Take it or leave it.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


One of my favorite oldies is Paul Anka's "Puppy Love," which Donny Osmond hilariously reprised the year before I was born. There, I've just dated myself. While puppy love may have shined in the hearts of lovers in bygone eras, and still may excite the adolescent of today, I think what couples feel more often than not in the modern age is better described as "yuppie love."

A yuppie is a a well-paid, young, middle-class professional who works in a city job and has a luxurious lifestyle. The word yuppie is short for "young urban professional" or "young upwardly-mobile professional". It was introduced in the early 1980s and typified in such movies as Oliver Stone's Wall Street (1987). Who can forget Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko! Pin-striped and with slick-backed hair, not to mention tie clip and suspenders, the millionaire deal maker had it all - that a yuppie could ask for. I'll admit it. For a time in my late teens, he was an idol of mine.

Like Gekko, yuppies of both sexes typically are self-absorbed. They lead a pampered existence that is exaggeratedly out of touch with the struggles of the rest of the world. They outsource everything. Their dogs are walked and trained and groomed and sat by a bevy of strangers who grossly overcharge for their services. But the yuppie can afford to be ripped off. For the yuppie holds a well-paying job in tech, law, finance, academia or consulting in a cultural hub like LA or NYC. He is hip and cool, with studied poise and an elite education. Fitness classes are a must for maintaining the streamlined physique, as are a medicine cabinet of grooming products, from elixers to tonics and gels and masques and toners and astringents and day and night lotions, and this is just the guy's bathroom. The lifestyle definitely includes a gym membership to somewhere fancy like Equinox or Crunch, as well as one or more classes in such momentary crazes as pilates, yoga, weights, yoga with weights or SoulCycle. A personal trainer is often on the arm of the yuppie, who uses many fitness apps, and also may or may not try boot camp by the beach or Crossfit at a local park, depending on the location of said park and the likelihood of a celebrity sighting. Proper recreation is essential - why else spend all the time and money looking so fit? - and used to include cigar bars and tanning salons which have given way to (fill in the blank with whatever happens to be "in" right now). The yuppie takes art seriously, or at least his interest in art. When asked what that abstract thing he is looking at actually represents, he furrows his brow, purses his lip and mutters something incomprehensible. When asked to clarify he will tell you it's French, or Swahili. You're uncertain whether he is referring to the art or the language he just spoke. If he reads at all, the yuppie occasionally browses GQ or Esquire, but only looks at the ads. The women generally read Instagram, if this can be called reading. This is not a slight towards the fair sex. Only that the ads on Instagram are better. 

But in no arena does the yuppie distinguish himself more than in the affairs of the heart. For these individuals love as they live. That is to say in a world of appearances. Which is to say superficially. Their skin-deep lifestyles bolster the selfish traits that improved their social standing by getting them the job with its low six figures in the first place. The yuppie's mantra goes something like this: "I love you for how you make me look and feel. I admire you for what you can do for me." To the yuppie, the beloved is an accessory. Totally disposable, not-unlike plastic. Which actually isn't disposable, but don't try telling him that, or you'll lose your irony. The love that two yuppies share is consequence-free, a drawn-out sweet nothing that lasts for a fashion season (which is getting shorter by the year) but never for a lifetime. So don't marry one. But I don't need to tell you that. For a yuppy marriage is like buying a car. They'd rather lease, so they prefer Tinder. Welcome to swipe left land. The yuppie's vocabulary is rife with throw-away lines. He invites you to parties you will never attend. He makes promises that fall on deaf ears, meaning his own. When the yuppie looks closely at you he is merely inspecting his reflection in your horned-rims. Which is another reason not to wear shades. But not for the yuppie. Why hide the windows to the soul when you haven't one to speak of? Above all the yuppie knows there are many fish in the sea, many others out there just like you and me. But only he is one of a kind, a legend in his own mind.

This personality - now a cultural phenomenon as common as sending flowers on Valentine's, which the yuppie always does - was typified in the novel of 80s excess, American Psycho. I read this book while living in NYC with a curious all-consuming fascination, for I was trying to become a yuppie myself, or at least get a job on Wall Street. The main character, investment banker Patrick Bateman, becomes so numb and disgusted by his vacuous life that he goes on a killing spree, murdering stranger and acquaintance alike. But he never lays a hand on a friend. But only because the yuppie has no friends other than himself. Which goes without saying. For how can a selfish person be a friend when the essence of friendship is sympathy and generosity? A friend in need is a friend indeed, and in deed. What you do, not what you say, exemplifies the depth and purity of your affections. And flowers fade.

Contrast yuppie love with its namesake, puppy love. Remember your first crush? When the sun rose and set on the object of your affection? You thought him or her the most perfect person in the world. Your heart went pitter-patter whenever they entered the room. Butterflies filled your insides. It wasn't about you. It was about that person. The owner of your heart. You'd do anything for them. You made a special promise to love them forever, even if they never even knew your name. And then you grew up. And knocked down by ill-fated romance one time too many you said "to hell with it" and refused to dust yourself off. So you just wore your cuts and bruises and scabs with righteous indignation. The chip on your shoulder and the scowl that said "fuck you for noticing me" finally giving way to something even more satisfying: the inviting smile, which beckoned to another to lose themselves in you so that they by their admiration could add to your grandeur. It's all so sad but true.

Living in LA I've encountered yuppie love in all its soul-sucking permutations. I've given some of it myself, usually to get some in return. I mean poontang. But the game soon grows old and tired, or maybe I'm old and tired. I long for something more. A soul union. Like mindedness. Comfort, sensitivity. Depth. Does it exist in the online age? If it does, I haven't found it yet. But I can love others how I wish to be loved. That is to say without strings. Or just because. After all the source of love is inside. The object of your affections really is incidental. So love everyone you meet. Give indiscriminately. Practice random acts of kindness. Just wear protection. Serve all. You give, you get. And unrequited love is still love, which is all there really is. So go find that love-struck teenager you once were. Be him or her again. It's okay to be vulnerable, to say what you feel, to put yourself out there. Even if you're let down, the ride is always worth the fall. Here I'll leave you with the words that serve as a constant reminder in my own quest, and they are these: "If by chance that special face leads you to a lonely place, find your strength in love." If that's cheesy, it's an improvement.

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