Welcome, gentle reader! As your new columnist, it will be my pleasure to guide your erudite and cultured mind through the scintillating and altogether arousing world of LIFESTYLES! Those of you familiar with this word only through the backs of condom boxes and those who have become hermits to escape the ravages of modern culture may ask, "What, exactly, is a lifestyle?" A bit of history, then, is in order. In the beginning, back when men still smoked cigars without worrying about the phallic implications of such an act and women wore corsets in order that they might better approximate the figure of the Barbie doll, people lived lives wherein the men went to work and feared communists, the women lived a variant of "Kinder, Kuche, Kirche" that involved buying fashionable kitchen appliances, and they all lived the post-war dream together. Wealthy industrialists and their families, who had the money to hire people to do their jobs for them, could devote their time to a wide array of enriching activities such as golf, riding horses, and consuming expensive alcoholic beverages, while granted journalistic immortality in newspaper "Society Pages".
However, with the advent of greasy long-haired pelvis-gyrators like the Dave Clark Five, and the infiltration of rogue weirdo intellectuals like Adlai Stevenson, all that changed. The youth of America (and probably other countries too, but as an American, I am required by the cultural ethos of this great nation to systematically ignore historical events in foreign lands) started running amuck in motorcycle gangs, growing their hair to egregious lengths, spending their money on birth control pills instead of washing machines, and generally engaging in activities they characterized as "changing the world". Under the mesmerizing spell of cunning linguists like Noam Chomsky (well, maybe not him, but he's the only linguist I've ever heard of), they came to the conclusion that the terminology of their parents was entirely inadequate for the purposes of bringing about a new beautiful planet, plus they could really confuse their parents with all these new words; so it was they replaced the word "life", which they perceived to be staid, dull, and altogether too monosyllabic, with "lifestyle", which they believed was vibrant, energetic, and full of zest.
In the end, however, these brave young prophets of a new age realized they smelled sort of bad and really ought to have washing machines after all, stopped smoking pot, and became respectable decent citizens. By the time this had happened, however, the media (which if you recall your cultural studies courses from college, is run by the ponies) had decided the young idealists were really on to something with that language, and by using it could remind them forever of the fun times of their youth. As market studies showed that people were more likely to buy stuff when they were in good moods, this worked out extremely well. So it was that every newspaper gained a column labelled "Lifestyles", usually right before the sports section, where they would print the slowly shrinking comic strips and tell you what you could watch on TV. The "Lifestyles" section has also slowly absorbed the function of the Society Pages in the local newspapers, with the privileged classes turning to other methods of circulation to advertise their business gatherings and cocaine parties.
This leaves us in the new and entirely modern (or perhaps supra-post-modern; the eternal philosophical question "What time is it?" has taken on deepened significance in this clime of approximated schizophrenia) era of the '90s with a vexing question: What exactly *is* lifestyle? Is it a successor to the societal functions of the 1950s? Is it what TV shows we watch, what church we attend, what we eat, who we fuck? Well, for the purposes of this column and for the benefit of befuddled journalists everywhere, "Lifestyle" shall be defined as "The study of the development and practice of trends." Trends, as defined by the definitive lexicon of 20th century cultural hagiography, "The Adventures of Greggery Peccary" by Frank Zappa, are exemplified by "the Twist.. or Flower Power"; in other words, a prepacked culturally approved way of spending time not occupied by one's job, "rejuvenating the national economy and providing for bored, miserable people everywhere some great new THING to identify with." ("Greggery Peccary" again).
The "Lifestyle" moniker, of course, comes with the associated buzzword (buzzword is, of course, itself a buzzword, an oddity I would dwell on further were I William Safire) "alternate lifestyle" or "alternative lifestyle". There is again some dispute over what qualifies as "alternative", especially considering the fact that some things still considered "alternative" are in fact favored by a huge segment of the general populace. For the purposes of this column, we can generalize that an "alternative lifestyle" consists of anything Jesse Helms would not do in his spare time.
Whew! That was a great deal more complex than I anticipated, and it looks like we're out of room for this time. No matter. Next time, we'll talk about SISKEL AND EBERT.
Dave Lynch is NOT the famous director. He is an eligible Kentucky bachelor who can play the banjo with his toes and control the weather telepathically, simultaneously.