For as long as I can remember, I have been artistic and otherworldly so I enjoyed being surrounded by creative or otherwise odd, interesting people. I really didn’t know what to say to anyone else because I usually ended up saying something incomprehensible like Willy Wonka when he greeted his guests with “Goodmorning Star Shine! The Earth says Hello!” so like poor Willy, I just said nothing most of the time and distanced myself if there were no other mutants around. If I had no choice to speak with regular folk than I would read from an internal cue-card marked “appropriate”. That caused me immense pain every time I did it because I hated telling blatant lies on a regular basis just to be accepted by people I didn’t respect. People that had fancy job titles, designer clothes and lots of money were never instantly respected just because they had them. For me, that comes from the “stuff” a person is made of not anything that could be instantly swept away. I could not understand this way of thinking.
I DID understand Lenny Kravitz and the Bohemians I saw when I went to the village as a teenager. The kind of people that asked “what are you into?” upon introduction rather than “what do you do for a living?”. The kind of people that appeared to enjoy life and made no apologies for who they were and why they were even if it wasn’t all lollipops and gumdrops. The kind of people that I didn’t have to think about what was “appropriate” to say when I was speaking to them.
At that time, there were so many little shops you could wander into and gape at the glorious products of the human imagination and own a piece of it for practically nothing. So many of those artists were so beautiful in spirit and blessed with the talent of the Gods but they were also FLAT BROKE. Not only were they destitute, they took pride in their suffering and those of other “real artists” like themselves. I too, wanted the perception of authenticity and on a date I can no longer recall I took a subconscious vow of poverty before Saint Ramen. Apparently, it was the only way I could still hang out with the cool people I identified with and avoid subservience to boring dipshits for the rest of my life that would tell me how to exist in the world.
It’s a shame that even as a child, I thought I had to choose between “keeping it real” and living paycheck to paycheck (if there was one) or “selling out”. I heard and saw how artists that decided they didn’t want to live like that anymore were demonized, mocked and cast out if they chose a different path so you were damned if you did and damned if you didn’t. Of course, this way of thinking is still prevalent in the artistic community and I’m here to say IT’S ENOUGH.
I learned that whether you work for $15.00 per hour for someone else or $15,000 a day for yourself you still have to make compromises. So why be embarrassed about having choices? “Selling Out” is ultimately an internal agreement that no one else can truly measure unless you hand them the measuring stick of your being. If that is the case, than you “sold out” anyway with the Ramen noodle bowl in hand. The authenticity of lack mentality was just a fad that began only about 200 years ago during the 19th century with the increased popularity of Romanticism in the West. Before that, artists expected to and wanted to move up the social ladder without feeling shame. Not only that, artists encouraged each other to hustle, get rich and represent for those that may not have been considered otherwise. I’m no expert in this area but it sounds to me like a rich person HAD to be the one to start the glorification of starving artists in the first place. Who else but someone with money would think that there was anything cool about being on the brink of disaster? Anyone that is living or has lived that reality will tell you that its the opposite when the bills are stacking up and you have no idea how you’re going to make ends meet. There is nothing sexy or romantic about that feeling and it seems blasphemous to know of ones exceptional abilities (many people don’t know what their talents are that could possibly sustain them) and not work hard to make it work for you.
Now, don’t get me wrong, lots of great things came out of the Romantic Era (Goya, Poe etc.) but this is one issue I wish would finally die and never reincarnate. So I say, stop prosperity shaming others. If you are a “simple person” than be content in the simplicity claimed. If you are simple than there MUST be a contrast right? are you above a basic law of life by desiring the eradication of opposites? That doesn’t seem simple at all. In fact, it seems even more complex than the fifty forks, spoons and courses presented at any high hat affair a simple person would be disgusted to attend. There is room on this planet for those who follow Saint Ramen and Saint Gucci and no one is better than the other so lets stop the sectarian violence against our own kind and do what we were born to do, create art, scandals and extraordinary conversation.
Image: Ed Rath
Tayannah McQuillar is a writer and the Founder of Demimonde Public Relations (www.demimondepr.com) @demimondepr