i was doing research on getting new phones. it was the battle of the titans: the samsung s4 vs. the htc one. going into my research, i was actually fairly biased toward the samsung s4; i had felt both in my hands, and i felt like the s4 fit my hand better and the plastic felt better suited to deal with the inevitable wear and tear the phone would be subjected to. the htc one seemed like it was ready to slip out of my hand and required my hand to grip uncomfortably narrowly.
and then i started reading the reviews… and everyone loved the htc one design and the metal body and how cool they thought it looked vs. the cheap samsung s4. and you know what? it was contagious. and by the end of the day, i was obsessed with the sleekness and sexiness of the htc one and “real phones are made of metal” became my mantra. and the rest is history.
but why did reading other people’s purely subjective aesthetic assessment of “cool factor” affect my own equally subjective aesthetic feelings?! does this demonstrate weakness of character?
(the slight asterisks to the story are that the htc one has a better low light camera, and the samsung s4 “added features” didn’t work well, and (after a hands on validation) the samsung s4 is perhaps a bit too big in the sense that i can’t reach the opposite corner when holding the phone with one hand. and i’m really happy with the decision; i have already dropped the phone and it doesn’t look great, but there is an added bonus that i didn’t expect, which is a beautifully clean interface vs an incredibly cluttered samsung interface.)
a friend/acquaintance who i went to high school with is going back to his high school reunion. we were generally close in high school, which means that he was a big ol’ nerd just like me, and, to put it nicely, not at the top of the social food chain.
but he’s really excited to go back to his high school reunion! he’s since gone to college, dropped out, founded and sold a start up, and somehow landed a smoking hot girlfriend (first relationship! something like that). and he gets to flaunt it all at the reunion to those former lords of the high school hallways who ignored and mistreated him all those years.
(okay, but i do have to say that nerds were generally treated well at our school by everyone, slight disclaimer.)
the abercrombie CEO was responding to a controversy where their chain did not manufacture sizes for large women, and he said the following:
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,” he told Salon. “Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong [in our clothes], and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely. Those companies that are in trouble are trying to target everybody: young, old, fat, skinny. But then you become totally vanilla. You don’t alienate anybody, but you don’t excite anybody, either.”
someone wrote this response, which mentioned, “Remember this — happiness and success are the best revenge.” and i agree, happiness and success (however you define it) is important… but isn’t framing it as revenge just part of the circular logic? because you still care what other people think? revenge is…. inevitably pretty alluring though. unfortunately.
i have this memory of sitting in one of the side rooms of meyer library as a freshman in college, “studying” but mostly just hanging out with fern and khanh and eating some delicious chicken tenders and garlic fries from stern late night. and khanh exclaimed, “you just want people to be jealous of you!!!!!”
which was true at the time, i’m fairly sure. though i think that, as time has gone on, i have changed pretty significantly in that respect. partially because i simply couldn’t keep up with others, partially because of the gaywakening, partially because it was realizing that letting other people dictate my definition of happiness was empty and unhealthy and dependent, partially because defining happiness as having things that others don’t is …. incredibly …. something?
but it has helped me realize one thing, which is there is a certain segment of people who just really enjoy talking about their lives, and your being uninterested or unimpressed only stokes their desire to talk about their lives more. and that you saying, “WOW, i am really jealous of your life!!!!!” (but something not quite as blatant or patronizing but something to that effect) generally satiates them. which i suppose is not totally aboveboard, but it’s also the path of least resistance.
one of the things that i struggled with last year at EDC (struggled is… probably a weird word to describe it, but it’s generally accurate) is that daniel and i got a lot of cute couple comments…. which i enjoyed! which… i shouldn’t enjoy!? why am i enjoying the comments?! why am i so petty?
when people show me photos of who they’re dating, i always cringe before i see the photo. because … i feel like they’re just waiting for the “s/he’s so cute!!!!” comment. and, if you think they’re attractive, great, if you don’t, then you can either try to lie or say something totally unrelated (man, his haircut is so unique!) or just remain awkwardly silent. oof. (i am a terrible liar.)
of the guys i’ve dated, i’ve had some people who think that they are incredibly attractive and can’t stop hearing about them. and others who find them less than attractive and say things like (true story), “ACK the idea of him naked just makes me sick.” sometimes people find them really funny, other times people think that they hate them. “he’s a catch” “he’s funny” “he’s nice” “he’s tall” etc etc. but, through all the flattery and insults leveled at the people i date, i have to keep reminding myself that who i date is a personal decision that’s mostly applicable to me. you’re the one who needs to be turned on by him, you’re the one who will be waking up next to him, you’re the one who will be on the 5 hour roadtrip with him, you’re the one watching over him when he’s sick.
at the end of the day, we all have our own preferences and decision criteria. and, it was incredibly refreshing for me to come to the realization circa 2009 that i wanted to live a life of mediocrity, in all senses of the word. a life that others find wholly unremarkable and not desirable but a life where i have made intentional decisions for personal fulfillment. that what other people want is not necessarily what you want. that i will never make the atlanta chinese community list of urban legends. because, yolo, life is too short, etc.
some things i might not have embraced in an alternate universe:
- living with craigslist roommates
- sleeping on a futon
- drinking franzia
- eating panda express sesame chicken and the cheesecake “the factory” factory
- staying at home and not traveling
- hooking up
- with men!
- tv like the glee project and mtv’s the challenge
- not trying to work jobs that provided stress/a lifestyle i couldn’t sustain
i can only imagine the regret, wasted money, lies, moments where i would hate my life, and sub-optimal scenarios that i would have encountered if i let others dictate my personal goals in life. being confident is in some ways inherently tied to how others feel about you, but i guess i would suggest to strive to derive confidence from knowing that you are making decisions and living life purposefully.
i’m going to close with a recent ask from my favorite bro tumblr, maleminded:
he is the best. preach it!
so, this is obviously not a terribly novel viewpoint. not to mention, most people don’t let other people’s opinions dictate the entirety of what they want in life. and it’s impossible not to let it affect you. i struggle with it all the time.
the types of opinions that i am advocating apathy toward are very specific. i think the after-school-special message of “dgaf what others think” is oversimplistic, because obviously there are many times when it’s important to care about what others think. i don’t think that you should care about opinions that are:
- held by others
- that are a matter of personal and subjective taste
- that cover aspects of your life that you find fulfilling
opinions to ignore vs. opinions to care about:
- the htc one looks sexier vs. the htc one has a better camera in low light conditions
- your boyfriend is cute vs. your boyfriend makes you happy
- you live a sad life vs. you live a life that endangers your physical/mental well-being
adjusting your lifestyle in response to the former i think is … dangerous. adjusting your lifestyle to the latter is helpful and why we create relationships with people who we trust and who care about us.
there are opinions that fall in a grey area. “but a high paying job will make you happier in the long run.” “if you have sex with men, you’re going to hell.” “your boyfriend is a jerk.” judgment call required.
perception is important. the reality check is that important people are going to judge you and reject you based on their perception of you. your boss may not want to promote you if you don’t have a lifestyle that commands respect. your future love of your life might not want to date you if you live in a basement. the person with social clout might deem you not worth knowing or connecting with other people. and for those scenarios…. fake it till you make it.