I was a really small kid. Shortest boy in my grade, and taller than only one girl. I was tiny. I don’t recall this ever really being an issue. I think kids are meaner now than they were then. However, it did play to my advantage.
When I was in middle and high school in Michigan, there was a yearly event called “Solo & Ensemble.” If you wanted to, you could go to a regional competition, where you would play a solo (or play in a small ensemble, like a brass quintet), and a music professor or a band director would judge your performance. If you were really good, they’d give you a “1”. If you were pretty good, they’d give you a “2”. And if you totally sucked, they’d berate you for wasting their time. Because music professors and band directors, for the most part, are horrible human beings.
That was a joke. They really aren’t.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was an OK musician. Very good compared to my peers, but not a prodigy or anything. But I would consistently blow away the judges at solo and ensemble. Like, I’d play the first 8 bars of the song and they’d hand me the “1” card.
I’m not sure who pointed this out — I’m sure it wasn’t something I figured on my own — but eventually I knew that the reason they thought I was so good is because I looked like I was about 5 years younger than I was. I was pretty good for a 7th grader, but I was amazing for a 2nd grader. Of course, they full well knew my age. But those first impressions, those biases, are hard to shake. And in a situation as subjective as Solo and Ensemble, they probably have a strong influence.
The same was probably true of my success in debate in high school. I was sharp, and I had a remarkable ability to talk quickly yet clearly, but I wasn’t Clarence Darrow or anything. But time after time, I’d get the perfect speaking score award at the end of the tournament. Again, probably because I was a tiny little kid who spoke like a grown-up.
I was reminded of all this, because my wife recently bought me some new jeans. Stylish, modern jeans with a button fly. (Who the fuck decided button flies were a good idea, by the way? “Hey, you know the best thing that has happened to men’s clothes in the last 150 years? Let’s get rid of that.”) Anyway, these jeans are thinner fabric than my usual, and they give the impression that I have a rather large, ahem, package. I really don’t:
So that reminded me of something that happened in college. Back in the late 1980s, when I was in school, the trend was for men to wear very tight jeans. Or, at least I must have thought that, because I wore very tight jeans. And, as tight denim is wont to do, parts of my blue jeans would turn white over time where it stretched. These jeans were quite snug, so that meant anywhere there was a bulge: my knees, my wallet, my crotch.
My college girlfriend’s roommate was a total sex kitten. Dressed slutty. Piles of condom boxes and sex toys on her bedside table. Just threw it right out there. And my girlfriend told me that her roommate was jealous. She was jealous of my girlfriend, because of the white marks on my jeans and what those wear marks implied. We both thought this was pretty darn funny.
However, from that point forward, I did make it a point to keep my jeans very tight, and well past their sell-by date so they would remain quite worn. If people are going to make assumptions about me that are completely wrong, but work to my benefit, I’m really OK with that.
And, as I recently described, this trend continues. On twitter, based on my picture, and my handle, I’m seen as desirable to a great many people. Mostly women. Some gay men. I’m sometimes objectified. Which is a completely foreign experience to me. I’m kind of a short, doughy white guy. Objectification isn’t my bread and butter. But on twitter, I’m this highly desirable archetype, and hence I have what can only be described as an absurd number of followers.
A subset of those people actually read what I write, and interact with me, and see beyond the picture and the handle. I’ve counted them. There are 81. That’s less than 4% of my followers. So 96% of the people like the cover, and 4% like the book. But I’m not complaining. Having a big follower count is really fun. Again, I’m all for bias and stereotype when it plays to my advantage.
If you are here reading this, then congratulations. You are the 4%.