Many of the challenges our youth face today are no different than the ones I faced growing up. The idea of peer pressure and fitting in is not a new phenomenon, although perhaps heightened by the omnipresence of the media. At the personal level, the same games played on the playground in elementary school are played in all stages of life. Being shy and introverted, I witnessed the social dynamics that go on with those deemed desirable versus those defined as "not happening." I grew up in New Haven, Connecticut, which would be described as the "hood" or a community predominated by Blacks. The power plays that go on in such a community are phenomenal. The family that had the most members wielded more power and control over families with lesser numbers. There were only two of us, which put me at the bottom of the totem pole. Consequently, the youngest in another family could bully me, because they had brothers who were older and bigger than I. If I were to fight the bully and win, I would be running from one of the older brothers until revenge was exacted. Coupled with the fact that I was not "cool" made for a frightful time.
My brother and I were reared by my mother and grandmother who were strict disciplinarians. We had to be in the bed every night at 8:30PM on school nights. While we were in bed, we could hear the kids we played with outside. They had to get up the next day for school also! The seemingly "cool" behavior of doing your own thing without discipline became valued in the community and trickled over to what the neighborhood saw as desirable. There was a tough demeanor that went along with this behavior, because it took on seemingly adult behavior that made them grow up faster than they should have. Many were getting high from marijuana and having sex. We were still in elementary school. I felt like a kitten in a jungle of lions and tigers. I was doing regular childhood things like playing football, baseball, and basketball. I had a paper route, got good grades, and won awards for "Perfect Attendance". I did everything right according to the rules. However, these are not the values of the "hood". Girls liked the rough and unruly types (the guys who defied any semblance of authority). The only girls who liked me were the ones who the cool guys did not want. If the girls had their choice, they would have had the cool guys. The girls would play a game that I hated called "who's the cutest boy in the class?" They would name all of the hunks and agree that each person they named qualified. They would say, "What about Eddie?" then emphatically say "naaaah". I was crushed! This scenario played out through high school. I went to high school with drug dealers and gangsters before the standard became "keeping it real."
By this time, I was respected among the honor students, but was still afraid of the gangsters (unruly students). Imagine being cool around the "bookworms" and a "nerd" among the cool guys. Surprisingly, I thought I was attractive. The girls apparently did not! I was still being picked by the girls who liked me rather than the ones I wanted. I decided around my senior year of high school that I would reinvent myself!
I committed myself to becoming the ultimate male. As a shy person, you observe a lot in your environment. I noticed what girls found attractive and went on a relentless course to become those things, which trickled into adulthood. The criteria changed as I got older, but many stayed the same. I determined that girls and women wanted:
· Good looks
· Big muscles
· The ability to protect them
· Street smarts
· Quick wit and the “gift of gab”
· A degree of roughness mixed with sensitivity
· The ability to take care of oneself
· Inner strength
· Job stability
· Take charge person
I decided I would be all of these things so I could create and regulate my agenda. You are either working your master plan or someone else's. I’ve worked out (physically) since I was twelve years old. My mother bought me my first barbell weight set. I did mostly arm curls and that's what developed first. I maintained that regimen throughout my teenage years and continued with a more advanced program later. I liked school and books so I read more to be able to engage women in stimulating conversation. Women are seduced first through the mind and everything follows from there. Many men believe the reverse is true -- that if you solely satisfy a woman sexually that will keep her interested. With a library card, any man can become well read and intellectually stimulating. I find that reading philosophy, history, and sociology equips me to deal with the psyche of individuals. As humans, we are not as complex if we know how to read the background of individuals. For example, if we listened to people describe their childhood experiences, we could gauge why that person feels and acts as he does as an adult. Read the script that a person has read since childhood and you will know where his story leads. The more you read, the more you are able to follow the modes of thinking within individuals.
I developed my own style of dressing. It followed what was trendy at the time, but always with a twist. I remember in high school wearing a black shiny windbreaker reminiscent of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" jacket. I would wear a turtleneck shirt under my windbreaker and roll the jacket sleeves up so the shirt would show. I also wore a fake gold necklace, cuff pants, and suede Pro Keds sneakers. (Michael Jackson had not come out with the "Beat It" jacket yet or rolled up sleeves…he was still with the Jackson Five at the time.) I developed my own style of dressing that was uniquely mine, but not outlandish.
The difference between what I see in our youth today and my generation is that we developed our own sense of style around what was happening at the time. We did not follow a "cookie cutter" approach of everyone being and looking the same. The older you get, the more you should develop an air of distinction in your clothing taste. I do not condone individuals being stuck in a time zone. Our style should reflect our individual evolution as well as what is current or classic. As an independent individual, you have the right to wear what you like, but your nonverbal communication is saying something to the world about who and where you are and people will respond in kind. I read a book on classic clothing for men where I learned the optimum fabrics for suits. The bottom button on a vest and suit jacket should remain unbuttoned. I watch what the popular news anchormen wear to gauge what colors are popular and how to accessorize an outfit. Sometimes, I buy exactly what they are wearing if I think it would look good on me or copy the style and make it my own. As social beings, we are supposed to learn from each other. If everything stems from culture, none of this is etched in stone anyway and serves as a means of communication. If you want to convey a certain style, learn to communicate what you desire through the language of clothing.
I believe many of my friends are attractive is because I am defined as attractive. We gravitate towards people who reflect who we are. Consequently, individuals who have been labeled attractive move towards others deemed attractive. The exception is when an attractive person has low self- esteem and consciously seeks out people deemed less attractive only to make themselves feel good by comparison. Attractive people gravitating towards other attractive people may be conscious or subconscious. It is like being in an unspoken club where there is an unwritten understanding that we all fit what is desirable in society. Do not expect anyone to admit it. Is this superficial? Maybe! This is part of the process some people go through before they can evolve to their higher self. This mindless maze can go on well into adulthood and is heightened by a society that exalts beauty. It is a shallow cultural concept that influences everything from the clothes we wear to the car we drive. Everything is marketing…and the better it is done, the more desirable it is.
Part of being attractive is commensurate with how much confidence you have developed. It is essential that you believe that you are "hot." One of my mistakes as a child is that I suffered from low self- esteem. I did not know it then, because I felt like my preoccupation with my looks was healthy. In retrospect, the girls did not merely choose the boys who were attractive solely because of looks, but also because they were confident. The cool guys had confidence. Whether their discipline or lack there of was effective, they believed in what they were portraying. Many of them went down the wrong road of drugs and alcohol, but at the time, you could not tell that they were not desirable. I felt that I did not have enough going for me based on what the community valued to reinforce being confident. Remember, books and listening to your parents weren't cool. I never drank alcohol nor took drugs, what did I have to brag about? This was another addition to my reinvention, because I knew enough about human nature that my lifestyle would at some point be revered. Do not get me wrong, I felt like an outcast when I was growing up around this behavior and seemingly the only one not doing it. As I became focused on having life on my terms, I determined that those vices would hurt them and redeem me as the tables turned.
Sure enough, after I graduated from college, the status quo changed. The pretty girls in high school were having babies out of wedlock by several different men. They no longer had their "hour glass" figures. The cool guys were burned out by life and were heading nowhere. The change was drastic and in a short period of time. Soon the girls who had rejected me were seeing me in a different light. It was like I had come of age and suddenly they were interested in me. By then, I really did not like them nor see them as desirable, but the pain I had received from them caused me to have my way with them out of spite. I did not know that I was acting out of pain. I was merely paying them back for the way I was treated for trying to live my life uprightly. After all, why should they be pitied? Were they not the ones who chose the destructive path? That is how I felt at the subconscious level, but I really wasn't that cruel. My pain wanted to be vindicated, but I did not wish nor want to harm anyone. I was always connected-spiritually.
As I grew older, my transformation took shape. I never had much materially, but I made the best of what was available to me. As long as you are ambitious, possess some attractiveness, and are articulate, you can fit in almost anywhere you desire. I was driven to be the best and was considered an "overachiever" by society. My relationships with women suffered, because I did not trust their motives. Women seemed not to possess loyalty opting to go with the first pretty face they saw. In fact, I seemed to always find a flaw in them that turned me off. They were slightly overweight, had skinny legs, did not have an education, hung out too much, cried too much, etc… Subconsciously, I was looking for the perfect woman or the one I thought was perfect for me. I had reinvented myself to be the perfect man, so the flaws I saw had to be hers, not mine. It is true that what you fear the most persists in your life. Almost without exception, my belief in the disloyalty of women led me to find them in compromising positions. I could always say, "I knew they could not be trusted." There are no voices of reason with irrational values. Everyone is reading from the same cosmetic script. The attractive individuals who utter what is politically correct are not convincing, because they don't really believe it themselves. Who in their right mind would say, "I am attractive and I believe the world revolves around me?" That's a whole new level of charisma and confidence.