There's an old saw that life and the social realities that define it never really progress past high school. Kurt Vonnegut theorized that every person you meet, however seemingly unique, can be reduced to a guy or girl you knew as a Sophomore. Every class has a Richard Nixon, he said.
The fact people figure out this, however, is why in the end it’s not quite true. The recognition that the same rigid, ruthless hierarchies that govern high school govern all of life gives rise to an adaptation: the bull-sh*t artist. Bullsh*t artists are guys who take the lesson you don't really learn until your early twenties - that there's enough slack in the system to fake it - and make a run. They adopt a persona, some gimmick, that isn't true, but SEEMS true.
You know these guys: with the tattoo sleeve, the leased Porsche or a name preceded by “DJ.” Bullsh*t artistry is always niche, not so niche that it's strange but niche enough so no true alpha males are among the competition. So you have your guy who is really into kite surfing or snow-boarding or The Paris Review, and he has a look and cultivated attitude that goes along with it, to ensure people know he's into that thing. It's like being white and wanting to succeed at sports: go for golf, lacrosse or soccer. Avoid sports popular with inner city youth.
Bullsh*t artists comprise about 20% of the male population and in a way keep monogamous societies functioning. Girls prefer the authentic alpha male, but that's about 5% of guys, so there's this huge space of unsatisfied female desire. Regular guys deal with this through drug abuse, religion, and sometimes self-improvement, but the bullsh*t artist isn't a sucker for second place. He buys a Harley, frosts his hair and adopts a swagger he saw on a VH1 reality show. He says he's a club promoter or speaks surfer pidgin. He digs through pop culture bromides of "coolness" like he's Carrot Top with a trunk in Vegas, pulling out whatever artifice - aesthetic, linguistic, professional - that might provide a passable illusion.
San Francisco is one of the few places in the universe that doesn’t have these guys. Impostors don’t thrive here. The economy is structured around intelligence and hard work and the cultural ethos encourages authenticity. People are honest, tolerant, upright citizens. They wear polos, corduroys and sneakers. Arguably this is just another brand of bullsh*t, liberal, Harper's reading, pacifist bullsh*t but if everyone's committed to it, then it's the relevant status quo, and thereby just inconspicuous, good old regular reality.
The problem with being a decent, regular person is that no one notices. A guy who doesn't stand out doesn't really exist. In high school this is okay, in fact it’s a survival technique, since the experience is so harrowing and brutish. You keep your head down and survive. But in life survival’s not enough. In life we seek more. In life we seek love.
But the percentages are against us. The hierarchies are vicious. Loneliness is vast. Bullsh*t artists provide a partial reprieve. They both beckon girls forth, like opposite-sex Sirens, and also make the regular guy look good, almost noble by comparison. Hey, girls will say about the regular guy, there’s what’s-his-name, at least he’s not full of sh*t.
Girls never said this in high school nor do they now say it in San Francisco and in that regard, San Francisco is like some sick, Godless time-warp back to your Sophomore year, when you were sensitive, idealistic and crushing on a cheerleader unaware of your existence. You were a tree falling in a forest, with no one around to hear. It’s so sad to think about you might just pop your collar and put Ray-Bans in your hair.