Confessions of a 40-Something (3)
Getting older can be a great comfort. However, I am not writing to talk about those—the comforts. I want to confess, and not only for myself. I confess for all the 40 somethings! Is that possible?
Over the years there are some things that I have allowed and behaviors I exhibited because I could. Whether it is by age, gender, or ethnicity, I have learned that there are social norms that allow us a pass (a get out of jail free card) in many everyday situations. This series is about my observations of social etiquette--how I have taken advantage of it!
I am a unicorn--rare to nonexistent.
I'm a Unicorn
I recently became active in a group of peers where race and religion are the top reasons the group exists. In this group, we speak about the hurt feelings of one group above another and how we can help reconcile to grow as a people in our faith. What is not mentioned in the group is what I am about to confess. It is a group for Black people of my faith. Now, the religion is not as important as what I am about to confess that many of us, Black people do.
I play the race card. Yes, I do. I know that White people feel guilty about all the things that have occurred in the past with African Americans, Blacks. Not only me, but many people of color play the race card if we can get away with it. It only works on the White who feel as if they need to make restitution for something dead people did to other dead people. However, it is not what you think.
I have never outright said anything, but I hinted at things. It is no secret we live in a European based society and speak European languages in this society. It is no secret that Black culture in the US and many other places around the world are heavily influenced by Eurocentric views. In most cases, I stand out from my peers because of my skin complexion. Instead of making it uncomfortable for everyone I make it plainly aware that I know that I am Black. I also let other people know that I know that they know that I am Black and are looking at me out of the corner of their eye because where I live I am a unicorn--rare to nonexistent.
There are very few Blacks in my area. Most of them live in my house as my children! So, when people try to be my friend to have a Black friend, I humor them. When people ask me my opinion on an issue because I am the only Black person in the room, I give it. Oh, I preface it with the truth that my opinion is my own and does not represent the 40 some odd million of Blacks in the US. But, rarely do the listeners pay attention to that.
I confess that many Black people and people of color are like me, and do things to make the White people feel at ease around us. I confess that I would rather make peace. Does this confession mean I am doing something unethical?
Do I placate the White people to make them feel good about talking to a Black person? I guess I do. If it builds a bridge for someone else to cross later on, it is worth it.
It is good social etiquette to build on areas of interest that all in the group like. If the group likes Black people, then I join because so do I.
Men are obsessed with beauty and youth.
Beauty or Beast
Recently, I looked in the mirror and saw something that triggered many different emotions. Before I confess it, I do not believe I am alone in it. I can tell by the products that are sold to consumers that all of us men are just as obsessed with it as are the women.
I saw a gray hair in my beard. I confess that I almost shed tears when the thoughts ran through my head "You actually are old!" and "you are so much closer to decrepit now."
Men are obsessed with beauty and youth. All the ads mention something about looking ten or 20 years younger. Few of them mention how to look great at 40 and older. We have creams and exercises to make this wrinkle smooth out or this bulge disappear. We eat weird diets to get that muscular 20-year-old physique that is not really a healthy reality of what our bodies should look like.
We do challenges and contest where we photograph ourselves to prove that we still have it--the essence of youth. Yeah, I confess. I want that six-pack of abs I used to have when I was a teen. Oh, wait. That wasn't me.
I confess that I get envious of men with great bodies, but not enough to discipline myself to get the best body for me. I would rather play video games, eat fried chicken, and drink a large cup of juice. I'm confessing for all of my over 40 somethings--fat, chubby, fit, and muscular. We color our beards. It will work for a good ten years. You will never know. Crap, if the commercials do not give it away I just did!
Is it socially acceptable for men to groom and primp as our traditionally fairer human counterpart of the woman? Is the traditional idea that men are supposed to not concern ourselves with our beastliness?
It is rude to stare at people, strangers.
Quick Glance or Stare
Have you ever been in a situation where you are surrounded by people you don't know, but you are afraid to look at anyone because they might see you looking?
If you said no, I don't believe it.
I confess, if you were in that crowded room with me, I was looking at you. I mentioned how White people will look at me out of the corner of their eyes. Well, I do it too. If I see a very beautiful person, man or woman, I look. I am not alone. If I see a weird looking person I look too!
It is rude to stare at people, strangers. Many people do not care, but most tend to turn their heads or avert their eyes if the object of attention notice staring. If a beautiful woman or a well-defined man walks into a room, people will notice. I try not to stare, but I do. I compare the men to myself and decide what I admire about their physique. I no longer go up to someone as I did when I was a younger person and proclaim, "Wow, you are ripped. What is your secret."
The women... I try to avoid because of my wife. I don't want to have wondering eyes. Most of us guys may feel that way. Guys are very visually stimulated generally. Physical things appeal to us. Beauty is hard to ignore--especially when it is a woman. Noticing it and fantasizing about it are different things. I confess; I stare at people. My fear is that a person will notice and call me out on it. I know I am not the only one.
Unless that person is purposely seeking that attention, it is annoying. Beautiful people are very aware they are attractive most of the time and do not need to be told by strangers. The same with weird looking people. They don't need to be reminded that they look different. Any reflective surface reminds them. If you must look and you feel creepy about it, wear dark glasses and get a good stare in. You might as well. Or you can just talk to the person. That works too.
That is it for now. Proper social interactions are based on cultural constructs that promote order. Some are good and some are not. In today's society, almost anything is accepted. Mutual respect most of all seems to be the hallmark of all social interactions. Never let them catch you looking unless it is because you want to make a friend. That's just good etiquette. Let's remember to model that behavior.
© 2018 Rodric Anthony Johnson