I’m a Herb.
A Herb is a standard issue, dime a dozen, khaki wearing guy who tucks in his shirts and is always presentable but never stylish. ‘Nerdy’ has taken on a different connotation since I used the term with any regularity back when I was in college in the mid-nineties, but back then this would have been a part of the definition.
Back then I would have blanched had I heard I’d been called a Herb, but it was always my destiny. I merely had the freedom to wear jeans and t-shirts constantly back then. Were I to have a job, to have had kids, thus making me sincerely value said job, I’d have been a Herb already at that point, I suppose. Such is the arrogance of youth that I presumed my destiny to be endlessly casual.
Now I rely on my uniform. Blue button-down shirts in various though similar shades, khaki’s, black or tan and a belt. A brown belt. I’ve had it for 20 years, worn it most days and spent eras in each of it’s eight varying sizes based on which hole I could cinch to as determined by my ever expanding gut. I am so frequently in this uniform that when I came down in a white button down shirt yesterday (laundry day and I had to break into my formal wear) Teddy looked at me and with 100% sincerity asked, ‘Are you a Doctor?’
‘No, Buddy. Just wearing a white shirt.’ I replied.
‘You wear blue.’ he said. Correcting my obvious mistake.
I am a Herb, it’s true. Any kid would look at me and recognize the standard, basic, middle aged white guy who no longer cares. They’d be right and wrong. I don’t care about many things anymore. If I’m walking down the street and someone is passing and I really need to let one fly, just to relieve the discomfort, I will. I’m okay with whatever tittering it brings. Really. I am.
On the flip side I’ve truly come into my own as a unique individual who is not afraid of who I am. I’m a person capable of remarkable creativity. I’m learning that I have the ability to truly make a difference by being sincere about my vulnerabilities and I’m happy to share them wide and far. It’s scary at first but it’s also freeing. I’ve come to really enjoy my moments of melancholy. I have come to truly like most of the characteristics I possess that I formerly thought of as flaws and I’ve lost a whole ton of hangups I had about my personality that I used to think of as my failings. They aren’t failings they are who I am and now that I acknowledge these aspects of me as just part of who I am they have no ability to hurt me. I’m a snowflake dammit. Even if this snowflakes closet is a string of blue shirts and khaki pants. That doesn’t define me. I’m a free thinker and boring dresser. I’m the proverbial book of infinite interest behind a cover of bland button down blue shirts.
It’s becoming clear to me that it’s going to be my life’s work coming to and maintaining a level of self-acceptance. It’s good. I like doing it. But it was quite a journey, filled with missteps and mistakes all of which got me to this place I’m so fulfilled in. It’s a destination that was arrived at more swiftly, I’m certain, for all the wrong roads I went down. Those roads taught me who I was, who I could be. They were seen as mistakes or bad choices at the time, but they weren’t. They were the classrooms and laboratories where I worked tirelessly in earning my Doctorate in me.
I needed to take all the journeys to get here to the destination I so value. It’s important for me to remember this. It’ll be my job to act as resistance during my kids rebellions and wrong turns. But I hope I am able, when I know they are out of mortal danger, to tolerate the challenges I see them facing and to get out of the way so they can learn all they can learn about how remarkable they truly are.