Monday, October 13, 2008


I was thinking about my side in the iPod revolution ever since yesterday, and waking up every day a square peg in the grown-up world. I wrote that the Star-Ledger article was "out to offend me, personally, into falling in line," which I suppose is what reactionaries do. They split the world in two, those like us and those who aren't, so what's incongruous to me isn't so much the name-calling from one of "them," but that I'm taking it personally. I can't be — I'm not, the article makes it clear — the only one who sees no conflict between headphones and professionalism, or who feels the corporate wardrobe is superficial and frivolous, or who'd rather send out a conversational résumé. So how is it that Convention alienates me (or us?), that I (or we?) accept its value judgments, as if my (or our?) own normality was real rebellion threatening to tear a stable society apart?

I had a job interview a few years back where the hiring bosses specifically handed me a "business formal" dress code, and I wore a tie and jacket and it turned out the company was run by a bunch of jerks — sartorial demands aside — who were barely worth combing my hair for, let alone looking nice over. I wish I had the guts to walk into that interview in my standard jeans and dark T-shirt: "The business is computer programming. I can program computers perfectly well dressed like this. If I wanted to dress unprofessionally, I would've worn mittens."

Attitude like that will get you nowhere — not that presenting myself well got me very far either — and the more I think about it, the more that seems like a tactic of the old morality, flipping every ordinary, arbitrary, moral value on its subjective head: It's not that you're a horrible fit for the culture, it's that you're a unique horrible fit. Maybe it's time for a change, acknowledging the conformist cultures of non-conformity. You don't hit people, or steal, or litter, or talk on your cell phone during the movie... so you're okay, and you're not alone.