I'm odd, eccentric, and goofy. Always have been. Most of the time, though, that makes me a fun person to be around and easy to get along with. It doesn't always lend itself well to a professional image but, then again, neither do my forearm tattoos. As an author this isn't a big deal; we're supposed to be weird.
As fellow writer T.S. Bazelli recently quoted from Terry Brooks' Sometimes the Magic Works:
"Writers live in two worlds -- the real world of friends and family and the imaginary world of their writing. If you were to measure the difference in time spent between this two, I suspect you would find it quite small... but a writer can't ever leave either for very long."It's taken me a few decades to come to terms with how strange I can really appear to others, but I think part of maturing into a confident adult is (at least partially) adopting a take it or leave it mentality. You can't please everyone, and you certainly can't please everyone all the time. So, as to my behavior, I can shrug and smile. I do the best I can.
My appearance, though, is another story entirely.
I've been blessed with the latin good-looks and naturally olive skin of Spanish ancestry on my mother's side, and inherited myriad disadvantages from my father's side (a mixture of white, Southern American variety). That's not to say I strut around like the Adam Lambert song, though.
I have bad skin (which recently has manifested on my forehead, but historically has ravaged my back and shoulders). I've been very overweight (which has now been downgraded to mildly overweight). I'm color-blind, so I can barely dress myself without getting a confirmation from Micah that I don't look absolutely foolish. My nose is probably a size too big. And let's not forget my teeth.
I used to be quite ashamed of these things, particularly in high school. Depression over my appearance, even though there was little-to-nothing I could do about it and it wasn't that bad anyway, became a defining quality of my teenage years. For a long time I avoided smiling in pictures, opting to smirk instead, so I wouldn't have to be reminded of my misshapen chompers. I barely smiled in our wedding pictures. But, on our trip to Boston in 2008, I decided "to hell with it."
Part of being comfortable with who you are is being comfortable with how you look. This goes double if you're on a mission to improve how you look (losing weight, for example). There's no shame in going to the gym even if your gym clothes don't fit perfectly; that's what you're there to remedy, after all. If all your clothes fit perfectly, you wouldn't be as compelled to hit the gym in the first place.
So, I cast all of that off--in a personal sense. The problem is that I still have to maintain some semblance of professionalism. I looked my best when I took my author photos, wore my favorite jeans, boots, and leather jacket. Shaved and did my hair all spiky like I like it. That's what I want people to see when they think of me: the quintessential tall-dark-and-handsome author.
My day job is also a professional atmosphere, though it has its casual moments. What this means to you is that I can't wear sweatpants and grease-stained tank-tops to the office (not that I would want to). I've blogged about appearance before, and I won't knock its importance now.
I will, however, say that it's improper to be obsessed with your appearance. You will have moments when you look foolish, or even stupid. You will have ugly days, legendary "bad hair" days, and none of us look ready to hit the streets as soon as we wake up. I get wicked bed-head, which Micah can attest to, but I don't unleash that beast on the world unless I'm heading to the grocery store or Lowe's. While I don't want to appear a slob, I also draw the line somewhere.
I smile in pictures. I carry my extra weight as best I can. I spend a little more on jeans and shoes than most 30 year old, middle-class suburbanite males. I use face wash. I compensate as best I can for my aesthetic disadvantages, and I carry on with life. There's no point in getting hung up on such things when my goals and achievements and happiness are far more important.
I'm not afraid of showing you what I look like at my worst, however, I would wonder what the point of it would be. I'm not dissembling with all my statements above; I care about my appearance, I just care a bit less what you think of my appearance. I'm the one who has to live with myself, after all. Far from portraying two different sides of me, as the topic of this prompt seems all too ready to do, I think having an inside-self and an outside-self is natural and healthy. I don't think appearance leads to being misunderstood (underestimated, possibly) because behavior does that all on its own.
And now, I leave you with the intended picture of "me at my worst." Covered in mud, wearing a tank top, but exhausted and happy--as one should be after finishing the Warrior Dash. Bask in my glow.
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