Have you ever hit a time in your life when you find one of the missing pieces of your puzzle, and suddenly you feel you really get it? It all started about this time last month. I had just finished my column and, as has become my habit, I was determined to immediately come up with next month's idea. My 32nd birthday was approaching. A rocky jump to a new job had thankfully ended with my previous employer asking me to return for a promotion. And deep in my third year in New York, I was realizing that while my career was doing well, my health and peace of mind were suffering. I had vowed to recommit to making time in my life to take care of myself -- not that I haven't done this at least 20 times before. But for some reason, this time it felt different. And besides, I thought somewhere in my journal entries during that month I was sure I would find my next column.
Now on this particular weekend of revelation, two things happened to me. I got my hair cut, and I saw a great movie. You may not think that either of these experiences is particularly significant. But first of all, I am more of a cliché than I like to admit. And second, I am learning more and more that life's most significant lessons come to us in the most mundane packages.
Saturday morning started with a trip to the hair salon, which, considering my personal hair issues, is often quite traumatic.
For an aesthetically obsessed person such as myself, a haircut is only a reminder of the stylish, tousled head of hair I long for. It has been several years since I have been comfortable with my own image in the mirror. I've tried a prescription, which I still am not sure really did anything, despite the more than $60 it cost me each month. And, after years of swearing I would never do anything unnatural to my hair, I even tried to make the best of the situation by coloring my hair. Of course, that only increased the number of trips to the hair salon, as well as the size of the bills for each trip. So on this particular morning I just went back to a short, simple style. And for the first time in years, I didn't mentally cringe when I saw myself in the mirror.
Then later that afternoon, my partner and I went to see a movie we had been waiting to see, The Broken Hearts Club -- A Romantic Comedy. (Why they feel they need the subtitle, I'll never know.) Now I hate to admit it, but movies often get to me. Maybe that explains why it is not unusual for me to see two in a week. This particular story about a group of late 20-something gay friends living in LA really resonated with me. Behind the story lines about failed relationships, lust, finding true love and coming out, the characters all struggle with the challenge of living in an image-obsessed town that -- as Patrick, the most self-esteem challenged of the characters puts it -- is "full of gay men who are 10s searching for an 11."
When the film's writer and director, Greg Berlanti, was asked about the film's commentary on gay men's notions of beauty, he said, "I think men are really experiencing something that women have experienced for the last 30 years, and then some -- being intimidated by the 'body beautiful' and all these slender models."
Every person has to go through that journey of recognizing his own beauty. Which one of us hasn't struggled with our own dissatisfaction with our appearance? Some of the hottest guys I know say they think they need to lose weight or they wish they were taller, shorter or beefier. The grass is always greener, right? We have taught ourselves to dissect our own appearance down to the slightest flaws. But what I took as the message of the movie, and of my whole weekend, was that we can choose to be happy with ourselves and make peace with our own insecurities. Because in the end, a little dose of self-understanding -- and, more important, self-confidence -- goes a long way.
contact eric hunter: firstname.lastname@example.org