The fact that each person has a story, a life time of emotion, experiences, heavy and light, overwhelms me. Each person we walk past carries burdens, victories and the possibility for change. Each person, even when they appear as the same Hipster dude I just brushed past, is unique and important. Their story is important. I’d like to think that by ‘reading’ Mr.Hipster I was able to skim the back page summary of his life; I probably just re-read the combined synopsis of the many other people I have met who he reminded me of.
I hope Mr.Hipster is happy. I hope that his latest record, youth group or yoga studio is taking off and his wife or life partner are happy. I hope he feels light when he thinks of the best friend or brother who passed away and left him with the ring around his neck. I hope he found the book he was looking for in the interior design section and his ears didn’t freeze over in California’s Spring like Winter. When I meet you, I hope I hear your story; through your words, your actions, your posture and the spark in your eyes. Tell the world your story, give yourself permission to be you and allow yourself to be whatever it is you are. If you dress in a slouch beanie and rimmed glasses, do it and stuff the Hipster tag. If you prefer baseball caps and wouldn’t be caught dead in skinny jeans, be that person. Maybe you’re like me and don’t like to dress up, but when you do you take yourself by surprise. Whatever you are, be that person. Not who you should be or who everyone expects you to be, be you and live out your story. My friends at TWLOHA often say ‘we are stories still going’. You are writing your story friend, go live it.