Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Less Than Conventional

There's nothing more amusing than walking down The Drag here in Austin, Texas to see what the University kids believe to be the next cool "thing." 
When I first got to town I remember two-foot high spiked hair, which morphed into skinhead mosh-pitters, which in turn became flannel-shirted, stocking-hat grungers, who became nose-studded, inked hipsters who became, well, I haven't figured out what look today's men get to be.

For the cool, it's important to be different and some would say unconventional.  However, I take exception to the latter because I strive to be unconventional and I'm nothing like those cool folks.

I never got a tattoo. I never did anything to my hair in order to be different (although if you've seen my picture, you know I'd be willing to do that just to have hair). I didn't wear jeans with a hole in the knee to be cool—I wore jeans with a hole in the knee because I would do work that wore out the knees in my jeans.

I guess it’s because I believe being unconventional has more to do with behavior rather than appearance.  I attempt not to act the way society may expect me to act.  You know, things like get out of school and buy a nice car, invest in a house, get married and have 2.5 kids.  Instead I kept driving my beat up old car, I didn’t want to be known as a landowner, so lived in apartments until I finally felt backed into a corner and bought a house (it’s a looonnng story) and my relationships…Well, you’ve seen this blog and know that I’ve been less than conventional in relationships and so remain single.

It all began decades ago while a teenager.  I had a good friend named Phil Johnson who developed cancer after my family had moved away.  We kept in close contact via mail (it was long before anything like the internet. No, not the Stone Age. Jeez) so I knew of his struggles, including the loss of one of his legs.  So my family traveled from El Paso back to Topeka to go to his brother’s wedding.

When we got to the church, our first time to see each other, he was at the top of the stairs with his family, I was down at the door with mine.  He was so excited to see me that he yelled my name.  I looked up at the smiling face of my young friend and fought the urge to run up the steps to greet him.  Instead, I did as I was programmed and stayed at the bottom of the stairs in the receiving line with my family.  Heaven forbid I do something out of the norm that the conventional folks of Kansas (and my family) would think was out of line.

Oh, we had a nice reunion when my family finally made it to the top.  He was still happy to see me, but that image of his smiling face looking down at me while I stayed motionless haunted me.  Especially when he died from that cancer a few short years later.

That conventionality, that formality, burned into my thoughts.  I vowed to never let formality or being conventional interfere with the important moments in life.

I remember at my high school graduation a cousin shouted out as I walked across the stage “he’s got tennis shoes on!” I think I was the only one who didn’t wear formal shoes and attire.  I didn’t mind the public abuse.  I felt comfortable.

(Jay working graduation. Nope, wouldn't wear a suit)
My parents always insisted that my brother and I wear a suit and tie to Sunday church services yet all during high school I somehow managed to get away with just a sweater and open neck. One time I needed to borrow a black suit jacket from someone so I could go to a funeral of a relative.  For about 20 years the only time I would wear a tie was when I had to work the graduation ceremony as part of my advising duties.  So in that 20 years I only wore a tie twice a year (spring and fall graduation).

Yes, it's Jay's VW & Datsun, circa 80s
When everyone else would buy a new car every other year because they wanted to stay in style, I would hold on to my old car or truck for ten years no matter its’ looks.  If I did buy a different car/truck, it would be used, usually with dents and ugly paint job, and the main feature had to be good MPG’s—which is a popular trend today, but I’ll keep that habit no matter.

This latter habit didn’t help relationships with females.  As noted in previous blogs, while men may be superficial in how a woman looks, women want a man who has a fancy car (in other words, money).

My desire to avoid formality and the conventional affected relationships in other ways.  For example, I actually wanted women to make choices, not to let me make all the decisions. Oh, sure, as you may have noted in my routine blog I can get set in my ways, but I like trying different things, I'm almost always looking for different experiences.
So often I'd call a girlfriend up and ask her what she wanted to do and she'd get flustered and insist I decide. It could be that it was early in the relationship and she hadn't committed yet (yeah, I blogged about that too) and so didn't want to make a mistake. But surely with all the females around wanting equal rights you'd think I'd find a few willing to express themselves on a social level.  Most guys, the macho types anyway, probably insist or want to be the decider.  I wanted to hear something from her.

So no, you may never see me inked or with purple hair.  I may not wear a tie or fancy clothes to your formal event.  You will definitely never see me with a ring in my nose.  However, there's a good chance that I will not act the way you expect. I may even do something just to get a reaction from you.  Forgive me, it's just me doing my best not to be conventional.


  1. I'll always remember you hiding under your desk ... instead of taking my calls. Ha ha! Loved your phone messages.

    And TWO cars?! You were so rich! :-)

    I started off being a "good little girl," and also would not have run up the stairs. But I've also been too odd to ever be cool, so that's helped me.

    I don't generally try to get a reaction from people, but I do try to make sure I'm doing things I actually want to do instead of doing things because everyone else does it or expects it. So, I don't have to live paycheck to paycheck, woo! I also keep my cars ten years, and I start with ten-year-old cars, too! (My first car was a two-year-old Ford Escort, and my second car was a ten-year-old Nissan Sentra, back when they were super reliable, and my Sentra was better in every way, so now I always try to get old but reliable cars and buy them with cash.) I also live with roommates, don't have kids, don't drink, don't eat vegetables--wait, I really do want to find ways to enjoy eating vegetables!

    Sorry your women won't help figure out fun things to do. Arg! Half the fun of being with other people is trying out their cool ideas!

    1. Hey Debbie, thanks for reading the blog. I noticed yours moved ( and would have chastised you for putting beans in chili, but thought better of it. Anyway, glad to hear you are less than conventional too. You admired that I had two vehicles but that VW was really more of a derelict and was eventually towed off by my apt. complex. I think of all my girlfriends, only one could be considered unconventional and she just bordered on weird. Luckily, the others liked the things I did bc they sure didn't come up with much to do. BTW, I wasn't hiding under the desk, I was sleeping! Yeah, I stole that line from Seinfeld ;-)

    2. Oh, right sleeping! I usually imagined a mattress with lots of pillows under there, but sometimes I imagined a hammock instead. :-)

      Yes, I know beans are just wrong, but I'm not a very good Texan. Or, one could say, an unconventional Texan. (I do love the wildflowers! And Tex-Mex! And I even say "y'all" now.)

      Your old VW is reminding me of a friend who referred to his car as "an ashtray" for a while. It had broken down, and he left it parked where it had broken down while he saved up the money to have it repaired. Meanwhile it was located midway between his house and the closest grocery store, and he smoked, so he would take advantage of having a conveniently placed ashtray during trips to the store!