September 27, 2009

I am not (contrary to popular opinion) a trustafarian.

Eco-minded Boulder Boys and Girls? Just Patchouli-wearing Dilettante Trustafarians pretending to be Poor and Interesting.

Saw this at Illegal Pete’s the other night, after our party at Laughing Goat.

“Seriously, you can really make a lot of money off these patchouli-covered trust-fund burnouts.”

I know it’s supposed to be funny; I ain’t daft.

But I didn’t find it funny. It’s a rather toxic stereotype of Boulderites—indeed, of all eco-minded boys and girls. Care about fair-trade coffee, wear Birkenstocks (or, these days, TOMS), forgo chemical laboratory-manufactured cologne or perfume and opt instead for Bay Rum (or patchouli, back in the day)…and folks think you must be hiding out from Mom and Dad back East, pretending to be poor and interesting.

I asked myself, “How many trustafarians do I know?” None, is the answer. I think I’ve known one in my life who answered to the above description, and that was 10 years ago, in the Buddhist community, and he was indeed pretending to be poor and interesting.

All the other rich folk I know aren’t shy about it—they wear their perfect Patagucci, go skiing all the time, fly hither and thither, take on noble, ill-paid jobs as artists or teachers in public schools (imagine)…but one thing they don’t do is pretend to be poor, or interesting. They’re just who they are, and they’re fine with that.

Last night I was at Mountain Sun: total bill for two: $22…and as my pal and I left a friend came up and asked me about how ele was doing, I assured her it was doing great traffic-wise, but not paying me yet, so I was giving it another few months before getting a real job (she didn’t believe me). We talked for a long time, at one point she mentioned that most folks had no idea I was having a hard time, they just assumed, me being a white (more like a mutt: I’m a Norman Norwegian Eastern European English Scottish German French half-Jewish American Buddhist) male (guilty) who lives in Boulder and runs a, from the outside, impressive-lo0king business (their words, not mine, I work on the inside of elephant and know how barebones-shoestring-overwhelmed-and-vulnerable we are)…she said that folks just assume I’m a trustafarian. And that, if I want folks to support elephant (by reading, subscribing free, following on facebook or twitter, or becoming members or advertising) I’d better be clear that we need help, and have but a month to live before I pull the plug.

I don’t think anyone really thinks I’m a trustafarian; I don’t think people care or have really thought about me all that much. But I promised her I would write something up. So get this: I’m not a patchouli-covered trust fund burnout. I’ve worked one or two jobs all my life since I was sixteen. I got through a pricey college on nearly full scholarships. Before that, I got through a pricey high school on full scholarships. I didn’t own a car until I was 25, and that thing was a piece of shizzle. My second car, I owned for 8 years before I gave it away. Now I ride a bike, and love it. I work night and day, and love what I do, even if I’m bored of explaining ad discounts to people after 7.5 years, it’s a really fulfilling job.

I want to change the world for the better, and learn to be a kinder, more genuine person along the way. I want to be able to pay my mortgage, and have children in a few years (and, yeah, a wife who’ll have me). My mom is dirt poor but happy—she’s living proof that money and happiness aren’t inextricably intertwined. That’s about it.


Am I privileged? Hell yes. I look like a cardboard cutout of conventional straight white Middle American male. In Boulder, that’s a strike against you—we much prefer diversity here, having so little of it—but generally I know that it gives me a leg up, and that’s sad. Mainly, however, I’m privileged in having had a loving mom and an intellectually rich childhood, if not a material one.

And yes, life in Boulder for just about anyone is rich—we’ve got clean, safe streets, lots of green everywhere, parks, mountains, and you can bike every day if you don’t mind freezing once in awhile.

Read 18 Comments and Reply

Read 18 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Waylon Lewis  |  Contribution: 1,405,975