Yesterday a friend posted this video
on her Facebook page along with this statement from David Bowie:
It's not as truly hostile about Americans as say "Born in the U.S.A.": it's merely sardonic. I was traveling in Java when [its] first McDonald's went up: it was like, "for fuck's sake." The invasion by any homogenised culture is so depressing, the erection of another Disney World in, say, Umbria, Italy, more so. It strangles the indigenous culture and narrows expression of life.
In the first comment, she added, "Holly, I can't hear any DB without thinking of you."
This of course made me very happy. If someone is going to hear an artist and always think of you, well, it might as well be Bowie.
One day not too long ago "I'm Afraid of Americans" came up on my ipod when the manager of my apartment building was doing some work in my place. He listened for a moment, then said, "This is one song I never expected to hear in your apartment."
"'Cause you didn't think I'd be a fan of Trent Reznor or 'cause you didn't think I'd be a Bowie fan?" I asked.
He shrugged. "Both, actually."
"I admit I'm a much bigger Bowie fan," I said, "but I've owned the first Nine Inch Nails album for twenty years. I have a Ministry album or two as well."
"Huh," he said. "You just don't look like you'd be a fan."
It was my turn to shrug. "At some point, you stop bothering to dress in a way that reflects your taste in music."
Same thing came up in class last week. I sometimes play music when I'm asking my students to get into small groups and talk about stuff--the music makes them less self-conscious, and they talk more freely. I typically go to Pandora and set it to "Depeche Mode radio," because even Mormons like "Personal Jesus." On Tuesday, while "The Love Cats" played, some kid said something about "Kevin Smith of the Cure."
"Kevin Smith?" I asked. "You mean Robert Smith. Kevin Smith's that indie film maker dude."
"Yeah, Robert Smith," he said. "I meant Robert Smith." He paused, then asked, "What clique were you in in high school?"
"My high school was too small to have cliques," I said. (It really pretty much was.)
"The reason I ask is 'cause this is exactly the music my mom likes. So I wondered what you listened to in high school."
"This is the music I listened to in college," I said. "Depeche Mode didn't exist when I was in high school. In high school I listened to what is now classic rock: Beatles, Pink Floyd, David Bowie, the Stones." (I didn't tell him that I also owned albums by REO Speedwagon and Lynyrd Skynyrd, because I didn't want him to know, or albums by Alan Parsons Project, the Moody Blues, and Jethro Tull, because I suspected he might not know who they are.)
"You just don't look like the type," he said.
"What type do I look like?" I asked.
"Honestly, I thought you were a hippie," he said.
Again I shrugged. "You should have seen me in 1988," I said.
In fact, on Friday a friend came by for coffee and as it was the first time she'd been to my apartment, we looked at and discussed some of the stuff I display in my home to remind me who I am, or was. She picked up a picture of me in 1988, wearing a black trilby hat, black sunglasses, a black trench coat, black peg-leg pants, and black flats. She said, "Was that a Halloween costume?"
No," I said. "That was just how I dressed."
"You really wore a trench coat like that? And a hat?"
"It was Tucson," I said. "You could wear what you wanted after autumn. It's not like you were in danger of really being cold."
So for the record: I used to dress like a hipster, especially in grad school. Over-dressing almost every single day was one of the ways I motivated myself to get out of bed when I was dealing with the crushing despair I experienced as I transitioned out of the church. I tried not to wear the same thing twice in a single semester, and I was VERY aggressive about matching. I would never dream of wearing brown shoes with a black outfit--who does something so gauche? Actually I entirely disdained and avoided brown, the color of mud and dung. I didn't carry a backpack; instead, I carried a really big purse, and when I found one I really liked, I bought it in all four colors available: black, white, red, and blue.
In fact, my wardrobe was something people often commented on. Students would write thing in my end-of-semester evaluations like, "I loved seeing what outfit she would wear every day" or "She was my best-dressed instructor." My favorite professor once said to me, about that period, "You were always dressed very dramatically, and I kept waiting for you to show up to class wearing nothing but a clear shower curtain."
Also for the record, I did all this while wearing temple garments (aka magic Mormon underwear) under my clothes and multiple earrings in my ears. It's not really that much of a challenge to dress cool as a Mormon, no matter what the NY Times says.