I was doing a marathon of America’s Next Top Model these past few weeks, watching a couple of episodes at a time while munching on multi-grain chips. Episode after episode, the contestants go through as challenges that vary from the really simple ones (posing in a bikini) to the bizarre (completely nude shoots save for body paint, glitter and feathers) to the ridiculous (running through stairs then having their pictures taken to see how well they photograph when haggard). After each task the girls are critiqued (read: insulted), given advice (read: dictated) and evaluated (read: slaughtered) before they get eliminated (read: sent back into oblivion). With each episode, the girls were supposed to learn about the fashion world, how tough it is and how uncool it could be behind all the glitz and glamor.
Don’t get me wrong but I think that most of the time they’re right. Though they got weird (but fabulous nonetheless) ways of delivering their goods, they really make sense. They talk about how a contestant should be commercial but not too commercial, breaking grounds but not pushing it too much, edgy but not too edgy… the list goes on. They talk about how some models get really successful despite being “out of the box” or not the “cookie-cutter” version.
Now that got me thinking, why do people like putting labels on stuff? You know like having a specific pattern or ideals for how someone or something should be. Guys should be like this, girls should be like this, gay people should be like this, teachers should be like this, artists should be like this. Often, we force ourselves to believe that everyone should fit exactly into those categories we created. We set rules and conventions for everyone to follow and penalize those who fail to follow. Think, for example – guys and moisturizers should not be seen in public together. It’s not like men’s skin don’t get dried up or damaged by UVL.
Then we move to the next step – we declare that if a guy uses moisturizers, he must be gay! Does it always follow? You rummage inside a guy’s back pack and there it is, a tube of moisturizer – incriminating evidence that he has transitioned into the pink side.
The it gets complicated – we meet a gay guy. Openly gay, a little flamboyant at times. And then you learn that he doesn’t moisturize. So you ask the mindless questions, “Aren’t gay people supposed to be into these things? Why don’t you moisturize?” Aghast, you see it as “an un-moisturized skin is like a violation of every rule in the gay constitution”!
And then, to make things even crazier, we meet a married guy who moisturizes, drives with only two fingers of each hand on the wheel, slam dunks like a pro and a voice that makes James Earl Jones‘ seem like a soprano. So which box should we put him in? Damn it.
Now as what most people say, things like this call for very long conversations with equally smart people.
Perhaps over a couple of beers.
And a couple of innuendos.
Then maybe you’d wake up the following morning next to your naked friend and finding out your clothes and your sanity went missing.