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  • Hip Hip Hooray

    I am not hip. And it’s not going to change. In case anyone's been on the fence about this, you can climb down. My lack of hipness has been confirmed. I may have been hip once, but those days are gone.

    I do have a hip friend, though. We'll call her Daisy. She used to be a hippie. But now she’s just hip.

    I haven’t seen Daisy in a while, so we decide to meet up in another city--we’ll call it Cashville--where we'll stay with her friends who just opened a restaurant. Not knowing that Daisy's hipster status has elevated to new and nauseating heights, I get excited to reunite with my old friend.

    I drive 6.5 hours and finally arrive in Cashville. I pull up to Daisy's friends' rented home in my normal (but fuel efficient), car in last year's style of jeans and practical shoes, to find Daisy waiting for me. She seems like the cheerful friend I remember. It's good to see her.

    She introduces me to our hosts, a married couple who are generous and friendly. We plan to meet them later at an open mic after they close the restaurant. Singer-songwriters and restaurant-owners. Fun. I look forward to hearing them perform. Daisy met them years ago up north at an open mic, so tonight will be a reunion of sorts. (Before Daisy began writing songs or singing in front of anyone, she used to come see me play open mics. She loved my music. Tonight, I will sing with her on one of her songs.)

    Nervous about performing on a Cashville stage for the first time and feeling unworthy for not having written anything lately, I finally convince myself to get up there and harmonize with my friend. And if I do it well, in this town full of singer-songwriters, I'll feel good about myself.

    The open mic begins and I see someone's mom as I pass a mirror and my flattering but too-mainstream outfit and comfortable shoes reflect back at me. To make matters worse, I order an iced latte (in typical mom fashion). (Later, Daisy tries to order hard liquor, and when they tell her there's only beer here, she scoffs and then finally comes to terms with it. But I won’t get started on this new habit). I forgive myself for these offenses because (1) I needed to be comfortable on my drive and (2) I need the caffeine since I'm exhausted. Besides, we're in a cafe.

    I sing my heart out in near-perfect harmony on Daisy's two choruses and people like my voice! They want to know where I'm from and if I sing anywhere else. I tell them I'm a background singer in a band in Slowhio and they smile politely and drop the subject. I keep telling myself, "It's not about you, just enjoy the company and be glad you're not at the office."

    As it gets later, I squirm in my seat and force applause as the usual suspects have their way with the mic. The way-too-drunk-cover-song-guy who stops every few minutes to regain his composure? Check. The 2 best buds who probably smoked too many buds and can't keep their eyes open? Check. And the guy who wants to be Metallica while wearing a baseball cap and Beastie Boys t-shirt and singing "Call me a monster!!" Check. After the beast-boy finishes, we've had enough and leave.

    In the morning, we set out to plan our day. And here is where my offenses begin, or continue.

    We need to look stuff up on the internet so I suggest finding a coffee shop to use wi-fi.
    I suggest--gasp!--Starbucks.

    As the word leaves my mouth, Daisy stops cold in her tracks. She moves her phone away from her face and glares with disgust.

    "Starbucks?! Are you kidding? I would never go there!!"

    And all of a sudden we're in the movie MEAN GIRLS. Except it's MEAN HIP GIRLS.

    It’s not the words she’s saying, it’s her tone. It’s the most condescending tone anyone's ever used with me. It's as if she can't stand one more second of me, as if it's been building up. For a second, I don't know where I am or what's hit me. Blood rushes to my face (or somewhere) and I feel ashamed. Ashamed for speaking, for living. I start explaining myself.

    "I didn't mean-- I just know that they have a sign that says 'free wi-fi.' I'm not saying we should buy--"

    And then I stop. She rolls her eyes and returns to uploading photos of herself to her social networking page.

    And it comes back to me. Her last visit to my place, months before.

    We were talking about the future and I mentioned a neighborhood where I wanted to live, that happens to be just outside of the city. She chided me for wanting to live in the suburbs. She explained that she wanted to live among the "poor", in an urban area, where she could walk places. I reminded her that she grew up in a big house in the suburbs and I in apartments in the city with a single mom, and maybe that's why I wanted a peaceful setting. Silence.

    Not to vent or anything, but this is a weak spot for me. I seem to relate all of the hurtful events of my life to growing up with less than my peers had. Whether it's rational or not. This event--this being lectured for being mainstream and practical, for saying "Starbucks"--would now make the list.

    Some of the hurtful events in my life for which I hold poverty responsible:

    Having to move across the country and leave my friends at the last minute because the finances were running low and there was possible gang activity nearby. Having my best friend in 9th grade abruptly stop talking to me, for reasons still unknown, causing shame and depression for the next couple years. Having the guy I fell in love with in college dump me right before graduation because he feared his rich family wouldn't relate well to mine. Living in a big city to pursue music dreams, but having to work several jobs which didn't leave any time for my music career, and finally coming back home. And now, saying Starbucks in the presence of a wanna-be hipster. Sad, right?

    Back to the event. I let it go and we continue planning our day, but while she's in the other room I draft a text to my boyfriend about what happened. I don't send it because why send him something negative and make him worry about me.

    The rest of the day goes ok, but the anger and hurt linger. I haven't felt hip in several years, since moving back home after the big city of failed music dreams. I've been living the life of a Midwest normal person, working in an office, saving money for a house, feeling guilty for not writing music or going to shows every night or playing open mics or leaving town. And now I try to get away for a weekend, and be fun, and I'm chided for being boring and normal. For mentioning a big corporation's free wi-fi.

    We proceed to the avenue of tourism and do our sight-seeing. We're together but not really. I'm with someone I used to know. And like. When she was herself. In the museum we go separate directions and don't talk until the end. We take a photo together which needs three re-do's until she deems it sufficient for her online profile. We meet back up with our hostess, who, even though she is hip, is refreshingly easy to talk to and actually likes what I have to say. We all see a live show and even though it's hipster music, I enjoy it. I buy the band's CD but can't listen to it now, because it reminds me of what happened. And what I am not.

    One more uncomfortable moment happens, conveying her disappointment in me. So remember the open mic? Well, I recorded a video of her song (not the one I sang in). Want to know what I did? I let people pass in front of me while videotaping her. And I turned the camera sideways, not knowing it would put out a sideways recording. Two more offenses. She made sure to scold me for these as we watched the video back. Shame on me. How could I forget -- this is not supposed to be a memory for me, it's meant to go online for the world! What was I thinking? Where were my videography skills? How could I make such a mistake?! After she finishes expressing her disappointment, I speak up. And I'm crying a little (for reasons explained above). I let her know that people don't like critics. Aiming below the belt, since she's in grad school, I tell her that in a professional setting, she's going to need to learn how to keep her comments to herself. And then I tell her that what I really mean is, I didn't like the Starbucks scolding and it made me feel lame... She tears up herself, but I'm guessing it's from the previous night's alcohol. She chalks it up to being a New Yorker whose "other friends aren't so sensitive." (Nice apology.)

    The last day, we stumble upon the vintage clothing and guitar stores … in the hip part of town. Not knowing I'd be walking into a scene or need to look a certain way, I am not prepared with what I'm wearing. My Seattle souvenir t-shirt and flattering-but-normal jeans are sure to get me kicked out. I don't get kicked out but I get to feel like a guy next to the waif-like girly-girls wearing this year's jeans and sizing me up.

    Now I just sound pathetic. What's really sad is, this part of town was the reason we came here together, Daisy and I. We found this part of town together many years ago and saw a band who was unknown then and is hugely popular now. Back then, we weren't thinking of being hip. We were just college students going away on a trip. This trip was supposed to be a sequel to that. But you know what they say about sequels.

    ***

    I drop Daisy off at her Megabus stop in the middle of downtown and hug her goodbye. She acts like she's sooo sad to see me go. I don't know when we'll talk again. But I know this wasn't the trip we both wanted. The last thing I hear is that she promises to upload our photos as soon as she gets on the bus.

    Days go by and no photos of us are posted. Photos of her and other (hip) friends are posted. I give up on checking for photos of us.

    Tonight, I receive a text. It’s Daisy, apologizing for not posting any photos of us. She’s been “too busy.”

    Seconds later, another text pops in: “I never got a copy of my video at the open mic. Can you send it to me?”


    ***
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