W  H  A  T  S  U  I  T  S  H  I  M
launched 1 january 2016
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A collection of the project's best essays + podcasts.

How Narcissistic is This Kid?

 Winter/Spring 2003. Detroit, Michigan.

Winter/Spring 2003. Detroit, Michigan.

My mother can write. Like really really write.

As a kid, it would piss me off, because all the amazing stuff she wrote, I'd have to read. In front of people.

And here's where it gets interesting: I don't do people well. 

Not in the 'I don't like people' way. That's a lie I used to tell myself to deal with my fear of human interaction. I'm actually friendly to a fault. I guess that's a product of how I was raised: treat others how you'd like to be treated. The Golden Rule and all that.

But human interaction drains me. I've always known I'm an introvert. But I didn't know long days of dealing with other human beings had the capacity to actually cause physical exhaustion. I wish I'd known that back when my mom would write five-minute long poems and make me get in front of our church congregation to recite them from memory. Not like it would've changed much, but having that information at my disposal could've been a little bit helpful.

But, back to the topic: my mother has binders and binders of poems. She wrote and directed two original plays at my childhood church, plays that debuted to critical acclaim. The woman is truly a wordsmith. And I don't know if a way with words is genetic, but I've always been drawn to writing. By seventh grade, I knew I'd be a sports journalist if the whole playing professional basketball thing fizzled. November of that year, my Social Studies teacher introduced my class to Youth in Government, a program where we'd write bills and go through the political process of making them into law. In my mind, if I wrote the perfect bill, it'd have to get passed, right? And I knew how to write. I was sold.

In the years since, I've always taken pride in my writing ability. I've never been much in the way of science and math, but English has always been my jam. I can barely tell you what I'm supposed to know in the Statistics class I just passed, but I can rattle off vocabulary words from Willie Bell Gibson's eighth-grade English class. (For the record: chagrin, infallible, and solidarity are three of my favorites.) I'm super excited to be writing again. These last 3 months have truly been akin to rediscovering a lost love. A love my mommy introduced me to years and years ago.

 09.25.2011. Washington, DC

09.25.2011. Washington, DC

My stepmother can dress. Like really really dress.

She changed my dad's whole style up. She says the night they met, he was wearing this lavender double-breasted suit. And yes, it was 1992, but that's reprehensible in any year. She spent some time as something of an informal stylist: folks would pay her to dress them. She remembers this one time when, at Somerset Collection, Rick Mahorn asked her for fashion tips. Impressed, he sought her advice for the remainder of the afternoon. She's been knowing how to give men the juice, the sauce, the swagger.

Until recently, I've been largely dependent on her getting me stylistically correct. The summer before my freshman year at Cranbrook, we got lists of rules from the school, with one being a list of clothes we were prohibited from wearing on a daily basis. We went shopping a few days later, and she grabbed a couple polos. Polo Ralph Lauren polos. I turned up my nose. In complete honesty, I have absolutely no recollection what I was wearing at 14-years-old. I just knew some preppy collared shirts were not going to be part of my daily wardrobe, considering I'd been wearing collared shirts as part of my school uniform my entire life. She laughed and bought them anyway, saying I'd thank her in due time.

Not even two years later, everyone was wearing Ralph Lauren. I hate when she's right.

Whenever I needed a suit, she'd take me. Whenever I needed an outfit for weekend excursions, she'd take me to Macy's and essentially guide me through picking the clothes, because I was too afraid to screw it up. Once I moved to DC for college, I'd call her whenever I needed to match a shirt and tie with a suit. I never had any money to buy new clothes while an undergrad, but I never felt like a bum. She taught me how to mix-and-match, how to maximize an outfit as best I could.

And now, although she might not agree with all my fashion choices, she's aware of the rationale behind them. It's her's. She always made me aware of how I looked, how I presented myself to those around me. Perception is important, she said. Always strive to be the best-dressed person in the room, she said. I remember those lessons. I'm excited to share all she's taught me. I'd never share these things if I didn't believe she's been right. Did I mention I hate when she's right?

The thread? My dad married both of them at a point. The game was fixed.

But, among everything the three of them - plus my grandmother - taught me, they've instilled a sense of humility - the notion that even the best laid plans can fail, so expecting a certain outcome can set me up to look a bit silly.

Which is why this entire project is one big facing of my fears.

Because this thing could fail. Terribly.

And that terrifies me.

I've run through all the scenarios. What if I'm bad at this? I think I can dress, but what if I'm delusional? I think I can write, but what if nobody wants to read what I have to say? Am I okay with that?

You don't do something like this planning to fail. How can you? You have to trick yourself into thinking other folks care about what you think, what you value, what you believe is important. And for all my optimism about this project, I'm still highly cynical. Another one of my flaws. I'm a walking paradox, and it annoys me more often than it doesn't.

But, whatever. I got my style from my stepmommy. I got this gift of words from my mommy. I know I can write. I know I can dress. And I'll believe it just enough to keep this project going, and hopefully some folks will agree with me someday soon.

So yeah, I'm too self-aware to be that narcissistic. Blame my parents. But the little bit of narcissism that's there? Blame my parents for that, too.

So, in a way, they birthed this project. Welcome to WhatSuitsHim. Hope you visit again soon.