Peter Pan: Proto Hipster? / by Dan Mayer

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, and sometimes it feels like I’m surrounded by adult male children. By that I mean dudes of a certain age that still live like they did when they were 23 and had only been in town for a year. Do you remember that time? I do. It was amazing. New city, different people, a grand fertile field waiting for experience to sprout up and blossom into the life I had always imagined myself living. I was poor, I was making music, writing, working a shit job, and it was grim and glorious.

Time passed, I got older, my relationships got less dramatic and more serious. I grappled with the demons of my childhood and adolescence. Then I took on more responsibility, got married, had a kid, all of the things that so many people do. Nothing remarkable about any of it, really. Except for the fact that here in the Bay Area, and in similar enclaves all around the country, so many men refuse to do it.

I see them around all the time. At the market, fondling the organic papayas, still dressed like they just got back from Burning Man, in need of a shower, and with glitter in their hair. Glitter. Like my four-year-old daughter asks for when we do face painting. There are scads of these dudes all around, all the time. Wearing suspenders and a patched-elbow corduroy blazer, riding a single-speed bicycle down a busy street like they automatically get the right-of-way because they’re sporting a braided wool scarf.

I know, I know. Making fun of hipsters has become as meta as being a hipster. I am part of the equation, and for every jab I take, someone marginally more generous than I am is telling me to just get over it. Hipsters gotta hip. Or something. I just wonder, that’s all. What happens to these guys? Around here — and, I suspect, in places like Williamsburg, Austin, and Seattle — there are a lot of them slipping past forty years of age, eyes still shimmering with anticipation for their next barista competition.

Am I jealous? Obviously. It looks like ridiculous fun.

Would I trade anything in to go back to that life? Never. I’m an adult now. I love being an adult. Also, you might have noticed I said “go back to that life.” I was never committed enough to hipness to wear a blazer and wool scarf on a 70º day, but I had a rock band well into my 30s. And no plan for what to do when it tanked. What I did have, and what allowed me to let go of the pursuit of coolness, was a basic desire to experience the depth and joy of a life with permanent relationships. Like the ones I have with my wife and child. I couldn’t have those things if I was still prioritizing saving up for studio time to put my next album out. That isn’t really the way the world works. The math is against you.

I have a friend who mentioned to me that being a straight woman in San Francisco feels like she’s a Wendy in a universe full of Peter Pans. Every guy she meets want to pull her out of her bedroom window, teach her to fly, and take her on a field trip to his overpriced loft apartment in Neverland. Peter has profoundly limited interest in long term commitment. He thinks he wants it, he wants to want the love that lasts forever, but not on Wendy’s terms. No mortgage for Peter. Nothing to ballast his airborne adventure.

Hipster men, I know your secret. You’re hiding from the future. I also know, from brutal experience, that your future will find you regardless. You know who else know your secret? Wendy. She will get sick of your shit soon enough, and then you’ll be one of those rapidly aging man-children chasing inappropriately young women and sucking at it. Get some soap, wash off the glitter, and find something meaningful to commit to. That commitment will set you free in a way that your imaginary transgressions never could.