i was uncool before uncool was cool

There’s an old country song entitled, “I Was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool.” A few years ago I saw this retooled on a bumper sticker as “I Was Uncool Before Uncool Was Cool,” which of course means that said bumper sticker owner was, in fact, cool, because s/he was uncaring about being cool. But you see, I spent much of my life being really and truly uncool. By which I mean that I was always trying to be cool. So does this make me cool or uncool? And if it makes me uncool, does that make me cool? What do you learn about me by reading this paragraph?

In the most recent of a series of thoughtful posts on blogging, truth, and fiction, Elouise considers me as a “character” in the story that is my blog, trying to imagine me based on what a reader learns from what I reveal. I think the majority of readers of my blog have met me in person, but I’m not entirely sure: if you don’t comment, I probably don’t know you’re reading, although my server logs provide some interesting information. (Don’t worry. You’re not under surveillance.) But what if you haven’t met me in person? What do you conclude about me? Here’s what Elouise concludes:

  • “…bespectacled dude, mid-50s…”
  • “…Granola guy…”
  • “…Birkenstocks…”
  • “…Somewhat unkempt…”
  • “…Military brat…”
  • “…Whoa…use of the term ‘homies’…Minus 20 years…”

Elouise only happens to be singling me out for this kind of analysis. Her larger interest is the way that a blog provides “pieces of a larger puzzle that only approximate the real person. Not until we meet in meatspace, does the abstraction disappear.” I’m not sure the abstraction ever does disappear, though. I’ve known Chuck for ten years, and yet we’ve communicated more in the last 12 months via the keyboard than we ever did before. And I’ve learned much more about him from his blog than I did through conversations. The “meat” Chuck and the “blog” Chuck are somewhat separate entities for me, and I don’t find myself privileging one over the other.

So what does this have to do with the first paragraph of this entry? I guess I care enough about what other people think of me to be somewhat troubled by the idea that my writing comes across as the work of an unkempt, bespectacled, granola eating, Birkenstock wearing, mid-50s guy.

Now, if I provide details about myself specifically in response to speculations by Elouise, does that violate some sort of prime directive? (“Oooh, a Star Trek allusion. Very interesting.”) I’ll refrain, then. (Except to say that I wear Doc Martens, not Birkenstocks.) But I do realize that the reason I keep a rough list of what I’m reading and listening to over on the left-hand side of my current front page design is to give readers a sense of who I am outside of what they learn in the entries that I write.

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7 thoughts on “i was uncool before uncool was cool

  1. (I do hope you’re enjoying this).
    “I guess I care enough about what other people think of me to be somewhat troubled by the idea that my writing comes across as the work of an unkempt, bespectacled, granola eating, Birkenstock wearing, mid-50s guy.”
    Actually, you’re writing comes across as an expressive thoughtful sort of guy. All the rest is window dressing, and fluid based throwaway lines and sterotype. Outkast, REM and Springstein suggest yet other pictures in my head.
    I saw some of my freshmen at a Moby concert and I think I freaked them out.
    Each label we have carries the weight of personas past. Will probably continue the notion tomorrow when I’m more lucid.
    Oh- and the answer is “Cool”.

  2. I’m trying to imagine you, George, as an aging hippie. Convert first-day-of-teaching blazer into tie-died vest, add little (graying, of course) ponytail to the back of your head, perhaps some torn Converse (your winter shoes) on your feet.
    But seriously, as someone who studies performances of identity, I think i can say with some surety that textual performances are no more and no less constructed than “meatspace” ones. which is to say, that your “real” Doc Martens are no less a crafted identity performance than the clues you give people via the blog.
    The “meatspace George” (I love the term, but can’t help but use scare quotes) has the added bonus of a body to authenticate the identity. But anyone who’s read and agrees with Judith Butler will understand that we also stylize our bodies with every gesture, every clothing choice, every blink. And these clues are governed by untrackable intentions, a host of social contexts that may or may not be understood by either performer or audience and a density of signs that exceeds authorial intent and even the savviest of social observers.
    While Elouise may have misread the “you” of the blog posts, she has probably done so no less egregiously than I did when I first met you in 1996. She simply has a different set of “gestures” to interpret, ones that are less visible, and therefore seem (but aren’t really) to be wider misses. And yet if she were to describe your personality I’m sure she would do a lot better than I did after watching you do a GEO schpiel.
    Point is, while I am identifying both “real life” and textual “identity” as constructable selves, this neither invalidates them nor renders them separate. It just suggests that we read them intertextually. Just as Henry IV Part I tells us about Hamlet and vice versa (even as each text could lead us astray–they have very different takes on identity performance, for example), the bodied George tells us about the real George, even as each gives us clues that belie aor confirm spects of those individual selves.

  3. Mediated self

    Liz wrote this bit a while ago on interpersonal communication and how introversion/extroversion affects conversation. (Still a great read). Within it , she touches upon the notion that written communication mediates these inclinations….She was talkin…

  4. pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

    the questions popping up about blogs and selves and performance and honesty and autobiography, even if unanswerable, are really brilliant. i refuse the responsibility of linking entries with that list of terms… simply too rich for that. and so, a…

  5. Performed Selves

    There’s been a lot of great stuff going on elsewhere in the Wordherders community, including dave’s post , george’s and others about performed selves, constructed identities and mediated pictures of who we “really” are. I’ve been doing a lot of…

  6. “(Except to say that I wear Doc Martens, not Birkenstocks.)”
    Eeek. I wear both Doc Martens and Birkenstocks. What is that saying about me?!
    Don’t worry. “Unkempt, bespectacled, granola eating, Birkenstock wearing, mid-50s guy”s might live in Midtown, but probably not Quality Hill.

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