A Quiet Weirdness

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I’ve been reading fewer and fewer food blogs (is there anything worse than “food writing?”) and slightly more cultural, writerly blogs (which are annoying in different ways) and I’m struck by how distressingly smart, connected and authoritative so many 20-somethings are. (I’m also pretty sure I’ve had this revelation before and will continue to until I eventually die.) Or at least this insular subset, a tiny fraction of all young Americans (from young college-educated Americans, from young college-educated Americans who grew up on the East Coast, from young college-educated Americans who grew up on the East Coast with MFAs or who think defending not having one is a common American discussion topic) who seem to live in the parts of Brooklyn young women a decade ago might’ve fantasized about buying homes, having dinner parties and raising children in. They wear Rachel Comey shoes (not the collection for Urban Outfitters). I mean, someone must be responsible for that $434 per month on clothing and shoes in NYC statistic, right? (I’m not even going to touch the $796 dining out expense, and I’m conceivably a food blogger.) What will they possibly be doing in their 40s? Buying private islands?

I was glad to see Pagan Kennedy’s name in The New York Times today. I’d nearly forgotten about her existence–and to be honest, never followed her during her ‘90s heyday. But I read so much frantic, hyper-literate, naïve-sophisticated, overachieving yet toned down to feign modesty, finding my fabulous place in the world stuff that I have a hard time remembering a subtler, stumbling self-awareness.

I don’t mean older versus younger as if this has to do with lifestage; it’s not a matter of 25 compared to 45 but the era in which you were raised that will stick with you decade after decade. I don’t feel that there is a current appreciation for the quietly weird because we are all supposed to be confident, oversharing extroverts now.

A 2010 26-year-old (or 32-year-old) would not write like this:

“…a lanky man in a button-down shirt, his blond hair dangling over a delicate ear. It was hard to make out his face — I was sitting behind him — but I could see that he wore wire-frame glasses that were Scotch-taped at the joint. His corduroy pants had gone bald at the knee. His wrist peeped out of the sleeve, endearingly bony and frail.

He seemed to be held together with tape and rags, and I found that adorable, too. Already, of course, I had begun inventing a story about him. He ran a homeless shelter or, better yet, a shelter for dogs. He read late into the night, bent over threadbare Russian novels.”

In this essay, the man turns out to be mentally ill and works part time in the basement of a museum. The author’s imagination filled in blanks that weren’t true in reality. It’s kind of wistful and sad ultimately. (In the same situation, I would’ve probably given him my real number and ended up with an unshakable kook on my hands.)

Someone who as a teenager in the ‘90s wouldn’t fantasize about this type of person unless there was a way to reconcile his outward appearance with some degree of financial success or recognizable genius. Like he’d turn out be a reluctant tech entrepreneur or had just sold a screenplay, and he wouldn’t turn out to be lost and weird so much as a manipulator and the young woman would be humiliated then in turn humiliate the guy via Facebook or Twitter. And they would both be married to others within a year and move to a more desirable part of their already covetable corner of Brooklyn.

The End.

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