Two weeks ago, I attended a day party in Washington, DC. Hosted on the bottom level of a four-story, nightclub and restaurant called Park at Fourteenth, the event catered to the men of the greater DMV area. It was a summer, Sunday evening. I had not shown my face at any of the recent gatherings, but I could feel the night’s sweet promise piercing through the humidity of the dry season. When I first arrived, I immediately noticed the contemporary décor that accented the venue. Glass walls framed the building as so patrons could see outside without inhaling the thick, crumpled air. Chandeliers dangled above our heads as high-rises of the Northeast district towered among the trees. The place was packed. I knew what to expect. I crossed the hardwood foyer that connected the main bar and lounge area to the open space where top 40 music blared from the loud speakers. The room was split down the center. Half of the party crowd was standing on one side, enclosed with a red-brick wall. The other half of the partygoers spread along the mocha-colored sofas and lounge tables that lined the floor to ceiling windows. The setup forced me and every other attendee to enter the tangled area by climbing through acres of distant attitudes. Immediately, a shadow was thrown on the evening.
Everyone’s eyes would turn towards the entryway to size up who was the most fashionable and fabulous amongst this gathering of everyday people. We were all on display. I spoke to those I recognized and shook hands or half-hugged those who recognized me. Already sweating from the combination of too many bodies piled in one location and several sips of my cranberry with vodka cocktail, I positioned myself on the relative cooler side of the room. Despite the music that seemed to muffle the shrill judgments in the air, this day party wasn’t designed for dancing. I sat beside one of my friends along an open window. I carefully watched as twenty and thirty-something’s played their social positions with the precision of professional, MEAN BOYS.
Whenever a large group of men are gathered together in a common space, the strength and weaknesses of their individual personalities are going to take center stage. The mean boys will huddle together like old furls of a chain link fence, while the other guys often curl up between corner walls and specks of their own inferior complexes. It’s human nature. The mean boys are conscious in their efforts to maintain a clear divide between themselves and those who don’t physically or socially fit into baroque fantasies of A-List glamour or local stardom. The mean boys are straightforward in efforts to climb ladders that reach heights undreamed of by those who were never popular and often made to feel unworthy.
Mean Boys come in five different forms and I witnessed them all in action as I sipped my drink from the sidelines of the Park at Fourteenth.
THE ELITIST – Often a college graduate who holds more than one degree, the ‘elitist’ wears his accomplishments on the sleeves of his tailored suits. He is usually the leader amongst his social circle and is hell bent on not allowing ‘outsiders’ to enter into his group. He constantly brags about his white house internship, three story townhome and fraternity affiliations. If he doesn’t know you personally, he will only greet you with a forced, half smile. He determines the position you play in his life by your credit score and has fooled himself into believing that his bank funds outweigh friendship. WHAT THIS MEAN BOY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW is that he comes from very humble beginnings. The value he places on things stems from the fact that he may not have had many tangible items as a child. He grew up simply trying to survive and he fears ever having to return to that unhappy place.
THE MUSCLE KWEEN – You absolutely must have a gym membership and workout six days each week in order to hangout with him. He doesn’t speak to or associate with too many other men who don’t lift weights on a regular basis. Every single photo he posts on Instagram or Facebook is shirtless or otherwise, half naked. His only topic of conversation revolves around eating protein and pumping iron. He determines your value in his life by the percentage of fat you have on your body. WHAT THIS MEAN BOY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW is that he used to be teased for being too fat or extremely thin. His developed biceps and chiseled abs double as middle fingers in the faces of everyone who ignored him in high school. He doesn’t consider himself to be very intelligent or physically attractive in the face. As a result, he shows off his body as a way of garnering the attention he assumes he wouldn’t receive if he didn’t have muscles.
THE LIGHT BRIGHT – This particular mean boy constantly brags about being half-black, half-puerto rican, half-this or half-that. His self-pride is defined between the hues of his red, yellow or pink complexion. Even if he isn’t mixed, he lies publicly and says that he is. The ‘light bright’ only dates others who mirror his physical attributes, as he solely creates friendships with those who could pass as his twin brother or first cousin. He dares not to speak first in a social setting, even if he recognizes your face or if the two of you have been introduced on previous occasions. He’s arrogant and ‘too cute’ to be bothered with anyone who isn’t also considered to be conventionally attractive. WHAT THIS MEAN BOY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW is that no one he has loved or fallen for has ever taken him seriously. His happiness is directly associated with the surface compliments he receives from strangers. He has always been treated as a sexual object, and doesn’t know how to break the cycle.
THE SOCIAL CLIMBER – He will water himself down or play himself up to be liked and accepted by those he considers to be the crème de la crème. He purchases his online followers to validate his position amongst individuals who are seemingly well known and highly regarded. He doesn’t care that the ‘elite’ company he keeps will swallow his identity. Often times, the ‘social climber’ uses whatever real skills or talents he may possess to lure the attention of people he wishes to befriend. He basically makes himself an asset. He offers to design your party flyers for free if you are a promoter or he agrees to work as your volunteer assistant if you are an upcoming rapper, radio host, reality star or blogger. This particular mean boy values individuals strictly based upon the number of people that are following them on Instagram. He only wants to be associated and photographed with people who can aid in his plight to rise to the top of the social ladder. WHAT THIS MEAN BOY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW is that he is aware of the fact that he has the potential to be successful without riding someone else’s coattail. However, public notoriety has become more important to him than personal growth and maturation.
THE INTERNET CELEB – He is the first one to say, ‘unfollow me if you don’t like my posts’, but checks his follower count every three and a half minutes. The internet celeb feels entitled to public praise and attention. This particular mean boy intentionally ignores his social media comments and hardly ever replies to his supporters. This is his way of maintaining pseudo celeb status. He definitely considers everyone to be one of his ‘fans’ and treats them accordingly. He has booking information listed in his online bio with aspirations to do nothing more than host rooftop and nightclub parties. His notoriety on the World Wide Web is usually based on fluff content and sloshy pictures. If you do not idolize him or have some form of popular, internet platform as well, he will not associate with you publicly. However, WHAT THIS MEAN BOY DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW is that very little of what he says or does online is a true reflection of the life he lives once his computer shuts down.
Mean Boys exist in many different facets and forms. Often times, their individual fight to remain at the center of certain social circles is based upon the voids that have been left by past experiences. Sometimes, it takes these men years to realize that no matter what we do or how far we travel, life will always reel us back in to who we are at the core. Mean Boys consciously and subconsciously mistreat others in an effort to avoid having their created selves decoded. It’s an unspoken yearning to experience a shelf life that somehow makes a lasting impression on thousands or millions of people.
Most mean boys don’t care who is hurt or disappointed in their plight to leave a surface legacy, for as long as their names reign supreme amongst the …’others’.