The following story has a point. You probably won’t believe me at first, but I’ll get there.
Like many men my age, I’ve become rather sensitive to how thin my hair has gotten on the top of my head. To some extent, I’m still in denial (my little author avatar up there has far thicker hair than I do). I minimize my embarrassment by embracing my inevitable future pate and buzzing my head. It’s a long process, one usually accompanied by the sound of whatever movie I happen to have playing on my portable DVD player, and it tends to leave me more than a little self-conscious by the time I’m one. After all, you can only go over the back of your own head with clippers so many times, and yet, invariably, I’ll later find I missed a spot. Not generally a good look to have.
I recently read an interesting article on a video game website about a man who is frustrated with the character creation system many video games offer. The article’s author, Evan Narcisse, is black, and he goes to great lengths to describe how he gets his hair just right in a ‘do called “The Natural.” I doubt I’ll be blowing too many people’s minds when I reveal that his hair and my hair are styled very differently. However, after the time we take to get our respective coifs to look just right, what we wind up with is nearly as much a part of our identity as our names or our favorite restaurants.
Here in the United States, I think, we live in an atmosphere where most public discussion is heavily self-censored. Many of us are afraid to say anything that will potentially offend prospective listeners. Additionally, since our country [casual understatement incoming] has a less-than-pretty history of interracial relationships, many people, especially white people, avoid saying anything that could in any way illustrate that people of different races have anything that separates them other than the color of their skin.
I think the same thing happens across gender lines, too. A lot of men are hesitant to ever talk about women’s experiences, for fear that we’re going to say something that’ll be taken differently than we mean it. And yet, if you’ve ever looked at how men and women wear clothing, you can easily see that men’s experiences and women’s experiences are vastly different, and it can be kinda silly to try to minimize those differences.
I think we could all stand to be a little more open about some of our experiences. As someone who has dedicated a large part of his mental energy to being less of a self-centered dorkwagon, I find I appreciate people like Evan Narcisse who are willing to talk about some of the small, day-to-day things they go through. See, just cuz the way I do my hair is routine and unremarkable to me doesn’t necessarily mean that it wouldn’t open someone else’s mind up just a little bit to accept that, deep down, people are vastly different from each other, and those differences can actually be pretty cool to learn about.
Of course, there are some people who could stand to exercise more restraint when discussing the experiences of others, but I’m not so interested in talking about them today.