How I Became A Gentleman


I was a quiet kid growing up. It seemed to be my nature, or perhaps I became that way due to my upbringing. Maybe it was a mix of both, I don't know. At any rate, I remember many anxious moments feeling confronted by a need to communicate, ask questions, or be around people. It was hard for me to talk to others. During my formative teen years, it got awful.

My dad was a shift worker and an alcoholic, and he had many issues of his own to deal with. We didn't speak often, especially after my mom left him when I was twelve years old. These circumstances, although unavoidable in my young life, created many challenges for a boy my age. I couldn't simply ask my dad how to use deodorant properly, how much cologne to put on, how to style my hair, or how to talk to girls. My mom worked two, and sometimes three jobs simultaneously to make ends meet, so I couldn't ask her either. Talking to my mom didn't seem like the way that was supposed to go really. I also didn't have many friends to provide what would inevitably have been inadequate advice anyway. I needed support to help me survive the awkward days to come, but I didn't know where to turn.

I often hung out at the local mall. Sometimes I'd meet my mom for lunch in the food court. I would just hang out in the sports aisle at Canadian Tire staring at stuff we couldn't afford, and I'd buy chocolate-covered Long Johns from the bakery outside the mall entrance to Safeway. One day I was in that Safeway walking down the aisle where magazines were sold and I noticed one in particular. The cover displayed a picture of Richard Gere whom I hadn't heard about before, but it caught my eye. The cover promised to teach me about "the most powerful fashion accessories, grooming techniques, exercise methods," and more. I wondered if it could be that this magazine was published for young men like me?

I decided to skip the Long John for the day so I could afford the $2 worth of change to purchase that magazine. I'm not exaggerating when I say that this decision changed the direction of my young life. That first copy included a folded-in paper order form for a subscription. In the coming days, I was able to scrounge up the money to order my first year's worth of Gentleman's Quarterly Magazine. GQ magazine became my how-to guide through so many difficult challenges in the years to come. I remain eternally thankful for this.

The magazine gave me an edge, that to be honest, I don't think I would have had even if my dad had been in my corner back in those days. It exposed me to the world outside my hometown of 11,482 blue-collar industrial citizens. Nobody else I knew read GQ in Fort Saskatchewan in 1980, and I wasn't about to tell them to. I wanted to horde this goldmine of refined information about how to be a gentleman all to myself. GQ is why I started to part my hair to the side. I was the first kid to do that in my junior high school. GQ taught me that my socks should match my pants, and my belt should match my shoes. I learned about fashion beyond the Foot Locker licensed sports apparel and Russell Athletics coordinates everyone was wearing. It was more than fashion advice and how to talk to girls though.

 Reading the magazine helped me feel mature and connected to things that transcended my introverted local existence. It gave me things to dream about. It exposed me to realities I hadn't considered beyond the confines of my stunted perspective. It provided me a safe haven from the horrible things happening around me. It offered an alternate universe where I could find refuge when I was overwhelmed. Reading the articles introduced me to people, places, and ideas I hadn't any chance of discovering if not for that $2 magazine. Through the uniquely well-written editorials, I became aware that the things confronting me also confronted others, and that helped me feel like I could be normal.

GQ magazine gave me a sense of internal confidence that I could feel normal, and hopeful that things would get better, all the while that my belt matched my shoes, my hair looked good, and I dreamed about being a person others wanted to be around; a gentleman.


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