Half-shaved heads. Tecate cans and manhattans in plastic cups. Christmas string lights and yoga murals on brick walls. Earlier this week, a friend of mine from San Francisco invited me to a McSweeney’s book reading in Echo Park. Although she and I have been the best of friends for years, I knew that I probably wouldn’t fit in with this crowd. While she has pursued a career within an industry that idolizes great writers, I work in one that treats the writers of The Wizards of Waverly Place like gods. The thing I didn’t realize? Just how much I would struggle to fit in.
Pretty much everything that defines me when people think of me – rapidfire typing on my blackberry, semi-preppy attire, and an obsessive degree of organization and cleaniness- were all foreign to the other patrons at this book signing. While I found the author interesting (Nick McDonell, who wrote the infamous novel Twelve, which has been adapted into a movie), I think the similarities with the people around me stopped there. My blackberry ball was like a jackhammer in a room of silent iPhone tapping. My buton-down polo shirt made me feel like I needed a passport to stand among the room full of vintage hand-me-downs. And my short, closely cut hair? Well, in a crowd where symmetrical hairstyles were the minority, I think it should be clear how badly I stuck out.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved mocking hipsters – for their funny glasses, their strange style, and their inflated sense of self-importance. However, as much as I have made fun of them for their obnxious attempt at being superficially “real,” I couldn’t help but realize that they probably mocked me in return for being really “superficial.” Here I was in a room full of people who knew nothing about the world I’m engrossed in – without any knowledge of hair and makeup budgets, private flights, or designer clothing. Simply put, I was in a room of people who were happy simply feeling like they learned something new on a night out. A foreign concept for me, really, since the last time I remember my friends wanting to go out and educate themselves was probably in elementary school.
The whole experience was rattling – in so many years of living in LA, and feeling very much a part and product of this city, I was like a foreigner in my own home. I don’t know if my version of LA is any more real than this hipster variation I was exposed to that night – but it taught me about what makes LA so great – that in this city where we all struggle to co-exist, we can each have our very own existences completely independent of one another. But with that said- a note to hipsters: you can have Echo Park – I’ll keep the West Side.
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