I’d co-sign that.
The part of your question about gender rings true, too. You’re not the first black man I’ve heard say he was accused of doing something feminine by making lotion a regular part of his routine. And I suppose that makes sense if you view lotion as something one uses to be soft and lovely and good-smelling, versus something that’s a requirement to avoid the appearance of being covered in chalk. I can’t really answer the academic portion of your question, but I can say, yes, personally, I think you’re on to something. (Helpful, huh?)
So what’s the takeaway—besides some insight into why the lotions provided in hotel rooms are so uselessly watery and ridiculously small, and putting aside the fact that it was kind of weird for a stranger to inquire about your grooming practices?
What I think is most fascinating about your question is the reminder that sometimes we simply have no idea what’s going on with other people from different backgrounds. Forget stereotypes and biases related to stuff we talk about all the time—we have actual, huge blind spots where it never occurred to us that our experience might not be the only one. Moments like this keep that fact in perspective.
When it comes to you and the guy in the locker room, I can’t help wondering how many other, noncosmetic, nonashiness-related parts of your lives are so completely different that they’d make you ask each other, “For what!?”
Jenée Desmond-Harris, The Root’s associate editor of features, covers the intersection of race with news, politics and culture. She wants to talk about the complicated ways in which ethnicity, color and identity arise in your personal life—and provide perspective on the ethics and etiquette surrounding race in a changing America. Follow her on Twitter.
Need race-related advice? Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Race Manners: “What’s With the Fixation on Putting Black Boys in Ties?”