28 March 2009

Southern California and Changing Realities

I love Southern California, in particular I love its quirkiness and the people who express themselves through their clothing and habits. For instance, where else in America would you see a 50+ year old male riding a skateboard wearing board shorts, a goatee, and a plaid shirt, untucked AND slip on white sneakers. You may consider this a unique event, but in SoCal this is the look. It is an adaptation of the Cholo look (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cholo) mixed with the SoCal laid back lifestyle. Oh, I forgot the ubiquitous sunglasses which one can wear inside, or out. I am not making fun of this at all -- I love seeing it but at the same time I have been away from SoCal long enough to know that it is also an isolated style. If you look around, you see people of all ages trying to look as cool and chic as possible. Some might suggest that SoCal is full of people who suffer from "arrested teenager syndrome."

It is one thing to feel young and to do things which make you feel healthy and connected to a youthful way of life. It is another thing to never grow up. I wonder what the men have done to be able to ride their beach bikes so cavalierly along the bike path through Huntington Beach looking like they did when they were 18 years old. Is it a uniform they put on which they remove when Monday morning arrives? Do they don the suit and tie and sever all ties to the relaxed look till Friday evening? Are all Southern California just arrested teenagers.

I am no better -- me forever in jeans, a t-shirt and my own ubiquitous Humboldt sweatshirt. Just yesterday I got the usual "hey man, Humboldt has the best weed" comment making it the 7,000th time I have heard those words worldwide. My poor alma mater has such a specific reputation, but in fact, it is the county, home to the tallest trees and the best "weed" which generates the impression.

But back in Huntington Beach I felt like the person who buys a red car and then notices all the other red cars for the first time. So many men with their goatee, tatoos, slip on white Vans (sneakers), shorts and t-shirt. It is a uniform. They are all forever locked into the "it's summer" look. I am jealous in a way. I love the surfer look of long hair and the rest of the uniform, but at some point one must grow up. I feel just as "arrested" in my style as those who I am highlighting.

I actually feel like the kid in Peter Pan who says "I don't want to grow up" or the Velveteen Rabbit wherein the main character wonders whether growing up will hurt? I have always rebelled against dressing up. I eschew wearing a tie or suit jacket. I love wearing bright coloured t-shirts. I love wearing sandals all year round. I did it in Macedonia despite the snow -- I just wore wool socks and sandals.

The fact is, that I saw it so clearly while in HB this visit. It is like men wearing earrings when they are in their 50's or 60's. There is a time and place for everything. I had three earrings when I was in my 20's and early 30's, but to put them in now would seem so inappropriate and out of place. So perhaps it is time for me to drop out of the "I don't care what anyone thinks about what I am wearing" and grow up a bit.

It's sad because what likely happens is that the majority of people on the East coast follow a different pattern and I am being influenced by their lifestyle which does bring with it a more appropriate sense of dress style. So there it is, stuck between the two, totally comfortable in the western style but living among the east coast people.

So that is my dilemma for today. Once I arrive in DC I will most likely just remain locked in my internal mental struggle, or perhaps, I will wear a tie and jacket just to be different.