I was at a comedy show the other day, when the performer decided to try his hand at a little crowd work. There were only about 15 people in the audience, so he really went at it, singling out each person with a little one-two-punch. To a bearded man behind me wearing black thick-rimmed glasses, sporting a soft scruff and a beanie, the comedian asked if he could help him out with his woodwork. He called out the twinks for being twinks, the lesbians for being lesbians, and then it got to me. “Omg I was obsessed with Lisa Bonet in the 90s too!” he jeered. “Huh?” I thought. And then it hit me…I did it. After all of these years of trying to run away from my J.A.P. roots…I did it. I finally made it.
That’s not to say this journey hasn’t had its fair share of hurdles. There were some days when I would wake up, eyes haggard, ready to just give it all up and take shelter in an Intermix or a PR firm, but persevere I knew I must and persevere I did. This is the story of how a JAP became a hipster.
I can still to this day hear the faint wind and brass instruments precipitating the funky vocals to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September”. It was the song that accompanied my cousin as she was being ushered onto the dance floor by four be-spandexed men, sitting throne-like in a chair. It was my first bar or bat mitzvah experience, and I would never forget it. I must’ve gotten seven wax molds of my hand, all in various postures—some holding a plastic martini glass, others holding a rose. I line danced until I could line dance no more.
Between cups of Tasti D-Lite and caramel macchiatos, I started seeing my own bat mitzvah tutor, memorizing my Torah and Haftarah portion, anticipating the day when I too could be carried by four burly and oily men onto a dance floor in my synagogue’s basement, to the tune of Tiffany & Co. bracelets clinking. In anticipation, I got my eyebrows waxed and sucked the face off of an older boy.
It was the era of MTV’s Real World, of Steve Madden wooden chunky heels, jelly shoes (which have made a triumphant comeback, by the way), Joe Boxers, and Petit Bateaus. It was also, oddly, an era in which JNCOs figured prominently. I got hit in the face with a tennis racquet, used this as a ploy to convince my mom to let me use green and blue hair mascara, and made everyone call me Left Eye. Then my friends and I found a bottle of Sour Apple Pucker and never looked back.
We were still only 14, but it didn’t matter, because my eyebrows were as thin as Nicole Richie’s collarbone and I had myself a red Motorola flip phone. Birthday parties were held at the Copacabana. We frequented the restaurant Circus, where the servers would (somehow) serve us passion fruit cocktails and wait around until one of the Hermès scarves we were wearing as shirts would slip off and reveal our sprouting mosquito bite nipples.
Then high school hit and we all developed a serious alcohol addiction. We played Russian Roulette with our lives, barely escaping syphilis. Caramel macchiatos were swapped out for soy mistos; Serafinas pizza swapped out for Chop’t salads. What can I say? We were maturing. SAT II tutors were shipped in by the truckload and the next thing I know I’m in Tanzania, taking showers with boiled, ass-smelling water, taking shits into shoveled-out dirt holes, and all for a college essay. God, did it smell.
I’m not sure where my life path diverted, but what I do know is that George Washington University is a school teeming with JAPs. Some people in college overdose on prescription meds, others on heroine or chocolate. Me? I overdosed on JAPs. At GW, I learned who I didn’t want to become. I won’t lie to you, I did cook my fair share of funfetti cakes, watch heaps of Laguna Beach, and fake laughed until cranberry vodka came pouring out of my nose. But, as they say, too much of anything is never a good thing.
Nowadays, I’m actually only comfortable in second-hand clothing. To say I’m allergic to clean clothes wouldn’t even be a lie. If a pair of jeans or a t-shirt is too clean, I actually develop this nasty, funky-smelling rash. I’ve also developed quite a weed habit and so am actually, genuinely chiller. But also lazier. Often times I’ll go 5 days without showering, opting instead for the greatest and cheapest alternative of all: baby powder. Long gone are the days of Uggs and tabloids. Now, I’m titillated by Roberto Bolaño and John Keats. I listen to CocoRosie, Joanna Newsom, Kate Walsh and Björk because these women speak to me. And, most importantly, I’m moving to Brooklyn when my parents finally let me.
Each day is a new adventure. I’m just happy I finally made it.