I recently had 5 days in Byron Bay with 13 school friends. I loved Byron Bay, it’s beautiful and happy and sort of drowsy despite all the active-probiotic protein balls. But 5 days is probably my limit before I start morphing into some sort of ageing hippy. On the morning of day 5 – having fought off the anklet urge on day 2 – I was contemplating buying a kimono and an ear cuff. Time for home to my conservative farmer, my shirts and some normal.
But what’s normal? Does everyone reckon they’re normal even if they have wildlife in their dreadlocks and no shoes? Even if they have a Porsche collection?
On our last night (by then I’d ditched kimono idea in favour of a leopard print dress because I don’t know, somehow the Gold Coast had infiltrated my Byron brain – she’s a bossy old brass that Goldie) we chatted about the variety of subcultures represented in Byron Bay, and about subcultures in general. I had no idea, for instance, that there is a difference between hippies and hipsters. Everyone else at my table knew though, which makes me a dope. No one really knew whether we belong to a subculture though. ‘Housewives’ was suggested, which is probably partly true but pretty bloody boring. I want me a better subculture than that dammit. But which one?..
I’m told that hippies are less common in Byron Bay than they were a decade ago but I’m pretty sure I spotted some by the beach in the depths of a combie van. There were bongo drums involved. And some sort of smell. I fleetingly wished I was the sort of person who didn’t feel the need to brush my teeth twice a day, own lots of stuff and rip my pubes out with wax. But am I jumping too quickly into snobby stereotypes? What really is a hippie?
Evidently hippies are more a counter-culture than a subculture (because they reject mainstream mores and values as opposed to being a bit weirdo within the mainstream). They originated in the 60s as a part of a peace movement. They believed in free love (bonking whomever wherever whenever) and rejected the accumulation of wealth and material possessions. They quite like travelling about and altering their brain states with certain weeds and other substances. Sounds lovely if you’re wired up that way. I like my routine too much. And my shampoo. And my only encounter with marijuana saw me hide behind a chair because “OMG everyone thinks I’m a complete knob”.
Hipsters (also known as beardos) are apparently not hippies at all (durrr me). There are endless definitions of what one is but none of them involve dreadlocks. They include, “Young old people”, “Someone who is smart enough to talk about philosophy, music, politics, art, etc with you all day long, but not smart enough to see how big of a tool s/he is” and “hipsters are usually less than 5% body fat, drink copious amounts of coffee and eat children’s cereal”.
They are often affluent or middle class, left wing Gen Y’s who generally avoid mainstream trends and beliefs. They prefer artisan foods, witty banter and skinny jeans. That rules me out. I’m Gen X, I dig Taylor Swift and I quite like a food court.
And here’s another thing I didn’t know: you don’t ask a hipster if they’re a hipster because you might as well be asking if they are a pretentious prat. I cheerily asked the waiter if he identified as a hipster and my friends looked uncomfortable and apologetic (sorry about the Tasmanian farmer, she doesn’t get out much). He denied being a hipster, claiming he belonged to another subset called “Vagabond Backpackers”, whatever that is. (Google says squat which means he made it up to divert attention from his hipsterism. Save it dude, you have a frigging man bun and you’re wearing a scarf, jeez.)
(A thought: hipsters don’t know they are hipsters much like bogans don’t know they are bogans. What do I not know I am?)
My research shows me that there appear to be two sorts of feral and a bit of resultant confusion…
The counter-culture version that has it’s roots in extreme, radical environmentalism. I am dubiously proud to read that this Feral movement of the mid nineties originated in Australia, quite possibly Tasmania. These particular ferals can evidently be found living itinerant lifestyles, sleeping communally in squats or on acquaintances’ floors (“crash pads”) and occasionally living up trees as a form of protest. They tend to get about in politically-charged t-shirts or butt-arsed naked.
The sub-culture feral is actually an extreme bogan – welfare grabbing types who spend their time abusing people, breaking council trees and other random stuff, leaving burn out marks all over the roads and swearing a lot (ooh there’s a connection).
I have lived in the country for most of my life, I like animals, can change a tyre and have pulled out a lamb. I am married to a farmer. But that’s where my connection to the Rural Subculture ends. I do not wear belts with large buckles or ten gallon hats and pink shirts with RM William’s boots and pearls. I do drive a 4WD and I even have a ute, but I don’t sleep in them or use them to do circle work and they don’t have a horse float attached or enormous phallic like aerials. I really dislike Bundaberg Rum, I’ve never been to a B&S ball, I don’t have a sheep dog and I’ve never held a gun.
I wish I were a proper Rural. They are so much tougher than me. I feel sorry for sheep, cry a lot and am a bit scared of any horse bigger than my childhood pony. I would be so much more useful to my husband if I could take a calf from its mother, shoot a possum and eat chops every night. Real rurals are proper Australian stock and they don’t worry about trifles like pronunciation and fingernails.
I’m not a Rural, but I’d quite like to be one when I grow up. I have a thing for Keith Urban.
The stereotypical Emo is wearing bright coloured skinny jeans and has dyed black hair with pink streaks and a fringe over one eye. They listen to “emotional hardcore” (hence ‘Emo’) music and are angst-ridden and introverted. The subculture is a spin off of the music, which originated in the mid 80s and is characterised by confessional, heart-on-sleeve, air-your-dirty-smalls lyrics.
Emo I am not.
Goths are a bit of a mid 80s punk spin off. Like Emos, the subculture was born of the music genre, created by bands with names like “Dead Can Dance”, ‘Play Dead” and “Virgin Prunes”. They wear all black including black lipstick and nail polish. Ubergoths use white powder to add pallor to their faces. I’ve seen quite a few of them haunting about in the mall. I’d be a failure as a goth – I don’t like the mall, I avoid wearing too much black and I have a prune phobia. I also like smiling.
These are Young Urban Professionals. Stop right there, I’m almost 40, I live in the country and I have no ‘profession’.
Interestingly though, hipsters have been described as the new Yuppie. Yuppies are also aligned with preppies, Sloane Rangers, Valley Girls, suits and WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants). Alex Keaton (Michael J Fox) in “Family Ties” was a wannabe yuppie with hippie parents.
They have money, qualifications and suits. I didn’t see any yuppies in Byron Bay. Not one. I think they go to Noooosa.
There were plenty of these in Byron Bay and foof! some of them were hot enough to melt my popsicle and my heart. Go and have breakky in a cafe called Top Shop and you’ll see what I mean – we were in the surf scene waaaay over our heads there. We all know what surfies are. I know I am not one because my house overlooks a pretty famous surf break and I never feel the urge to jump aboard its waves.
Surfies fascinate me though because their sport seems to be deeply spiritual, like a religion. And because they will ditch their girlfriend and steal a car to get to the sea if the waves are pumping. They will follow weather patterns like a veritable meteorologist and have their own music, lingo and fashion. They are inclined to tow the hippie line when it comes to marijuana.
They are also a pretty attractive subculture, perhaps on account of their high skill levels, their muscles and that bleached hair-tanned skin look. Perhaps because they are kind of unattainable – they will never love anything as much as they love the surf. Don’t fall in love with a surfer unless you’re one too; you will never win.
I’d like to be a surfie, they are so cool. But I’m scared of sharks (two people were attacked while we were in Byron, one fatally) and well, seaweed.
EDIT: PLEASE NOTE THAT I HAVE IT ON GOOD AUTHORITY THAT A SURFER DIFFERS FROM A SURFIE IN THAT HE/SHE ACTUALLY SURFS AND DOESN’T NECESSARILY FEEL THE NEED TO LOOK ALL BLEACHED BLONDE HOT AND TALK ABOUT HANGING TEN AND STUFF AT TOP SHOP.
There are HEAPS and HEAPS of subcultures or which these are just a mere sniff (I wouldn’t sniff too hard at some of them). They are variously defined by music, political stance, beliefs, tastes, hobbies, occupation, fashion, geography or other factors. And I don’t seem to belong to any of them.
Oh my God, DO I NOT FIT IN ANYWHERE? Do I need to see someone about this?
I’m not a naturist (except in my own house), a swinger or a punk. I’m not a skater or a jock or a witch. I’m not into fetish or freaks or survivalism or grunge. I’m not queer or a body builder or an academic.
I am a little bit bogan and an uncommitted thespian. I am occasionally sporty (when I can’t think what to wear for the school run) and sometimes a (small brained) nerd. I have no set style (a little bit Byron, a little bit Gold Coast, a lot whatevs) and I don’t seem to be able to focus on one thing.
Oh gosh, am I defined by motherhood? I think I am. I am a MUM. Quick, find me a subculture, nothing too out there but something romantic and cool. I mean most people want to be normal but no one wants to be ordinary.
Here’s one I could fit in to with a bit of extra effort:
Bohemianism is “a person with artistic or intellectual tendencies, who lives and acts with no regard for conventional rules of behavior.” The trouble is though, bohos are supposed to have “few permanent ties” and are meant to be wanderers, adventurers or vagabonds.
Well, I have a vagabond mind I reckon, I can wander and have adventures in my head can’t I? And there are bits of my days where I have no ties. Just as long as I remember to collect the kids and don’t get too boho with the dinners.
I like the idea that I can surround myself with like minded people and immerse myself in art and literature. The fashion is pretty good too. Comfy looking, ethereal and colourful.
I could do Boho. There’s even a wikihow on how to be a Bohemian. I just need to create stuff, watch films, read books, challenge beliefs, become informed, express yourself, question authority, live for the moment, wear patterned cotton or gauze or silk, preferably with embroidery, get a tattoo (tick) and wear some noisy jewelry. TOO EASY.
I’m excited. I’m going to be the best Boho ever. Starting now. In this moment, which I am living for.
See you soon (you’ll know it’s me because you’ll hear my jangly bangles).
A special thank you to my dear friends who shared my Byron trip and who gave me such a lovely, laughter filled, few days. Thank you for fitting me in with you. Love yous all (oops, is there such a thing as a boho bogan? A bogo?)
I finished the above post late last night and before breezing off to bed (and to live in the moment), I went online and bought myself a BACKLESS CROCHET DRESS. It seemed like such a lovely, in-the-moment, spur-of-the-moment bohemian idea at the time. In the cold light of morning clarity-reality I am groaning, “Did I really buy a crochet dress?” Yes I did – I have the email confirmations to prove it. Have I learnt nothing from my previous attempts at reinvention? Now I have to wear it. Yes, if you see me in a crochet dress it’s because I am punishing myself. It is my hair shirt, doily style. No doubt I will catch it on something and it will unravel and I’ll be left standing nude and attached to the school gate. Or something equally me.