May 5, 2007

On Pant-Rolling and Related Topics

When I was in junior high, everyone in the “in crowd” rolled up the bottoms of their pants.

Given that our pants weren’t too long and that there weren’t any floods in our school hallways, this rolling served no utilitarian purpose. But for several years it remained the cool thing to do.

There were different types of rolls. There was the high-roll and the low-roll, the tight-roll and the loose-roll, the fat-roll and the thin-roll. It didn’t really matter which particular roll you practiced (although the high, tight-roll was usually preferred)—the important thing was that, one way or another, you rolled.

Now I’m proud to say that I held out during seventh and eighth grade. For some reason, I just didn’t care all that much about being cool. But by the time ninth grade rolled around, my tune had changed and I was soon practicing the loose, half-roll. In retrospect, the half-roll was actually more of a flip than a roll, but we didn’t see things like that at the time.

Anyway, while we in the MTV Generation, we who are now running the world, don’t roll our pants anymore, I think it’s safe to say that we’re still a bunch of conformists. Walk into just about any work place or church fellowship hall or mom’s play group, and you’ll still find people striving, above all else, to be a part of the “in crowd.”

We lie about our beliefs. A coworker might be saying something about religion or politics that we believe to be false, but, not wanting to be looked down on for being different, we’ll just sit there and nod our heads.

We stab others in the back. We might have nothing against Toby’s mom, but when Jacob’s mom corners us in the grocery store one day starts and complaining about her, we find ourselves adding our own gripes, even though, up until that moment, we didn’t even know we had any gripes.

We never learn. We really don’t.

We followed the crowd during adolescence and now look back with regret. “Did I really join in when everyone was picking on Brian Reagan? Did I really help those jerks cheat during sophomore Biology? Did I really walk around with rolled-up pants?”

But, though we can now recognize our past sins and blunders, we nevertheless continue to follow the same crowd. Yes, the crowd now looks different—its stone-washed jeans have been replaced by khakis, its Walkmans by iPods. But it’s essentially the same crowd.

So why do we continue to follow them? Why do we refuse to learn from the past? Why do we put being part of the right crowd above doing the right thing?

Yes, doing the right thing can be difficult. It means that we might find ourselves standing alone. It means that we might find ourselves mocked and slandered and friendless. But the alternative—a life of zombie-like conformity that will ultimately end in painful regret—is incomparably worse.