I saw an insightful cartoon a number of years back. Somebody was done up flamboyantly — I forget how, whatever was outré the year of the cartoon — and walked past a mother with her children at the mall. The mother, ever mindful of good manners, corrected her children earnestly. “Children, don’t stare.” “But, mom . . . isn’t that what he wants?”
So the point of the ploy is to get people to notice — which is not the same thing as getting them to see. When people just notice, the trick has worked, and whatever dopamine is released at such times gives the trickster hipster his needful buzz. But when people see, what they see is the poor, lonely soul under the tattoos, the flamboyant hair, the accessorized man purse, the loafers to be a little light in, or whatever else it is this year. People who do this sort of thing love being noticed and hate being seen — although being seen can also frighten them with a little fragmentary bit of hope. Maybe someday somebody will break down the walls of their little game and let them out.
The metrosexual vibe is this very thing — figuring out a dress code for the lost boys, one that will ensure that they get noticed, and prevent them from being seen.
No matter where you go, people are always just people. The same move is perfected by those unfortunate sisters who want everybody to notice their breasts without anybody seeing them. So they take the girls out for a walk in order to be noticed, but if anybody acts like they saw, such a person is immediately dismissed as Mrs. Grundy’s legalistic aunt, and the responses can be pretty funny.
But let’s get back to the boys. There are many Christian lost boys, a datum which complicates the picture somewhat. These are those who don’t want to be utterly lost . . . just a little bit lost. They don’t want to lose their faith entirely — and this puts them constantly on the lost and found table, not being quite sure which one they are supposed to be. They want to be found enough to not go to Hell, and lost enough not to be mistaken for some dweeby Christian. Anything but that.
If they did themselves up in the full tilt metrovibe, they could move to Portland and instantly be a lost drop in that great ocean of nonconformity. So they seek out smaller Christian communities with a strong identity, which means a community with an edge or a boundary, which enables them to take up residency right near the city limits and still be, and this should not be hard to guess, edgy. Look, ma, no hands.
But what else is out there on the edge? That’s right, the suburbs. So Christian hipsters are actually the suburbs, found right outside the ring road of any genuine Christian culture. Just as modern American suburbs have identifying markers, so also our suburbs of edginess have certain distinguishing characteristics. For example, they talk a lot about community, but the mirror they spend so much time in front of is a mirror filled with self. They usually have a great mimetic eye, and think that this somehow qualifies them to have creative control of the whole operation. This qualification is that they can still get people to gasp at church, whereas nobody at all gasps in Portland.
But having a sharp eye for what constitutes the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life is like running out into the meadow with a butterfly net in order to catch the wind. To become an effete aesthete, a metrosexual dudeling, is a Prufrockian triumph. And T.S. Eliot marks that poem with a citation from the Inferno — and a dismal account of a failed conversion, an account of one who halted between two opinions (1 Kings 18:21).
So the opposite of the selfish is never the communal, even if it is communal and trendy — the opposite of the selfish is the humble. And it has never been — in the history of the world — a goal of the humble to get the folks to notice.