Waking up at some dark unknown hour to hear the pour of a rain washing away the remnants of an unseasonably warm fall day. Falling back asleep. Waking again a few hours later to the drip drip sounds occasionally cut through by crows. The cloudy gray sky. Falling back asleep. Mornings like these make me want to dawn my favorite sweater, fix a cup of Earl Grey, listen to Chick Corea, and read some fancy literature. A Literati’s wet dream.
Approximately two hours later I realize that this is just some sort of fantasy. That is to say, I’m filling a stereotyped role in my head. I guess if I were to replace the tea with coffee and the jazz with Fleet Foxes (indie/folk band from Seattle) I’d be filling a role, playing out a fantasy of being a resident of Seattle. More or less a caricature. But what do I know, I’ve never even been to Seattle.
That’s not to say that I don’t like wearing sweaters, Earl Grey, jazz, or books. Even doing these things simultaneously isn’t really much more than a preference. It’s the underlying gestalt that creates this fantasy. I’m not sure if I used that word correctly. I probably didn’t.
Other people might have a fantasy of being an expat living in rural France. Imagine, waking up early (because you want to, not because you have a job, only plebeians have jobs), making a cappuccino before going to the market via your old bicycle to pick up hand picked organic vegetables before going to Jean-Pierre the butcher and getting freshly knifed sirloin (let us not forget that this is a fantasy and as such, anything is possible, including France actually having good beef) to bring home. Can’t forget to stop by the bakery and get some fresh bread. Then you pick fresh herbs right from your friggin back yard and put together the best meal anyone’s ever eaten ever, to share with six of your closest friends (all of whom adore you and love listening to how sophisticated and cultured you are) that evening. The dinner takes about 6 hours, as per the norm in France. Oh and sublime wine, can’t forget that. Oh and cheese. But what do I know, I’ve never had this fantasy before.
Other people might have a fantasy of being a hyper cool yuppie living in metro wherever (probably NY, San Fran). Imagine, waking up at noon (because who has a job, jobs are for old people), making a cup of coffee and bourbon before going to lunch via your fixed-gear at some fusion restaurant with friends (all of whom adore you and love listening to all the obscure restaurants and bands you know about). After that you spend the afternoon with your Asian girlfriend (who plays the bass and has an asymmetrical punk haircut) doing things like perusing a record store for obscure music, eating in more unique obscure restaurants, going to some museum and visiting your favorite obscure impressionist art piece that you know so much about, visiting a boutique that sells weird obscure clothing that you know for certain is the next big thing, all before going to another restaurant in the cool part of town before going next door to a concert of an obscure band (your favorite). After the concert there are plenty of options, such as going to the dive bar and getting trashed on cheap whiskey before going to the tattoo parlour and getting a tattoo of something cool and unique (like a cupcake, or whatever). Did I mention the entire day you’re wearing skinny jeans and an oversized beanie? But what do I know, I’ve never had this fantasy before.
But this of course is reducing people into categories and generalizing. I’d never do that.
In all seriousness it’s very easy to fall into this mode of stereotyping people (I’ve done it. Some people do it too often). It’s easier to think of people the way you expect them. Some people don’t want you to get out of that schema. It just doesn’t fit, they say.
I am an American, but I don’t like football or beer. This doesn’t make me any less of an American. To say otherwise (or to say that any person can’t go beyond the boundaries of a stereotype forced upon them) is close-minded and, if I may be so bold, abusive.
I’m reminded of the book Cannery Row by John Steinbeck. One of his characters (Doc) had inner thoughts recollecting two different stories. One in which he walked across the country, the other giving a description of interactions with people concerning on his beard. He simply wanted to walk across the country, but found that people were more accepting if he told them he had made a bet with another man that he couldn’t do it. He simply wanted to wear a beard, but found that people were more accepting if he told them it covered a scar on his face that he was self conscious about. Whether or not this character was real, or that the stories were based on real life events, is irrelevant. What’s important is that people still think the same way (obviously not all people, just most people, because most people are stupid). They find it easier to accept you if you don’t leave the schema that they have built for you. They’ve put you in a category and they don’t want you to leave because, gosh darnitall, that would just be too much work to expand their thinking.