I finally figured it out.
I’m not hip enough.
Oh, I’m good enough – and I say that with complete humility because “good enough” by today’s standards is completely relative. And by that I do not mean your relatives think you’re good enough – that’s a given – I mean that in the world of instant reality show stardom, digitally perfected perfection, inexplicable and arbitrary fame, self published/self promoted… well… everything, what, really, is good enough? I have no idea. But I’m pretty sure I’m at least it.
I’m just not hip enough.
I was thinking about Rock+Paper+Music. Ever since I started writing for Huff Po, this blog here, my very own lovingly created, carefully managed and artistically designed forum for “sass and sensibility,” has become the slightly ugly stepsister overshadowed by the behemoth that is Huff Po. I try to find the balance: I keep my Huff Po stuff what is is – analysis and commentary on political, cultural, religious, and artistic issues – sometimes articles overlap, but this blog is more personal, with more pictures, a warmer tone at times, often about non-famous people I know who should be famous, what my latest familial challenge is, that sorta thing. And despite the fact that I don’t obligate myself to write in just one genre (parenting, writing, photography, etc.), I do create a through-line with my brand of commentary, my voice, so to speak, so it is thematic enough…right?
Oh, hell, it probably isn’t buttonholed enough and that’s probably as unhip as all get-out and the very reason why Rock+Paper+Music remains a smart, thoughtful, but unviraled and slightly flatlined creative endeavor. I want it to be bigger, better, more OUT THERE, but either I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing in terms of proper 2.0 Internet promotion (likely), the title is too benign (I thought it was clever…what do I know?), or it’s too hard to…well…buttonhole. I insisted on taking liberties with the “blogging mandate of buttonholing” and look where it got me: writing about how I’m not hip enough. And saying buttonhole a lot.
This whole stew session was set off by a blog I was made aware of today. People I Want to Punch In the Throat. It was implied by the poster of this blog link that it’s really funny. Or at least the posted article was. I immediately swallowed (with some difficulty) and clicked the link. I will refrain from commenting on the visual (there is none) and only read a bit, trying mostly to find out who “Jen” is (suggested by her bio, which is aptly named “Who is Jen?”), and it turns out the person who came up with this rather aggressive title, Jen, also writes for Huff Po (but, really, there are thousands of us, how hip can that be??), has been interviewed by NPR (shoot…I hardly even listen!), she’s witty, snarky, funny, and says things like, “All of a sudden I’ve got lots of people who want to know who I am.” and “I think the title sums it up. If you can’t figure it out, then go away before I punch you in the throat.” Sheesh. So I did go away…but not because I couldn’t figure it out, more because my visceral reaction to the literary violence of her title made me dizzy with hip-envy, which is really the downfall of a person like me. Because even after exhaustively social-media’ing, cyber bush-beating, virtual stone-unturning, and all my other various marketing ministrations, I lack Jen-like “virality” (I made that up…a play on virility and viral…come ON, that’s kind of hip!!).
Nah. Not really.
I’m so unhip, in fact, that I had an old friend – one I hadn’t spoken to in years but who’s on my mailing list – send me an email in response to a new blog notice with one line: “Please remove me from your mailing list.” No signature; no, “hey, how you doing?” Just that one line. Stunned, I wrote back, “We haven’t spoken in years, odd that your one communication in all that time would be this request.” He wrote back chiding me for “taking it personally,” adding the supposedly assuaging explanation that he “just doesn’t like blogs.” I took him off the list. He’s a pretty hip guy. You do the math.
But let me make this clear right now: I’m not a slacker. I know what’s what and I’ve got myself social media’d all over the place (personal page, Pinterest, LinkedIn, and Twitter) and I work those puppies like nobody’s business (just look at how I active-linked them all!). Maybe that’s the problem…nobody’s making it their business. Well, not nobody, but it can get bleak out there. Let’s take Twitter, for example. Despite my rather articulate, occasionally thought-provoking, sometimes self-promoting, but always 140-character Tweets of substantial pith, I’m pretty much ignored. While everyone’s tripping all over themselves to get “followed” by Benicio del Toro (who was officially on Twitter for all of two or three days) or retweeting some disgusting genital/masturbation reference by one famous actor or another, I’m clearly not high-profile enough for consideration by the Twit-verse. Frankly, they’re a hardy bunch and it’s likely I just can’t keep up. That feed scrolls off the page so fast that I can only presume the people who are constantly present, wit and parrying away, are sitting at a computer 24/7 with nothing better to do than desperately attempt to one-up each other or incite conversation with a Tweeting celebrity. Though Roseanne Barr did retweet one of my tweets once, I can only ride that train for so long. And I’ve now just said “tweet” or “Twitter” more in one paragraph than anyone should.
It could be my age. I don’t make a point of throwing actual numbers around but it’s not hard to extrapolate. In any circle of contemporary hipsters I’d be considered seriously OLD and being considered OLD in the world of the considerably YOUNG is about as effing unhip as you can get. You don’t even have to do stupid shit like wear white stretch pants, say “anywho,” or keep complaining about Facebook Timeline. Despite the inroads made by Betty White and Cher, and despite the fact that we’re all sort of grossed out by the epic damage being wrought on older faces by cosmetic surgery, the fact is, if you don’t know why Kelly Osbourne is feuding with Xtina (or even who Xtina is), who/what is trending on Twitter, or how Vodka and feminine products have become linked (sorry…it is viral), you’re not only OLD, you’re terminally unhip. Which might mean I’m slightly hip for being able to reference any of those things. Probably not.
Basically you’re unhip just by virtue of having lived longer than the much hipper younger people who are now running the world on the sheer heft of their buying, downloading, clicking, viewing, sharing, texting, tweeting, stumbling, or YouTubing. Any hip quotient I could ever possibly muster pales in comparison. Though I have a smart phone and still wear black jeans. Not enough. Not near.
But I get the young thing. I do. It’s a great time of life. I had an amazing experience as a young artist. I did have all that stuff – the slavishly devoted managers and producers, the band members who happily hitched on my ride; good Variety reviews, people who said they’d make me a star, backers and financiers and agents and publicists and fans and all that head-swirling stuff, some version of which our girl Jen is probably reveling in when she isn’t punching someone in the throat. But, truth be told, even when I was young I wasn’t so hip. When an unknown Madonna and I met with the same manager at the same time (she and I didn’t meet at the same time, he was considering us both at the same time…and I was the one there on a recommendation from the legendary Kim Fowley of Runaways fame…how hip was that?!), that manager passed on me, took Madonna, and while I kept singing and writing songs about interracial relationships and the meaning of life, she was dry humping gay dancers and making millions (and, yes, admittedly, recording some great pop songs I dance to even to this day!). She was hip. I was not. Dammit all to hell.
Here’s the thing: when you do what I do – freelance writing, photography, music – and you’re not hip enough – as we’ve established I’m not – the burden of wrangling all that creative output falls squarely on YOU. You don’t get a manager drooling over your “potential.” People don’t rush the door to get you viral and trending. No one’s setting up conference calls to “discuss the trajectory of your articles.” NPR ignores you. We’ve discussed the Tweeting. Basically you’re on your own. You market and media and bush beat and try not to annoy the shit out of the few people who actually respond to those mass mailings or Facebook links, and hold tight to the notion that you remain worthy despite it all. You write a few articles that do go (sorta) viral and that ticks up your hip quotient for a second, but it’s a “what have you done for me lately?” world out there and you’re Sisyphus; every single article, query letter, photography posting, and attempt to put a band together is a new effort that requires rolling that rock up the hill each and every day.
Rocking and frikkin’ rolling.
Did you ever see The Flight of the Conchords, that hilarious 2007 HBO show with the New Zealand music/comedy duo, Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie? One of the funniest bits on the show was the ubiquitous appearances of their “one fan” (played by the very funny Kristen Schaal), who made it her business to be the very best fan she could be and, since she was their only one, they were grateful for her (most of the time!). Sometimes I feel that way about my small but very loyal group of friends and fans who always take the time to click, leave comments, re-post, pass on, and generally show a little love on a regular basis. Hipness notwithstanding, they are there, a small but mighty group, and what I lack in “virality,” I have – in spades – in some very appreciated loyalty from them. They’re like my “one fan,” though happily more than one. But just a little more! I’m grateful for them.
The truth is, I love what I do…my creativity lends tremendous purpose to my life. It always has, even when I was younger and hipper and not writing about either. But if it appears I’m now too sincere, too earnest; if I’m not snarky enough or funny enough for the times; if I lack cutting enough edge or just the right touch of verbal violence, so be it. I discovered long ago that you have to be who you are, who you truly are, and if that doesn’t bring them to their feet, again, so be it. To feign something or attempt to be someone else just to match the zeitgeist in hopes of greater acceptance or more success is pure folly. It never works. You always get found out. Look at Milli Vanilli.
So as Popeye would say, I am what I am. Thank you to those who get me. I love you guys, I really do. Which is a long way from wanting to punch someone in the throat.
Yep…definitely not hip enough.
Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.
20 thoughts on “I’m Not Hip Enough”
Lorraine, I would never have said you were not hip or unhip or whatever you want to call it. You are you and that is enough. And good writing will attract. I firmly believe that. Stay true. You have a vision here. And, I definitely think your blog title is clever. Noticed it from the beginning!
Thanks, Jennifer. As a blogger yourself (with a damn pretty clever title and platform), I take that with appreciation. LDW
Too much quality to just be the next shiny object…with the internet, it seems that those who remain high profile are limited to a small niche interest (which you’d find too confining, I’d guess), got in early enough to know that ‘punch in the throat’ is an already old internet phrase, or live for sensation over substance in our 15-minute fame society – outrageous in a very fake way and without substance. So, if you are unhip, sign me up for your club, but keep writing. Love you just the way you are.
You’re too kind, my friend. But I love you just the way you are too! xxoo LDW
Sigh. If you were unhip even in our youth, then I’m terminally hopeless. I was always the nose-to-the-grindstone type while you always seemed to be having a lot more fun. Even now I envy your blog style – smart and passionate but funny and fun to read. Keep writing , Lorraine. I’ll be your one fan if you need it.
That made me smile, Bruce! 🙂 I would love for you to be my “one fan.” You are always a gentleman. Thanks for your kind words, my friend. LDW (And the secret is, I always was having fun, despite my unhipness!)
The truth is that we love what you do, too. Always, one of your Ones
Thanks, Dawnie…I’m thrilled to have you as one of my Ones!! xxoo LDW
Don’t mean to be mean but maybe you never got where you wanted to get because you’re not one of the lucky ones. It’s not your destiny. I don’t know if being hip is really the answer. I know lots of unhip people who are successful (look at Bill Gates!). Some of us are just worker bees.
Oh, Christ, Jordana, you are a buzzkill! Frankly, you could be right. I hate to consider that, dammit, but at this point of my life, it’s as good an explanation as anything. Thanks for nuthin’! 🙂 LDW
Very funny. Not everyone is so quick to admit their unhipness. Some bravery there? Either that or you’re just hip enough to talk about it! Gave me a chuckle. Thanks and good luck.
Thanks, Leo. I’m not sure which it is either! LDW
Great stuff. I’m going out right now and find someone who is hipper than me and throat punch the bastid.
Don’t wear yourself out…there’s likely lots of ’em! LDW
Another marvelous article 🙂 Keep this way and this will become my top G+ website! Cheers! Many J.
Thanks, Mandy! Always happy to be at the top of anyone’s G+! LDW
Thanks for writing so openly. Hipness is a commodity these days, and as you said, snark does better on the web than sincerity does. So I guess the question is this: how do you define success?
I started my own site in 1996, long before “blog” was a word. I was successful with it, receiving thousands of uniques a day. Looking back, I wish I had decided to keep going with it — I would be in a better place. But I got to a point where I didn’t want to share everything, didn’t want my life to be consumed publicly, and wanted to focus more on my real-life relationships than on virtual ones.
Readers disappeared, and now I have a travel website that hardly anyone reads. Does this make me feel lousy sometimes? Sure. I wish more people read it. But the constant marketing and “please retweet” and all that stuff? Feh. I don’t need it.
Being genuine and kind and true to oneself takes more work and more integrity than being hip or cool. It’s easier to make fun of something or to do an electro mashup of Mr. Rogers than it is to be real and heartfelt. That’s why people do it, and that’s why stuff like that is popular.
But at the end of the day — or more honestly, the end of your life — the value of hipness is negligible. We don’t live in a culture that values reflection and sincerity, but for the people who do value those things, life is richer overall.
Annie: Thanks for your really great comment. It’s refreshing to hear from someone who was actually there (you know, that hip place where one gets thousands of uniques a day! 🙂 and then moved away of their own accord. It’s my guess, if your new site is hardly being read, that the world changed, not you. Back in ’96 the idea of blogs was incredibly new and exciting, maybe even a little mysterious. Now everyone has one (including me!). It’s hard to pull out of that pack of “everyone,” no matter how good you might be. I realize you don’t need my reassurances, but it’s a different landscape now. As usual, I have impeccable timing! 🙂
But the more important message was your statement “Being genuine and kind and true to oneself takes more work and more integrity than being hip or cool.” Truer words were never said. Well, maybe at some point, but those are damn true words! Thank you, Annnie.
BTW, love your blog…I’m going to spread it around some. Nothing better than a smart travel writer!
I love your site~~your blog~~with so many beautiful and amazing pictures throughout your pages~~~but you know the point is that your stylish writing is the key ~
Thank you, Josie, for making note of the pictures. Photography is a big part of my creative life so it’s nice when they get a little notice too! Of course, always appreciate comments on the writing. Come back and visit again! LDW
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