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big-white-09-0511hi – it’s me! your favoritest blogger returned from the land of big white and mini skis (pictured left).  so i haven’t blogged in a while, so what? you also don’t do stuff your supposed to so get off my back. okay – i might be a little bitter because i am still getting over fuzzybrain that plagued me at the extact same time as it did last year. creepy? yes. methinks so. (please suggest possible reasons for this recurring cottonbrain conundrum in the comments section. especially if you are a doctor specializing in hypochondria and/or germaphobia. many thanks). anyhoo – a couple of days – in the deepest depths of my fuzzybrainness – i was going to regale you with all the minutiae of my life but then i began to have interesting conversations about a particular topic that kept coming up. and no, it wasn’t because of what t-bone suggests – that i have to tell the same story over and over again in his presence just to test the limits of his capacity for unconditional love and tolerance (okay the latter half of that was my inclusion but the first part – that i endlessly tell the same stories is all his – just ask him about it – he’ll rant for a good hour). i am going to call this topic ‘failure,’ although as we’ll see, this kind of failure is the new fantasticness. stay with me.

so i am turning 30 this year (and this will be one of my repetitive stories so brace yourselves and don’t bring it up to t-bone or he might have an aneurysm. oh – if your the doctor that is diagnosing my hypochondria could you tell me what an aneurysm is because i use it all the time and have no idea. many thanks.) and it has made me realize that if 40 is the new 30, then 30 is the new 20. by this i mean that myself and many of my friends are currently experiencing the thirties as a renewed moment of indecision, not unlike that moment you had just out of high school (pre-20s) when you begged your parents to let you live free and die young. or any other approximation of not-going-to-university. or was that just me? anyway, the thirties seem like this moment – when we have enough education, maybe have made enough money, and are perhaps pre- or post-marriage but definitely pre-children – were we step back and say wtf? what do we want out of life and how are we going to get it. it is like realizing anything is possible which we didn’t when we were begging our parents for travel funds to europe or a year off to ‘find ourselves’ (i.e., working at denny’s and then running for the nearest educational institution). see, we were dumb in our twenties. we figured everything would work out and that life wasn’t something to be worked at. instead it would just happen to us just like everything else had happened to us since birth. and it was gonna be good times.

so some of my friends have been working in interesting and challenging careers since before i started grad school. and while i kinda hate them for making the wise decision to start making money light years before me, i empathize with their concerns about if what they are doing is what they always want to be doing. their questioning about if this is ‘it’. since i am the cusp of finishing something that has kept me busy since 2001 when i started my m.a., i am asking the same questions – what do i want out of life, what is possible, what isn’t, what do i deserve out of life, what do i never, ever want? an interesting aspect of this questioning and decision-making is the diversity of what constitutes both achievements and failures for those of us making these decisions. over some sausage and eggs recently, my friend N. and i discussed our visions of the ‘failures’ of so-called social achievement. we questioned the social pressure to marry and procreate as ‘whose’ values – our own or more appropriately classified under the rubric of ‘social expectation?’ we wondered where social expectation ends and our own desires begin while trying to acknowledge the impossibility of somehow ‘living outside’ such expectation (and its inevitable impact on the shaping of our desires).

after too much coffee and a walk to air out the nauseating diner smell, i continued to think about how one person’s achievement is another person’s personal failure and how different valuations of values can result in both feelings of inadequacy and superiority. and i wondered if it wasn’t the people who engage in the flouting and touting of their so-called social achievements who really suffer. the ones who measure their worth against the perceived ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ of others that perpetuate the expected outcomes of social expectation. this is not meant to be self-righteous, but rather a consideration of the multitudes of valuation that exist but are ignored. that persist but are disrespected. deciding that marriage and children as ‘success’ is not only the privileged domain of a heteronormative value system (by and large) but it is necessarily exclusionary and intolerant. however, even those who live in difference need to heed the value systems of others as equal as long as they are not oppressive. my point – if i have one – is to suggest that we must acknowledge that our lives are a culmination of the values we privilege. and what is most interesting about those values is that, despite the notion or appearance that they are universal and uniform, are easily in/subverted by desires that move outside the realm of the expected. suburban dreams as failures. and achievement measured by how comfortably you can live in your skin and accept others regardless of how closely they fit what we were all once told to want.

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in the infamous words of marx: “in bourgeois society capital is independent and has individuality, while the living person is dependent and has no individuality.” we live then, according to marx, in a deindividuated world of capital gain, dependence [on the “man?”], and bourgeois comfort that medi[c]ates the masses. similarly, in the infamous words of my friend B.: “jacks, you might be a little bougie.” though he said it in the sweetest way, and in relation to his own more overt bougieness (take that!), it got me thinking – is jacks bougie? thus, this is a little meditation on “bougieness,” that is, the comfort that comes with excess, the attempts to “deviduate” ourselves, and an explanation for why the website stuff white people like is so friggin’ popular. despite the quote from marx, this post is not meant to be serious. for reals.

when i entered grad school, i realized – despite knowing it intellectually – that my colleagues were perhaps in a different “class.” had different backgrounds. basically they were oozing coin. not a problem i have ever been faced with. i am part of those endless canadian “middle” classes, which extend from the upper-lower to the higher-middle and everything in between. i looked around after my first year and realized i was playing on a different field. was in a different realm. of financial fluidity. however, like most “white” kids in the small towns, hamlets, and suburbs of canada, i was raised a little bougie. to be more refined. to value travel. fine food. delicious wine. i was groomed to be significantly upwardly mobile. a path not paved for all.

being “bougie,” in my own estimation, and perhaps my friend B.’s, has more to do with the nuances of life than the overt display of pretentious pettiness. it is about preferring this brand to that. knowing which restaurant is the best in the city for this kind of food. knowing how to order and consume wee little plates of flamboyantly fractured food in a place you can barely afford but believe, truly believe, you deserve to frequent. if you believe/feel/have done these things, you’re bougie dude. face it.

but don’t fret. a lot of us white folk are like this. we pretend to discern. we describe. we debate. we deliberate. we think we are entitled to opinions. to options. to being individuals. but this individuality comes with a price. it takes cash. capital. we haven’t separated the meaning of personhood – of this presupposed right to individuality – from capital as it appears in marx’s formulation. we have merely embraced it. made it our own. become bougie.

stuff white people like recognizes this. it takes all white people’s demarcations of insignificance and lays it bare. makes it meaningful in its expose of its profound meaningless. white people need stuff to make them significant. and often that means buying stuff to have stuff. to create meaning. consuming to be something. everybody’s gotta have a thing. and white folk want a lotta things. we haven’t shifting the discourse of meaning-making around being and having. we have merely tried to be more through having without doing too much. we exist in entitlement. which is hilarious. and why stuff white people like is now a book. a cult classic. a pop(ular) sensation.

entitlement is a tricky thing. it is ugly in its overt state. and it spills out on all sides. consistently getting farther from its originary point. the quest for stuff. entitlement – while born out of a mommy and daddy get me everything attitude – quickly morphs into something more insidious. and more banal. the misrecognition of others. and their worth. being bougie is funny. but only when we recognize that everyone’s right to be is equal. and to stop stealing each others’ seats on the free shuttle in stanley park.

so there.