IT'S HAPPENED twice now. I've been walking down a street, minding my own goddamn business by privately getting involved in other people's business (is that an entire store devoted to terrariums? That house isn't nice enough to have shrubs shaped like animals.), and I'll see someone my age smoking a pipe. A fucking pipe! SOMEONE BORN AFTER THE FIRST POLICE ACADEMY MOVIE CAME OUT BIKING AROUND SMOKING A PIPE LIKE THEY JUST SETTLED SOME WIZARD BUSINESS AND NOW THEY NEED TO CHILLAX A MINUTE, STROKE THEIR BEARD, AND THINK ABOUT THEIR TRAVAILS IN THE LARGER CONTEXT OF THE FOREVER-STRETCHING GREAT CAT THAT MARKS THE HISTORY OF THEIR KINGDOM.

No dude, fuck you! You don't get to just smoke a pipe. You have to earn a pipe. You have to weld something important. You need to possess hard-won wisdom. You should use face tonic that comes in a bottle illustrated in such a way that you can't tell if it's racist toward Pacific Islanders. Old men smoke pipes, Brandon doesn't smoke pipes. You want to smoke a pipe? Fine. But you also have to die soon. This is what I think when I see someone my age smoking a pipe, or when I see someone walking around in public playing a guitar, or when I see stilts, handlebar mustaches, slacklines, bowler hats suspenders hula-hoops unicycles dreadlocks leatherjacketswithpatchesstuddedvestslizardsaspetsthatyoutakeoutintopublicthoseshoeswith individualtoesorwhatabout

OH FUCK, MAYBE I'M THE PROBLEM. Why? Why the fuck am I so judgmental? Why do I care if these people have found a tangible way to express themselves to the world? I'm not sure I should be this agitated about people who use nouns to express themselves, while I sit here and pretend I'm nothing but verbs—but I am. To get REALLY honest for a second, I've spent way more time complaining about white people who dress like rappers than about white people who kill black people for dressing like rappers. Academically, I know which of these is the greater evil (and really, only one of them is evil), but at the same time, only one of these things is throwing rocks at my beehive.

We're all judgmental. If you deny it, I can see right through your shit and know you're just posturing to seem better-vibesy than you actually are (Ian Karmel has leveled up in being judgmental and now has three points to spend on strength, mana, or smirking at people outside of Holocene). A proper dose of cynicism is healthy, but it can keep out the sunlight, too—and who the fuck is that helping? Untie that knot in your stomach and see what tangled it in the first place. Maybe that kid smoking a pipe makes me uneasy because my own wardrobe of cargo shorts, T-shirt, and sneakers is a statement of indifference, a preemptive please-don't-judge-me-back.

Maybe I don't like that guy's pipe because it's a statement that indicates intent, and intent opens one up to criticism, and—deep down—I envy this person's ability to live their life in defiance of the sneer. Or maybe it's actually just obnoxious that some 28-year-old is smoking a pipe. WHO THE FUCK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE FOOLING, BRANDON?