Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Miranda July, hipsters, and month & season names

This article on Miranda July was sent to me recently by a close friend, who knows I love July--thank you, Kate-- and I so enjoyed it.  

Apparently there are people who hate Miranda July? Because she represents hipsterdom? I don't get it.  What is it then about hipsterdom that we hate? Can we talk about this? 

Hipster-Hate, let's do this. Let's break it on down. 
So you hate hipsters. okay.  Except this term is becoming a little too all-encompasing for my comfort. The thing is, I think we're running a little nuts on all of this hipster-hate and kind of throwing a lot of babies out with a fairly small tub full of bathwater.  There's a reason this anti-hipster thing originated. I get it. I really do.  

I think the reason is that the human soul is just fundamentally irritated by insincerity. We need sincerity. We crave it, and the flamboyant-yet-unaware-ironic-and-snooty display that is the hipster parade is just annoying. It is.   But I fear that the reason the hipster-hate thrives as it does is something all together different from this point of origin, a beast that would like to keep all cultural divergence at bay by neatly packaging it all under a label so undesirable that even those who would otherwise happily diverge are afraid to do so anymore out of fear of being....not authentically cool enough? (ha!) 

You think bikes without brakes are dumb (me, too; I get it. But this doesn't mean we all have to eat hamburgers at baseball games while listening to Journey and reading US weekly, or (more importantly) that behaviors and preferences outside that set are pretentious.

  It's such a tiny, tiny sub-subculture of all that is known as subculture that is guilty of the most annoying offenses, yet it's all starting to be treated the same, even (and often especially) by people who like things that hipsters are reported as liking: "Don't call me a hipster! Oh Hell no! Look at me! I'm watching Friends reruns and listening to Britney Spears! I'm well-rounded! I'm endearing! I'm down-to-earth! I'm authentic and full of unexpected surprises!"  

Um, what's happening to us?  We can be and like all sorts of things authentically. I can authentically love Sufjan Stevens, Indie (gasp) movies, and Hemingway.  Heck, people can be authentically quirky, even; not all eccentricities are affectations.  Not all things marginal are simply a pretentious show designed to advertise coolness, right?  Snap out of it, people. 

Marginamia celebrates thoughtfulness, beauty, depth of character and often things which are more marginal. This is an entire blog based on the existence of this intersection of virtues. This intersection exists.   

July is critiqued for the very sort of pretense that is counter to what she's trying to create. I've read such similar, unfitting critiques lately about unusual names. Parents who use odd names must be hyper-concerned with their own images, with being cool, they must not care about their children's futures. They are damning their kids to playground mockery and joblessness.  They are accused of using (really?) their children for their own creative giggles and proof of their superiority, for neglecting their kids' well being in support of their own shallow entertainment. Wait. Wha? This is getting a little crazy, right?  

Marginal doesn't equal shallow, insincere, or self-obsessed. It can. So can lots of other things. Thank goodness we can evaluate individual cases with thought, so we don't have to use lazy catch-alls with no regard for context. 

Except, even being thoughtful about what we name our kids is catching heat. We're not supposed to care. I'm not surprised; thinking too much about anything gets a bad rap.  But being anti-thoughtful is never a good thing. It isn't over thoughtfulness that we suffer from today. I understand that we don't want to place undue value on something (names) or pretend that it stands in for something more substantive--misplaced values are a real problem in our culture-- but caring is not creepy, so long as we understand our subject's role.

Miranda July is thoughtful about her work, the topics she covers, and how her explorations will resonate with and connect to people, which is in pretty stark contrast to the alienation that results from attitudes of superiority and hipsterdom. 

For example, her site, Learning to Love You More, was developed, in part, to get people out there interacting with each other. This is a great example of how something can be light but meaningful. It's quirky, sure, but totally sincere, thoughtful and centered on human connection. That's why I chose to participate in it, myself! 

That's my own photo above, which was in the accompanying book and museum tour. It was based on an assignment (the entire website/tour/book is assignment based)to photograph two strangers holding hands.  The women in the picture ended up befriending one another, and we all had the most lovely chat together. 

I had just moved to Honolulu, hadn't really met anyone, and needed to get out and connect with people, though I was in a really shy place in my life. It was a perfect exercise for me, just to get me used to approaching people, and more importantly, approaching people based on my interests.  This photo represents the start of a beautiful journey of friend-making, and I think it's that kind of thing that the project had in mind, not just some shallow attempt to be cute and weird.

I'm rereading her book of short stories now, No one Belongs Here More Than You, and am enjoying the stories just as much as the first time.

I can't wait to see her new movie, The Future

I've watched Me You and Everyone We Know more times than I can count, and it's soundtrack has been the soundtrack to much of the babymooning in this house. 

The first time I saw it was with my husband in a small movie theater in Hawaii. It was just the two of us and a bus full of senior citizens, most of them old ladies. How perfect is that? During the "poop back and forth forever" bit, I think we actually landed on the floor slapping each other and cackling, in a room full of the utter shock and silence that is a nursing home response to such material.   

In the recent article (mentioned above), Miranda admits that she changed her name to July. I think it works as a first name, as well, and I want to really focus on that idea for names today.  Months, days, seasons, why not?  Unless, of course, you're too cool to care. 

January (I don't watch Madmen yet, but this star's name is lovely)

February (Feb)

March (so lovely)


May (The virtues of this name will never expire)


July (the namesake of today's inspiration, and a fantastic choice. Love this on a little boy.)

August (super stylish, and getting a lot of use now.)

September (I worked with one years ago. She fit her name perfectly.)

October (I like this. Toby, Tober anyone?)

November (This is one of the prettiest words around. Someone should give it's beauty to a person.)

December (Decy, Ber, Cember are all lovely)

Spring (love it)

Summer (knew a lot of Summers growing up)

Autumn (still lovely)

Winter (I knew one in college and find it pretty and refreshing)

Soltice (Solie, Sosi, Sol...really love them all.)

There are certainly many season and month inspired names, as well, but those are for another post!

What do you all think about Miranda July's stuff? Love it? Hate it? 

What about these names? Are there any that feel particularly fresh and usable? 

How do you feel about the criticisms of odd names and the scrutiny of parents who elect to use them?


  1. Amen, Kristen!!! This whole post is amazing. I think you nailed it when you spoke about sincerity being important. Although I really like Miranda July's work, I could see two types of people not liking it: (1) those who are made uncomfortable by her extreme earnestness (2) those who interpret her cutesy-ness as insincerity. Maybe some can't look past her style to see what the work is really about. In my opinion it's not necessarily possible to accurately judge the sincerity of strangers, so why try? I myself wish I had the bravery to put myself out there like her, but that's very hard. It's the same as naming your child something beautiful but slightly outrageous because it's different. Some people judge what they don't have the guts to do. I'm ashamed to say I've done that. People don't want to look like fools. But my guess is that Miranda July doesn't feel foolish--she probably just feels free. Well, that is my hope anyways.

    I feel like I grew up a little the day I stopped defining myself by my taste in music, clothing, film, etc. While those things are fun and necessary, they don't make us who we are. When I realized that who we are is what we're like on the inside (I don't even give a crap if that's cheesy), how we treat people, and our unique thoughts and beliefs, my life totally changed for the better. I've been called pretentious for liking Sufjan Stevens and Miranda July, but I've also been told that I'm stupid for yep, loving Friends reruns. At some point I just started refusing to call anything a "guilty pleasure", because why should I feel guilty about anything so inconsequential?

    Nobody is completely past being made fun of, and some people even try to label themselves by wearing the dress code of their social group and seem to invite it. But why do we have to take it so seriously? Why can't we just let people be? That goes for myself just as much as anyone else.

    I love all of the month and season names!! November and Winter have to be my favorites. Also my sister-in-law is named June, and I adore her as well as her name. I like the Swedish spelling of summer--"Sommar". Or the Finnish word for winter--"Talvi". My husband's dog of 18 years was named "Auggie", short for August, which I love too.

    I think if you're going to name your kid something "weird", you have to know that you or your kid might get made fun of at some point, but you have to just not care. If you take a risk, you're giving your kid the gift of a unique name that could set them apart in a really good way. Or it could fail miserably, and they'll change their name legally when they turn 18 or whatever. I've definitely laughed at some odd names before (sorry, Apple!) but never judged the parents as bad people based on the choice. My husband met a girl named O-a (pronounced Odasha), with a sister named La-a (Ladasha). It was a little hard not to laugh, but it definitely made me think their mother was probably an interesting lady.

  2. Just when you thought I was done...

    I forgot to say I love the picture you took! And the story behind it. I can relate because I'm new in my town and barely know anyone. I started taking a ceramics class to get out and meet people, but there is no one my age in the classes. The photo inspires me to get past my expectations/prejudices/shyness and make friends with the middle aged to senior citizen ladies in my class!

  3. Thanks for commenting, Jenny! Glad the photo/story inspired... old lady friends are awesome!

    Love what you have to say on all of this!!

    O-a and La-a? Oh, man. Okay, I have a friend who cheers me up by sending me all the cre8tive-spelling names she encounters on her job (infant nurse.) My favorite? Loosee Anna (to honor New Orleans,) and yes, I laugh.

    Also... I watched Friends reruns, too! And we go to baseball games sometimes. And I sing "Wheel in the Sky" to my kids, usually when something is turnin' (hope that doesn't ruin your next pottery class.) And if ever there is a website dedicated to bashing Miranda July for doing a movie or book that's too "mainstream," I'll be ranting about that sentiment, too! The whole "but I'm not a hipster, I watch Friends, I'm down-to-earth!" bit is a page out of my own life- a turned page, thankfully. And yes, absolutely, one grows up and is free when she is defined by that which matters (not cheesy!!!) and gets that the rest is just extra and doesn't require any apologies--I love what you say about having no more "guilty pleasures." Yes, yes, yes. Right on!

    oh, and LOVE Talvi and Sommar!! They're going on a list.

  4. Great post! I've never seen 'You, Me and Everyone We Know', but I've been meaning to for the longest time! As for month/season names, I know three sisters named Ruby April, Audra May and Eva June, which I think is pretty neat and match-y without being over-the-top, seeing as it's only their middle names. I also know an April (brother Charlie), a May (brother Jett- and May is also my middle name), a Spring, and a Summer (sisters Lily and Nova). Personally I think January, March and August are all fantastic! Spring is also great, so lively and full of energy! Summer is cute but to me belongs with Mia, Olivia and Chloe, which are gorgeous names but I would never use them because they're too common for my liking. Winter is sweet and kind of peaceful-sounding but I prefer it as a middle name. I loved Frances Winter for the longest time.

  5. fantastic sister set. I agree, not too over-the-top.
    Frances Winter is beautiful! and I can't believe you know a Spring! love it.

  6. This is interesting because I remember when I was little I named one of my dolls July :) I was such a little hipster! (hehe) Also, my birthday often falls on the first day of autumn, and if had happened the year I was born, my mother was all set to name me Autumn. Alas, it didnt happen--- and I got Heather Allyson. I love the name winter though. It seems so quiet and thoughtful and peaceful.
    I love names that are a bit out of the norm, but when I was naming my daughter I had the issue of having a long last name that is both hard to spell and hard to know how to say correctly (I've learned to just smile and nod) so I felt like I had to give her something that was at once unique, but still a bit simple and easy to say and spell so she wouldnt go through life explaining TWO names.
    BTW, I love your blog and the concept behind it. I love naming my paintings because its a chance to be creative in a different way and evoke even more of a feeling and character. I think names are so much fun....