I'm coming up on 30 years of age.
With that milestone, comes some thinking about life and love and relationships. A little self-reflection as I reach this life passage. And with that in mind, I turn my thinking to the body image issues that have come to define a good portion of gay culture.
It seems we are always striving to be someone else.
We want to be skinnier, we want to be more muscular. We want to be hairier, we wish we weren’t so hairy. All this lies in the thought that if we aren’t these things, if we don’t fall into these categories, or look a certain way, we will not find the connections we want so badly. We will be outcast, set aside, and live a life of loneliness.
The truth is, though: Everyone is different. That’s for sure. But of course, not everyone thinks this way. I look at some of my friends, and I see a lack of confidence in who they are. I've seen it consistently over the years: in boyfriends, in acquaintances, in countless others.
In New York City, every gay guy I knew wanted to be someone else. You walk into the bars, and it’s a sea of up-down looks, men sizing each other up, and deciding if you were good enough for them to deign to speak to you.
We don’t respect ourselves enough.
I think that’s the thing. Gay men put these prerequisites on each other, these pillars you have to reach. You aren’t heavy enough for me, you aren’t skinny enough for me. If you want me to like you, you’re going to have go to the gym and get that belly toned. You need to change the way you dress.
And we don’t just do it to our partners, we do it to our friends. We constantly compete. We're constantly judging each other. It’s rampant, and in fact, it’s toxic.
What’s the goal? What are we running to? What do we get out of this? What is all this really doing for us?
I would argue it is doing very little. It’s squashing our self-esteem, it’s killing our confidence. We walk on eggshells, as that is too often the only life we know.
Think about how you are in your friend groups. Are you guys talking about real issues, really trying to understand each other? Are you arguing, debating, sharing your passions? Or do you spend more time fixated on clothes, and bodies, and the surface of it all?
Look at your relationship. The guy you’re dating -- does he love you for you, or is he constantly asking you to change things about yourself? Is he glad you’re with him, or is he looking elsewhere?
This is, of course, a larger issue, but it’s worth beginning that dialogue. Be who you were born to be: that’s my advice to you you. If you don’t like it, then by all means, change it. But ask yourself why you are changing. And ask yourself who are you really changing for.
Is it the man in the mirror? Or is that guy you’ve been dating for three months? Or is your friends who don’t believe enough in who they are?
If you love comic books, cargo shorts, and science fiction, then love it, and don’t make any apologies for it. If you have a couple extra pounds on you, who cares? Love your body as it is.
Everyone wants to be noticed, to be loved. I think we can all agree on that. But that doesn’t mean you have to change. The guys I know, the ones who don’t worry about their bodies, they are the ones who are the most secure.
Love your body. Love who you are. Love the things you like. Change if you’re not happy. But don’t change for a guy. Don’t change for anyone but your own self.