This I Believe

Robert - Candler, North Carolina
Entered on July 4, 2007

This I Believe: Celebrate Unhippness!

I’m fulfilling a need. Are you hip? Trendy? Cool? Do you wonder who, in God’s name, buys that Thomas Kincaide stuff? If so, you have me to thank. Without me who would you compare yourself to?

Nascar watching, Walmart shopping, domestic beer drinking, store brand coffee slurping rubes like me allow the sophisticated to define themselves by what the aren’t. The aren’t like me. Joe six pack. We’re the last group it’s ok to make fun of. Yes, as a matter of fact, my house was delivered on wheels. Listen to my accent. No, I rarely get mistaken for a New York Times drama critic. Jeff Foxworthy and Larry the Cable Guy would fit comfortably in most of my world. Don’t pretend you don’t know who they are.

Wait a minute though. Think you’ve got me pegged? Are you imagining me in an orange Dodge Charger flying though the air blaring “Dixie”? Not quite. Doubt you’d find the Duke boys hanging out at the independent book stores with me. Or at Shakespeare in the park. No, some dullard wouldn’t be caught reading the fifty or more nonfiction books I absorb each year. Or loving science podcasts to fill the banal mental void during my late evening commute home from my blue collar job. Since I’m already sounding like a blowhard hell, – why quit now – I’m in Mensa and was once a Jeopardy contestant. I didn’t win, but dammit I was there.

Now that I’ve slammed your mental image of me the other direction let me whip you back again. Is there anything tastier than a McDonald’s burger, shake and fries? My anti-hip fantasy is to drive my fat SUV to Walmart then fire up a cigarette while scarfing down a Super-Size value meal at the McDonalds inside. Actually, this is a fantasy I’ve indulged. All except for the smoking part. I hate the taste of cigarettes. I hear it’s still hip to smoke in France as is auto racing but both are definitely de classe here.

In Hamlet the prince says “there is nothing, either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”. The honest boy in “The Emperors New Suit” is the only one unafraid to admit that he can’t see the “clothes” everyone is raving about. Remember the premise of that story? Only one with refined tastes (read “hip”) can see the Emperor’s non existent clothes. The Emperor himself is the first one taken in, not wanting to seem unworthy to appreciate such finery. Surely neither Shakespeare nor Hans Christian Anderson were the first to observe this side of human nature. They nailed the idea though, didn’t they? I know people who intently emulate the avant garde opinion on social issues, books, art, music….basically everything. Then, they themselves are emulated by those who need an easy shorthand on what the “smart” choice is.

The boy who admit that the Emperor is naked is who I want to emulate. So I’ll continue to like what I like. Today it might be a John Gresham bestseller then tomorrow a beautifully written Jeanette Winterson novel. The masses are welcome to share my interests but I don’t care if they don’t. I know I’m not hip. I don’t care that I’m not cool. You should care though if you’re hip. After all, it’s me you define yourself against.

Please don’t think I’m hip for being on NPR, I’m about to change the station to top 40 country.

Robert Bethard is a registered nurse from Asheville North Carolina. He wants to be the unhippest guy in America.