Sunday, September 20, 2009

#1 RULE OF SELFHOOD

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“This above all: To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.”
~ William Shakespeare; ‘Hamlet’

One of the things that every person on this planet has in common with all others is individuality – uniqueness. We are ALL one-of-a-kind. From your fingerprints, to the pattern in your iris, to your voiceprint, to your likes and dislikes, there is no one else quite like you. (And I thank God for that!) Nor is there anyone else quite like me. (Go ahead and thank The Lord.) This is a fact about us that we all share. Ironic, ain’t it?

Individuality was something I became conscious of at a very early age. Primarily because when I was in perhaps the third grade I had a slight crush on a little girl in my classroom who had a small round scar on her forehead. I can no longer remember her given name but I believe her last name was Smith. (With that surname, I don’t suppose she could be too terribly difficult to locate at Facebook.) I thought my would-be girlfriend’s little scar made her “special” and so I decided that I wanted a scar also.

I can recall deliberately walking around barefooted in the alley behind my Orange County house on Ward Street, hoping that I would “accidentally” step on a nail which might produce a scar. Then I could go to school, take my shoe off and show Smithgirl, “Look! I have a scar, too!” But the REALLY stupid thing about this is that all the while I was walking around in the alley, hoping to acquire a scar on my foot as a mark of my uniqueness, I was carrying around a large brown birthmark on my left forearm. (Uhp! I’m an idiot!)

But over the next few years I reached that same mental state that all kids do, where I just wanted to “fit in”; I wanted to look like all the “cool kids” did – to wear the popular clothing and think in the popular ways. With 50-year-old hindsight, I am now able to recognize the two seminal phases of my early life which allowed me to overcome the desire to be a part of the crowd and, rather, to formulate the mind-set that I was my own man – an independent thinker:

“Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new.”
~ Henry David Thoreau; ‘Walden’

#1: For most of my childhood, our family was pretty darn poor. No, we were not on the very bottom rung of the economic ladder, but we were close enough to it that I could smell the bad breath of the poorest. My Brother and Sister and I always received an overabundance of gifts at Christmas because our Ma, who was dirt poor as a Great Depression child, didn’t want us to experience the same lack she had on that most special of days. But what I didn’t find out until many years later is that all of our Christmas gifts were charged, and my parents would barely get them paid off before it was time to charge the next round of Christmas gifts.

During the year, however, we rarely had the top-of-the-line stuffs that most of the other kids had. I recall that when I was in grade school High-Top Converse tennis shoes were super-popular. All the cool boys wore them and I wanted a pair so bad that I could almost taste the rubber and canvas. I remember begging my Pa for a pair of Converse one time while we were shopping for tennis shoes at Thrifty Drug Store (!) What I wound up getting were shoes made from some cheap polyvinylplastic-like material. We simply couldn’t afford name brand stuffs like Converse.

At school, everybody who was anybody at that time was wearing Converse, and one night I had a dream that I had awakened to find a pair of the High-Tops underneath my bed. The joy I experienced in the dream was so intense that it actually woke me up out of a dead sleep. Naturally, I immediately looked underneath my bed, but all I saw under there were dust bunnies… all wearing miniature Converse High-Tops and laughing at me.

But growing up on the lower rungs of the economic ladder was a good lesson for me. It taught me that having what everyone else has is not what makes a person content; that it’s OK to stand outside of the crowd and go your own way, whether of necessity or by will. Although I never got to LOOK like one of the Coolboys, I got through that period anyhow and had a ridiculously happy childhood. Other than bourbon, martinis and sake, happiness cannot be bought, and there’s a whole lot more to life than running with the “In Crowd”… in Converse tennis shoes.

“Well, I try my best to be just like I am, but
everybody wants you to be just like them.”
~ Bob Dylan; ‘Maggie’s Farm’

#2: In my last year of junior high and the first two years of high school, I was a member of the police Explorer program. The Explorers is a branch of the Boy Scouts but specifically related to law enforcement. Explorers are teenagers who receive training in principles of police work and help with crowd control and traffic direction at civic events, etc. Being an Explorer in the mid-1970s was just about the “uncoolest” thing one could be. While everyone else was smoking dope and wearing “hair like Jesus wore it,” I was running around with a badge and wearing close-cropped hair. No dope-smoking for me. (And we won’t discuss the beer and firearms at Explorer campouts.) At school, it wasn’t uncommon for me to hear someone in a crowd shout out “Narc! Narc!” when I was nearby, or even to occasionally have someone call me that right to my face. Even the nerds wouldn’t have anything to do with me. More than once, word came to me that I was going to get beaten up after school, but no one ever actually attempted it.

Once, about a week or two after I had received some emergency medical training at the Explorer Academy (think “Boot Camp”, only much more stressful than what our military personnel currently experience in real Basic Training), I actually employed what I had learned to LITERALLY save my Brother’s life when Nappy went through a large window while chasing down a fly ball in our backyard in 1974. But that’s a story for another year.

I survived that sometimes tense Explorer experience, doing what I wanted to do at the time, regardless of what anyone else thought of it, and in the end, I learned that the criticism of others doesn’t mean a thing – it’s absolutely irrelevant, even when you’re totally alone amongst the masses.

“I ain't goin' your way; Get outta my way!”
~ Bobby Darin; ‘Lazy River’

I believe it was in living through these two early stages of my life that I gained most of the inner strength to become my own man in every situation and to find the courage to go my own way regardless of what anyone else thought of it.

The ability to remain true to one’s own “voice” is perhaps the one personality trait I prize most in a friend. That is to say, I think I value an honest person who has embraced the uniqueness that God has endowed them with and who has self-explored their individual identity more than I value any other sort of person. I can even overlook certain traits that I find annoying IF I believe that this person is really honest and is being true to him or her self. In other words, I think I probably like a guy whom I dislike but who is always authentic, more than I like a guy whom I like but who is rarely himself. Got that? (Yeah, you know what I mean, and so do I.)

“Whenever you find that you are on the side of the majority, it is time to reform.”
~ Mark Twain

There is no “type” of person I dislike more than “The Follower.” I have no use for Mr., Miss, or Mrs. Follower, also known as Fadboy and Fadgal, as I like to call them, or the “Dedicated Follower Of Fashion,” as The Kinks put it.

But I’m not talking strictly about clothing. No, I’m talking about the following of all trends, whether popular clothing, pop music, pop books, pop slogans, pop vehicles, pop TV programs, pop political movements – you name it. There are three types of people where this is concerned. There’s the Fadboy or Fadgal: people who are nothing more than a walking, talking billboard of the latest trends, with no real identity of their own. (Unfortunately, my own niece is one of these.) More people, however, are a kind of combination of pop stuffs mixed in with a little authentic selfhood, but only when they’re certain that their selfhood is SAFE to express. These are the Semi-Fadfolks. I have some of these in my own family, too. Rarest of all is the “Real Self” men and women who don’t give a rat’s patoot one way or another whether or not they are hip, current, or hopelessly behind the times. They yam what they yam, and you can take ‘em or leave ‘em. These are the “Real People” that I really like. They are usually "one step ahead or behind" (to steal from Ol' Waylon).

“Originality is the key to success.”
~ Tiny Tim

I think perhaps there’s nothing sadder than a person who isn’t a person. You know? A person who hasn’t yet explored and mapped their own Selfhood – who is just a combination of various fads and pop lingo and contemporary crapola. And the truth of the matter is that only a small percentage of Americans really know themselves and are comfortable in their own skin. Most folks are AFRAID to really express their true inner self so they seek that “safety in numbers.” Even those people who on the outside “appear” to be giving the status quo the middle finger are really just following a different crowd. Notice how the body piercing movement exploded exponentially only after it reached a certain point of “critical mass” which made it seem “safe” for all the Fadboys and Fadgals to join.

[An aside to Generation X, Y, Z, and 666: I’m sorry to have to be the one to break it to you – yes, you with all the rings and rods in your mug! – but there ain’t nothing at all cool about going around with a face that looks like a plugged up colander! My first thought at the sight of your faddish face? “Here’s a Follower with a 26 I.Q.” And I said that burger was “To Go.”]

I remember one time, circa 1982, that I had taken my Ma out Christmas shopping. I think we were in Sears or some similar department store when she saw this guy with his roommate looking at Christmas trees. The one guy wearing the pink mohawk and the designer Punk Rock threads says, “No way, man! I don’t want no ARTIFICIAL tree in our place! We gotta get a REAL tree.” I didn’t hear this, but the irony didn’t get by my Ma who pulled me aside to relate it to me so we could share a good laugh.

“It is not he or she or them or it
that you belong to.”
~ Bob Dylan; ‘It’s Alright Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)’

The next time you see a motorcycle gang on a highway, look to see if any member stands out for being genuinely different. Is there any member who DOESN’T wear leather or denim, or long hair, or tattoos? No? Then every member of that motorcycle gang is a Follower. True, they’ve gone in a direction that seems to challenge society’s norm, but in actuality, all they’ve really done is accept an alternate fad – they follow the “standard” that has been set for motorcycle gangs. These guys and their old “ladies” [sic] are no less “Followers” than the everyday followers of “polite society” whom they pretend to rebel against. They’re just “In” with another “Crowd.” Born To Be Wild? Nah, they were Born To Follow. That is, to follow their leader who looks just like they do but is astride the Harley that is out in front of the gang - The Leader Of The Pack… of Followers.

During the time that I was playing regularly at the I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER site, I happened to come across a woman’s profile page on which she described herself this way:

Extraordinarily happily married for 18 years; older than I look, younger than I feel; lotsa tats, lotsa piercings and purple hair; some-time artist, part-time writer, full-time smart-assed sarcastic cynic.

Well, I’m glad to know she’s happily married, but there was one thing she left out of her self-assessment: Full-Time Follower.

This woman is severely suffering from what I call The L.A.M.-L.A.M. Syndrome. L.A.M.-L.A.M. is an acronym that stands for “LOOK AT ME! LOOK AT ME!” People who have a case of L.A.M.-L.A.M. are not unlike 5-year old children. You know how that little boy calls out to everyone, “Look at me!” just before he jumps into the shallow end of a swimming pool? And how that little girl calls out to everyone, “Look at me!” just before she performs a cartwheel on the grass at the picnic? Well, it’s not so offensive coming from little kids, but when you find adults obviously making a big show of themselves in order to attract attention, it’s nothing less than downright embarrassing. The best thing we can do for them is to ignore them. Maybe in failing to receive the attention they so obviously crave, it will cause them to reconsider their personality flaw and perhaps redirect their energies toward something that is truly worthy of our notice.

Sometimes it seems to me that at least 3/4ths of the people are like drones controlled by some frightened herd mentality. The woman I mentioned above, for instance, she chooses to believe that the outward appearance she’s adopted somehow makes her different. All the while, she fails to see the obvious: in attempting to LOOK different, she has only proven her instinct to follow the In Crowd of pseudo-rebels – the “poseurs.” And then as if that wasn’t bad enough, she actually publicly brags about her “safe rebellion”, making sure that no one has failed to note how “special” she is. “Look at me, everyone! I have lotsa tattoos and body piercings, and I have purple hair. Ain’t I DIFFERENT!” Hogwash and dog doo-doo!

When you find a woman like this one, who has adopted ALL of the latest fads, what you have found is a person with a chronic case of L.A.M.-L.A.M. Best to look the other way.

I think the most pathetic sight in the world is that of a 50+ year old woman with tattoos. Not only is this woman a mindless follower, but she’s old enough to know better. She’s supposed to be setting a good example for the younger generation, not following the younger generation’s ridiculous fads and emulating its immature peccadilloes. Dumbass! Get a life! Preferably your own.

I no longer date because I have no interest in forging a romantic relationship at this point in my life, but I can assure you that if I were still in the hunt and I found me a woman who looked just like Gene Tierney in her prime, who smelled like carnations and tasted like wine, who handled like a Lamborghini, who was absolutely mad for me and who turned back into a virgin every night at 10:00, and two hours later became a mint julep - if she had so much as a small butterfly tattooed on her ankle, I’d say, “It was nice not knowin’ ya!” How can I be expected to get to know and fall in love with a woman who doesn’t even know herself?

My brother Nappy once said something that hit the nail right on the head. He said, “The people who try to make you notice them by the way they dress or cut their hair or by the kind of car they drive, they have to resort to those tactics because they know they can’t get your attention just by the power of their personality.” Right on, Brother Nappy! And it was also The Napster who many years ago made me aware of this memorable quote which I have borrowed many times over the decades:

“Nonconformists are easy to spot because they all look alike.”
~ Anonymous

That Anonymous cat said a lot of great things, didn’t he?
(I knew there had to be SOME REASON I saved Nappy’s life in ’74.)



Well, now that you know what Anonymous said, here’s what I say: If you are currently sporting any tattoo of anything anywhere, which you weren’t sporting 16 years ago, then make no mistake about it, you are a “Big Ol’ FOLLOWER” (regardless of your physical size). You are a Follower because you weren’t displaying your (phony) “rebellion” or “personal style” until the rest of society said it was “safe” to do so by getting tattooed en masse. And if you’re a guy wearing an earring, you really ought to consider the possibility that the earring might look a whole lot prettier on your sister. In other words, STICK IT IN YER SISTER’S EAR! You’re a “Big Ol’ FOLLOWER” too… unless you were wearing that earring long before it became fashionable for men to do so. (And we both know you weren’t.)

“You're gonna be knowing the loneliest kind of lonely. It may be rough going. Just to do your thing's the hardest thing to do. But you've gotta make your own kind of music; sing your own special song. Make your own kind of music, even if nobody else sings along.”
~ Mama Cass; ‘Make Your Own Kind Of Music’

Back when I worked for a magazine publisher, I had a coworker/buddy named Don whom I called “Big D.” I genuinely liked Big D a lot and we had many fine conversations during the time I was employed there. (Don was a bright guy who started out working in the warehouse but later went on to buy the company, which he still successfully runs today.) Like myself, Big D was a true Old School man, and I recall him once telling me that he wished that fedoras and all the old 1940s style clothing would come back in fashion for men because that’s the way he would really like to dress. Naturally, I told him, “Well, Big D, if that’s the way you’d really prefer to dress, then just DO IT! You don’t need to wait for anyone else. Who cares how other guys dress? What does that have to do with you? Just dress the way you want, and who knows, maybe you’ll actually be the one who restarts an old trend.” Unfortunately, despite all of his many other excellent qualities, when it came to fashion, Big D didn’t have the courage to go it alone.

I feel it’s important to stress, however, that I am NOT saying that one should NEVER EVER adopt or follow a current trend or fad. The person who refuses to “get on board” with some currently popular fad for no other reason than that it IS currently popular, is being just as foolish as the Fadboy or Fadgal. His anti-faddism may be 180 degrees removed from the mind-set of the Dedicated Follower Of Fashion, but as a person, he is no less inauthentic. This poor, misguided soul is not really HIMSELF, he’s simply not THEM. Denigrating today’s style simply because it’s popular doesn’t bring a person one step closer to Selfhood.

The goal is to become true to your genuine inner Self, and only YOU really know what that Self looks like. If a person HONESTLY, in their heart-of-hearts finds something currently “In” to be to their liking, then it would be wrong to deny that, for it would be attempting to deny a natural aspect of their own personality.

I can illustrate this from my own experience as it relates to pop lingo: I’m old enough to remember the Hippie Era, when all that Flower Power slang was slung. For whatever reason, I always disliked the word “Groovy.” I’d say “Right On” and even “Far Out” once in awhile, buy no one ever heard me call something “Groovy.” In the ‘80s, it became fashionable to end with the word “Not!” when being sarcastic. “Liberals are very smart people. …NOT!” That always struck me as super-stupid, and I avoided saying “Not” like I avoided Liberals. Remember when really cool stuff was supposed to be “Da Bomb”? Da Bomb was dumb! I never said it unless I was mocking Da Maroons. I also hated and still hate the expression “My Bad.” (Your Bad? Yeah, well, what else is new?) “Uhp! I’m An Idiot!” is “mo’ bettah” than “My Bad.”

However, modern slang that did click for me personally was Homer Simpson’s famous “DOH!” Sometimes nothing expresses it quite like “DOH!” That’s a modern classic in The STMcMe Book Of Slang. I’m also known to say “It’z All Good!” I like that because I like that. Another Oldie But Goodie is “That’s what I’m talkin’ ‘bout.” I call that an “Oldie” because, in fact, I have a 1960s Blues album by Lightnin’ Hopkins in which he uses that expression not once but twice.

And speaking of the Blues, some weeks back I found myself one day listening to ‘King Of The Delta Blues Singers’ by Robert Johnson, while simultaneously reading ‘The Cat In The Hat’ by Dr. Seuss. Now that’s what I call “Incongrutiating” as well as Jus’ Bein’ Me.

All of this yakking has led up to (or down to, if I’m going to be literal about it) this point where I reveal the #1 Rule Of Selfhood. It’s a really simple rule - almost too simple, really. So simple that it shouldn’t even be necessary to state it, although one look around us proves that it IS necessary. Fortunately, however, the rule is so damned simple that EVERYONE should be able to follow it. And the #1 RULE OF SELFHOOD is:

JUST BE YOU SO SOMEONE ELSE
DOESN’T HAVE TO.

Remember, you never have to TRY to be unique because
you already ARE!

THE BALLAD OF FRANKIE FOLLOWER

All I ever wanted was to hang out with the “In Crowd”;
To lose myself within the throng; to me that was Heaven.
I wanted the latest clothing, whether subdued or loud;
To turn my amp up past one, but not up to eleven.

I wanted to run with the pack so I’d not lose or win;
Just to keep up with the Joneses but never to surpass.
Didn’t want my body tattooed unless tattoos were in.
When ponytails were the thing, I wore one like an ass.

When male athletes got their ears pierced, I got mine pierced too.
I kept up with the latest fads, never wanting to lag.
When colored hair was popular, I dyed my blonde hair blue.
But my blue hair and my earrings made me look like a fag.

I watched Idol, NASCAR, Buffy, and Sex And The City;
I watched Survivor and CSI: Bumfuhk, Idaho;
Watched Ultimate Fighting and other shows that were shitty.
Studied martial arts to back up my braggadocio.

I shamelessly ran with the herd; took my place in the queue;
I was the lemming of lemmings and a sheep among sheep.
I didn’t know who I was ‘cause I was following You.
So superficial I couldn’t even spell the word “deep.”

I read the hot magazines and bought the latest cell phones;
I listened to the music that my coworkers spoke of.
I embraced the common and tawdry like all other drones,
And like famous celebrities, I had sex without love.

In the Sixties I dropped acid and protested for peace;
Ten years later I moved from tie-dyed shirts to a mohawk.
I went from Janis and Hendrix to the Clash and Police.
Decades later, I bought “Hope and Change” and voted “Barack.”

And then I finally grew old and could no longer hear;
Stiff joints made it hard to follow; my eyes too weak to see.
Away from the crowd I did involuntarily veer.
And that’s how, in the end, I accidentally found “ME.”

~ Stephen T. McCarthy

Link To The Companion Piece:
#1 RULE OF POLITICS
.

11 comments:

mousiemarc said...

True. Though we have all been followers at one time or another. I remember getting my one and only tattoo when I was 18. My dad said he would kick me out of the house if I got my ears pierced (when I was 16) or a tattoo. So I got both. He never kicked me out of the house so I took the ear rings out and have to live with the tattoo.

I like to look at it once in awhile as a reminder of what blind determination can do. I didn't really want the tattoo, nor did I put any thought into it. My only passion was to break away from my fathers hitleresque type grasp he had on me. Today I walk a path very different from my family but in a more positive way. Great blog. Do you mind if I attach it as a piece to my family tree? I'll explain over a private e-mail.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

`
Glad to know ya liked it, BR'ER MARC. Thanks!

It sounds as if your following of fashion was more a true rebellion than an attempt to fit in. By the Grace of God, I was raised on little money, and I "joined" an organization that made me a real "outsider." (There's irony in THAT statement, isn't there?) And so I believe I learned to think independently sooner than most. Of course, too many people NEVER learn that lesson. Sad.

ALL of my friends are "Real." Br'er Marc, Ol' WP, The Flyin' Aard, Mr. Paulboy, Meditatin' Ed, The Great L.C. - all of you are "YOU." In various ways, I've seen each person's independent thinking displayed. I don't maintain friendships with Followers.

I don't know what you mean by attaching this Blog Bit to yer family tree, but regardless, yer free to do whatever you wish with it, Brother. You could even pelt it with rotten fruit if you'd like (although that's gonna make a mess of your computer monitor.) And, hey, emails from you are always welcome.

~ STMcMe
<"As a dog returns to his own vomit,
so a fool repeats his folly."
~ Proverbs 26:11>

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

`
OL’ WP ~
I don’t know where your comment ran off to... or with whom. I clicked “Publish” and it said, “This comment has been published.” But I don’t see it nowheres. I can recall some of it, however . . .

What was that word you used? “Slicks”? Sumpin’ like that. I’ve never heard of that before. An East Coast term for cheap shoes?

And then something “Pantry”? Or “Pantry” something? Never heard that saying either. What is that, an East Coast non-quality footwear chain?

As for that 1984 hole that won’t heal . . .

“You can't unring a bell, sucker.
. . .
Perhaps you were a little hasty.
Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-
. . .
Take it like a man.
Get it through your head: Suffer.
Heh-heh-heh-heh-heh-”
(~ Tom Waits)

Yeah, that alcohol is bad stuffs. I’ve heard it can make people do crazy things. I wouldn’t know, of course, because “I would not put a thief in my mouth to steal my brains” (...between 10 and 11 A.M. on Easter Sunday).

My Pa also acquired two or three tattoos while on Laminated Leave from the U.S. Navy during the Korean War. He later regretted them. Bad stuffs that alcohol. I never buy it (...at full price).

As for today’s tattooed Poseurs: Bingo, Brother! And that’s “Poseurs” with a capital P.

~ “Lonesome Dogg” McMe,
Doggtor Of Alcohology, Master Of None

Anonymous said...

My original comment posted under the "floatie" blog bit. I guess I clicked on the wrong tab.

And yes "skips" was the term for cheap sneakers when I was a kid. If you didn't have on converses or pro-keds you had "skips".

Pantry Pride was a now defunct grocery chain in NY that used to have a big bin of cheap sneakers, and the kids used to sing that lyrical gem I quoted.

As for the earring. It's amazing what a cute chick can talk a young man into when he's drunk. Since I talked a few of them into a few things while drunk I'll call it even. ; )

WP

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

>>[My original comment posted under the "floatie" blog bit. I guess I clicked on the wrong tab.]<<

UHP!... (You wanna go ahead and finish that thought?)

>>[It's amazing what a cute chick can talk a young man into when he's drunk. Since I talked a few of them into a few things while drunk I'll call it even.]<<

Ah yes! BOOZE, The Great Equalizer. It was Smith & Wesson, and Jim Beam and Jack Daniels who made us all Powerful Victims. Let's drink to their genius!

~ SKIPSBOY, Doggtor Of Mistakes

arlee bird said...

Stephen,
You have expressed many of the same things I have been feeling and saying for years. The "L.A.M" really hit home--it's a joke with my family cuz I'm always pointing out certain people and saying "Look at Me! Look at Me!" My sisters and kids always get a big kick out of that when I do it.
I recall back when I was getting ready to start college at the University of Tenn. back in 1969, my mother took me shopping to buy school clothes (okay not a word from anyone about that). I got an assortment of what I thought would be trendy-- ridiculously gaudy bell-bottoms and mod shirts -- and later I looked in the mirror at myself in the clothes and decided that I looked so stupid that I never wore any of them. Right now my closet is filled with clothes that look like what I've worn my whole life going back to grade school--button up casual shirts and pants. I did go thru a few phases not related to fashion-- work boots in the 70's, t-shirts in the 80's-- but it was just an issue of what was comfortable at the time. As always, you have expressed yourself well and entertainingly.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

Howdy, Arlee! WELCOME!

>>[I'm always pointing out certain people and saying "Look at Me! Look at Me!"]<<

Funny you say that because just yesterday I got to wondering if this Blog Bit would come up if I did a Google search for “L.A.M.-L.A.M. Syndrome.” I tried it and got NUTTIN’. So then I added the words “Look At Me! Look At Me!” and it came up, but so did another website using the phrase “Look At Me Look At Me Syndrome.” [See: http://www.truthtree.com/Cap-Pun/posts/1506.html] As far as I knew, I had invented that phrase, but I guess it’s true what they say about all of us with “Great Minds”, eh? Anything I think has probably already been thunk by you or one of the other Great Minds out there. WE ARE NOT ALONE! (Ha!)

I’m a bit younger than you – I just turned 50 last month. (Ouch! That’s gonna leave a mark.) But back yonder in ’69, my Ma had my Bro and Sis and I dressed in “super-groovy” threads. She had been taunted because of her old, tattered clothing during the Great Depression (she was poor even by THOSE standards), and she didn’t want us to experience the same cruel comments. So she’d charge up a bunch of new clothes for us at the start of each school year – usually knock-offs of the latest fashion – and I’d go to school proud to look like Keith Partridge and Greg Brady.

In one of the earliest Blog Bits here titled “Time Flies When You’re Having LIFE”, I mentioned receiving an invitation to Santa Monica High School’s 30-Year Reunion. I contacted the woman who had mailed the invitation and she said that when my name came up while she and two old friends were stuffing the envelopes, they all remarked about how much they liked my fringe vest back when we were all in grade school together. Looks like I’m branded for life!

Nowadays, all I wear are baggy T-shirts and baggy jeans because it’s so blasted HOT here in Phoenix. But if I had my way, I’d still be wearing vests (minus the fringe) and long-sleeved shirts, and maybe a bolo tie for Funerals when folks get buried or Funerals when folks get married. Phoenix cramps my true style!

Yesterday, it also occurred to me that my Blog Bit failed to mention HOW people can test to see whether or not they are being true to themselves. So, I’m thinking the next thing I post here will be a brief Bit titled “The Selfhood Test.” After which I will leave this subject behind and move on to some other business. The smart money is on some business related to drinking. That’s always a safe bet. The truth, of course, is that if I really drank even half as much as I like to pretend, I would have died of cirrhosis of the liver long ago. But don’t let on to anyone – I have my bad reputation to protect. It’s W.C. and me, and Jim Beam makes three!

Thanks for your kind words, Buddy. Feel free to comment anytime!

~ STMcMe, Doggtor Of Tomfoolery

Anonymous said...

Okay, posting anonymously as promised.

I stick to everything I said in the E before reading this blog bit. Some people will make the mistake of a tat and then later appreciate it because it reminds them of the mistake (see the first comment as someone who had done just that).

I remember being very content to be myself all through elementary school. It wasn't until junior high that I felt an INTENSE need to fit in, blend, be like everyone else. Honestly, if I could have been INVISIBLE I would have chosen that. In high school, it all changed again and I was happier just being me. No, we didn't have the money that I could have all the Cool clothes (I could relate to the Converse shoes bit). In college, I went briefly thought that LAM phase (I do believe I mentioned the hair cut). And then settled back into something closer to me. However, I don't think I really and truly found myself (although, all of this time I was seeking and loved that Shakespeare quote at the beginning of this bit) until my late 20s.

At that time, I stopped caring what was in fashion or popular and was content to like what I like.

It takes a strong personality to fly in the face of disapproval (real or perceived) and it doesn't surprise me that many people don't get there until later in life... or not at all.
~Girl Wonder

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

GIRL WONDER ~
Yeah, sadly, I see 60+ year old people every day who OBVIOUSLY have yet to find their own self. And here in Phoenix - a totally unoriginal desert city full of people with baked brains - there are a ton of "Dedicated Followers Of Fashion".

Due to certain circumstances in my life, I found my own "voice" as early as junior high school. Well... maybe I hadn't fully found my unique "voice", but I was on my way toward it, having already reached the point of not giving a fig what anyone else liked or disliked.

But even if circumstances had not pushed me earlier than most to find the Real Me, I was destined to eventually anyway because it's just a part of my mentality, which I have probably brought with me from past incarnations when I was a very independent-thinking person.

Thanks for reading this and commenting here.

~ D-FensDogg
'Loyal American Underground'

farawayeyes said...

Yes, I had read this before and I know we discussed it (else, why would I have told you about my four {radiation} tattoos), but I don’t know why I never left a comment. Shy maybe? Nah, that can't be it.

I suppose I could say that similar circumstances (being raised poor) and another in the other factor that my upbringing (my parents were a whole generation older than my friends parents) kind of forced me to embrace my uniqueness. I have mentioned that my parents were more than a tad on the crazy side and my upbringing was anything but normal, and yet I would not have traded one single solitary minute of it. As a young child my biggest wish was for a sibling and the most likely reason was for someone who would be like me, but once again my parents zany attitude and lifestyle more than made up for anything I might have missed by not having another child in the household (my father remained not much more than a ‘bad boy’ until his death at the age of 90).

The older I get the more I miss my parents (my mother gone for more than half of my life, and my dad having passed almost seventeen years ago), but I remain ever grateful for the strict rules, the respect that was demanded of me for both them, the world, and most important myself, that helped to keep my life in perspective and develop enough of a desire to be unique that I never really had a fear of ‘marching to a different beat’. Not to say that this attitude and lifestyle didn’t often get me into some sort of ‘hot water’, but then we all need a good bath every so often, don’t we?

I have to agree that this is some great writing. The viewpoint and opinions unfold like a great story. There is humor and pathos, along with some just plain fun. It is my opinion that you still have it in you. All you need to do is find the right topic. Let your creative mind flow and the thought process take you where it will. Put that down on paper and you will find that a whole lot of people will truly enjoy it. Well, I can promise you that at least one will.

One thing that might be holding you back is the formula and confines that you have set for yourself. In closing down your other blogs and really only being active on the BOTB ‘thang’, you feel that it must pertain to music. Well write about something you want to discuss and find a song that pertains and stick it in there. You don’t necessarily have to talk about music or the song, the intelligent reader will get it and as for the unintelligent, uninformed, poo poo head, who needs ‘em?

Frankly, I think you could do an entire and similar (to this one) post on the music critic in us all, or at least some of us. You certainly have plenty of fodder for it in that recent email you quoted to me. The overall pretentiousness of some people who think they ‘know’ music and their unwillingness to admit that their 'knowledge' of music really only boils down to a 'personal preference', or more likely; a desire to look relevant and cool. Now that’s a blog post I might pay money to read. There’s a dollar in the mail. Besides, maybe it’s time a few folks start taking their own medicine in the form of a thinly veiled blog post. You never know you just could be doing ‘em a great big ole favor.

Stephen T. McCarthy said...

FAE, thanks for the very nice comment, my friend.

Yeah, that's right. I remember the discussion about "radiation tattoos" which of course is a whole different animal.

It's always good to have a brother or sister to fight / argue with. I got a lot of mileage out of mine.

I really miss my parents, too. And in fact, I have more people I love on "the other side" than I do on this one. I'd really like to join them, except if I were to go today, I'd leave here knowing that I fell far, Far, FAR short of my potential, and I'd feel convicted that I'd not accomplished what God had in Mind for me.

Nevertheless, I'm ready for a good, long rest.

Thanks for the great compliment!
At the risk of sounding boastful, I too think this was a nice piece of writing. I made ME laugh out loud in reading it back for the first time after several years. (I really like that story about me, as a child, trying to acquire a scar so I could be like the girl I had a crush on. UHP! I AM an idiot!)

>>... Well write about something you want to discuss and find a song that pertains and stick it in there. You don’t necessarily have to talk about music or the song, the intelligent reader will get it and as for the unintelligent, uninformed, poo poo head, who needs ‘em?

Actually, I HAVE done that a few times with my 'Battle Of The Bands' blog. One that stands out in my mind was the blog bit titled 'THEY CAN PUT A MAN ON THE MOON BUT THEY CAN'T... PUT A MAN ON THE MOON (The Musical)'.

That one elicited some great comments from a couple of the deep thinkers of our time...

>>... "I don't need any moon landing hoax to convince me that the government lies to us. For that matter I'm convinced that we are all liars."

>>... "I just don't have time for conspiracies. If we didn't really land on the moon, my life won't be much worse off."

And then it all ended when Alex Cavanaugh dropped by with a single sentence to promote himself.

I did have a very nice and lengthy conversation with Anne O'Leary though (and one or two other good exchanges), so it was worthwhile.

However, I did recently RE-OPEN my old 'FERRET-FACED FASCIST FRIENDS' blog after a year and a half, and I intend to start posting on that again as soon as I get my 'Spiritual Enlightenment Series' of letters completed for you.

And I'll tell you this: When I go back to semi-regular posting on my 'F-FFF' blog, if I get more ridiculous comments from "deep thinkers" like I did on my "Moon Landing" post, I'm not going to be nearly so polite. "Maroonic" comments are going to be belittled and the commenters pulverized! And I don't give a shit WHO they are!

Thanks again for the excellent and thorough comment, M'Dear.

~ D-FensDogG
'Loyal American Underground'