This Van-Shaming Needs To Stop


Women have it hard when it comes to body image. They’re bombarded with projections of the “perfect” form that society expects them to maintain. “Have more boobs!” the magazine covers demand. “Donate those kidneys before summer!” Women spend all day enduring the impossible standards levied upon them by the media. It’s not fair, and it’s not right.

But we men face our share of difficulty too. Advertisements for jeans sport topless dudes with impossible numbers of abdominal muscles. Truck commercials show men capable of lifting heavy things and moving them productively around from place to place. Sitcoms like Mike and Molly and King of Queens portray men having jobs where they earn enough money to help support themselves and their families. It’s unfair to the rest of us who can’t meet these insane demands.

Everyone is born different. There’s no such thing as an ideal human body. Happiness and healthiness take on unique dimensions in each person. I’m finally ready to take a stand, to feel proud of my unorthodox appearance. No longer will I be a slave to the rigid expectations of American culture. My body is my temple, even if it’s a little drafty, and the basement is big and soft, and no one ever visits this temple. I will no longer cower in the darkness for who I am.

First of all, I’m sick of being stache-shamed. Yeah. I have a wispy, patchy mustache. That’s the only kind of mustache I can grow, and I grow the crap out of it. You think I should just shave it off because it’s not some bushy, lustrous Tom Selleck or Burt Reynolds stache? I don’t care. It’s how I was made. Stop clutching your children closer to you, ma’am. I pose no threat. This is not a “molestache” as the teenage boys in my neighborhood call it before I chase them away with a broom. You are judging and stereotyping me by my facial hair. I don’t appreciate it. Regardless of the density and thickness of my whiskers, I am a man with feelings and dreams and a windowless white van to get me from place to place.

Yes. That’s right. I also drive a Ford Aerostar with no windows. It’s practical. I do a lot of odd jobs. The van helps me transport tools. If there were windows on the van, thieves would be able to see my valuable equipment and might smash their way in to steal it. That would not be optimal for my business or van. I work freelance, and a lot of my money is under the table. That’s why there’s no advertisement on the side. Lots of people call it a “creeper van,” but that’s a clear instance of van-shaming. I don’t do anything creepy in my white, windowless van, unless you count storing the materials needed to fix a toilet or assemble a shelving unit as creepy. And if that weirds you out, that’s more your problem than mine.

And while we’re at it, if you have a problem with the fact that I live in my mom’s basement, I bet you don’t have a very good relationship with your own mother. My mom needs some errands done from time to time, and I’ve needed a cheap place to stay since my divorce. It’s a win-win situation. No, a basement’s not an ideal dwelling. I don’t get a lot of natural light, and there are flooding issues, but I make do. Who among us lives in the vast, mansions or penthouse apartments of our dreams? Not many, I’m sure And most of those who do are intensely aware of the sacrifices made to achieve that kind of lifestyle. So yeah, I live with my mother. To use my basement accommodation as a means to define my personality is spatial profiling, and I won’t tolerate it.

One last thing. About my going through the neighborhood trash barrels at night. First of all, it’s not a crime. I only root through barrels that are positioned on the sidewalk; I never trespass. Secondly, I never litter. As soon as I’m done, I replace the garbage in the proper receptacles. I don’t see what the problem is. I’m not some hobo, digging for cans. It is merely that I identify as “otherkin.” I feel, though I inhabit the body of a forty-one-year-old human man, my spirit is that of a raccoon. I eat meals with my front paws (hands). I keep nocturnal hours. And yes, sometimes I will dig through the trash for useful scraps. It’s just how I express myself. It does no one any harm, and it satisfies my need to outwardly manifest how I feel on the inside. Please don’t chase me down the street with a broom like I’m a disrespectful teenage boy.

So please, stop creep shaming me. Yes, I’m an adult man with a thin, scraggly mustache who drives a windowless white van and lives with his mother and digs through the neighborhood’s trash at night. But I deserve the same respect and dignity as anyone else. If you can’t embrace it, at least let me live in peace. And for goodness sake, stop spraying me with the hose.

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