Here’s the next in an ongoing series in which I answer random questions generated by a website. Here are this week’s questions. Feel free to give your own answers or ask your own questions in the comments.
What skill do you wish more people took the time to learn?
Well, speaking as a resident of the U.S. and on behalf of quite a number of people for whom English is their first language (Canada, y’all get a pass here), I really wish that more people who only speak English would learn at least one other language, no matter how young or old they are.
The U.S. itself has no official language, despite what so many ignorant people seem to think. Sure, some states do, even a state as liberal as California, but only because our ballot initiative system is so screwed up. And, then again, our state government wisely ignores the “English only” BS that was passed in the 1980s, so it doesn’t really matter.
But learning another language and getting good at it is probably the best way to broaden your perspective, connect to another culture and — ironic, I know — learn a lot more about your own. Want to really, really learn about English? Study Latin, German, or French.
Or if you want a deeper dive into the effects of colonialism, study Spanish, any one of a ton of First Peoples’/Indigenous languages from the Americas, Hawai’ian, or take your pick from the language groups of the Philippines.
You’re welcome. Hey, at the very least, you’ll be able to order at your favorite local ethnic restaurant without sounding like a moron, so there’s that.
What do you really wish you knew when you were younger?
Oh, if I knew this one, I would have been dangerous. It’s a simple rule that applies any time, really, before you’re at least a few years out of college and into your first real adult job where they let you actually give your opinions about shit.
So… from infant sentience to maybe 26, essentially.
And the secret is this: Everyone else your age that you meet is just as goddamn insecure and scared and worried as you think that you are. It’s just that some are better at pretending that they’re not. Want to rule the school? It’s easy.
Give up your fear and cease to give a royal fuck about what anyone else thinks of you. Make bold statements. Commit outrageous creative acts. Be so daring that you inspire others.
I got a great example in this a couple of years ago, when I reconnected with one of my old college roommates on Facebook. When we finally got into an extended chat, we told each other what we had thought of each other at the time, and I was blown away.
See, I thought that he was this really confident, mature guy who was wise in the ways of the world and knew things about how life worked that I possibly couldn’t because I just felt so emotionally immature and totally insecure, and really didn’t know how to relate to people.
But he told me that his apparent bravado was just a cover-up for his shrieking insecurity, and that he always thought of me as one of the most intelligent people he’d ever met. But see, that was because I tended to use information and knowledge as a shield against my own insecurity — “if I tell you this fact, you won’t see my fear.”
It was a totally eye-opening experience not so much from what I learned about him but what I learned from him about me. It’s never easy to find out that someone else’s impression of you is so ridiculously positive, but it is encouraging.
So, when you’re young, if you’re the one who asks intelligent questions or approaches people and makes them feel welcome and heard, you’re going to be the coolest one in the room. But never do it to cover up insecurity. Learn first that all of your insecurity is self-produced and it probably can’t hold a candle to all of the insecurities that the #1 Influencer on campus actually has.
After all, if they’re so confident, why would they feel the constant need to basically scream, “Look at how amazing I am, and isn’t all the stuff I own just bonkers?”
But… guess what? The grown-ups are just the same, only worse. Inside every Karen, who seems to not give a shit what anyone thinks about them, there’s really an insecure child who feels utterly helpless without being a control freak. Hence, when they hit an obstacle, they start abusing the staff and screaming for the manager/
They’re not powerful. They’re pathetic.
So, kids, when the adults try to stifle your personality or creativity just because they think they can, well… if you truly wind up with all this adult knowledge stuck in your young head, dispatching them should be no problem at all, because they are even more insecure and worried than your own cohort.
Finally, if you rebel in the right way by driving them nuts without making them prosecute you, even if you get kicked out of school, you’re going to have set up the platform to becoming a superstar.
But I think that part has always been true.
Who do you think has the biggest impact on fashion trends: Actors and actresses, musicians, fashion designers, or consumers?
Oh, this one is easy. It’s the idiots who think that fashion trends have any importance at all. Or, in other words, the stupid consumers who buy it. This is one of the reasons that The Devil Wears Prada is so great.
Meryl Streep’s character, Miranda Priestly (yeah, no symbolism in that name!), builds up this incredible defense of what she does and why it’s important and it sounds plausible — but it’s a house of card(igan)s and even while it’s brilliantly argued in the film by her character, it also falls apart even while she’s extolling a (very particular) shade of blue and how it became a “thing.”
Simply put, her influence only exists because some people actually give a shit about what she decrees to be fashionable. And upon her words rise or fall the designers, and then the actors, actresses, musicians, and other influencers who get the free clothes to parade on red carpets in order to try to sell it to…
Oh yeah. The group I started with. The consumers. And it’s simple. Stop buying their shit and paying too much for it, wear what is within your budget and comfortable, and you could destroy the fashion industry in a season.
Or, you know — grow a set and make your own fashion. Truth to tell, some of the best-dressed people I know shop exclusively in vintage stores and thrift shops or even make their own. This is how hippies created their own unique style, and it was also the punk aesthetic before that got co-opted by… whatever they called hipsters in the 80s. Poseurs, maybe?
But ooh. Power! Take that non-designer purse or cheap wallet, spend in the right places, and bring down one of the most pretentious industries in the world.
Sequel idea to the above move: The Angel Wears Whatever the Fuck They Want To.” Coming to Amazon Prime, Spring 2022.
How much effort should an individual put into not offending others?
Well, it depends. Are you an artist, comedian, satirist, marketer or other creative doing your job? Then it’s practically your role to offend, with a couple of caveats.
Always punch up, and never down. Making fun of the homeless or addicts or the poor, etc.? Yeah. Fuck right off. Making fun of someone because of a trait they can’t control — like age, race, handicap, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, etc., then also fuck right off.
Belief systems have a wider range, since they are traits that people can control. So if they follow a particular religion (or not-religion) or political bent or whatever, but do not use it to punch down at others, then give them a pass.
If, however, they use the beliefs they have chosen to be dicks to people, then you owe them no courtesy, whether you’re a working artist or not.
Making fun of politicians, billionaires, celebrities, people richer than they ever need to be, and other random elevated idiots? Fire the hell away with both barrels.
And the last two bits apply to average people as well, on the internet and in real life. If they’re an elected official or espouse a certain ideology or political view and use that to try to oppress people for what they are instead of how they believe, then take the gloves off and punch away.
But if you aren’t dealing with assholes who choose to be assholes, then opt for compassion.
That obnoxious Karen screaming at a grocery clerk for daring to tell her to pull her mask over her nose? Yeah — give that bitch some sass and chase her out of the store.
Meanwhile, that maybe homeless person with the cardboard sign on the off-ramp… well, you may not feel inclined to give them money because it may not actually help, but the least you can do is just shut up and not call them names while you’re waiting at the light.
Oh yeah — I’ve seen this shit from far too many Karens in Range Rovers that I just know their gentrifying, developer husbands bought the Climate Change inducing vehicles mainly to keep their harridan trophy wives out of their hair.
That, and the little detail that driving a Range Rover is the universal language for “Caution: Giant Asshole on Board.”
Oops. I just punched up. See how that works? If they don’t like it, they can go cry on their yacht.