Editor’s Note: Have a question for Matt Labash? Submit it here
Dear Matt, I like pop music, chain restaurants and the average shopping mall. I like box-office smashes and even the occasional New York Times bestseller. Why must I be ashamed of this? Does everyone have to be quirky? — Layla M.
You’re a brave lady for admitting such things in public. If I weren’t happily married, I’d whisk you away to my local mall, where we’d hit the multiplex and see something insufferably low-to-middlebrow, preferably with homoerotic vampires, or anything featuring Tyler Perry in lots of prosthetics playing fat’n’sassy black women. Afterward, I’d feed you BBQ chicken pizza and lettuce wraps at the California Pizza Kitchen (“CPK,” to those in the know). We would laugh and canoodle, perhaps enjoying an overly-sweet Jacob’s Creek Moscato, with Katy Perry playing in the background. (Studies show that 90 percent of all songs played in malls are sung by Katy Perry. The other 10 percent being sung by The Black Eyed Peas.)
From there, we’d head off to Menchie’s for some “fro-yo” as the children of the Mall say. I’d probably get something wholesome and healthy, like dairy-free mango tango sorbet. But you — you’d get a heaping cup full of pina colada tart with fruity pebbles and Heath toffee crumblings from the “snackage bar,” because you’re clearly a naughty monkey. A decadent lust pot, who is just itching to have me take you back to your Pottery-Barn furnished boudoir where you’d wear a necktie blindfold as I spanked you in slightly-dangerous-but-ultimately-non-threatening fashion, as fantasized about by the gals in your “Fifty Shades of Grey” book club.
The point being: there’s no cause to be ashamed of your unapologetic in-the-main-vein taste. Sure, the sound you hear might be that of your soul withering inside of you. But you’re what made this country great. Or at least what helped us achieve our pre-2008 levels of consumerist mediocrity. Because you bought what The Man is selling, thus providing untold sums of corporate earnings and much-needed service-sector jobs. Which are looking pretty good right about now in recession-addled America. Plus, you like these things. They make you happy. And if you think you’re happy, you are. Happiness, like being in love, is largely a perpetual state of self-delusion. Much as loving someone isn’t merely an affirmation of their positive traits, but choosing to overlook their negative ones, being happy isn’t purely about happiness, however that’s defined. It’s about choosing not to be miserable. And if the California Pizza Kitchen (which if we’re being honest, is pretty freakin’ tasty) helps inoculate you against the rest of life’s indignities, I say embrace it.
It is better to be uncooly happy than unhappily cool. For being the former is more desirable than moving to Austin or Williamsburg or Branson (so uncool, that it’s going to soon be regarded as cool — just watch) so you can live out your days as a hipster malcontent. If everybody’s a quirky rebel, there’s nothing left to rebel against. Every outlaw needs a law, in order to have something to break. Every counterculture needs a culture against which to measure itself. They are, in effect, the parasites, and you, the bourgeois host upon which they feed. You are just busy being you. Whereas, they are forever concerned with not being you. Without your ilk taking up so much unfashionable space throughout America, hipsters might choose to live everywhere, instead of in the enclaves that they flock to. So even if you do nothing else with your life, just for keeping them sequestered, a grateful nation thanks you.