Nupes are pretty. Anybody who has been exposed to Black Greek letter organizations has probably heard some variation of this statement. The stereotype that men of Kappa Alpha Psi are pretty boys: profoundly handsome, suave, and confident in that vanity. I knew this stereotype before I became a Kappa and everyday as a member of that organization I live under the weight of its judgment. Everyday I wake up in the morning and like many people I look in the mirror and evaluate what I see. Whether it’s a rushed glance as I hurry to an early class or a nuanced interrogation to look my best for the day’s activities, it’s something that I always do before I step into the world. Here are a couple of insights into my observations, head to toe:
The hair at the very front of my hairline is thinning. I estimate I’ll probably shave my entire head by my mid 20s. Last school year I noticed it wasn’t as thick as it had been. I figured it was because of stress and when life calmed down it would come back. Things got back to normal but my hairline didn’t. Over the summer it bothered me a lot. One of the things that bothered me the most about it was the attention a few other people paid to it. My mother and older sister both tried to get me to start using Rogaine. After talking with friends and research, I declined. C’est la vie.
I hate my mustache; I hate my face more without it. It never looks right. Either the lining on it is a little off or it hasn’t been lined and is growing too long and a little into my mouth. Either way it’s just weak but it’s vaguely better than looking like a 12-year-old with no facial hair.
Despite my facial hairs ability to grow at a ridiculous pace I am still unable to grow a connecting moustache and goatee.
By far the most troublesome of any part of my physical appearance is the maintenance of my beard. I hate letting it grow and get out of hand but shaving is problematic. I tend to get terrible razor bumps and in general my skin on my neck has an uneven tone I despise. I have tried at least 10 different shaving methods. Nothing really works. Either the shave isn’t close or I get bumps. Gels, creams, electric, single-blade, double-blade, triple, four, five, five million, depilatories, cocoa butter, shea butter, tea tree oil, olive oil, nothing works well. Razor bumps are really painful and hard to hide. They embarrass me greatly.
I’m a heavy sweater. One of the chief reasons I like dressing in layers. I don’t like short sleeves for this reason. White shirts yellow under the arm from sweat. Every time I am tagged on Facebook in some picture that shows my underarm with a deeper color than the rest of my clothes I cringe and fight the urge to untag it. Once again I’ve tried a thousand different brands. None work well. I use clinical strength. It still doesn’t help much.
My torso has never been well built. My chest is okay but my stomach has always stuck out a little. Since I was a kid it’s just how I’ve been built. Even when I played basketball and had a 6-pack I still had a midsection that refused to lay flat. My abdominal muscles are like rows of Fruit of Islam soldiers in the movie Malcolm X. They refuse to lie down and submit to the power structure of diet, exercise, or athleticism.
My arms are small. Never been very well defined, never gotten any bigger even when I work out. Despite this I have stretch marks on my shoulders like my skin was unprepared for the rippling power of my middle-school girl sized arms. God has a sense of humor.
I have the wrists of a 2nd grade Brownie Scout and yet I have no Thin Mints or merit badges to show.
My hands are only slightly larger than my little sister’s. She is 12 years old and 5’3. This is not cool. I swear it is also not proportional.
My legs have been the same size since I was 10. I am sure of this. They are ridiculously little, especially my calves. Even in high school when I could dunk and was one of the fastest kids in my 9th grade class I still had the legs of barnyard fowl.
My feet are ugly. I don’t know who has pretty feet, but I know I don’t.
This is a small sampling of all the shit that’s wrong with me on a very surface level. If we went into detail either physically, emotionally, spiritually, or otherwise this list would be much longer but remember we’re talking about being a Pretty Boy so this list will suffice for now.
After seeing all these things I also considered the ramifications of being a Pretty Boy on a level of masculinity.
I was raised by and around almost exclusively women. I’m cool with my Dad but growing up our relationship was tenuous at best and he never really lived with my family. I found my models of manhood in other things. I found them in basketball, books, and hip-hop. The masculinities I emulated were the on-court bravado of Jordan, the intelligent passion of Malcolm X, and the uncompromising menace of DMX. I was never able to act out as hard as any of these characters I idolized but I also knew well enough to recognize that any semblance of femininity in me was something to be cast out immediately. Anything soft, sympathetic, or pretty had no place in my maturation.
A variety of life circumstances have changed that stance and here I stand as a college man, a black man, and a self-proclaimed Pretty Boy. Though the first two titles are far more important in the grand scheme of things the third is no small feat for me, not anyone else who claims it. That title is one of audacious bravery, or at least comfort. For me, being a Pretty Boy is saying I know my flaws, I accept them, I embrace them and damn I still do my thing. It’s not being without insecurities, it’s being confident DESPITE them. For me, being a Pretty Boy is an expansion of what masculinity can be and has been. It’s the insertion of a personal flair and liberty in the everyday expression of one’s own manhood without fear. It is saying very simply, “I am who I am.”
For quite awhile after I pledged people asked me if I considered myself a Pretty Boy and I often avoided the question. I was unsure on how to answer because I know I’m not particularly fair-skinned, baby-faced, well-dressed, or whatever else. Now after looking back on my past and looking into my present I realize there’s nothing that could better describe me. The reason why this phrase is perfect is because I’m fucked up and imperfect in a lot of ways. But I’ll be damned if I don’t make those ways look good…