(adapted from the editor’s note in STAND 04)
“He must be the ugliest boy I’ve ever seen!”
It was my freshman year of high school and I was a shy, nerdy boy sitting in the hall outside of my science class, making up an exam I’d missed for some reason unknown to me now.
As I pondered a question, two senior cheerleaders approached in their black and red cheer outfits and I glanced quickly and admiringly at them, trying to be discrete.
As they passed me, I heard one girl say to the other: “he must be the ugliest boy I’ve ever seen” and they both laughed as they walked on.
I likely don’t need to spend too much time writing about the impression these words, from one of the prettiest girls in the school, made on me as a teenager but it wasn’t long before I’d ditched my glasses for contacts, exchanged the hairstyle I’d had my entire childhood and early adolescence for a cool, trendy style (at least it was cool in the 80s), and coerced my parents into upgrading my wardrobe.
But those outward changes did little to impact how I really felt about the way I looked.
Many of us experience some insecurity about our physical appearance and there are features we’d like to change, have attempted to change, or have changed—either through diet and exercise or by some cosmetic procedure. This is common to men and women.
Men spend billions of dollars on surgeries and medicines, lotions, and ointments to try to improve their appearance in some way, such as to restore their hair (a problem I’m quite familiar with… and if researchers ever come up with a drug to make me taller …).
Despite my high school experience and losing my hair in my thirties, I have come to accept and even appreciate my imperfections. As I noted in a previous blog post, there are even some advantages to baldness.
But this is a serious topic, causing real harm to many men, teens, and even young boys and it’s time we took a critical look at some of the messages we’re giving, particularly through media depictions of “ideal” men and superheroes, but also though our language, such as when we refer to men as strong or tough based simply on their muscular appearance rather than their character, or when we associate bravery with the size of a man’s genitalia.
We hope to inspire some conversations around this topic and to encourage men to take an honest and accepting view of their bodies, and focus on health rather than trying to attain the bulky physiques so often shown in movies or other magazines.
STAND, issue 04, focuses on the male body image crisis and begins with a compelling and personal essay byJosh Levs. You can learn more aboutSTAND 04 here.