Beauty is a mysterious and magical thing. You can go most of your life without knowing you have it, but when you do, you spend your whole life “paying” for it in tears, pain, and confusion. Throw desire in the mix and things really get interesting. Take it from Gordie, a late-thirtysomething from Los Angeles and New Orleans, who has more than his fair share of experience when it comes to juggling the two.
Beauty is never just one thing—it’s inside and out. It is when you exude confidence and happiness, and you spread that in other people. It’s not being afraid to speak or lift someone’s spirits. Outward beauty has its place, but it is such a conundrum in society; if you have it, you’re praised and uplifted, but you’re also scrutinized for it.
For those reasons, I’ve been conditioned to pay more attention to the inside of a person than the outside. Even for myself. I know I am attractive, but I really make sure I’m a kind person. We all need human interaction to be uplifting. Beauty is realizing that and not being afraid to be yourself.
Growing up, I never really felt attractive, more like a target. When I went to a school that was 100% black in Los Angeles, I learned how to mold myself to the environment. I knew I was looked at as soft and was dressed too “clean” for the school, which made me a target.
They weren’t just calling you “light-bright” or “Casper,” they were chasing you because they thought you were white or felt like you were better than them. I was an enemy to them.
There’s this idea of NOLA (New Orleans) as a colorful place where everyone is Creole, but that wasn’t the case—it was the opposite. There weren’t many light-skinned guys, and I’m a little lighter than light, which was not a good thing.
My school was near some bad neighborhoods, so they weren’t just teasing when they said they were going to come after you and they weren’t just calling you “light-bright” or “Casper,” they were chasing you because they thought you were white or felt like you were better than them. I was an enemy to them.
So I had to change myself to fit their mold: I had to become brash and more of an alpha male so I could protect myself. And when we moved to another part of Los Angeles at a school that was completely different, I had to become mutable, agreeable, brilliant, and an over-achiever. Those experiences taught me about beauty but also masculinity. I really learned how to fit in, survive and be popular to get through the day.
[Two experiences in high school] showed me I was attractive, but also made me more withdrawn and uncomfortable with it.
The first time I remember someone describing how attractive they thought I was had to be when I was in high school. There were two instances. There was a girl I had a crush on and I later found out that she and a male friend had a bet on who would get me sexually.
It was very taboo to me because I went to church and was very religious. When I found out about that, I realized I was attractive. I was conflicted, but at the same time it was nice to know they thought of me so much in that way and plotted how to get me.
Around the same time, there was an older guy who used to take us to the movies. At that time, “Love Jones” was playing about 45 minutes from town, so we went to see it. But on the way back, he performed oral sex on me and was telling me how incredibly desirable I was. I don’t remember much about it because I tried to block out all the details from my mind. But those two moments happening during the same time period showed me I was attractive but also made me more withdrawn and uncomfortable with it.