Sunday, June 19, 2011

The Twink has left the building...

I never believed I was a twink.   For those of you who don't know this term, a twink, is a gay slang term describing a young or young-looking gay man (in his late teens or early twenties) with a slender, ectomorph build, little or no body hair, and no facial hair (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twink_%28gay_slang%29). They still exist in our communities.

My evolution into what I have came to know, understand, and characterize my looks has been a process. As a young person, I wasn't fawned over. I never stopped cars. No one stated, I was cute or good looking -at least I don't remember. I wasn't defined by how I looked. I was the smart kid.

Growing up in a family where looks are not heralded or important, is tough. Tough especially during adolescence when you are developing a sense about yourself. A time, you learn to live past.

A defining point for me was when I sat in a bar with my friends. I was 22 years old. We were being silly, looking at guys, and giggling. A photographer approached me and asked if they could take my picture. I rolled my eyes, yeah right. Huge come on, uh-huh. I challenged them by saying, “Sure, as long as you take it with my friends”. I figured this would throw them off. It didn't.

My first photo shoot was fun. We scheduled the photo shoot at the photographers studio. Their photos hung around the room. If you've never been in a studio, know this, there is not much there. From my understanding, they bring in props as they need them. There is a lot of lighting equipment. A tripod. A camera. The huge empty space is left for them to fill with their creativity.

I look at this picture now. It became a local magazine cover. Me with my friends. I am still stunned by it. Someone captured me. It wasn't the me that I ever saw. It was a beautiful, different, me.

Don't get me wrong, I spent hours in front of the mirror examining every crevice and nuance of my body. I would stare and try to understand it. As I sat there, I heard what people told me about myself: my ears stuck out, I had a big nose, the mole on my face was gross, I had terrible hair, I had a big head for my body...blah, blah, blah

For years those tapes are what defined me. Teaching myself to hear something different was a process. I had to heal from trauma. Stop. Take a breath. Look and appreciate myself. Understand, God made me the way I am. Know, if I am made in the perfect image of God then how dare I be critical.

I wish I can reach back and give that young person the confidence I experience now. The comfort in my body that I enjoy. The sense of acceptance that I know. The understanding that I am a product of many people before me – parents, grandparents, great-grandparents. I have relatives that look like me. When I disrespect myself, I disrespect many people. I disrespect God.

My body changed later in my 20's. My adult body settled in. My rib cage expanded. My waist grew past 27 inches. My metabolism changed. The baby face was gone. In the mirror, there is an adult staring back at me now.

Body dysmorphia, is a clinical term, is a (psychological) somatoform disorder in which the affected person is excessively concerned about and preoccupied by a perceived defect in his or her physical features (body image) (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Body_dysmorphia). I've learned that my endless pre-occupation with my looks was not a deficit but a process of learning to celebrate myself. Learning to accept myself. A lesson in re-learning new tapes. A time of appreciation.

I have days that I struggle against those tapes of what people said about me and when my insecure self validates them. I have days that I am more critical of myself than anyone could ever be. I have days that I'd rather stay home cause I'm not feeling up to par. BUT, those are days that are becoming moments.

"Opinions are like assholes and everyone has got one."  I live in a community that is invested in looks.  Not much different than mainstream society.  They are concerned with the latest fashions, the latest gadgets, the latest cars, spend inordinate amounts of time in the gym, etc.  The people I surround myself with are active participants in these notions.  I've learned that - I'm a single parent so I can't enjoy the latest.  I buy clothes from the 2nd Hand store cause they fit and I like them.  I'd rather spend my money on Sonny so he can get past his time with the latest.  When my eyebrows and hair are overgrown then believe me, my hairdresser friends do an intervention.  I don't waste any more of my energy worrying about what other people have to say about my looks (opinions).  I take care of how I feel.  If they can't appreciate me then they can move along. 

I've learned as I've gotten older to love myself. I am a creation of God. I didn't get a choice in what I look like but I am here. When those insecure moments come, I - stop, breathe, pray. I say a silent prayer of thanksgiving for my being alive, being capable, afforded good health, and for strength. As a human being, I am more than this physical shell that people see. I ask for wisdom to know this as I get older, especially when old tapes want to run a muck. God made me in their image. Who am I to argue...XOXO, Nick

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