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Thursday
Sep232010

Ian's Essay Fiesta Piece - "Authenticity" - 9/20/10

In April of 2009, I accepted a position as a grant writer for a non-profit arts organiztion. This non-profit is located in what Business Week Magazine last year named the 16th richest town in America. I’m pleased to report that as of this week I have emancipated myself from this job in this quaint village that Business Week Magazine assures us is the 16th richest town in the nation.

I’m here to report to you that there are BURDENS associated with living in the 16th richest town in the country.

Now, though I was a “knowledge worker” and though I dutifully dressed like a bank teller every day, I might as well have worn a tinker’s apron and smeared my face with grease, so evident to them was my membership in the laboring classes.

My assessment of conditions in the well-tended village with its well-tended people is that the primary effect on the inhabitants of the 16th richest town in America is that on the one hand, they have a bulletproof certainty that they are better than you in every way you could name, while on the other hand they are gripped by the excruciating discomfort arising from the knowledge that there are FIFTEEN RICHER TOWNS IN AMERICA.

I know. Take a moment. Sit with that.

Perhaps the most vexing, the most bedeviling, the most maddening and unjust aspect of this hurtful, hurtful list, however, was the fact that while the majority of the other Richest Towns in America had the DECENCY to be situated in the tony suburbs of D.C. or out Silicon Valley way, the NUMBER TWO TOWN on the list was RIGHT DOWN SHERIDAN ROAD, not FIVE MILES away, just sitting there, GLOATING.

It’s like you’re Slugworth and right down the road is Wonka’s factory, mocking you. And you, Slugworth, with your scarred face and your lack of charisma, are STUCK with your inferior empire. And Wonka. With his Oompa Loompas and his his joie de vivre is right down the street. Which. Just. KILLS. You.

While it feels important in the interests of accuracy to state that I did encounter noteworthy exceptions to this tendency – persons who had maintained a degree of perspective about their relative position in the world, and to remain mindful of their good fortune – these handful of people seemed always aware that their affluence arose from a modest amount of work, true, but was largely the result of a happy confluence of their geography and race and class. These few people were able to regard these fortuitous quirks of birth and place as precisely this, and to regard their position and capacities of time and capital as an opportunity to be of service in the world.

Each of these generous-minded people was contented and tranquil. Perhaps it goes without saying that these generous-minded people were deeply unpopular among the other residents of the village. The other residents of the village – those right-minded citizens who had the good sense to seethe with resentment about the FIFTEEN OTHER U.S. TOWNS THAT HAD GREATER PER CAPITA WEALTH regarded these few generous-minded residents as misguided and more than a little weird.

These generous-minded residents, these… weirdos, seemed unavailable to devote the kind of grooming time that had come to be expected in the village. These weirdos seemed unable, unwilling, or – perish the thought – UNINTERESTED in logging the kind of time in the manicurists’ chair each week that yielded the desired suppleness of one’s hands.

The RIGHT-minded citizens of the village had come to agree that the experience of touching the human hand should be akin to clasping a latex glove filled with tepid pudding. Not only did the weirdos’ hands bear the traces of – it pains one to say it – EFFORT and USE, in their frankly appalling lack of suppleness, the nails at the ends of these fingers tended to be both scandalously under-shaped and to have tips that were not French in the slightest.

The weirdos further did not or could not see the virtues of an adequate amount of the right kind of attention paid to the volume and color of one’s hair. These weirdos – in FLAGRANT defiance of convention – would INSIST on wearing their flat and lifeless hair in ways that did not require the frequent professional intervention that the right-thinking citizens of the village have come to recognize as indepensible. When to do so calls into question the need of the village’s scrum of Eastern European hair stylists and colorists who roll into town in their Jettas each morning. To say nothing of the brown-skinned ladies who sweep up the hair.

These weirdos, with their lank, unsassy hair are taking food right straight out of the mouths of our sad brown-skinned ladies who lurch out of the Metra every day to sweep up our hair.

And let me tell you something else about these weirdos with their big jerk faces. Those faces have NEVER once gone under the knife – these weirdos, they have old-looking, un-improved faces. I mean, so OK, you’re afraid of surgery or have like a philosophical thing or whatever, but they don’t TAN.

But if the right-thinking citizens of the village were to isolate a single crime of the weirdos, it would not be their unsupple hands, or their unglamorous hair, or their untanned, uncarved faces, it would be this:

These weirdos are known to eat. Food. Publicly. They, like, INGEST food. In full view. Of strangers. Now, the right-thinking citizens of the village would the be first to concede the need to choke down a bite or two when their own daughters are nearby, so that Olivia and Madison and Sophia and Brookly can develop a healthy body image and don’t get all… fixated on food.

But to see these, these weirdos… chewing. And then swallowing. Over and over again. Well, I don’t mind telling you that the right-thinking citizens of the village are quite frankly sickened by the sight of it.

Every time the right-thinking citizens of the village are compelled to bear witness to the SPECTACLE of these so-called generous-minded residents of the village putting all that, that FOOD down their gullets – right there in the center of town, they know – AGAIN – that these weirdos are simply… not. The right kind. Of people.

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