Culture Shock

[NOTE: I started this entry while out of town this past weekend.  It was written over the course of a few days, and finished up once I got back home.  If the tone jumps around a lot (hopefully that’s not the case), that’s why.  There’s more I’d like to say on the matter, but I’m going to post this mostly as a snapshot of my feelings at the time.]

Southern California is… interesting.

As I write this (in the past) I am sitting in a dark rental car, because the alternative is a house party with a bunch of people I don’t know with music that’s way too loud.  So here I sit: in the back seat, with the window rolled down and the doors locked,  parked on the winding road of an upscale Santa Monica neighborhood.  Writing by the glow of my tablet.

I hadn’t expected the culture shock to be so strong.  I spent the morning walking around the Santa Monica Promenade with my dad, and looking at the shops I couldn’t help but feel like a member of the unwashed masses in my black nerdy tee, jeans, and hiking boots.  Abercrombie, Apple, Converse, and even something called “True Religion Jeans” surrounded me.

They were all selling more than clothing or other goods.  They were selling an image.  One that can be picked off a rack and draped across a waiting skeleton and paraded around for all to see.

The superficiality, that’s what’s getting to me; everything feels so shallow and inconsequential.  That and the general feeling that everyone is on a separate, higher level of the social strata than me. So even though everything is trivial, I still resent being excluded. It’s like the worst parts of high school all over again.

Maybe I’m just missing something. Maybe there is a nerd-friendly culture beyond the Apple hipster drones hidden somewhere, beneath the facade, that I just can’t see. Or maybe I’ve forgotten how self-selected my social circle is, and this experience is a truer example of human society and popular culture.

If it’s the latter, I despair for humanity.

It could be the dissonance is just hitting me harder than usual. Even when I returned to Colorado after a year in France I didn’t experience this level of psychological angst. And I’m nominally still in the same country!  This is the first time I can remember being stressed out like this while traveling.

Maybe it’s because I’m having to try to fit in to a ready-made social circle without a chance to adapt.  Maybe it’s just lack of sleep catching up with me.  Whatever it is, I don’t like it.  But I hope to delve in further as to why.

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