Dear Lily June,
Let’s start with a video (that I hope still works by the time you can watch it), posted by the blogger Chris Donner on Cee’s Photography blog.
In the video, the same advice on how to age gracefully is given by both the eight- and the seventy-two-year olds: Stay Weird. And as ironic as it is to tell you to follow those who would endorse originality (like Emerson who argued that “imitation is suicide” and “whoso would be a man [or woman, adds your mama!] must be a non-conformist”), I don’t mind being being a bit ironic.
Here’s the deal, though, Lily: Being unique isn’t all that easy. In fact, e.e. cummings says,
“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.”
Sometimes, though, less confident in the abilities of my body and mind, I just sought to hide my frame in yards and yards of fabric. Hence, the JNCO jeans seen below. Popularized by the “druggie crowd” for their convenient hiding spots during a pat-down, the truth is, I never hid anything in their Grand Canyon-sized pockets but novels and candy.
And when I really wanted to hide from the world, I turned to the same oasis of freedom teens have been turning to for centuries. Too poor to afford the new-fangled technology of mp3s, I stuck to my old cds. (Seriously, Lily. I carried an old fashioned DiscMan and everything!)
But my own skin must have sensed I was a poseur, because it quite literally healed my piercing out of my face. That, little Lily, is the story behind the scar on my right eyebrow. Turns out, my flesh heals like Wolverine’s, and my body, mistaking the expensive piece of metal in my face for a cheap splinter in my finger, pushed it right back out of me.
Nor did it feel revolutionary in grad school, to keep up with all the reading, down to, in texts like Edmund Spenser’s The Faerie Queene, the footnotes for the footnotes. But at some point, I looked up from the pages of my books to see no one else’s noses were so deeply entrenched in their contents. While my peers and cronies were hobnobbing in pubs, tossing back ales and lagers and laughter, I had a sober brow furrowed with a passion to the marrow for taking in more words.
The experiment was to see how far people would go beyond the boundaries of their own comfort and personal morality when directed by an authority. The Learner would eventually scream and plead with the Teacher to stop the shock treatment (they were in pain! it was unsafe! etc.), even though, in actuality, they weren’t being hurt at all. The Teacher didn’t know the other person was okay, really, and the Experimenter would always urge the Teacher on. So many Teachers just blindly followed the presumed authority even “knowing” they were “harming” a fellow human being. That, little Lily, is a gross explanation of how people get roped into groups like the KKK or Nazi’s and follow their lead.
While the seven actors were in conspiracy to give the wrong answer, experimenters watched closely to see what the one real subject would do. In control groups where only one person was asked at a time, those people got the answer wrong less than one percent of the time. In the experimental group, the pressure to conform was so great that 75% of the subjects gave at least one wrong answer out the twelve repetitions of the trial.
- “Alligator Chia Pet” by Jeremy Noble – https://www.flickr.com/photos/uberculture/2254891523/. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Alligator_Chia_Pet.jpg#/media/File:Alligator_Chia_Pet.jpg
- “Szénvasaló” by Derzsi Elekes Andor – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sz%C3%A9nvasal%C3%B3.JPG#/media/File:Sz%C3%A9nvasal%C3%B3.JPG
- “Gothic girl” by Marc Planard – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gothic_girl.jpg#/media/File:Gothic_girl.jpg
- “UK and US zines” by Burn_the_asylum (uploader, on 25 March 2005) – en:Image:UK_and_US_zines.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:UK_and_US_zines.jpg#/media/File:UK_and_US_zines.jpg
- “Jnco175”. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jnco175.jpg#/media/File:Jnco175.jpg
- “Discman D121” by Morn at English Wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia to Commons.. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Discman_D121.jpg#/media/File:Discman_D121.jpg
- “EyebrowPiercingJonnyUK” by Jonny – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:EyebrowPiercingJonnyUK.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:EyebrowPiercingJonnyUK.jpg#/media/File:EyebrowPiercingJonnyUK.jpg
- “Title page William Shakespeare’s First Folio 1623” by Martin Droeshout – Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University . Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Title_page_William_Shakespeare%27s_First_Folio_1623.jpg#/media/File:Title_page_William_Shakespeare%27s_First_Folio_1623.jpg
- “Rangers réglementaires de l’Armée Française” by HAF 932 – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rangers_r%C3%A9glementaires_de_l%27Arm%C3%A9e_Fran%C3%A7aise.png#/media/File:Rangers_r%C3%A9glementaires_de_l%27Arm%C3%A9e_Fran%C3%A7aise.png
- “Milgram experiment v2” by Fred the Oyster. Licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Milgram_experiment_v2.svg#/media/File:Milgram_experiment_v2.svg
- “Asch experiment”. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Asch_experiment.png#/media/File:Asch_experiment.png