Yesterday I found myself in Carmel IN with some spare time. Living in a small city means a living with a dearth of retail options, especially in the all-important edibles category, so I decided to waste some time and cash at Whole Foods. As soon as I got within a block of the place, I realized I’d triggered my own rage response. The whole parking lot and most traffic heading in that general direction represented one my least favorite demographics: the very privileged sub/urban stay at home mom; she of the Lulumon yoga wear, the Mercedes or BMW SUV, the bleached teeth, the perfect skin, the size 2/4/6 post-baby body, the no-job.
While pushing my sleek black mini-cart around the immaculate store, I muttered to myself about the herd of wealthy, idle, indulged women shopping around me. What I actually said is both irrelevant and was quite vulgar. Suffice to say that when a blond, tan, toned thirty-ish woman in tight black spandex spent a little too long picking through the Honey Crisp apples while I waited for her to move, words rhyming with “hunt” and “twitch face” occurred to me in some fascinating variants. Around that time, a Whole Foods worker bee dropped a very large box of cava on the floor, sending glass, fizzy wine, and noise all across the floor of the store. My ranty concentration broken, I slunk over to frozen foods, and while searching out sprouted dinner rolls, the thought struck me that hating on the burbish baby mommies is probably pretty damn close to an act of self-hatred. I am all of those things, except idle (and blond, and lately, toned).
This triggered a second pass through the wine section.
I’ve always resented the idle rich, possibly due in part to my very work-heavy Scottish/Southern protestant/Calvinist upbringing. How can anyone justify their continued absorption of water and sunlight when not producing anything of value? I mean, really, work IS the whole point, right? Add some wasted youthful years listening to hardcore punk rock, and a definite pique can be raised by overt consumerism very easily.
So I came home, ate some very tasty organic produce, had a lovely glass of viognier, watched a few episodes of Orange is the New Black and went to bed, mostly recovered from my earlier rage party.
This morning, trolling around the vacuum tubes of all human knowledge, I came across a short essay by a young writer on the primal need for creative work(read it here: http://mashable.com/2015/06/09/post-hipster-yuccie/).
Apparently, while I was busy hating on yoga moms, the kids have created a new template for Work. It takes hipsterism a step further, denouncing the outer symbols of anti-establishment sentiment like tattoos and fedoras while embracing the inner hipster drive for self-propelled creative careers.This current trend and struggle is both a lot like, and completely new, compared to the generations of the recent past.
Gen X, once we got off of our collective asses and mom’s sofa, embraced a weird brew of “stick it to the man” and “I like having stuff”. The internet explosion put a good number of us to work in software start-ups, or at least, in decent-paying IT gigs that didn’t make us come home from work smelling like french fries. Looking around at my cohort from high school and college, I think most of us (who had enough social privilege to attend college and make a wide array of life-work choices) have managed to grab at least the brass monkey, if not the brass ring, financially.
What seems less clear is whether or not we’ve made any progress over our Boomer parents in creating work that makes us matter or feel fulfilled at some basic level. The Boomers, of course, struggled mightily against The Man, and then in their late 20’s or early 30’s, mostly caved in/sold out and moved into split level ranch houses to raise us. They started out rebelling against the consumerist and conservative mindset of their WWII winning parents, denounced materialism and corporations, and like us, later determined that having stuff makes life hella easier.
People who are free to choose their work may be a relatively new phenomenon, especially on the female side. Gen X is only really the first generation of women in the US raised from early life to believe that all careers are open to us. The “yuccies” then, are only the 2nd or 3rd generation of Americans with such a wide range of options on view. So, is the preference for creative and self-propelled work a natural evolution of chosen work, obviously made far easier by technology, or is there some other phenomenon at play? Will Gen X be remembered as the last generation of corporate tools in a future of micro industry? Will the wives of executives of the future still choose to be idle?
At the end of the beauty aisle, passing all sorts of hand-crafted, micro-brewed, super special non-toxic organic merchandise, I had to wonder how a person with endless choices could forego all of them and choose instead to consume rather than contribute, to buy rather than to do. Certainly Calvin would condemn the idle yoga mom to hell in a chai soy latte cup. Maybe it’s the choice to matter only in reflection, in servitude to others that pisses me off so violently. The inertia, the unmet challenge of DOING, the missed opportunity to make is something like refusing to accept lottery winnings, or maybe it’s my own frustration at still be “employed”, even in a relatively creative job, that grates.