Plumb Lines

June 8, 2009

Being Poor Is Not as Fun as Pretending to Be Poor

Filed under: Uncategorized — Michael E. van Landingham @ 8:31 am

The author found in the extreme upper right expresses his distate for Brooklyn hipsters.

The author (upper right) averts his eyes from the horror that are Brooklyn hipsters.

The New York Times confirms a stereotype: hipsters’ parents pay their rent. I balked when I heard that many youthful residents of  Brooklyn are trust fund babies, thinking of the few people I’ve known with actual multimillion dollar trust funds. Instead of the super rich, though, most people use it to mean kids whose parents pay for their children’s expensive rent in a hot real estate market. Some hipsters actually do have investment income, and it is common for the average down and out Williamsburger never to have held a paying job:

Luis Illades, an owner of the Urban Rustic Market and Cafe on North 12th Street, said he had seen a steady number of applicants, in their late 20s, who had never held paid jobs: They were interns at a modeling agency, for example, or worked at a college radio station. In some cases, applicants have stormed out of the market after hearing the job requirements.

I always believed a crucial part of being jaded, hip, and starving is having a job you hate. It is a badge of honor to work the worst, dirtiest job possible but to maintain your dignity, creativity, and self-sufficiency. As a bonus you get some great stories to tell your friends over cheap beer, and the knowledge that cheap beer is all you can afford. This is why real hipsters live in Baltimore: housing is cheap, danger abounds, and National Bohemian flows like (and costs about as much as) water.

Being subsidized curtails real self-exploration and independence. If you do not have to agonize over choices like taking the subway or walking the two miles to save the fare, going to a concert or eating, then you can never lay any claim to proper adulthood and maturity. And you never yearn to move beyond the poverty of youth to some successful career. In other words, and quite obviously, you never learn to work.

It is one thing for parents to subsidize studying children. I consider that a gift capable parents are happy to offer their children. Such support should not preclude employment to earn money to help foot the bill, either. Using your parents money to “find” yourself after four years of “finding yourself” as an undergraduate is  downright shameless. But I suppose all the time it takes to discover new bands, shop for ironic clothing, engage in reckless behavior, and look for discontinued Polaroid film is a full time job.

-Michael E. van Landingham

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