Saturday, February 28, 2015


I'm okay with categories.

"You can't think outside the box without a box."

My father said this to me long ago as I raged against the MTV machine (mostly because MTV stopped promoting bands like Rage Against the Machine).

I don't know anyone who watches MTV anymore, but plenty of my friends and acquaintances are more familiar than I am with people called Nicki Minaj and Arianna Grande. (I have a more important question for you, dear reader, in a wee bit).

Agent Coulson also made a similar concession in the first season of Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

We need a system to effectively accumulate and disseminate truth. Or, as I enjoy shouting in the ears of passing schoolchildren, "WORDS! THEY MEAN THINGS!" One issue with compartmentalization is that the boxes can be closed (and hidden) by those in power.

But this is all too vague. Sorry, my head hasn't been right lately. I'm okay, for the most part, with categories and labels. Can you imagine anyone categorically categories, though? What would you call that person? Surely, they wouldn't have a name, right?

Take my hand and leap with me into the world of fashion and visual culture. When I was in seventh grade, I wanted to be a skater. I had passed from elementary school to junior high, and was swarmed with crowded hallways and hormones. My individual identity would simply not suffice. So I wore big bright t-shirts, rocked baggy pants, and stuck to my mainstay Etnies and Vans shoes because I truly loved how comfortable and cool they were. But I was a poser. I didn't skate. I tried skating, because it bothered me that how I felt most comfortable appearing associated me with something I was not truly embracing. I fell a lot.

Well, that was me in junior high. Sometime near then the term "metrosexual" was coined. To this day, I can't think of a more nuanced definition of metrosexual beyond "well-groomed male." And that's interesting to me. We very readily associate tedious grooming habits in men with homosexuality. Why? Or is it less about homosexuality and more about sexuality?

Is it for the same reason that women are more typically sexually (and therefore visually) objectified?

I don't know, but "metrosexual" was probably never going to be the first adjective anyone would think of to describe yours truly. Now, "lumbersexual" is passing in and out of vogue. If you're unfamiliar, think of a lumberjack. Now, give that lumberjack a reasonable diet, a cellphone, and some gauges. BOOM! TIMBER! (okay, now, BOOM!) Lumbersexual.

Lumbersexual is probably higher up the list than metrosexual if we're, again, considering yours truly. I suppose it's because I'm white and I have a beard. It's the same reason I resemble Zach Galifianakis, Jack Black, and eighty percent of the alcohol industry.

But I was white and had a beard in high school. It's not simply laziness. It's a conscious decision to not engage in the unnecessary and futile act of shaving. What Russell Brand is to not voting, I am to not shaving. I'm not going to be one of those people who is saying "but I was doing it before it was cool!" because I've seen enough paintings of historical figures far prior to my existence in high school to know I'm no pioneer (and pioneers had some pretty gnarly beards, also many were lumberjacks...I guess).

I simply wish to express that I don't care. I mean, I do care, as I'm curious about the cultural context of all of this. But call me whatever you wish. I just ask that if we're going to collectively coin new words for males making a conscious decision to look a certain way, perhaps we should try to be a little more accurate.

But just as we love suffixing every controversy under the sun with "gate," perhaps I shouldn't be so hopeful.

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