confidence

Keep Your Friends Close…and Your Enemies’ Clothes

I haven’t had anything mean hurled at me in a long, long time.

cecil

7th Grade: Not a great year.

Trust me, I’ve heard plenty of mean things in my life. As an adolescent, I suffered from a facial abnormality which brought me tons of unwanted attention at an age when most boys want only to blend in. I dealt with this in an unusual way: I walked down the school hallways as compressed and invisible as possible, but once I was in a classroom with my homies, I was bigger than life.

My favorite podcast, Roderick on the Line, has this great bit where John Roderick  explains classroom geography; everyone is familiar with the front row (and what kind of kid sits there), and the back row (and what kind of kid sits there), but there is another chair, much more significant than either; the seat from which a kid could see everyone – especially the teacher – and from there, concoct the strategy for the day.

That’s where I sat. I could lay low, if I chose. More often, I would crack up the class with droll commentary. If I chose, I could disappear into my pencil sketches of a 10th level drow-elf sorceresses, concealing my art supplies whenever the teacher stalked past. But more often, I would debate the teacher: obstreperous but articulate. The classroom was mine.

Outside of class, though, I heard lots of names. Lots of mean, mean shit. And I would scamper class to class, a hamster crossing a wide and dangerous room.


me

Last week, I had my debut in the Washington Post. I was so excited to share my ideas about men’s fashion and online dating. It was a thrill to see my words, my pictures, my creation on the screen and know that thousands of people would see it.

And then I read the comments.

WHY. WHY did I read the comments.

I’d been told not to, I knew that real writers NEVER read the comments. It’s a thing, right? “DON’T. READ. THE. COMMENTS.”

But I did, and for the rest of the day, I felt wobbly, like when you first step off one of those moving sidewalks at the airport. It has been years since someone has said something so mean about anything I have created. About me.

Retaliation 1: The List

First, I did what any writer does. I wrote a piece, where trolls, haters, and other a-holes were not welcome to share their nefarious opinions.

Retaliation 2: Positivity

Second, I slurped up the kindness that poured in from family and friends: like a desiccating Bay Area porch-succulent during the first major rains of winter.

Retaliation 3: Turning Everything Upside Down

swerves.pngThat evening, a wise friend asked: is there anything you can learn from this? After refusing to even consider the possibility, I hunkered down and admitted a few things. As the trolls remarked, I do have a big, bushy beard, I do wear huge cuffs on my jeans, I often skip socks, even with a fancy suit. Sometimes, I go “all-out,” wearing ensembles that I wouldn’t advise for anyone who isn’t comfortable with attracting a bit of attention. My look can be… eclectic. I asked myself…do I do it to blend in? So I can escape a day without anyone noticing? To avoid comments and attention?

Hell no. I dress like this because it fucking rules to wear whatever I want. And speaking of rules, I dress like this because I know the rules. Sometimes, I’m bored of the rules and I don’t have to follow them if I don’t want to. I can write my own rules. I reminded myself that most men wouldn’t wear what I wear – not only because it’s not, like, them – (I created this look for me alone), but also because they’d be afraid to. Afraid they’d look silly. Afraid of getting attention. What I wear is a badge of my courage, a fuck-you to the haters.

high school

Not exactly blending in with the crowd.

Back in high-school, I had surgery to correct my face. Afterwards, a lot of changes happened. After living for years in a shell (as far as public appearance goes), I emerged as a crafty oddball. I grew my hair long (way before that was a thing that guys did). I wore dashikis and created performance-art experiences for me and my friends‘ amusement.

 

Did I get comments? Sure. Plenty. Kids who didn’t know me would comment on my hair, my glasses, my clothes. But people who knew me gave me plenty of space to be me.

And I was like: “Haters gonna hate.”

hatersTwenty-whatever years later, it took a trip down memory lane to recall my teenage evolution: from freshman hallway-cringer to senior style-swerver with a “haters gonna hate” swagger. And while my blog isn’t about pushing the sartorial envelope (I mainly write about clean lines and classic designs), I hope to inspire my readers to experiment with something small to help them on their own path to kicking ass, in whatever way is theirs and theirs alone.

So, to the haters and the trolls, the bullies and the a-holes, enjoy lording over your terrain: the comments section. The rest of us are gonna transform, whenever, whyever, however we wish, into whatever we want.

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Confidence and Humility: A Los Angeles Story

Last weekend, I went to Los Angeles for the shooting of the first episode of the second season of Young and Hungry.

This is because the main character, Gabi Diamond, has a few things in common with my girlfriend, Gabi Moskowitz. Both are spunky, funny, driven chefs – both blonde – both with terrific ambition. And this isn’t a coincidence. Gabi is actually based on Gabi.

Though Gabi Diamond lives in fictional San Francisco, “the real Gabi” lives in actual San Francisco. And, that said, in my mind, Gabi Diamond lives in Los Angeles, because that’s where I go to see her. I walk into a huge building with lofty ceilings and lots of lights – and lots of people – and lots of rushing around. And about thirty feet away, my girlfriend’s fictional alter-ego comes alive on stage.

The show is cute and clever and has a ton of heart. And similarly, Los Angeles. It’s cute. And clever. And has a ton of heart. I know this; I haven’t just felt that heart, but I’ve seen it. I’ve had the pleasure of joining the writers of Young and Hungry in their creative den, and I’ve watched storylines take shape on a white-board. Their passion for their craft is phenomenal. They are dedicated to the stories, to the characters, and to making a show that will make people laugh. And in that studio, last weekend, the thrill of creativity was palpable. I am, generally, happiest around creative, passionate people. And there was so much creativity – in Studio 15, and in Los Angeles, in general.

coiffed

Coiffed.

Walking down the streets of Los Angeles, however, I sometimes found myself thinking uncharacteristic thoughts. I was overly attuned to how people look, to how I look, and it was impossible not to. Everything is coiffed. 

  • Old women with little dogs. Both old woman and dog are coiffed.
  • Slinky dude in head-to-toe leather. Trying not to look coiffed, Totally coiffed.
  • The most attractive people I’ve ever seen. Coiffed, coiffed, and coiffed.

And there I was, standing in line for a coiffed coffee, feeling self conscious. It brought out my inner middle-schooler.

“Am I okay?”


Kristina Welzien, a friend and genius, hooked me up with this amazing cut. I think it nails the balance: confident and humble.

Kristina Welzien, a friend and genius, hooked me up with this amazing cut (and the photos, too). She, too, is confident and humble. (While I’m at it, I’ll mention that the TieBar.com flower strikes that same balace: flower made of humble yarn. In-your-face red. Get the idea?

This was neither good nor bad, but an exercise in articulating who I am. Sometimes it’s good to be pushed to the margins of who you are. Then, you can have a Northern California-esque “check in” with yourself.

I’m a Style Writer, and to be sure, I have never been un-self-conscious. What is so awful about being self-conscious in middle school, however, is that (as we remember) there is no refuge in two critical mindsets that true grown-ups learn: confidence and humility. Confidence is earned, slowly. With hard work. Meanwhile, the slings and arrows of life beat humility into you; but also, it must be chosen and honed. Like confidence. Slowly.

Which brings me back to Gabi. Both Gabis. Both are occasionally self-conscious, as are we all, but both blend healthy portions of confidence with humility. Gabi Diamond, going to bat (culinarily speaking) against the famous chef Michael Voltaggio, says, “I’m not afraid of a trial. Because I’m innocent and my food will be proven delish.” And yet, she is humble and kind when interacting with her friends – even if they’re not as wildly talented as she is. Gabi Moskowitz, meanwhile, could knock the socks off a world-class food critic — with the food she throws together on a work night. And then she’s willing to cook for her mother’s book club or for a fundraiser for a local school. 

Even this guy would be blown away by Gabi's cooking.

Even this guy would be blown away by Gabi’s cooking.

She has an incredibly successful blog, two cookbooks and a T.V. show. But she’ll brainstorm with me as if Style For Dorks were the most important blog on the interwebs.


The real Gabi.

The real Gabi.

And how does Style fit into this?

  • Find the balance.
  • Be self-conscious enough to look. To care.
  • Be confident, enough to dress in a way that helps you feel like you’re the most handsome version of you that you can be.
  • Be humble. Period.
  • Blend your inner S.F. with your inner L.A.
  • Be like Gabi. Both of ’em.