I'm a pretty sophisticated, well-educated person. I went to Wesleyan, where I got my B.A. in comparative literature. I listen to This American Life on NPR. I've traveled abroad fairly extensively and even spent a year living in London. Given all this, you'd think I might be a little staid and stodgy, that I'd shun certain activities because I'm too good for that sort of thing. That is completely untrue. The reality is, I'll try anything with a detached air of superiority.
A few weeks ago, my friend Curtis organized a bowling party for his birthday. Can you imagine anything more tacky and all-American? But contrary to what you might think, I was more than game for it. I even bought a personalized bowling shirt so I could fit in with the common folk. I only bowled a 76, but I loved it. The people there were so into it, some of them actually did little dances when they got a strike. There was this one guy I called "One-Fist," because after every frame, he'd pump his fist in the air like some blue-collar Billy Idol. Never in my life have I had such a great time participating in townie culture while simultaneously sneering at it from a distance.
I guess that's just who I am. I'm open to anything, no matter how pedestrian or mainstream it may be. Last year, I decided to dive headfirst into the realm of the unwashed masses by attending a professional football game. What better way to experience the hive mind than by communing with 70,000 drunken, frostbitten Americans who are only too happy to blow their meager wages cheering on their date-raping, steroid-enhanced gridiron heroes? I don't even remember which teams were playing. All I remember is yelling my head off while surrounded by a sea of jersey-wearing telephone repairmen and electricians, all the while thinking, "This is so authentic!"
I must admit, some of the mind-numbingly lame stuff I've exposed myself to has actually grown on me. I used to go to rummage sales for the sociological thrill of seeing commoners eagerly scrounge through their fellow commoners' crude, mass-produced possessions. You'd see all sorts of amusing parts and parcels from people's tiny lives. After a while, though, I started to enjoy finding good bargains. I even began collecting completed Paint-By-Numbers pictures. My favorite so far is a rabbit where the "artist" confused two of the colors, resulting in what I strongly suspect is the world's only purple-eyed hare. A true snob would never waste his time with something like that, but I am able to see the charm of my inferiors' sad little diversions.
When you think about it, it's really the mundane things that make life interesting. Attending pro-wrestling matches, shopping at the mall, riding a Greyhound bus, eating at McDonald's, seeing conventionally crowd-pleasing movies like My Big Fat Greek Wedding—such things may seem like lowbrow wastes of time, but they really help one maintain a sense of oneself. If you can do such things and still maintain your sense of haughty superiority, you've done more than merely lived. You've tasted the sickly sweet nectar that life has to offer and said, "I am above this. I am better than this. This is beneath me, but I will still do it because I'm open-minded enough to try anything and look down my nose at it at least once."