I’m not a huge coffee drinker. I don’t deal well with caffeine—give me a cup of coffee after noon, and
I’m not sleeping that night. And neither is Michael. I bounce off the walls like a five year old who ate all
the Halloween candy; or a meth addict.
But I do enjoy a cup o’ Joe now and then. Mostly in the pre-dawn hours when I have to be up for some
kind of work. And this is where the irriation comes in…the hipster coffee shops often don’t open till after
8. The coffees are $5, come on a menu that’s impossible to read, and exist in shops so cool as to not have
a name or a sign on the door. Just the stench of patchouli and white people with dreads milling
about, with neck tattoos that make them unemployable to let you know that it’s there.
It was at one of these coffee shops that I experienced the kind of staring I haven’t had since junior high,
back when flannels and torn jeans were popular the first time. I was in jeans, sneakers, a t-shirt and zip
up hoodie: weather appropriate clothing with no hint at fashion—I wasn’t doing anything that day that
required people to notice me, but rather that I needed utilitarian clothing. The kind of outfit one wears in
Colorado or West Virginia or Kansas or Maine and no one bats an eye; in fact, I could have been a model
for L.L. Bean or Columbia.
But this is New York, and even though I’m not tall enough to ever be considered for modeling, apparently
it’s really important to complete strangers that I not mess with their aesthetic at their coffee shop.
So the hipsters stared. And I felt smaller than I did in the 6th grade, when my older sister and the first boy
I ever had a crush on nitpicked at an outfit I wore to a backyard BBQ: they told me I was “too dressed up”
with my pink plaid shorts, white cotton tank top and matching pink cardigan, with also matching white
keds and pink socks. They wore shorts and t-shirts with band names that they’d now be embarrassed to
have listened to, and Chuck Taylors with no socks.
I felt embarrassed by my outfit, and its matching. I tried for years after to fit in, avoiding large but (what
I thought, anyway) elegant jewelry. Avoiding navy blue. Avoiding classic pumps, and instead leaning
towards outlandish shoes that weren’t really my style at all.
It wasn’t until graduate school, when I first got asked out on a date by an undergrad in my department,
that I decided to go for the look I’d always been drawn to: appropriate and business-like.
So I walked into Brooks Brothers, where nothing has changed, where nothing will change, because
fashion may be hip, but the squares get the part time jobs in the world of Finance that pay for their artistic
lives. Because you can wear the same suit for 35 years, and still be at the height of fashion. Because when
you work in the arts, and you dress like the donors, they talk to you, and accept you as one of their own.
The hipsters will change their look. They’ll change their personalities, too, if fashion requires it.
But I will be with the squares. I will be stuck with those elegant ladies who seem timeless and ageless
because they stick with navy blue.
And I will have my coffee, early in the morning, to go, because I have somewhere to be that doesn’t
involve a ukulele quartet.
Yes, I am a square. And hip to be one.