Over drinks with some girlfriends a week or two ago, one of my friends shared that she was contemplating trying to break her lease, but that — in her own words, with an air of shrugging, candid resignation — “I’m such a rule-follower, though.”
This earnest self-appraisal stood out to me as refreshing, as laudable, and I have found myself musing over it many times since, unsure why. Then I realized, as I raced around frenetically running errands while I had parked my car in one of those lots with daunting signs that threaten a car tow if you leave the premises–and I had left the premises–that I, too, am a rule-follower: I had been prematurely concocting all sorts of excuses as to why I’d left the lot in stomach-twisting, anxious anticipation of being caught. Later, as I drove past a woman double-parked on a two-lane road, I had to bite my tongue to keep myself from chastising her, even though I easily had wide enough berth to pass in oncoming traffic–in other words, I, too, am a rule-follower. Still later, I found myself ranting to Mr. Magpie about a story I’d come across where two female founders had fabricated the existence of a third, male, founder in order to procure VC funding for their startup: I was miffed at the idea that they were able to fundraise only if the specter of a male’s participation was conjured, but I was irate at the thought of two people, regardless of gender, lying their way to funding when Mr. Magpie and I have worked very hard to do things the straight-forward, honest way. In other words: rule follower, rule follower, rule follower.
Rule-followers — even the ones who occasionally commit minor trespasses, like parking in lots they shouldn’t — are perennially out of vogue. They’re never the sexy ones. (Even Taylor Swift has recently shed her squeaky clean persona and repositioned herself as a bad biotch seeking revenge — transgressively graffiti-ing planes and breaking into stores in the provocative music video that accompanies her oh-so-catchy “Look What You Made Me Do.”) They’re never the ones who win awards for acts of courage or who regale crowds of riveted people with their tales of mutiny and law-breaking. In fact, the entire “rock star” complex would not exist without the narrative of the rebel. Nowadays (perhaps always, I wonder?), nonconformity is held as sacrosanct–usually for the better, when it comes to cultural politics, but occasionally for the worse, when it comes to the level of I’m-a-special-snowflake-self-involvement I see among so much of my generation, myself unwittingly included. The title of one of my recent reads, Ariel Levy’s The Rules Do Not Apply, could well serve as the slogan for our generation. Midway through the book, Levy does advance the following nuanced corollary: “I had already accomplished [something] on my own smug, nontraditional terms. It was unseemly how successful I felt.” In short, articulating reverence for her own renegade behavior, albeit tempered by an awareness of the enormous chip on her shoulder.
I don’t know where this leaves me, exactly, and my friend certainly intended no political statement with her frank self-assessment (in fact, I think she might rather dislike the bent this set of musings has taken, and for that, I am sorry, E.), but it has made me hyper-aware, recently, of the rules I follow and those I do not, and the nimble negotiations I make with myself to justify them (or not). Am I rule-follower, after all? My career path is certainly non-traditional and presumptuous; in many ways, I feel as though I have no authority to have held the positions I have had the great fortune to hold. (What business do I, an English major with no technical skill to speak of, have building a career in the technology sector?) But then — I didn’t come by these opportunities by breaking rules, exactly, unless you count being a woman in a traditionally male industry and role as “rule-breaking.”
And while I am generally dutifully adherent to traffic laws, there’s a stretch of Elston Avenue with few stoplights and virtually no traffic that invites an insurgent version of myself to switch our car into “sport mode,” turn up the volume and the bass, and absolutely floor it for 30-60 seconds of exhilaration, Future’s “Mask Off” blaring out the windows, hair flying wild.
Also, I wear white after Labor Day.
Maybe I am thinking too much here.
Maybe flouting street traffic laws has nothing to do with nonconformity, or maybe we operate as rule followers in certain spheres and rule breakers in others and we can don and shed our maverick personas as we wish.
We’ll go with that for today.
But, what do you say, Magpies? Are you a rule follower?
A propos of nothing, ten picks for you on this lovely September day:
Pick No. 1: Madewell Making Faces Dress
I am absolutely in love with this easy little frock with the coolest print ($128). I’m imagining wearing it with lace-up pointed toe flats (I own these — on sale in a gorgeous camel color here!) for fall.
Pick No. 2: Christophe Robin Shampoo + Conditioner
I recently read an interview with the fetching Natalie Portman in which she raved about her Christophe Robin hair products. I’m now dying to try their rose-scented volumizing shampoo ($38) and conditioner ($43). (You know I have a thing for rose-scented beauty products — I wear this every single night.)
Pick No. 3: The Luxe But Affordable Statement Sandal
Pick No. 4: The Floral Maxi
A few other floral maxis I’m swooning over: this dark floral by Parker, this ultra-sexy Alice McCall (I see it and want to dance all night while drinking mojitos), this gorgeous Yumi Kim (on sale for under $150!).
Pick No. 5: The Monogrammed Sweatshirt
Pick No. 6: The White Blouse
Pick No. 7: The Catch All
Mr. Magpie rolled his eyes when I recently entered the house with yet another basket — similar to this one from West Elm ($54). With a baby in tow, I feel like we have all of this stuff lingering around and the simplest solution — without investing in some built-ins or an expensive new shelving system of some kind — is to throw it all in a pretty basket and make it look intentional. (What I didn’t mention is that I’d nearly bought this more expensive leather bin instead, but had held myself back.) CB2 and Target also always have stylish, well-priced baskets.
Pick No. 8: The Striped Tee
Pick No. 9: The Makeup Palette
This Charlotte Tillbury makeup palette ($75) has literally everything — including instructions! For someone as untrained in makeup as I am (the extent of my prowess? using this to blend concealer into my under-eye area…), this palette looks like a dream come true.
Pick No. 10: The Lip Balm
I’m definitely a lip balm gal. I can’t deal with lip gloss, despite multiple attempts each year to “try it again.” How do women wear it without having hair permanently shellacked to their lips? I have been really into Fresh’s Sugar Lip Treatments in a variety of colors (I’m intrigued by this new hot pink “candy” color), but I only recently came across their Caramel Lip Balm ($18): “A sinfully rich, cushiony balm that delivers 24-hour moisture with an addictive caramel scent and a velvety shine—but no sticky after feel.” Whoever wrote the copy for this little beauty newcomer deserves five stars.
P.S. I’m always adding new finds to Le Shop!