Pop Culture and Me: a Forbidden Love Affair

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No one expects me to like pop culture. I believe two key factors play into this: my race, and my lack of style. I’m not going to change either one. Or the unyielding fact that I’ve always been quite enamored by pop culture.

Okay, my race I can’t change. But could I change my style so that it translates into a media-savvy hipster? Or at the very least, someone who looks like they watch TV?

How does that work? Should I wear “Walking Dead” t-shirts? Get a “Breaking Bad” Tattoo? Wear everything I see from Forever 21 to prove that I’m just like everyone else?

The funny thing about being misunderstood is that although we loathe it, we secretly enjoy it too—because it proves that there’s more to us than meets the eye.

I suppose there are some people out there who are happy being simple and straightforward—easily “read”, or as the kids call it these days: basic. See, I am hip enough to know that.

For the rest of us, we instinctively feel that that translates to being shallow, which is generally seen as a pejorative term unless you’re a reality star. Check. I know what constitutes a reality show star.

The truth is, I do play a role in my own conundrum too. It’s my lack of desire to assimilate on some levels that distances me from my peers, which fosters animosity and misunderstanding. But if I’m not interested in jumping on the latest bandwagon, that’s my right too. And being an individual does not preclude an awareness of what’s current in popular culture.

It’s not all bad either, to be fair. When I mentioned something about the Golden Globes one year (yes, I’m even an awards show junkie), a friend innocently remarked: “Wow, I thought you’d be—too cool to watch something like that.” Aww, ain’t that sweet? So maybe there is a contingent out there that isn’t attacking my character when assuming things about me. They’re simply deeming me to be more enlightened than I actually am, which is flattering—and less insulting.

But alas, I can succumb to frivolity as much as the next person. Who doesn’t enjoy the latest celebrity news? It’s like a large order of McDonald’s French fries: not good for you, but you’re not interested in being a saint. You’re allowed an indulgence once in a while. How utterly boring would it be if we only did things that were ethically “good” and enriching for us? If that were the case, there’d be no decent TV shows, movies, or music. We’d all be wearing white robes and chanting scriptures and talking about nothing more provocative than the weather.

So there you have it. The unremarkable reason why a person like me can enjoy the latest Adele album or the Oscars is just that: it’s human nature. Sometimes the simplest answer is the hardest one for people to see or accept. Apparently.

Ambiverts, Fummers and Sadults

Ambiverts

If you spend any time online, particularly on social media—you’re bound to come across some articles (read: click bait) that are tailor-made for your interests these days—whether on your own, by way of your friends and family, or creepily offered by the ghost in your machine (i.e. the algorithm decoders behind Facebook). This past year, I came across one of these intriguing links that unveiled a new term that summed me up so well, I took more time to analyze and mull over myself: ambivert.

This is a compound term, taking the traditional word “Introvert” and combining it with the word “Ambivalent” or “Ambiguous”—or Amber, in honor of the first introvert who discovered these specialized traits. An ambivert is basically an introvert at heart (prone to silence, introspection, needing time alone to recharge from social situations)—but with tendencies to also be outgoing, engaging, and display comfort at being the center of attention occasionally, on their terms. Basically, an ambivert is an introvert who doesn’t suck (or an extrovert who isn’t a complete dick). The best of both worlds, at last.

Honestly, this wasn’t really news to me. I’ve always known I was a composite freakazoid like this. But upon discovering this new buzzword, I was a little confounded: isn’t it a bit gauche to be surprised that introverts can also be “social”?

I was chatting with a new friend on the phone recently about some interpersonal problems that had come up in our social circle—some clashing views and temperaments—all that fun stuff. He remarked that one of our friends was reserved and introverted—among other things that contributed to the scenario. Then he proceeded to analyze me for the purpose of discussion too: “I noticed that you’re also quiet and introverted—but you’re actually proactive, socially, to my surprise…” I was a bit taken aback by this (now I just find it a few degrees below hilarity). If I were to have taken the defensive approach, my immediate reaction would’ve been: Why wouldn’t I be socially proactive? Just because I’m introverted doesn’t mean I don’t want to spend time with others and have fun. In fact, it’s as much a priority in my life as the traditional hallmarks of introversion: solitude, reflection, and a large Netflix queue. Alas, I just let it slide—it was more amusing than anything else.

            Conversely, I also bristle when I’m placed squarely in the other camp. Much less recently, I was shooting the breeze with a different friend—chatting about this and that, which led to us musing about our shared friends—which led to his lament about the trials of meeting new people and connecting. Since I was then at the ripe age of twenty-seven and still riding a wave of twenty-something ease, I glibly divulged: “I don’t have too much trouble meeting new people”, to which my friend flatly remarked: “That’s because you’re really open…” To which I figuratively scratched my head—then spent subsequent years laughing at and contesting this remark, privately. To be fair, my friend wasn’t entirely incorrect. At that age, with my track record then, just give me a few drinks in a new scenario and I’d blindly push forward—hoping for the best. But he wasn’t entirely correct either. Regardless of how proactive I was socially, I also had a sturdy reputation among others for being quiet as well. I was and am, ruthlessly guarded about my solitude—just as happy to spend an entire weekend alone. Quite simply, it’s all context. I’m quiet to some, “open” to others. Different people bring out different sides of you. Also, this friend was notorious for having a stick up his butt; rocks were more “open” than him.

I think many people are (or should) be ambiverts to some degree, anyway. Aren’t many of us a mix of chill and proactive at the same time? Sure, I can take the initiative when I first meet you—because I don’t have time to fuck around. I’m a businessman in that sense. But once I get to know you more, I’m gonna need my space then and often. I don’t need to give and receive constantly; I’m self-sufficient—a retiring artist in that sense. Although I’ve been known to be pretty bold and fun when I get my mojo going, nothing kills my buzz more than when I’m expected to display these traits consistently. Fuck that. I’m not anyone’s toy, and I’m not here for anyone’s amusement but my own. Consequently, some people don’t even want to claim that I’m “fun” at all—but they know they can’t rule it out either. Basically, I’m a fummer! –A combination of the word fun and bummer, and I wear this term proudly!

In fact, since learning about the term ambivert, a few other buzz terms have popped up online, adding more confusion and less creative names in the process like: Outgoing Introvert, Introverted Extrovert, Extroverted Introverted Extrovert. You get where that’s going. I thought I was special as an ambivert, but then nobody else gets to be special—and we just can’t have that! Makes you wonder if a person would dare label themselves simply as an extrovert or introvert these days.

We humans love to analyze and define ourselves—especially nowadays, because we have evolved to stop worrying about food or moving out of our parents’ homes. There are innumerous quizzes, lists, and uncorroborated articles out there that will assist you in deciding just who you are and what you need in this world.

More buzzwords will breed more buzzwords, like a word association game gone ballistic, to help define the current generation of 18 to 35 year olds who have mastered the challenging art of sharing about themselves on all forms of social media. With that frame of mind, I would like to draw up a few suggestions of my own to add into the lexicon:

Drama fraud: A person who lies about not liking “Drama”.

Sadult: A person who is technically an adult, but bears little resemblance to one with a combination of one or more of the following missing traits: physical appearance, clothing style, financial security, responsibilities, relationship status, hobbies, mindset, maturity. No age limit.

Fauxweird: A person who claims to be “Weird”, but is actually completely concerned about fitting in with everyone, and will suppress anything remotely original about themselves to attain it.

Blindster: A person who is blind to the fact that they are in fact, a hipster. (You can usually spot them by overhearing their arbitrary diatribes against hipsters, to prove that they aren’t one…)

Groaner: A person who is trying a bit too hard to appear smarter, cooler, or tougher than they actually are. (It makes you wanna groan, get it?)

Faux-no social: A person who claims that they don’t like social media, but secretly uses it substantially.

And last but not least:

Anassistic: When a person analyzes themselves narcissistically via the dubious tenets of pop psychology: astrology, personality tests, and buzzwords.

I’m not proud to say that I’ve been guilty of three of the terms above, from time to time. I’ll let you guess which ones, ha….

Why Was I Even Friends With That Guy?

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Do you ever look back and ask yourself, while gagging: “Why was I even friends with that guy?” AAaaaaaacccckkkkkkk!!

But seriously. Sometimes we lean on people—aww, isn’t that sweet/ romantic/technically unsound?—because we needed them at that particular time in our lives. It’s a natural part of life—like zits, falling down because your foot’s asleep, or… gagging to get that hunk of mucus out of your throat.

You know you’re taking one of these trains to “Meh” Town when:

You never integrate this person with other people in your life, because you know it will have the same effect as heating a popcorn bag inside your gas oven.

You look forward to having dinner—not having it with them.

You spend a lot of time talking about innocuous things like… movies. ‘Cause seriously: it’s the most exciting subject in the history of mankind, that ISN’T personal or revealing. What did people who didn’t like each other—even TALK about, before the invention of celluloid? Oh right—patterns in the universe that emit heat or cold.

You never develop a single inside joke to share intimately with one another, or even tell a joke —in the most extreme cases. It’s all just… well, movies probably. If you’re lucky: there’s a terrible thing that happened in the news that week. That’ll fetch you some fodder for a brief shining moment.

But alas, eventually one day, like a long overdue diagnosis—you realize it’s run its course. If you’re lucky, you came to this realization first—and the other poor sap has to learn through the Rule of Two: he can only attempt to say “hi” or plan your next dubious outing TWICE, before giving up due to your lack of interest. If you’re even luckier: both of you share this brief moment of psychic connection and part ways simultaneously! This moment of cosmic clarity is usually preceded by something telling but unremarkable—the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back: a dinner where he showed up late­— again—for the eighth time; the misguided “mixer” where his friends met you for the first time and hated you; or he keeps spacing out when you talk about movies.

Next thing you know, you’ve decided to block his posts on Facebook ‘cause you can’t stand his face anymore, and those cheesy affirmations he posts ten times a day/ via pictures with quotes, or actual quotes he managed to assemble with words that probably came from his crap factory.

You think back with smug satisfaction at your own astute, albeit delayed action of “cleaning house” in this area of your life. All is right, now.

Fast forward to four months later—you find yourself clicking on his Facebook profile again, out of boredom (hey, you have more free time now, so…). With mild disgust/perverse curiosity (like peering out your car window at a mangled possum corpse on the side of the road) you wonder: ‘What’s this bastard up to these days?’

Then you see that the world order is, indeed, still upheld after all: his cheesy affirmations are still littering this corner of cyberspace, along with posts of his ugly, cheesy friends that you hated too. And you can’t help but smile pitifully (at him, of course), with that familiar feeling rising up from your chest—say it with me:

Why was I even friends with that guy?”

AAaaaaaacccckkkkkkk!!