Top 10: Ways to be pretentious
1. Carry a Moleskine notebook. If you don’t know, Moleskine make high-quality, leather-bound notebooks. Sounds harmless. But how many people actually need a brand name notebook? Especially one that prides itself on being used by Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway and Bruce Chatwin. Now, I am guilty of owning a Moleskine, at all times. They are a truly excellent brand of notebook, and they do encourage you to jot down notes that will become your master work, but my god there’s something of the poseur in flashing one of these every time a thought comes to you. (You should get one though).
2. Be all scatty. Nothing says ‘I’m an intellectual free spirit and lofty thinker’ like shuffling about in circles, slipping off the edge of chairs, wearing odd socks and not being able to remember where you put anything. Yeah, its dangerously similar to appearing drunk, but acting all scatty is like a badge of honour of eccentricity – and we all know that eccentric = clever. Unfortunately, unless you really are eccentric, it also = pretentious. Your call.
3. Use the word dichotomy. First, a definition:
Dichotomy: division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups: a dichotomy between thought and action.
The beauty of the word ‘dichotomy’ is that it’s a) easy to understand and b) applicable to almost any circumstance. I assure you right now that you can highlight a dichotomy in any situation, piece of art, concept, narrative, whatever you choose to focus on. Now, recognising this is one thing, but get into the habit of telling everyone every time you do will lead you a fair few steps down the road to pretention. The best part is that you can even get it wrong and take a dichotomy as being any conflict of opposing forces, and people won’t call you out on it. But you will still be pretentious. You have been warned.
4. Read slim volumes of poetry. Nothing says ‘I’m trying so very hard to look like an intellectual’ like reading a slim volume of poetry, in public. The slimmer the better, the more public the better. The beauty of the slim volume of poetry is that it at once singles you out as an intellectual (reading), outside the mainstream (not reading a novel), and a deep thinker (poetry!). I once saw a woman reading a book like this whilst riding a bicycle through Islington. Wild.
5. Write in public. You might need your Moleskine for this one (see No.1). Writing in public gives off all the right signs of creativity and academia. You have so many amazing insights/ flashes of inspiration that you just can’t confine your scribbles to the home. You are constantly drawing from the well of life. Instead of an iPod or mobile phone you would rather divert yourself with the creation of new art and the challenges of your own criticism. You are very pretentious.
6. Have an internal monologue. This one is slightly tricky because it’s pretentious, but surreptitiously so. Let me explain. Anyone who has a running monologue commenting on their own actions, narrating their life like a character in the adaptation of a best-selling novel, has to be pretentious. I don’t know how many people actually do this, but anyone who does is clearly guilty of crimes against pretention – including all of Shakespeare’s characters who deliver soliloquies.
7. Be loud when you should be quiet. You know exactly what I’m talking about. Groups of self-congratulating, ostentatiously ‘fun’ people who just have to show their free-spiritedness to the world by making all kinds of noise at the wrong time. Just before the show starts at the theatre, in the chemist, at the bus-stop, at the altar, in the classroom. Anywhere where a degree of calm is required, you can spot the pretentious ones by the level of noise they’re choosing to inappropriately make.
8. Be quiet when you should be loud. Unlike above, this applies to individuals as opposed to groups. That one lone soul who is above having a good time and displays their superiority by keeping quiet when everyone around them is letting it all out. Acting the critic in all contexts, even when he/she is required to be a regular punter. Look out for them at firework displays, cinemas, busy shops and the like, mooching around thoughtfully, observing lesser mortals.
9. Accessorize from a bygone era. This one is easy. Fashion accessories from days gone by scream pretention, even if they’re actually quite cool. Guys, look out for handkerchiefs, pipes, pocket watches, braces, spats, bowler hats, canes, et cetera. Girls look out for stoles, puffs, cigarette holders, fascinators, capes, et cetera. Normal people can make do with paraphernalia from their own zeitgeist – the pretentious elite are better than that.
10. Give your opinion in hyperbole. You hear this all the time from critics – that gushing, simpering, exaggerated delivery of quite bland opinion, accompanied by wild gesticulation and rolling eyes. Unnecessary. “Oh, I absolutely LOVED it – it was SOOOOOOO perfect.” Et cetera. Usually the preserve of the upper middle classes and up, but anyone can be guilty. Even the blank-eyed 12 year old who says Call of Duty is “the best game EVER, swear down fam.” It’s not. Stop being pretentious.
11. Be into niche things that no-one else knows/ cares about. The more obscure the better. Kling-on poetry… Rick Astley’s second album… That sort of thing. If you and only you know about it, you can give all sorts of reasons why it’s better than all than other mainstream nonsense out there – and no-one can refute you. An appreciation for the obscure suggests that you’ve trawled through all the crap that everyone else knows about and have reached a new plateau of critical enlightenment. How. Pretentious.
PS: I’m guilty of at least eight of the above trangressions.