Being good looking has always been my cross to bear. It started from an early age and has stuck with me through the years. It’s not something I ever asked for, but we play the hand we’re dealt, I guess.
When my mother would take me to the basement of a woman’s house to get my hair cut, women would peep out from under the space helmets and tell my mother that I looked just like one of the actors surnamed Khan from Bollywood films. I’d just sit there silently, waiting for my turn, while they all chatted away in a foreign language that I understood. When I go to pick up paan from a local seller, I see posters of those actors during their glory days on the walls of the shop. I reminisce.
These days, when I meet people for the first time, some of them ask me if I’m from Pakistan, others ask if I’m from India, and others ask if I’m Persian. Nobody ever asks me if I’m from Africa, which would be the smarter choice because you can cover 54 countries in a single question. To all of them, I smile and say, “No, I’m from Calgary.”
I understand the confusion on their faces upon hearing my answer. I know they think they are recognising me from a movie poster they saw at a paan walla’s shop. They’ve probably even seen the films.
It must be such a disappointment when they learn that I don’t speak Hindi, Gujarati. Punjabi, Urdu, Farsi, or Arabic.
When they learn my name, the confusion becomes a frustration.
“How can he not be one of us? He must be mistaken.” I can hear them questioning me with their eyes.
More than one person has told me that I’m pronouncing my name incorrectly.
This is how it is when you’re good looking.
Over the years, I’ve worked hard to lessen the effects of this weighty trait. I’ve let the bottom row of my teeth become slightly crooked again, after nearly a decade of invasive orthodontics. I avoid the gym and any workout routines so that my body can shape itself more organically. I wear clothes until they have holes in them or are fraying beyond repair, only going shopping for new clothing once I’ve been told to by one of my immediate family members. I stopped growing an inch before I reached six feet because I know that taller people are considered more attractive. I even watch the Gilmore Girls to learn how other people interact with one another in a normal, day-to-day sort of way.
It’s really about managing my outward appearance so that people get to know me for who I really am – that person on the inside.
Tinder and Bumble have proven to me that my efforts have not been wasted. I rarely get matched with anyone who I find attractive because of my standards. It’s nice when it does happen, though. See, it’s not just about looks, it’s also about how you see yourself with someone before you swipe left or right. That’s why it’s important to have at least one photo of yourself that’s been cropped from a photo of you standing with or leaning on your ex and to also list your height in your bio.
My standard for good-looking-ness is different than most people’s, I admit. It’s hard to look at yourself in the mirror, see your stomach, and think, “there’s a six-pack in there…wait, how many did I have last night?”, and then go out into the real world, where there are reflective windows on every storefront, and see people. It’s hard to look at people who are good looking because they’re trying to be. It’s the people who put on nice, fashionable clothes, keep themselves well-groomed, take care of their physique through diet and exercise, that make me stop and think about what they’re really trying to achieve.
I’m not wearing this hat because I refuse to do my hair on the weekends. I’m not growing this beard because it’s showing signs of turning white and I need to see what I look like with a big, black beard. I’m not wearing sport socks with dress shoes because I get terrible foot odour when I’m on my feet all day. No, that’s not why I’m doing it.
These are choices that I have to make daily because I’ve seen myself in the mirror and in pictures and I’ve seen you, the people of the world.
This is the struggle of a good looking man.
It’s drudgery going out, quietly walking along the streets and being approached. People ask me for change or directions. Some people even ask me for the time, as if, by virtue of my physical characteristics, it’s mine to give. Sometimes, usually on the subway, I’ll notice people looking at me. It’s even happened in bars when I’m the only person dancing. I’ve had pictures taken of me without my consent. I see people taking pictures everywhere I go, and I’m just helpless in stopping it happening.
I get it when people are nervous when I approach them to initiate a conversation. “Why is he talking to me?”, they must be thinking. “O.M.G., did you see that guy?”, I can hear them saying to their friends afterwards. “He bought me a drink,” they say through their giggles.
I’ve been approached by men and women, who have steeled themselves with a few stiff drinks. It’s always hard to say, “Sorry, I’m just here by myself tonight.” I can’t say yes to everybody because, in the end, I have to face myself each and every morning. Not just anybody will do; I’ve pricked my finger on the spindle and I’m waiting for that kiss.
It’s not easy being good looking, or green.