Let me tell you something about Vermont: It is full of hippies.
And not the good kind, either. I'm not talking about old hippies, like Ben and Jerry (Vermont name drop!) or Arlo Guthrie: those guys are full of whimsical optimism, fierce political passion and fuzzy marijuana brains that make them say bonehead things that we all get to laugh at. They are great, and they earned every ounce of that Maui Wowie, plus the right to say groovy. (Even in 2011!)
Vermont is not brimming with old hippies. I think they are all in Asheville, where it's warm enough for their arthritis and there's still good bud.
Vermont is now full of New Hippies, the freezer-burned leftovers of their parents' rebellion who had the nerve to adopt the same name as the originals. The co-option comes complete with expensive Smart Wool socks, criminally ugly "Athletic Mary Janes," and seaweed tonic drunk out of mason jars. These hippies thrive on the outrage they feel entitled to when the local convenience store doesn't have a recycling bin for their Ginger Coconut Water (which they bought at the co-op, because even though it's $2.00 more expensive, it's "ethical").
Don't get me wrong, I think recycling and local economy are great – what I don't think is great is complaining about being broke because you're living outside of your means, or outrage for outrage's sake.
What I don't like about the "new hippies" movement is the entitlement, the anger, and the judgement.
Look, If you want to blow half a week's pay on a jar of vegan fair-trade raw pumpkin butter made on a farm powered entirely by the contented smiles of free-range chickens, more power to you, but I'm gonna go for the $2.29 jar of Peter Pan every time. STOP JUDGING ME. YOU DON'T HAVE TO EAT ANY! IT'S DELICIOUS.
About a year ago I got really into Crossfit, which is a metabolic conditioning program of supreme torture which promises to transform your body by making you do things usually reserved for Draft Horses. I went about four times a week and was in constant pain for six months, and ended up stopping because I started looking like Nitro from American Gladiators.
While I was there, I met a young woman who we will call Sage, because it's just too easy. Sage never wore a sports bra (no judgement!) and drank out of a glass jar, despite the fact that we were running on rocky terrain, and throwing heavy logs as a part of out work out. Needless to say, there was glass and bouncin' titties all over the damn place, constantly. Sage was alright though, and after a year of smelling patchouli everywhere I go, I don't even notice it anymore. I chatted with her pretty often; It's been pretty hard for me to make friends up here, seeing as how I look, talk, and dress like an alien compared to everyone else, so my standards for conversation have become pretty accomodating.
Mostly we would lightheartedly joke about our differences: She a vegan, while I subsist mainly on a diet of fountain sodas and gas station hot dogs (when I want to be fancy, I talk about how they are from Hillshire Farms, and make it sound like a local farm, and the hippies are none the wiser). Sage and I are the same age, and she has a husband and kids and a house, while I am basically still a teenager with a credit card and the ability to buy wine.
Our conversations were fun, maybe because we both were thinking "Wow, my life is a lot better than yours." If both people are thinking that, but don't say it, things usually go smoothly.
Then one day, I think I hit a nerve. I was trying to find small-talky things to talk about before our class started, without steering the conversation toward poultices and drum circles, so we were talking about Crossfit – how hard it was, how strong we felt, how many pull-ups we can do in a row, blah blah. I patted my stomach playfully and said "This isn't really going away, though, wish it would."
Her face turned to (ethically mined) stone, almost instantly. She stared down her nose at me, somehow, even though she is at least 5 inches shorter than I, and her pupils dilated until they were larger than her silver nose ring hoop.
"That's your WOMANHOOD," she snarled. And then, as if to prove a point, grabbed her own ample stomach fat and jiggled it aggressively at me, and then did a sort of Ursula The Sea Witch shoulder shimmy, exactly like that part in "The Little Mermaid" when Ursula says "Never underestimate the power of body language!" She was straight up pissed off. I was completely caught off guard.
Come on! There's a difference between body shame and wanting to get fitter. Leave it alone, Sea Witch, I have goals.
This is the kind of thing that completely disarms me. Here I am thinking that I am a free, enlightened woman who is honest about how she feels about her body, her life, who makes her own choices and stands by them, empowers herself. And I am actually a shallow idiot who doesn't even know what parts of her body make her a woman! I honestly have no recollection of what I said back, how the conversation ended, or really even how I got home that afternoon.
I was so angry – this is such a perfect example of what I don't understand about New Hippies: The judgement. Whatever happened to Free To Be You and Me? It made me think about the article on xojane a few weeks ago about Doctors who Fat Shame their patients – I felt like I was being Fit Shamed. (Totally a thing.)
It's awesome that Sage loves her body – and I love mine too (whatever, sort of), but I don't love my stomach, and that's why I was exercising, is that so wrong? (RHETORICAL QUESTION, BECAUSE NO IT IS NOT WRONG).
While I think that the media's portrayal of beauty is completely unrealistic and unattainable, I do think that being confident is a healthy goal. Two years ago I weighed 300 pounds and wore a size 20 pants, now I'm a 12. I can run around without wheezing, I can look in the mirror without squinting, I have to think a lot less about what I am going to wear, because everything is made in my size. I'm by no stretch of the imagination skinny, and have no desire to be, I love my hourglass shape.
My stomach fat makes me self-conscious, though, and I feel like I waste a lot of time thinking about it, poking it, grabbing it, imagining how I would feel if it weren't there. So I'm working to get rid of it. Ugh I am such a slave to our patriarchal society's idea of beauty, right?!
To be fair, I've definitely become a little more granola in my year up here in the Tundra:
- I feed my dog raw chicken instead of dog food, now, and his allergies are gone, so that's awesome.
- I went to a partner yoga class once (I got so many dirty looks for laughing, but come on, people sigh that loudly for attention, that cannot be real, Yoga does not feel as good as sex).
- Sometimes I take Valerian root if I can't fall asleep. I tried taking Evening Primrose Oil to combat my raging, sociopath level PMS for a while, but unfortunately my body hates nature and I had to stop after a week of vomiting every time I took it, so I'm back to my old regimen of Reese's Big Cups and alone time.
- I buy local vegetables and meat when they are affordable (almost never),and I try to purchase things ethically, while staying within my budget so that I am taking care of myself, too.
I still don't own any fleece, and never will, but I do have a reusable lunch bag! Sometimes I remember to use it, too!
Vermont definitely isn't where I will stay -- I'm a Brooklyn Native who moved to Virginia at 18 and stayed for ten years, so this state is like Mars to me, if Mars were obsessed with Kale and Tiger Balm. I love my job, though, and I'm here right now, so I'm doing my best to take advantage of this socially and eco-conscious community, without falling off the edge into the idealistic and judgy universe of the New Hippies.
So what are your thoughts on New Hippies, dear reader? Love em? Hate em? Join em? I'm interested in hearing your thoughts, so we can all come together in an honest and loving discussion that is fueled by our heart Chakras.