Prologue: The Camaro Cut
In seventh grade, my hair hung below my shoulders. I was going for something like Kurt Cobain but it was dangerously close to Billy Ray Cyrus. It seemed cool at the time. It wasn’t. I only mention my achy-breaky-bad-mistakey for context (and its kind of funny). My long hair was the cause of a very slow awakening.
I went to middle school just outside of Roanoke, VA. Both of my parents worked, so I had to ride the bus home. School buses are a painful introduction to the complex social hierarchy of society. Where you sit and who you sit is everything.
Like an outcast, I sat far away from the wild frontier of the backs seats at the beginning of the year. I had no in with those kids and lacked the confidence to create one. That all slowly changed thanks to my friend Eddie.
Eddie and I got paired together on a project in math class. I knew who he was but we hadn’t officially met. He was the gigantic scary black kid that sat in the middle of the bus with a seat all to himself. Eddie was pushing six feet and 200 pounds. He had also mastered Ice Cube’s mad dog stare. I, on the other hand, was a socially awkward skinny white boy that liked Quantum Leap and sported a Coupe Longueuil. I was nervous about the pairing.
But… a friendship developed.
I moved from the front of the bus to Eddie’s middle seat. My status was on the rise. Every morning and afternoon I looked forward to our talks. We talked about 2 Live Crew, which starter jacket was the illest, and our favorite fly girls. Eddie schooled me in culture and I helped him with math.
This went on for weeks until Eddie said we had to have a talk. It went like this…
“Yo, Mike, you do this thing with your hair when you get off the bus. Everyone comes over to the windows to wait for you to do it. And when you do—and you always do—they all laugh. You’ve got to stop it. It is super gay and makes me look gay too.”
I was horrified. It was true. I did flip my hair all around like Cindy Crawford in a photoshoot a few moments after I got off the bus. Why? It was partially because it had been under a ballcap on the ride home. Feeling the air move through my hair felt good. But it was also a function of me being proud of my gorgeous blonde locks. I was vain and it had made me the laughing stock of that Blue Bird bus.
Eddie made me more self-aware. Communication was more than words. It was about how you carried yourself. It wasn’t just what you said but how you said it. It was a package deal.
I have been slow to apply this lesson in my life. I stopped the hair flipping and a few years later got a haircut. But it stalled there for a quite a while. Let me explain why, as it demonstrates the other side of the coin.
In high school, I underwent a physical and temperamental transformation. I packed on the inches and the pounds. I left behind the geeky stuff for wrestling, martial arts, and weight lifting. My once fearful passive demeanor was replaced with an ever-growing aggressive one. I got suspended several times and expelled once. By the end of my junior year, I was the exact opposite of seventh-grade Mike. Well, with the exception that I was still socially retarded.
I was a textbook case of a kid raised without a strong father. The only thing somewhat unique about me was that I happened to embody both of the typical responses. In middle school, I was the weak effeminate boy. That boy was replaced with an abrasive macho punk in high school. Neither are manly.
Many men are absolutely clueless when it comes to eye-contact, posture, handshakes, proper dress, deference, tone, inflection, and other non-verbal aspects of social interaction. Apparently, this is a huge issue with the millennial generation. Read here, here, and here.
Most blame it on technology. I largely blame it on fatherlessness and the fact that there are few Eddies in the world these days.
That Soylent Grin
This all gets me to a Facebook post I made yesterday. Here it is:
I’ve been fascinated by the modern non-Christian responses to feminism. There is a real cultural shift occurring and the so-called Red Pill movement is a part of it. I came across this collage in a red pill video on “beta-males.” The video mockingly called this wide-eyed grin the “nu-male smile” or “the soylent grin.”
And it is a very mockable look. It captures the goofy immaturity of modern men. So, I posted on it.
Why? Not to mock. I figured a lot of guys are late learners like me. It triggered a bunch folks. It is too be expected. Christians are uncomfortable talking about anything other than the ethereal.
My main goal was to say that this looks stupid. It makes you look like that lovable man-child from Parks and Rec. That isn’t a good look if you are trying to communicate maturity and mastery.
Body language matters. Scripture says so in place like Proverbs 6:13 and 16:30. Consider the commentary of John Gill on 6:13. He writes:
He winketh with his eyes,…. Not through natural infirmity, but purposely and with design; with one of his eyes, as Aben Ezra, as is usual with such persons: it is the air and gesture of a sneering and deceitful man, who gives the wink to some of his friends, sneering at the weakness of another in company; or as signifying to them some secret design of his against another, which he chooses not to declare in any other way;
he speaketh with his feet; the motions of the feet have a language; the stamping of the feet expresses rage; here it seems to intend the giving of a him to another, by privately pressing his foot with his, when he should be silent or should speak, or do this or the other thing he would have him do;
he teacheth with his fingers; by stretching them out or compressing them; and so showing either scorn and contempt (x), or rage and fury. The whole of it seems to design the secret, cunning, artful ways, which wicked men have to convey their meanings to one another, without being understood by other persons; they have a language to themselves, which they express by the motions of their eyes, feet, and fingers: and this character of art and cunning, dissimulation and deceit, fitly agrees with the man of sin, 2Th 2:10. So mimics are said to speak with their hands; some have been famous in this way.
We communicate a lot by our posture, tone, and dress. This should be taught in the home very early on. Sadly, we live in a fatherless age. These lessons are being left untaught. We are unschooled in the basics. That is why we need to be thankful for the few friends that are willing to speak up and lend a hand. I’ve benefited from them greatly.
Eddie told me not to flip my hair. Quinn encouraged me to get a less girly hair cut. Mr. Bowell told me to stop looking at the ground when people talked to me. Gary told me my handshake felt like a dead-fish. Doug pointed out that flips flops and a t-shirt isn’t a good look for a pastors college student. Stephen said I was aloof. Andrew said to talk less. These men weren’t trying to humiliate me. They were trying to improve me. They were brothers and fathers. I pray God gives you at least a few that would be willing to say, “You look effeminate. Stop it.”