The Ultimate Half-Assed DIY Guide to Well-Roundedness
The Director’s Cut
By Ian McLeod
So a lot of people write “how to be well-rounded” articles at some point or another in their writing careers. I know, I wrote the original article quite some time ago. By popular demand, it’s back, and in the parlance of our times, it is being embiggened to proportions hithertofore unseen.
Rather than one article with a few super half-assed ways to improve yourself as in the original article, this new series will go in depth into how to be amazing. Now some of you may have your doubts, and I agree–maybe all of this is full of shit. But then I argue that any series on being well-rounded that has “shit” somewhere in the first couple paragraphs has to be somewhat different–possibly even good.
And this is a Half-Assed guide, so it’s full of shortcuts and easy ways to become cultured, or at least seem more cultured than you really are. Unlike most who give sage advice, I’m not going to give you a list of “must-read” books or “must smoke” cigars. I will give you a general idea of what does and doesn’t count.
Are You Adequately Cultured?
What does “adequately cultured” mean? It’s subjective and relative, of course, but an adequately cultured person, in my estimation, can feel equally comfortable at a redneck dive bar with at least three toothless goat-buggerers called Bubba, or at some fancy shindig with people named Wendtworth Higgenbotham–or at least be able to feign comfort to the extent that he or she can schmooze with confidence.
So this series will serve as a guide about dealing with people who may be far more cultured than you are, and convincing them you are at least closer to their level than they think (and hopefully, you’ll succeed in convincing them you’re lightyears ahead of them, to gain their admiration.)
Use this knowledge at your peril, however. I will teach you how to fake these things, but not necessarily that it is a good idea to do so. Bullshitting people is probably the stupidest thing you can do in a serious situation. But sometimes it’s just too hilarious to pass up when given the opportunity.
So why is being adequately culture important?
Let’s say you end up at an afterparty for an art showing, presumably as a favor for a friend. Your friend has abandoned you. Everyone’s talking about stuff you don’t care about, like how Salieri was underrated and that Wendtworth Higgenbotham made it into Harvard, which is positively ghastly because the Higgenbothams are a Yale family. You just can’t stop gawking at that blonde babe in the red dress who looks just as bored and horny as you are, but you just can’t get away from this group of people who are discussing things which only increase your boredom–you can’t get away to put the epic moves you learned from reading Roissy to good use on her.
No, they have you trapped in some sort of Borg tractor-beam. While you are busy committing the vile sin of lust deeply in your heart, some reject from Revenge of the Nerds accosts you to ask if you’ve read The Adventures of Roderick Random by Tobias Smollett.
First of all, you ask what the hell kind of name is Roderick Random? And second, who the hell names their kid Tobias Smollett? Unfortunately, you don’t know anything about picaresque novels of the 18th century, so instead you say “your mom asked me that last night.”
The annoying nerd in a polo-shirt and ascot, confused, asks what business you had with his dear mother. You tell him he’s gay. He says yes, he’s “very exuberant at the moment—oh but you probably meant homosexual, in which case, no” but he still doesn’t see why that’s relevant to what business you had with his mother.
Something snaps inside and you revert to your primal nature because you have no safety net of adequate-culturedness, and you punch him in the face. He cries. The party stops. Even the guy on the piano who hates these people just as much as you do is shaking his head: “for shame, for shame.” Everyone’s staring at you, and the hot blond in red rushes over and slaps you for punching out her poor defenseless little brother.
This is not something that actually happened to me, but it could have. Names have been changed, it wasn’t an art showing and I never did punch the guy but I wanted to–Blondie probably wasn’t his sister, and it wasn’t Roderick Random. But it’s what would have happened if I did what I wanted to do at an unfortunate party once. It could have been me, and probably was what happened in an alternate universe. And if it could have been me, it’s certain that it could also have been you.
Have No Fear, the Adequately Cultured Ian is here!
Never fear, I will tell you what you must do to deal with such people without bringing mothers or questions of sexual orientation into the equation. You must be able to Make It or Fake It, and by It, I mean being adequately cultured–in case you got lost in the above semi-fictitious anecdote.
In our first article, approximately one week hence, we will deal with the issues of either mastering or appearing to have mastered literature. In following articles we will delve into alcohol, tobacco, music, fine art, food, firearms, automobiles, and, if the gods smile on this endeavor and site traffic permits–much more.
Each article will be divided into Basic, Advanced, and Master Techniques. How to use each technique depends on how clever you are. Some people have to do the Basic techniques their whole lives, which means actually doing work (for the remainder of the series, these people shall be referred to as “chumps”.) But if you’ve gone through enough of the basics, or can skip them by means of your own sheer awesomeness, the Advanced Technique is for you: it means you can Fake It. A true Master has attained the ability to Make It and Fake It at the same time, which I suppose means he’s the genuine article, but I’m not totally certain–but in that ambiguity lies limitless power. Wait, I think I’ve used that line somewhere before.