By Daniel Borgen, PQ Monthly
For a big chunk of my life, I managed a Gap. It feels like a hundred years ago, and I spent a lot of time in those stores — but I spent the most at Pioneer Place, steering patrons toward overpriced, boxy knits and chunky sweaters, dictating proper denim folding techniques and handing out important retail assignments. That era will always cast its big khaki shadow on me: I met one of my current best friends working there, and my only meaningful, long-term relationship started in the men’s section next to a wall filled with meticulously arranged oxfords.
It was also at the Gap I met Kristen. Back then, I was a simpler gay, and I didn’t really have a strong grasp of the “classifications” of different peoples — you were either clean-cut, bleached, and into tanning beds, or you wore denim jackets and band pins like Kristen did, an “alternative.” Simpler times. Kristen redefined sass for me, and helped me open up a whole new world of sarcasm. I was a strange blend of uptight and laid-back then — I had no problem using the store credit card to buy the whole staff goodies week in and week out, but God help you if you ever violated our dress code. I once scolded Kristen for wearing a Shins pin to work. “What would happen if I just adorned myself with Stevie Nicks pins?” “Nothing, Daniel. You’d just have Stevie on your chest.”
Besides our weekly sass-fests, she also took it upon herself to educate me musically. It was all Whitney, Mariah, and Celine for me then, and she made me mix CDs, introducing me to the likes of Neko Case, (old) Wilco, The Thermals, and countless others. It was, as they say, a whole new world. For a while, I veered too far to the right, bemoaning anything pop in favor of all things “indie,” but soon I’d ease up, striking the right balance. (If I dabble in anything, it’s always extremes.) But that transformation sparked something in me, offered an epiphany that seems painfully obvious now. We’re a sum of our parts, and no one has lived our lives but us. Which is why I get so angry when:
People get snarky about other people’s tastes. Late last week, the Internet was ablaze with news of Beyonce’s gutsy move (dropping an album at the stroke of midnight with no advance notice, complete with videos). Equally as prevalent were people trying so desperately hard to prove how much they didn’t care, and how idiotic we all were for being so excited. Two things, really — one, you live in the world of social media, things will be repeated. If it gets you riled up, maybe you should disconnect. And another thing — some of us like the great B. Get over it. It doesn’t threaten you or your musical tastes. And it certainly doesn’t make your choices better.
Another thing: Sometimes I like to smoke pot and drink with my friends while singing karaoke to old Amy Grant albums. It also doesn’t preclude me from going to the hot indie show at the Doug Fir the following weekend. Tastes run the gamut, and judging another person’s doesn’t improve your social standing. It makes you an asshole.
And when you’re on a coffee date, and your date is yammering on and on about how many about how many books they’ve read and how they just don’t believe in television whatsoever because “only soft brains watch TV,” you can let them in on a little secret. You can watch “Modern Family” reruns after work and still read some Joan Didion before bed. Or you can spend a lazy Sunday morning on your couch with short stories and still catch your favorite Julia Roberts rerun that afternoon. I also do not care, per se, what you read: I care that it satisfies you and makes you happy. So if reading ten thousand Danielle Steele books a year pleases you, then fucking do it, by all means.
I am also straight over gay men criticizing the art of drag because “it’s so feminine.” Here’s the thing — that’s not real. Most of my closest drag queen friends will pound the masculine right out of you if given the opportunity (yes, I am talking sexy times). Hating drag doesn’t make you more of a “man.” It makes you a hater of art. The queens I know spend hours and days and weeks cooking up looks and numbers, and hours getting ready the day they have a show. They practice choreography, lip syncs, and any number of things. Maybe drag just isn’t your thing — that’s fine. I don’t get the “Housewives” anymore. But I sure as hell do not judge my friends who do.
I wish I knew why we do this to each other — and I’m not talking about casual ribbing that’s fun in doses (and entirely appropriate). Perhaps it’s inevitable because of the age we’ve entered. Social media makes everyone a critic (critics without credentials) and every person has a Yelp review at the ready; they’re just waiting in the wings, eager to pounce. A long time ago, a college professor told me this about literature: It’s fine to admit holes in your knowledge, and not everything is for you. I wish we’d collectively apply this to everything — and delete our Yelp profiles.
Email your rant (even about this column) to Daniel@PQMonthly.com