Friday, July 1, 2011


Anyone familiar with this blog knows I have a thing about conformity. I loathe the way non-conformists have a need to conform to each other. Yes, we all need community, but there can be community without us all having to wear the same clothes.

On the other hand, there's something fantastic about wearing the same clothes. I have always loved uniforms (and I don't mean "I love a man in uniform.")

I grew up in a nouveau riche community where what one wore was terribly important. That town was in the forefront of what came to be true all over America. A twelve-year-old must wear certain clothes and brands and own certain things or that kid is going to be picked on. I know many a poor parent who forgoes a lot of important things in order to make sure their child is not harangued in this way. One hundred and fifty dollar sneakers? They've become a necessity to protect their kids from being tortured in school. Anti-bullying lectures and classes will do no good until issues like this are addressed.

For this reason, I like school uniforms. Some see them as ways to force children to conform, but they instead do the very opposite. When wearing a uniform, no one can judge who your family is from your looks. No one can discern your socioeconomic status. It's wonderful.

I loved going to boarding school, for the Very Rich Kids did not flaunt their wealth. I looked shabby, but so did everyone else. It amazed me. Some of these kids' fathers owned the largest corporations in the world. At this level of wealth, one wants to be fairly quiet about it. On visiting days, I learned to figure out who came from the wealthiest families by how beat up the cars were. The worse the car, the wealthier the family. So much for the town I grew up in. Those folks were small potatoes!

Now, the people who drove these beat-up cars often wore hand made shoes and cashmere sweaters, but to the undiscerning eye these didn't look all that different than other shoes and sweaters (but true discerners can tell).

This leads me to this, what I came here to write about: fitting in by stealth. People ask me why I cover up my tattoos. There's more than one answer, but the important one here is this: Why on earth would I want to stigmatize myself? If I cover my tattoos up, a person meeting me for the first time will be less likely to judge me. I can look quite conservative, and I'd prefer to do so. What better why to, ahem, infiltrate?

Seriously, if you want to provoke, to change, to threaten, to do anything vaguely "revolutionary," fitting in seamlessly is the best strategy.  'Tis a childish stance to scream "Accept me the way I am, tantrums and all!" Throwing a cross into vat of piss is not the best way to change anyone's mind about anything (except public funding for the arts).

"Piss Christ" has become an icon of the in-your-face and huh? world of modern art, and Serrano succeeded beautifully in creating a buzz about himself, but ultimately, even though he claimed no inherent meaning to Piss Christ besides "ambiguity," it only offended. Offense is altogether to easy a thing to do.

William Burroughs, though offensive in his own way, by wearing a gray suit, was far more subversive. He could pass well in any business setting. This obit, entitled "The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit," tells his story fairly well in few words. The author says Burroughs "passed." Yes, he looked like traveling salesman or a CIA agent, but neither of these people is supposed to be either homosexual or an unrepentant drug addict.

Of course, we all seem to think that under the quiet exterior of Everyman is someone harboring a secret life. In this age of wanting everyone to know what our dirty secrets are, isn't it altogether more fun to keep 'em guessing?

I have no idea what my original point or intent was. I have a toothache.

That's today's excuse. What will be tomorrow's?

Image note: William S. Burroughs favored Brooks Brothers.

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