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I believe one of the biggest criticisms both from society and from within the gay community is considered vain, selfish group of men. A very accepted belief is that above all else, we are obsessed with vanity and value the latest trends in fashion and hair. The more money we have, the more we can spend on improving how we look until we reach this ideal of perfection  The more risks we take in the latest fashion and toned muscle definition of our bodies, the more admiration we gain from supporters and more envy from our adversaries. And every gay man has to meet this standard in order to be an accepted member. That we are only concerned with what we can literally see.

History often associates vanity or self-appraisal as narcissistic, selfish, or even evil. In religion it’s referred to as a symptom to one of the seven deadly sins. It’s believed that being obsessed with vanity is a corruption that will lead to other foul acts against humanity, leading us to destruction and devastation.  Strangely enough I always struggled with the concept thinking, how can something that possesses beauty ever be wrong? Through religion and sage wisdom of golden rules by caregivers, we are taught to be antithesis of this concept. But I don’t believe we take it to such an extreme level. Vanity is seen as superficial and a waste of time. It’s a concept that has broadened to not only how we see ourselves but also how we see others and appraise them.

Of course we know that, as a whole we are not that shallow. We rally behind support and organize for equality so that we are treated equally. We do humanity work and try to heal our resource-depleted planet. Though we do have faults we have a community that has unity and togetherness, it’s just sometimes we lose sight of that like any other group of people. We are so much more than looks and I believe we all know that. Because of our sexuality we inherently possess attributes to promote harmony among our brethren. But more importantly why is vanity such a bad thing? So what if we like things that sparkle and beauty in all physical forms?  Is it wrong when we refuse to leave the house on a bad hair day or sculpt our bodies to resemble the Grecian Adonis’s of ancient time? Okay that descriptor was a bit much. Not all gay men are obsessed with these things but all of us are vain. All humans at some level are concerned with how things appear on the outside.

As I’ve mentioned before this is all due to the fact that, as men, we respond most to what we see first. No matter the degree to our other senses being stimulated, we enact on what is seen. From the evolutionary standpoint it gives us the ability to process our environment for signs of danger or something that benefits our lifestyle. Since we are born to examine a physical nature of others we process what we’re attracted to and depending upon other variables, decide the kind of interaction we desire from others. While we are no longer have to be of such an archaic nature, we still need to survey what could be beneficial by what we see first. So we showcase and attempt to portray what others see as attractive and desirable.

Admittedly I can see how people that know me would be thrown off by me taking this stance. Because I’m a hippy by nature. I am not too concerned with how a person looks or so much with how great a shape they’re in or what they wear. But I am human as well that has the same yearnings and desires. Even though I may not put much effort into what clothes I wear I still appraise how others will perceive how I look. I’m attracted the physical form just likes everyone else. The principle of balance is what I apply to vanity. That you can admire someone’s new edgy haircut and firm, toned body. But I now that it’s not the only thing that makes someone beautiful.

We spend so much of our growth period as adolescents and early adulthood struggling with what society demands of us and how our sexuality contradicts that. We’re told what a man is supposed to wear, what to look like, to even what type of woman we’re supposed to love and marry. Then we reach a point of acceptance only to go back to the same stiff, archaic way of thinking? I don’t think so. We begin to modify the things that we can until we’re able to be out in the world. We begin to shape how we dress and how our bodies look in order to have control of our environment. And then we finally are able to reach that moment of accepting it regardless of what society believes we should look like. The process to fully own how we look and then begin to like how we look. That is vanity. Because as we process being gay we constantly have Self-appraisal telling ourselves that we are attractive despite what society wants us to look like. Vanity can build our esteem.  And we continue that onward as we like as we truly are.

Even when we say we aren’t looking for what’s on the outside that isn’t necessarily true. When someone who loves to have an intellectual conversation< like I love to do, we look at how they look too. It is not always the best indicator of intelligence but if you’re attracted to say, the nerdy geeky type you look for someone that physically fits that description right? You know that most likely you won’t find that in a gay club but you may find that in the local coffee shop in Chelsea or some local Barnes & Noble or even the comic book store. Our appraisal is based on what we like. And even though we don’t have the exact same definition of what beauty is, we still seek out what we attracted to in the same way; by using our sight.

Beauty, in any form, allows us to transform not only how we see ourselves but also what we feel. Being able to effortlessly put together a look to emphasize and accentuate all our great features promotes us creating harmony. This sense of accomplishment we gain from it helps our own self esteem. And then we look for more long lasting ways of feeling that way.  Because let’s be honest, we want the hot guy to notice all of our hard work. It is definitely not the most sustainable way to keep a relationship going but it is how all relationships start. That’s how we attract others to us. You can pretend as much as you like that you’re above it all, but it does you a disservice to ignore that this is true.

So to me vanity is a gateway. It taught us more than society was able or willing to teach us. So I ask again how striving towards beauty can be a bad thing. To display ourselves in a certain way to draw praise from other people? Balance. Knowing that it is not the only thing that makes us have worth. Accepting that what we possess inside is more sustainable and longer lasting than how we look. Too much of anything can be bad for us. But having little to no high appraisals of ourselves can be just as detrimental.

Now I am not saying that all gay men should be shallow, image obsessed caricatures that the media loves to stereotype us as because that would be ridiculous. We should still accept people as they are, especially because of how we are treated sometimes. We know that looks aren’t everything and that it’s not the only thing that attracts us to others. And we know that when people don’t meet our standard of beauty that you don’t have to knock anyone down to elevate yourself. I’m saying that appreciating and aspiring to beauty is not always a bad thing. Self-appraisal instills worth within ourselves and those around us.  A little self-worth goes a long way.

 

About the author

Sly Merritt has written 383 articles on this blog.

Sly Merritt has a BA in psychology/sociology. MA in clinical psychology. He's a flip flop wearing hippy with a peaceloving mindset. Even pacifists like him know when it's time to do all we can for LGBTQ equality. Sly's views are all opinions not advice.

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