Looking good doesn’t matter when you can’t actually look at anything.
Someone somewhere, at some time started and perpetrated the notion that vanity is not a male notion. Real men throw themselves together and run out the door, and obsessing over your appearance is something that only girls do.
It’s laughable that this myth still survives. Take a look at any of your social media channels and you’ll undoubtedly find guys you know uploading self-portraits, primarily shot in either their car or their bathroom mirror, and try telling me that those were off the cuff completely candid moments. There was plenty of vanity and plenty of prep work, with the angle and the lighting and the striking of the perfectly pensive expression, that goes on to select just the right shot. And furthermore, open up any men’s magazine and notice the amount of content set aside for the perfect shave or razor or face cream or the difference between various tie knots. This is vanity driven.
And I hate to break it to you but our obsession with fitness and exercise are not just about health. Those same magazines give you countless examples of how to achieve a six pack, which does not denote health and wellness. The only time I ever had a six pack was when I had mono for two months and vomited away 20 pounds. Working out is vanity driven. You could pretend it’s not but I’ll be completely upfront with the fact that I run not because I like it, but because I want to look half decent in a bathing suit.
I like to think that I have what I consider a “healthy” does of vanity. I’m concerned about my looks and appearance but it doesn’t dictate my life, for the most part. I feel that taking pride in your appearance is a good professional quality to have. If I’m at work I make sure everything’s tucked in, it matches, I smell clean and my teeth and face are free of any distractions. I enjoy looking nice when I go out and am always cognizant that like it or not, people judge you upon how you look. I don’t take it to extremes though.
At least not usually.
Every once in a while an incident sneaks up and reminds me to tone it the hell down. Because while I’ll admit to being slightly vain, when it rears its head too much, you become a jackass.
I had some plans to go out a few Friday nights ago and after attempting to work out and go grocery shopping and run some errands too mundane to list here, I found myself running late. I showered and put myself together and was just about to head out the door when I realized that somewhere along the line I’d lost a contact. I didn’t have time to look for it so went to the medicine cabinet to find a replacement. I was greeted with an empty box. “Shit,” I thought to myself, and quickly wrote up a sticky note that said “order more contacts ASAP” on my bathroom mirror. I grabbed my glasses and ran out the door.
On my short drive to the bar, I assessed myself several times in the rear view mirror and decided that the glasses weren’t going to cut it tonight. If I’d been wearing a tee-shirt or even just a polo I might’ve left them on but an oxford/sweater combination combined with glasses, well it would have made me look way too much like an English teacher.
So, as I parked my car, I took off my glasses and left them in the cup holder. Had I been wearing them I might have correctly read the “No parking zone” sign I was parked DIRECTLY UNDER. We’ll get back to that.
Here’s the thing: I’m not exactly blind. I used to be able to function pretty well without glasses or contacts if I needed to; however, like many teenagers I confused “need” and “want” and spent a significant portion of my teenage years just going without them if I felt like it. I don’t have any scientific proof but I’m convinced this has contributed to the degeneration of my eyesight. I could still manage to see without assistance but found out that night that reading without them is straight up not going to happen. It took me by surprise when I sat down at the bar (after all the fuss over being late it turns out that I was early) and I literally couldn’t read the drink menu. “What do you have on tap?” I asked the bartender, trying to play it cool. “You mean right here?” she asked, indicating the spigots directly in front of me. “Sure,” I replied, telling myself there was still time to go get my glasses. “We have Guinness, PBR, Shipyard Pumpkin, DogFishHead IPR, Victory Fiestbier and lager,” she said indicating each tap as she went down the list.
“What’s that fancy one on the end?” I asked, my eyes straining at this point at something that looked vaguely metallic.
“You mean Coors Light? I thought that was universal.” I’m sure I colored. It wasn’t metallic. I figured that since I made her point that out specifically, I might as well tap the Rockies myself and settled in with my drink.
Fun fact: You feel drunker when your vision is impaired before you start drinking. Also, if you’re concerned with your appearance, then squinting and straining your neck all night is not a good look. Also, if you can’t read your text messages it takes you a good half hour before you realize that the people you’re going out to meet are actually at the bar next door to where you’re at.
Once I finally found my group and thought I was getting settled in for the night, I sort of forgot about my current night-blindness, until the bartender at this second place caught my attention. “Yo man I’ve got to tell you that you’ve got something big stuck in your teeth.”
“Dammit, I said. Since when?” I’d been to the bathroom twice already.
“Since you walked in, figured you would’ve seen it when you went to the john.”
I’d been acting like an asshole, specifically because I wanted to look good, and here I was thwarted by a rogue piece of oregano that I probably would have caught had I been wearing the damn glasses.
I gave in and called it a night. My eyes were actually starting to hurt and my ego full on hurt. Leaving when I did was probably the first smart move I made all night, however coincidental it may have been. I got to my car just as a tow truck pulled up in front of it. I hurried to the driver’s side, hoping that it wasn’t me they were after.
“That your vehicle?” the guy who exited the passenger side asked. I answered affirmatively. “It’s parked in a tow away zone.” I pulled my glasses on and looked at the sign.
“I see that now,” I answered. I’m always pretty quick with the comebacks.
“And you just thought it was okay to park there?”
“I didn’t have my glasses on before. It was a mistake and I’m leaving now.”
“You mean you parked and took them off?”
“Jesus, kid,” the guy said, “read a sign and save us a trip next time. You’re lucky you got here when you did. Just saved yourself $250.”
“Sorry,” I said, “and thanks. It’s just one of those days, you know?” He looked at me blankly and got back into the truck.
“What a jackass,” I heard him say to the driver before he closed the door.
I couldn’t agree more.
photo BemLoira BemDevassa / Flickr