Are Hipsters Bourgeois?

08.22.2012, 5:14 PM

I’ve always kind of assumed that that elusive class of young adults known as hipsters — don’t grill me for exact definitions, I say you know ‘em when you see ‘em — are rebelling against, among other things, the conventional middle class script, the main chapters of which script are college, career, marriage, children.

But maybe not.

I was reading through a transcript of a conversation with Adam, a 30-year old graphic designer, originally from a wealthy Detroit suburb. Adam went to college to study art — “which, like, I had to deal with everybody telling me that that’s just, like, a copout, stupid” — and describes himself as “an aesthetic person” who grew up performing music “and all that stuff, being artsy and drawing.” After college, he had an offer to work with an advertising agency in Michigan. But after spending two months depressed and in agony about whether to follow his childhood dream of going to Los Angeles or take the job with the ad agency, he moved to California.

Eight years later, and finding himself with about $10,000 debt he wanted to shed, he temporarily moved back into his parent’s house in Michigan. I talked with Adam when he was visiting his girlfriend, who lives in Maytown, Ohio. We met at Starbucks (I forget, does that disqualify a person as a hipster?), I ordered my chai tea latte, and Michael slumped back into his chair, his brown, tired eyes looking off into the distance as he apologized for “being on my B-game today.” His face was unshaven (surely that puts him in the running again, right?). Running his hand through his thick, disheveled dark hair, he talked, slowly, almost seeming to try to be making sense of his life as we talked. He took out a pack of cigarettes. “Do you mind if I smoke? It’s disgusting, but I’m sort of addicted.”

“Going through like, my third life crisis right now,” he says, explaining why he’s not ready to get married yet. “I always thought when I was a kid, like, looking at 30, I think like, I’d already like, be married and have a kid or something.” At the same time, he says, “I don’t wanna be 60 and grumpy and, you know, like crying over a piano that like, never is being used anymore.”

I just know that I’m meant for something more than the typical, like – a lot of people just like, want to get a good job so they can get an awesome car, so they can get an awesome house, so they can like, have a family.  And like, for me it’s like I just wanna like, write something.  I just wanna, like, make something – like create something. And that’s like, the whole right brain part of me that’s just – it’s never really worked out well in relationships because I’m – I dunno if the word is selfish because that’s like, really negative.  Self-centered is really negative, too.

Growing up back in suburban Detroit, everything in Adam’s life was “pretty cookie cutter, so it’s real easy for me to just think, like, grow up, graduate from college, get married, have kids, have family, 2.3 kids, have a dog, white picket fence.”

There’s something about that cookie cutter life that Adam doesn’t want. But there are some other things he has no reservations about, for himself at least.

“What are your thoughts on having children before marriage,” I asked.

I mean if you’re never planning on getting married, if you’re against that and you wanted to have kids, go for it. But I mean, I can’t say that it’s wrong, but it’s not the way I’d like to do it. I mean obviously like kids are expensive, they’re little people that grow up into adults. And I know so many messed up people because of, you know, they were raised this way or like, my parents this or that, I blame my parents for this or that…. I mean I’ve always wanted to have a family. But I dunno, before marriage? I don’t like, hex it or anything, but I don’t think it should happen before marriage.

He went on to talk about how, for all the elements of his parents’ bourgeois life that he doesn’t want, he does want to pass along to his children the kind of intact family that he experienced growing up.

I mean I could just be like, totally old school or whatever because like the way my parents are. But like I said, my main example is just the way I was raised. And I wish everybody on the face of the planet could have been raised the way I was raised. You know? I’m kinda, like, I grew up in, like, an area where all my friends — it’s like their parents were, like, together, still together. You know, like everything I saw was just a certain way. It’s like I grew up and it’s like, ‘Oh, hey Ms. Smith. Hey, Mr. Smith.’ It’s like, still I’m 30 now. It’s like, ‘Hey. Ms. Smith. Hey Mr. Smith.’”

At least when it comes to marriage and children, maybe the middle class/upper middle class group of young adults within the hipster subculture are more conventional than I previously imagined. Thoughts? (And, of course, I’m sure that none of the dear FamilyScholars readers are hipsters. I mean, I’m not.)


3 Responses to “Are Hipsters Bourgeois?”

  1. La Lubu says:

    At least when it comes to marriage and children, maybe the middle class/upper middle class group of young adults within the hipster subculture are more conventional than I previously imagined. Thoughts?

    I dunno….spend some time on feminist blogs (where the majority of commenters fit the white, middle-to-upper-middle-class, hipster frame) and you might be disavowed of this. Many of these women are simply choosing the unmarried childfree life (with or without cohabitation).

    It strikes me as curious that you use the word bourgeois; it seems like such a throwback to me. I doubt any younger folks even catch the reference. The generation gap between the late Boomers (which Adam’s parents probably are) and late Gen X (Adam) doesn’t really resemble the generation gap between the Boomers and their parents.

  2. Diane M says:

    My sense is that there are many young people who don’t want to have children, but who believe that if you do have children, you have to give them two parents who stay together. I think some of them may even be choosing to not have children because they believe children require large sacrifices and are not willing to make those sacrifices.

    My sense is that late Boomers are more likely to think it’s okay to have kids and then do things for yourself.

    I don’t have anything to make this up with, but I do have the impression that younger people set higher standards for parenting and then decide having children and being a good parent is either not worth it or impossible.

  3. Diane M says:

    Excuse me, I don’t have anything to back this up with.