How Should a Man Handle Vanity?

Men’s journal magazine has an interview series that they have done for years.  It’s just inside the back  cover and has a standard set of questions that different celebrities answer with their own style and insight.  I’ve always found it interesting.  Questions such as:

What’s the best advice you’ve ever heard?

How should a man handle rejection/heartbreak? – this kind of stuff.

 

One of the frequent questions is  “How should a man handle Vanity?”

 

This question is never answered the same way – each and every time there is a different response.  In a world we tend to see as “binary” where I would expect basically, 2 answers – “It’s terrible and conceited” vs. “You have to give a damn!” – it amazes me the sheer volume of answers that arise.    Some of the biggest GQ, Rolex wearing, Bentley driving superstars don’t care much for personal vanity and appearance but still have all the ‘stuff’ and some of the guys I’d figure are more recluse, homeboy style will have their one or two “high standards.” Such as they’ll only drink their scotch from a $200 crystal glass or only will shave using their antique silver set of tools.    Others will splurge on a classic car or remodel a cabin deep in the woods.

 

This weekend I had a chance to contemplate this answer myself and thought the story that accompanies my experience would make for an interesting story for you all.

Realize, I have reached the point in my life where I am quite comfortable being the jackass in my own story –I often am.  If my mistakes make you save time, increase productivity or think differently, well, then I’m doing my job – see my article on parenting advice for similar quips. (Here are Some Things You can Learn from Me about Parenting )

Even If my Don Quite life-quest of minor misfortunes allows you to just start the day off with a laugh, I’d say we’re doing pretty good.

So Let me, as I often do, set the scene….

 

I took a weekend to go back to my old stomping grounds of the great Northern Plains –   Minnesota and South Dakota.  I had the unique opportunity to watch my brother, the coach – play football against one of my best friends from college, also a coach.  Great Fun.

I have been acclimated to S. Texas now for 16 years.   Its hot and humid down here – still 90 degrees plus and 100% humidity nearly every day.  Minnesota?  Not so much –

 

We sat through a great high school game at 50 degrees with a slight drizzle.    Nothing too bad or anything a hot chocolate and/or coffee couldn’t handle.  It was autumn after all, the apples tree picking, leaves changing, wear a hat type of weather I was nostalgic for.

The next day we all drove over to South Dakota to watch the SDSU Jackrabbits Football team do battle at their new incredible Stadium.    It was incredible – also it was incredibly cold.

I have never been so cold in my life and spent the entire game shivering and chattering like A Tahitian in Alaska.     I was miserable.  Laughing and making fun of my self for sure, but still frozen to the core.  There are a lot of things worse than being cold, but while you’re actually experiencing it, it feels like the worst.    I still have chemical burns on my legs from the glove warmers I stuck in my pockets.     Despite actually growing up there and playing in MANY games much colder than this, this was my coldest experience at a football game.    And Vanity had a huge part to play in this all.

 

I hadn’t been to see my old college team play for a decade or more.  They now have a HUGE stadium and it is really a fantastic place to both go to school and be a part of the football team.  I was thoroughly impressed.   I anticipated I was going to run into some old friends and possible even old girlfriends.   Now, I have spent the last decade plus really getting into pretty good shape and working out and some of you may have noticed I even have this web site/blog/podcast deal all about healthy life going on.   In essence, I wanted to rep the brand and look the part.   I had to make sure I wasn’t dressed up like the Michelin Man with 50 layers and a poofy jacket and snowmobile pants on when I saw these friends.  People up north in poofy jackets all look the same – poofy.  I wanted to look like me.

 

Yes, laugh if you want to but things like reunions do this to many people – I’m not alone and I think vanity to some point is rightly so.  We all need reasons and “whys” for our diets and workouts and life.  It helps build a direction and obtain habits that make us better so a little vanity or what I’d refer to more as “giving a damn” isn’t always a BAD thing.

 

But here’s where I failed this weekend.

 

It was 30 degrees out.    A pair of jeans no thicker than women’s underwear and a cool jacket with a popped up collar that looks like it came out of the Matrix but with a temperature rating of about 62 as well as fleece gloves build for stopping ‘a nip in the air’ AINT cutting it.

My mom actually brought a HUGE winter jacket for me from the basement of her house.   I could have survived a week in Siberia with this jacket and it had enough room and hidden compartments to actually hold food stores for the week as well.    I could have snuck my wife past the gate in this jacket that was designed, I’m positive, by Bahktukhan the Mongolian Yurt Maker.     But as soon as we parked and started walking across the frigid parking lot en route to the tailgates – I looked at my wife and said, “I’m going to leave this coat in the car Nikki – I want to at least look cool – there’s a lot of people I haven’t seen for a while.”   The only weather appropriate thing I wore was a hat from Iceland.   That helped.  But that’s it.    See folks, Vanity is in fact -a double edged sword.

 

Add to my wardrobe FAIL my shoes – Nike Knits (basically socks with a rubber bottom) because at size 14 I didn’t even want to pack along a pair of boots all the way up from Texas.   NIKE freaking Knits…looks cool -no help whatsoever.

 

So here is me and my cool wife, looking cool, being cool and looking for other cool friends and a cool tailgate and within about 4 minutes I realized that anyone and everyone that has ever been to a SDSU game in October wears a giant coat, looks appropriately just like the Michelin man and wears gloves so thick you not only CANT text but actually have to remove your gloves just to get your phone out of your pocket and most likely is wearing insulated pants.    They came to the game for the game and actually probably have been anticipating the cold weather and giant panda jacket so they can sneak a few beers into the contest.  They carry 4 blankets with them because a metal bleacher seat is cold – seriously really cold…you had to be there to understand. If my bro and his wife hadn’t showed up with extra blankets I’m not sure I would have made it through the National Anthem.

 

What this means is not only was I not dressed even remotely appropriate, I was the dork that is too damn cool to wear a decent coat to a game in South Dakota in October.   “Hey Dork, nice jaaaa-cket”

Yep!

I was in fact, not cool.   Quite the opposite.

 

You know what’s cool in South Dakota where the biggest Metro is 120,000 people and the skyscrapers are 7 stories high?   Being smart, that’s what’s cool.  Situational awareness and intelligence is cool.    Having some goddamm common sense and thinking with your brain not your ego…that’s cool.

Dressing in a jacket and panties jeans complete with sock shoes is the opposite of cool. You look like a fool.

 

So after the 1 hour and 15 minute miracle comeback 4th Quarter where the opposing team scored 28 points by passing the ball and hence stopping the clock 50 times as well as at least 15 consecutive timeouts to review a play – the long drawn out game went to overtime…Overtime????   I feel like I have really learned a lesson this time.   (Seriously, the fourth quarter had to have taken an hour and a half huh?  Anyone?)

Vanity, in our lives, truly does have a place from time to time.  It can help you stay motivated and there’s nothing wrong with looking good in front of your friends.  You work hard and you have to care about yourself!  Its important.

So someday when I’m a famous celeb and Men’s Journal asks me…”Chad on vanity, How does a man handle it?”

Me:  “Well, There’s a limit.  Bypassing common sense and said limit in order to impress is  just plain stupid.  It’s a lesson you’ll most likely learn the cold hard way!

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