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  • “I don’t care.”

I encountered this yesterday when I toured Harlem with an editor I used to work for in the neighborhood she used to live in. We observed a man who has become synonymous with the neighborhood pretty much because he is the only person who wears a cowboy hat in the area.

This man had taken the initiative to stand out and instead of being ostracized, he was embraced for being different. It reminded me of a guy who dresses up like the Mad Hatter in the Washington Square Park area and a guy I saw dressed in a pink tutu with a yellow beard and a yellow and pink poodle. And these two gentlemen are admired, not segregated.

We talked a little about one of my friends in Texas who just about always gets into fights at bars–he never starts them, people just make fun of him for having long hair and for wearing girl jeans. He gets called faggot a lot. And the interesting thing is that he pulls more girls than the overweight linebacker-type dudes who 1. always insult him, 2. seem capable of only talking to their male teammates and 3. always roll mad deep in asshole squadrons. It’s like they’ve recognized the alpha male and decided to fight him in order to attract the attention of the females fawning over him only to discover they’ve dug themselves a deeper hole. Calling him a faggot has only endeared him more to the local lady folk because they finally have a shopping buddy. Yet they all soon discover he doesn’t give a shit about shopping, just juggling multiple women at the same time. And if they’re not making fun of him, they’re making fun of one of my other friends for looking or talking different. When these verbal spars don’t turn physical, it always seems as if they’ve bitten off more than they can chew and they return to their trucks or their wolf pack dejected.

Sweeping generalizations aside (my friends are cooler than you, always get into fights that they win by not fighting), my editor friend mentioned how New York is typically associated with the meanest people on Earth but when people dare to just be themselves, we–for some unexplainable reason–just don’t give a shit. Maybe we don’t have the time to make fun of them or maybe we know that they’re more daring people than we are. We try to keep all our weird interests and proclivities to ourselves but those few brave souls that dare act like themselves in public deserve not to be ridiculed but ignored. It’s what we’d want from them.

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