Recently the wife took me to a ballet performance, where I promptly fell asleep. It was some sort of story about a doll that came to life and fell in love with a guy. Or something. The production values were quite high, and the dancing very good, with the dancers spinning and pointing their toes and stuff. But as with parsley, NCIS, and daily hygiene, I just never understood the appeal. Jameelah woke me up at intermission, and we left.
For the past several days, I started thinking, ‘Am I unsophisticated?’ My idea of the perfect evening is watching a movie rental with some friends and playing board games, or going to a comedy show. Then I took a break from thinking because the commercial was over and “Two and a Half Men” was back. But at the next commercial, I resumed thinking. What exactly is sophistication? The things that we deem to epitomize sophistication—going to the symphony, ballet, dressing up, sipping fine champagne and delighting in witty conversation while daintily snacking on tiny foods, etc.—are they even relevant anymore?
It might surprise you to know that the history of sophistication is long and complex, which is to say that I know nothing about it. A quick Googling reveals that it started hundreds and/or thousands of years ago. Back during the Cro-Magnon period, sophistication took a backseat to survival. Still, cavemen who could not build fire were shunned as unrefined, and those who were devoured by wild animals were seen as lower class and were often not invited to social gatherings. As society advanced and people had more time to waste, complicated unwritten rules were formed to bring order through hierarchy. Different cultures started shaping this system. The French, for example, successfully brainwashed people into thinking that tiny foods called “h’or d’oeuvres” are a sign of refinement, while the Russians, at first as a practical joke, convinced people that overpriced salty fish eggs represented high class. These rules have become so widespread and so ingrained in our collective unconscious, forcing millions of people even today to on occasion use three forks and three spoons for one dinner while uncomfortably dressed, which if you think about it, is pretty ridiculous.
So the whole point of that was, am I really unsophisticated for falling asleep at the ballet, or is the concept of sophistication obsolete in these days and age? With the advancement in modern culture, why has the notion of sophistication still so static? We need to redefine what it means to be sophisticated. There are signs that this is happening in Seattle. For example, walking or biking has become a mark of the upper class, especially if it is to a farmer’s market. People who bring along their reusable cloth shopping bags are seen as worldly and elegant, while those who forget their bags might as well be lepers or M. Night Shyamalan, scorned by all.
So, let me ask you, does the concept of sophistication need to change? Send in your thoughts, or select one or more of the following below:
- No, the definition of sophistication does not need to change. The high arts are timeless.
- Yes, ballets and symphonies and all that stuff is out. Bring in composting and charity walkathons!
- Maw, that high-falutin’ vegan’s admitted he done fell ‘sleep at the city ballet show. He’s one a us now. Break out that moonshine!
All right, while you’re pondering that, I’m going to get me a jar of pickles and a mug of Merlot.