Science for Sale
Can You Spot a Sellout?
One shameful morning, besuited and seatless, I was reading The New York Times on the subway when I ran into the editrix of Bitch magazine. 'Rita! Hi! You look so . . . young professional!' she said. Ask not for whom the corporate tool works, she works for thee. Mortified, mortified was I (though secretly self-satisfied that the other yuppies on the train would think I lived a semi-interesting, 'other' life because I knew such cool-looking people).
So I'm here to guide you through the upwardly mobile track. Everything you've heard about yuppies is true. (Well, okay, we don't snort coke in the bathrooms during office hours.) Yuppies really do own cars, ski at a moment's notice, and buy expensive electronic gadgets. It's a totally different world. Grow to love Pellegrino water, as we seem to drink a lot of that these days.
I went to a party where the main topic of conversation was home equity. I'm only 25 fucking years old. I have absolutely no opinion on debt-to-interest ratios. In these situations, I like to feign interest. I usually say something like, 'As homeowners, you must be so pleased that your money is working for you.' I'm so ashamed.
Many of the yuppies you work with will want to know what you, as a young, formerly hip thing (I have now given up on being hip, ever again) think about a variety of topics. Yuppies love the youth of today. Usually you'll get asked questions about things in the celebrity news sections of Newsweek or Time, like that wacky new Lilith Fair, or those nutty pierced kids, or, more postmodernly, that new trend of upstart zines destroying feminism. (I totally wigged out when that one came up.)
Once, during an interview, I was asked if I loved the music of Bush (I had put 'punk rock' on my resume as an interest). I wish I had a picture of the ex-pression on my face. Hate Bush . . . need job . . . hate Bush . . . need job. I told the interviewer that I'd heard they were great live. I went home and took a long shower afterwards. But I did get the high-paying job.
I've been asked about Nir-VANN-a and their great 'first' album Nevermind. I've been offered Hanson tickets. I've been asked about the Spice Girls movie. I've been told that Hole is a band. I've had facts from Pop-Up Video quoted back to me as cocktail conversation. ('Did you know the A-Ha video was filmed live and then several thousand animators drew the pictures used for the animation?') But you know, no one ever asks what I think of the new Guided by Voices album (it's really great).
At least among attorneys, there's this trend of desperately embracing each and every fad as it emerges in a vain attempt to remind yourself that, at one point, you might have been interesting. This, in fact, goes a long way toward explaining exactly how things that were once cool are now totally not.
Thus, there's a little rash of attorneys with navel rings, attorneys who swing dance, attorneys into ska music, and attorneys who wear platform shoes. I'm just glad I missed the attorneys-with-hennaed-hands trend. I mean, do what keeps you sane in the corporate jungle, but don't do something just to prove to yourself that you might once have been cool. It's sad, it's pathetic, and the other former hipsters in your office (and there really are quite a few) will see right through it. As one once said to me, with a scornful sneer, 'Nice Hello Kitty barrette.' It's hard enough getting office cred; you can always show your street cred on the weekends. We know you're still cool underneath.
After all, isn't selling out the ultimate act of punk rock? See ya at the leveraged buyout.
Rita Hao writes and practices law in San Francisco. From Bust (Spring 1999). Subscriptions: $11.95 (4 issues) from Box 1016, Cooper Station, New York, NY 10276.