I don't have any right to complain, I suppose, having chosen to live in this neighborhood, but there are times, most frequently in a packed car on the L train, when I question my own judgment in having voluntarily subjected myself to being surrounded by people with some of the worst dress and grooming sense in history (well, at least since the 1970s, which is far as I care to go back, lest I have to start ruminating on the horrors of paisley bellbottoms and other atrocities of the 60s).
I mean, Williamsburg, capital of post-collegiate America that it is, should be awash in beautiful young men and women, or at least one would think, but instead it provides a daily assault on the senses by hordes of what would appear to be derelicts, at least in embryo if not of the fully sprung variety.
But before I go any further, I should clarify: when I say "people," I actually mean the men, because most local women manage to look at least interesting, and sometimes downright fabulous. And for the most part, they tend to wash both their clothes and hair on a regular basis. The men, not so much. Not hardly at all, in fact.
I know I'm in danger of sounding like one of those fuddy-duddies who used to fulminate about "dirty hippies" or like Ronald Reagan, who once said of the 60s counterculture: "They dress like Tarzan, look like Jane, and smell like Cheetah." But at least I'm not going on about how, "You can't even tell the boys from the girls."
Quite the contrary. If only there were a bit more androgyny, if only a few of these potentially good-looking young men's idea of "masculinity" didn't entail making themselves look as grotty and unkempt as possible, with the ideal image apparently being a 70 year old Bukowski at the tail end of a three week Night Train and crystal meth binge.
Mostly, of course, it's the beards. Why? We didn't endure the travails of all these centuries of civilization building and razor inventing to come to this feral pass. Or did we? Is there where it ends, with a whole tribe of what are presumably among America's best and brightest (certainly if the amounts forked out on college tuition by their doting parents are any indicator) deliberately uglifying themselves as a statement against... what? The commodification of contemporary culture? The fact that they're only 25 years old and already getting too paunchy and disheveled to look good in their super-skinny American Apparel shirts?
Of course the women are not without blame in this matter: as long as they're willing to tolerate or even embrace guys who sport the beardo/bum look, there will be ever-growing legions of new young men who say to themselves, "Shave? Why bother?" I'll admit I'm a bit squeamish, but every time I see an even moderately good-looking girl sucking face with some human Brillo pad, I'm simultaneously astounded and appalled.
"How can you do that?" I always want to ask. "I mean, even with your eyes closed, it still feels (and probably tastes and smells) like you're kissing the ass end of a wombat, doesn't it?" Admittedly, I have met one girl who forthrightly claims that she's sexually attracted to beardos, up to and including Abe Lincoln, but she's clearly in a small minority. What of the others? Are they that hard up? So lacking in self-esteem that they can't even say to a potential suitor, "Yeah, like I really want to make out with Charles Manson. Go home and shave before you even THINK about trying to talk to me, loser." In my experience, women have never had a problem with speaking that forthrightly in the past; what could have changed?
But I guess I'd be overlooking the regrettable fact that people still met and spawned all through the 1970s, the last time dirty, smelly beards were in fashion, and that in fact many of today's most visually offensive hipsters may even have been the offspring of some of those squalid couplings. So perhaps it's an ancestral memory thing, though thinking further, I realize that most of Williamsburg's most bearded denizens these days are more likely to have been born in the 80s, when people were clean-shaven, watched John Hughes movies, and committed few fashion crimes more egregious than big hair and Kajagoogoo.
So I think we really could expect better, but unfortunately probably won't get it. In the meantime, I will have to console myself by meditating on the misery endured by those who insist on sporting face muffs and dressing in head to toe dirty black during these 95-degree days with humidity to match. Hopefully this will have a seriously deleterious effect on your sperm count and you at least won't reproduce.