The other day I posted this photo below on Instagram with the following caption: "If you want to start taking yourself less seriously, grow a mustache."
A few hours after posting I received a short text from my girlfriend that read: "so. mustache. tell me about that."
I responded: "Well, when I was at BYU--Idaho that was the only facial hair allowed. So of course I had to try it. So I would grow a mustache for the typical ironic reasons but also because no one else dared. [...] Anyway, there came a point where for me it crossed over from irony to 'I actually kind of like this.' I don't know... sometimes I feel more comfortable with myself with a mustache. It's kind of like, 'Yes, I have this awkward piece of facial hair and I don't care what anyone thinks about it.'"
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Do any of you watch New Girl? [If you do and you're not caught up, this post contains spoilers from the most recent episode.] If you haven't seen it, here's the premise: Jess (Zooey Deschanel) moves into an apartment with three guys -- Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Winston (Lamorne Morris) -- after she discovers that her boyfriend has been cheating on her. Antics ensue. It's not always my favorite show but it usually manages a couple good laughs per episode. (That said, one of the best things I've seen on TV was when Schmidt pretended to be one of Mitt Romney's sons.)
Last week's episode opens on Nick modeling a new coat for Jess and Winston -- a women's coat that was delivered to their apartment by accident. Despite the gender mismatch, Nick sports the coat throughout the episode because he feels it gives him a new sense of confidence.
Since the debut of the show, it has been fairly obvious that Nick and Jess will end up together at some point. But until this episode there haven't been any concrete steps to making that happen. At the end of the episode, Nick is finally forced to give up his prized coat when its rightful owner, a female neighbor, knocks on their apartment door. Nick surrenders the coat and has a laugh with Jess about it outside their respective bedroom doors. Jess says goodnight. As she turns to retire to her bedroom, Nick grabs her by the arm, swings her around, and Nick kisses Jess with the passion of a season and a half's worth of sexual tension. Watch it here:
Since I watched that episode earlier this week, I've wondered at the writers' reasoning of including Nick's coat in this episode. The coat wasn't a necessary plot device, per se. Sure, Nick wearing a women's coat to gain confidence is funny and ironic but the story would still move on without it. But the episode wouldn't have been as meaningful without the coat. That coat was a bit like my mustache; it was Nick's way of saying, "Yes, I'm wearing this piece of women's clothing and I don't care what anyone thinks about it." That coat put him at ease and Nick stopped taking himself so seriously.
So then why did Nick's burst of confidence to finally kiss Jess come after he removed the coat? I don't know why or how but I feel like figuring out the answer to that question might be one of the keys to my own self-confidence. The coat was a crutch that would have hindered Nick from truly expressing how he felt for Jess. Yes, the kiss could have been just as passionate, but with that coat to lean on, it wouldn't have mean as much. It would have made the kiss, like the coat, seem like a joke.
Yes, I know, this all TV, and stuff like this doesn't happen in real life (does it?). But TV, movies, books -- stories, really -- matter. Stories matter because they give us a new way of looking at ourselves, a new way to relate to our world, a new way to identify and examine the crutches in our lives. And these crutches exist not only in love, but in all aspects in life.
So with that I ask: what is your mustache? What is your transgender coat?