Thursday, May 11, 2006

Lifestyle [II, 34]

A lifestyle is the typical mode of living of a person, a group, or a culture. In contemporary usage it tends to be used to refer to an option, chosen or unchosen, among several available to a person. The concept embraces patterns of social relations, consumption, entertainment, and dress. A lifestyle typically also reflects an individual's attitudes, values, and worldview.

The term first appeared in English in 1939. Apparently, it stems from the German term Lebensstil favored by the German individualist psychologist Alfred Adler in the 1920s, though with a somewhat different meaning. In his view the lifestyle is the stable set of attitudes and aspirations that sets in during early childhood, determining one’s thought and action. In this way each person achieves his or her individual “meaning.”

Adler’s recourse to “style” reflects the interest among researchers in the humanities (especially art historians and literary scholars) in period styles, such as the Gothic and the Baroque, as well as in “idiolects,” individual styles of particular writers and artists.

As used with regard to a social-sexual configuration, the lifestyle idea connects both with individuality and with participation in a group (or subculture). In business and advertising, lifestyles invite niche marketing, which targets consumers as likely purchasers of particular products. Recently, business has become aware of the huge potential of the gay market, and has gone in quest of the pink dollar or pink pound.

In America, the idea came into its own during the counterculture sixties, when young people tuned in to signals encouraging them to experiment, possibly choosing a lifestyle that was diametrically opposed to the one they had been brought up in. These are the so-called alternative lifestyles, of which homosexuality was regarded as one.

Because of the diversity within the so-called gay and lesbian community it may not be appropriate to speak of a single lifestyle. Rather, one may distinguish a number of variants, including the bear, body builder, granola dyke and many otherlifestyles. Some predilections, such as a fondness for opera (found among opera queens), and an inclination to travel, are not specific enough to constitute a lifestyle.

Some opponents of homosexuality deploy the term homosexual lifestyle as an epithet, as if it were by definition different from the healthy, coupled heterosexual way of life. Yet what could the latter be, but another lifestyle?

The expression in the life is sometimes used for participating in gaydom as an out person.


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