Beer and Pavement

On Pissing Contests

Posted in Intersections, Manifesto by SM on April 29, 2011

Pubic Domain

A good friend of mine got me to thinking about a key aspect of these obsessions I have with craft beer and indie rock: the pissing contest. I’ve addressed the pissing contest before in regards to the boys club craft beer has become, but the issue needs further development. You see, we were having a back and forth over my developing list of beliefs. One particular belief needs a condition. Here’s what I wrote:

Beer and music is something about which we can talk. Craft beer and indie rock are the best for discussion. The hours I have spent discussing the value of that man snoring in the background of a Guided by Voices song or the times at a bar I’ve spent identifying flavors in a beer are some of the best memories I own (aside from those involving my partner and daughter, of course). Obviously, I really believe in this or I wouldn’t dedicate an entire blog to the topics and where they intersect.

And when we talk about beer and music, we are mindful of the moment. We don’t mindlessly consume. Instead, we consider possibilities and different perspectives. We find meaning in these things that on the outside seem so unimportant, but a deeper look reveals lessons for life.

This belief as well as all of the beliefs on my list will be fleshed out. However, I feel there’s a point at which time the discussion[1] of craft beer and indie rock break down. It happens when a good conversation suddenly turns into a pissing contest. Some conversations are nothing but pissing contests, but no matter when the pissing begins, the contest ruins great conversation.

For the purposes of this blog and the list of beliefs I eluded to earlier, a pissing contest is the moment in any conversation where a participant interjects with something better, not really adding to the discussion. Whether it be competitiveness, jealousy, or overcompensation for something else, the pissing contest is just a way for one person to one-up the other[2]. The contest moves the discussion away from the moment and devolves into a list of accomplishments or conquests. The moment is lost forever and the discussion might as well be over.

I can demonstrate a pissing contest in the two arenas on which this blog focuses. First, imagine two dudes sitting at the bar, enjoy a beer together.

Dude 1 – Wow, this beer is really boozy
Dude 2 – Yeah, what did they say the ABV was?
Dude 1 – Like 9 or 10 percent, I think.
Dude 2 – That’s nothing. I had a Double Bastard the other day that was like 11%.
Dude 1 – Have you ever had 120 minute? I have. That thing is like 18, 19, 21%.
Dude 2 – I have and in fact I have like two oh-8’s in my cellar right now.
Dude 1 – Well, have you ever had a Sink the Bismarck?  That beer will grow hair on your teeth.

And…scene.

In this example, the beer discussion really didn’t go very far as each dude one-upped the other with his beer conquests. There’s no discussion whether the booziness of the beer at hand affects their enjoyment or not. There’s no sharing a comparison of the beers they’ve had in the past. When one dude mentions a rare beer he has, there’s no offer to share. This is a pretty superficial, pretty boring conversation. The dudes’ girlfriends[3] are bored to death at this point and wondering when they can go out and have some real fun.

Now, for an example at a rock club, the night of a highly anticipated show.

Dude 1 – So, do you think they’ll play “Wake Up?”
Dude 2 – I doubt it. Pitchfork says that they’re mostly playing new stuff.
Dude 1 – Did you see them when they played at Mojo’s? It was awesome.
Dude 2 – No! For like the four-millionth time, I didn’t see them at Mojo’s[4].
Dude 1 – They did that thing where they leave the stage and play for the back of the venue.
Dude 2 – Yes, I’ve seen that a million times on  line.
Dude 1 – It was awesome in person.
Dude 2 – Well, I saw them in Canada once. It was more authentic as their witty banter was all in French. I had to ask this cute French Canadian girl to translate. She did and we made out later. 

In this example, the pissing contest spirals out of control until one dude obviously starts lying, even inventing a sexual encounter[5] in order to provide the final point that will make him cooler than the other dude.

In both pissing contests, the moment is lost and discussion ceases to be meaningful, if it ever even really started. Pissing contests strip the enjoyment from craft beer and indie rock, much less anything else[6]. Neither conversation produced anything more than feelings of jealousy and inadequacy in the participants. I imagine it was even worse for those who were present as their opinions or enjoyment of the moment were not a priority.

Despite my earlier rants on this subject, the pissing contest does not limit itself to one gender or class. Women partake in pissing contests as much as men[7]. The biggest difference is that men and boys are often overcompensating for a certain inadequacy[8]. Women and girls are just tired of being left out by the boys. I’m sure there’s more to it than that, but my point is that pissing contests are equal-opportunity practices for all sexes.

Class is an interesting factor. Often, out pissing the other is competition of wealth and privilege. “I can afford that fancy beer that you can’t” or “I attended more rock shows and bought more records than you did” arguments escalate the pissing contest to an arms race of whose daddy makes more money. At some point, things are reversed and the word “elitist” is tossed around. This is where the opposite happens and one celebrates PBR binges and free rock shows in basements as kryptonite to the other’s elitist pursuits[9].

A key component of hipster hatred[10] comes from the pissing contest. A hipster can never be beat as they piss cool. No matter what one brings to the PC, a hipster is one step ahead of the rest of us in knowing what’s cool. And half the time they simply make it up. Trends happen that way, but it’s impossible to keep up. Some give me a hard time for banging on hipsters all the time, but the eternal hipster pissing contest makes them pretty unbearable. The hipster pissing contest is one of perceived coolness. Quantity nor quality is considered in a hipster pissing contest. It’s all about cool, but I digress.

I too succumb to the traps of the pissing contest[11]. It used to be a common occurrence whenever I engaged a conversation about music. Someone would tell me they loved Pavement. I’d respond that I saw their last North American show[12]. Someone might mention they like Sonic Youth. I’ll respond that I once met Thurston Moore and Lee Renaldo[13]. Sometimes the pissing contest never happened if the other person was not into one-upping me, but it often did as this is what indie geeks do. “I saw them when…” and “I have [seminal LP, EP, or 7″]” conversations are just part of the culture[14].

Talking beer was once a pissing contest when we used to discuss who could drink the most without passing out[15]. That was eventually seen as the sophomoric, hyper-masculine waste of time it was[16]. Then, I met the beer equivalent of the indie geek: the craft beer geek. And the pissing contests commenced. We had this barrel-aged and that 100 IBU and that 18% ABV… It’s this constant arms race to see who can consume what first or the most. I’ve joined the contest with my own escalating cellar and bar bills. Sometimes, the enjoyment of a beer is lost when all I can think about is what I’ll have next.

The biggest problem is that we’re all so concerned with writing our names in the snow first instead of enjoying the moment[17]. We’re missing out when we focus so much on pissing contests. We can’t enjoy a beer and talk about what makes it great when our time is spent talking about all the beers that are better. There’s no way to enjoy a rock show when all we can do is brag that the band was better on the last tour. Pissing contests suck the enjoyment out of life!

The pissing contest is the adult equivalent of the childhood argument “I know you are, but what am I?” Nothing new is offered. There are no details that might provide enlightenment. It’s just another way to make yourself feel better, but it could end with you feeling worse. It’s a waste of time and does not advance humanity in any way.

So, the pissing contest is not welcome in the Coalition[18]. How can we advance our enjoyment of beer and music if we’re always trying to outdo each other?

So, when I return to my ten beliefs, let it be known that talking about craft beer and indie rock is not meant to be a pissing contest. It’s meant to be a moment with friends, enjoying life as it happens.

Notes:
1Here, the discussion, talk, or conversation really means this blog and the accompanying comments and backlinks, but it also includes the more traditional, face-to-face discussions we have every day.
2You may now start to imagine streams of urine arching into the air, each one higher than the last until we all run out of urine.
3I recognize that this is a stretch. Typically, guys who do a lot of this don’t have girlfriends. They might be married as their spouses are stuck with them, but they rarely have girlfriends. Winning a pissing contest never won me a girlfriend. I put it on hold for a while. Now, she’s stuck with me.
4I didn’t see Arcade Fire at Mojo’s and I’m still pissed every time someone brings it up.
5Sex and sexual partners are a pissing contest unto themselves. I won’t go into details as this type of PC devolves rather quickly into something so crass I’d have to change this blog to NSFW.
6Again, keep in mind that I use beer and music as a vehicle to explore many issues. These ideas have other practical, universal applications.
7Now, you should giggle at the difficulty in which a woman or girl would have in participating in an actual pissing contest. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s not going to be easy.
8It’s the size of their penises. They’re worried their penises are too small, so they have to make themselves seem bigger in some way.
9Interesting how many politicians resort to the pissing contest where they try to prove how rough a life they’ve had while their opponent has had everything handed to them.
10Let’s be clear about this in a way that I’ve never been before. When I refer to “hipsters,” I am not talking about those people who are perceived to be hipster due to their attire, music, or some other thing with which Carles has an issue. The perceived hipster is not the problem. In fact, these are often the most interesting and creative people you’ll meet. “Hipster” as a derogatory term refers to a prick who only cares about being cooler than you. One cannot determine this sort of hipster without getting to know them. Assholes who just want to get laid and are willing to out-cool you at every step just to make that happen are actual hipsters, very different from the perceived hipster.
11This admission is just to show you that I recognize my own hypocrisy and how this blog often just turns into my own HTML of a pissing contest. It’s part of the human condition to prove that you’re better than everyone else. However, my point is that if we succumb to the PC, the coalition will never be built.
12I did. And I’m talking about their first last North American show in ’99. (See footnote above.)
13It’s not as cool as it sounds. I froze and couldn’t think of a damn thing to say.
14Boy, that makes indie rock sound pretty lame. It’s not really that bad, but it’s something I’ve come to expect when we talk indie.
15The worst was this dude named TJ. He would go on and on about how he finished seven…teen beers the other night. The guy actually worked on raising his tolerance by getting drunk nearly every night. He could put them away, but at what cost?
16Actually, someone finally realized how much cheaper it was to be a light-weight. Instead of drinking a six-pack in a night, you could split a sixer with a buddy and be happy.
17Now, imagine women doing this. Again, not impossible, but possibly funnier than watching dudes doing it. Just saying.
18In all truthfulness, it will still happen, but we can try out best to stay conscious and in the moment.

Advertisements
Tagged with:

13 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. d bowen said, on April 29, 2011 at 8:46 am

    Love this idea behind this post, that the pursuit of the next big thing can destroy the enjoyment on that thing once possessed. That is all too prevalent in the music and beer worlds. Actually, I think it’s prevalent in all domains where men predominate. Must be some kind of testosterone thing. Not that I ever succumb to that…ahem…

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 29, 2011 at 9:05 am

      You do. We all do. I tried to avoid the gender angle, even going as far to say “women do it too,” but it is more of a bro thing than a girl thing.

  2. Pizza Cottontail said, on April 29, 2011 at 9:16 am

    My favorite twitter account for the past week has been Humblebrag, wherein you’ll discover gentle pissing matches.

    Anyway, I agree that pissing contests are frequently about insecurity, but I also think there can be more generous explanations: it might be easier to say, “I’ve seen 100 Grateful Dead concerts” than to tell the story behind it, “I was totally in love with this girl and I followed her around to Grateful Dead concerts for three years. I fell out of love with the girl, whom I eventually married, but I developed a predilection for hard drugs.” Or, “I’ve listened to Elliott Smith’s Either/Or maybe 1,000 times. How about you?” might be easier than saying, “Either/Or‘s bleak optimism got me through a hard time in my life and might have saved me from killing myself. Then Elliott Smith killed himself, which put me in a difficult position indeed.”

    • builderofcoalitions said, on April 29, 2011 at 9:30 am

      All very true. I think what I’m saying is that we have to get past taking the easy route and actually tell those stories. Telling a story at least invites more conversation.

      BTW, are any of those stories true?

      • Pizza Cottontail said, on April 29, 2011 at 9:41 am

        The stories are totally true. I was a Deadhead at eight. All I remember from my eleventh birthday is my future wife plunging a needle in my arm.

        I’ll agree with you that the stories might be more interesting than the pissing contest part, but telling the stories can be uncomfortable for a lot of people.

  3. jeffmenter said, on April 29, 2011 at 9:32 am

    I was enjoying the moment back in the late ’80s before it became popular.

  4. ZB said, on April 29, 2011 at 12:45 pm

    That picture is classic.

  5. Lyrics, Libations, and Life said, on April 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm

    I really like your take on this issue. I don’t think i ever even thought of it as a pissing contest, but you definitely hit the nail on the head. I think I’m too passive because my stream kind of putters out when these things start. I like a discussion and not so much a sword fight.

  6. Alex said, on May 3, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been there. It’s part of the whole “beer douche” phase and will creep up occasionally. I used to be this way with books and film as well.

    Now I’m a lot more into sharing the experience, rather than lording it over others. If I see a rare beer, I’ll buy a couple extra bottles to share/trade, or make sure that I open it when getting together with friends.

    Still, the pissing contest a tough habit to break. I think you captured its essence quite well here.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on May 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm

      Thanks. Sharing is a good way to negate pissing contests. The only thing that keeps me from sharing more is a lack of income. I try to share rare beers when I can. When I can’t, I at least like to share the experience while being careful not to brag.

  7. […] time Pitchfork has turned its back on a band it touted. This is so effing hipster. (see “On Pissing Contests“) 11I recognize that I’m not in TNV. Hell, I’m not in any band, but lo-fi is […]

  8. […] not a band is indie enough dominate conversation. Instead of celebrating indie rock, we make it a pissing contest where those who piss the shortest distance […]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: