Even before social media and the Kardashians, there was this pressure to keep up with the trend setters. We called it “bubbler talk” back then. Were you “in the know” enough to keep up with conversations at the office watering hole? It very often separated the cool kids from the dorks, even years after those tortuous rights of passage days called “high school.”
I spent years trying to keep up, both in college social circles and internships. But then I did something really crazy in my life. After graduating from college, I joined the Peace Corps and isolated myself in the Chui Valley of the Kyrgyz Republic (aka Kyrgyzstan) where electricity was spotty, televisions were far and few between, and mountains surrounded me in three out of four directions. Entertainment took the form of “guesting” which was exactly as it sounds—hosting guests or being guests and, if you were my host family, spending hours eating, drinking, singing and eventually getting shit-faced drunk on the nastiest vodka you can imagine—all in good humor, of course.
And it didn’t end there. Post-Peace Corps I spent a few months in Slovakia where there were televisions and a robust pop culture—but it just didn’t revolve around that of the United States. They had their own Euro-influenced rich and famous, and no one seemed to give a damn about the latest celebrity couple in the United States. Same with South Africa and the years I spent living in South Korea—each country lived in its own little bubble, and America was only a small part of their ecosystems. So as the years went by, I became more and more isolated from the trivial happenings in the United States. At first I tried to keep up, but after a while, I just gave up—and I’ve never really caught up since.
But throughout those years living abroad, I started to notice one thing: I really didn’t miss these American entertainment spectacles. I love movies, and it’s fun to hear who won what award, but I no longer have the patience to spend a few hours of my evening watching it all on TV, especially when I can get a quick and dirty recap the next day. Perhaps it was from my time living in simpler environments where entertainment had to be home-spun. First world drama, indeed. I mean seriously, who gives a flying #$%&?
But there was something else that changed within me from my time living overseas…and that was the waning need to be “cool” among my peers. Life in other countries taught me that the coolest people aren’t those who know the designer of so-and-so’s dress or who can reference the acceptance speech of a half dozen actors and actresses. The cool ones are those who who feel comfortable in their own skin, even if they can’t participate in the latest “bubbler talk.” They can talk about a million other interesting things, but they don’t need to be part of the “in” crowd.
I can’t tell you who won an Oscar this year or who wore the most glamorous dress on the red carpet, but I can tell you stories about getting lost while horseback riding in the mountains of Naryn, Kyrgyzstan or visiting the bizarre Owl House in Nieu Bethesda, Eastern Cape of South Africa. I can tell you about the time they barred Americans from restaurants in Seoul or the first day the Euro was introduced to Central Europe. My sense of entertainment these days can probably be best compared to that of a stereotypical cat-lady spinster in that I don’t watch a lot of TV and can’t participate in the latest bubbler talk, but I have a lot of good drinking stories up my sleeve for a night when the television is turned off, the candles are lit and the only thing separating you and me are three bottles of South American Malbec. Believe, that’s when the entertainment begins, at least in my world. 🙂