Imagine you’re a first-year in high school. You’ve just started your first serious relationship, and the two of you are hanging out in your basement watching movies. It’s a good time, full of fumbling anatomical explorations. Then she turns to you and says, “You know, you kind of remind me of Lenny from ‘Shark Tale.’”
There goes your ego (though, troublingly, your boner stays).
For those who are unfamiliar with “Shark Tale,” it is a 2004 animated film about shark gangsters. Will Smith voices Oscar, a fish who gains fame by claiming credit for the accidental death of a much-feared shark. The film features fun things like sexist portrayals of women, fish with boobs, and a smattering of vaguely prejudiced jokes. Oscar becomes friends with Lenny, a bumbling but kind shark who is also a vegetarian (a trait that angers his father quite a bit).
To be honest, there are worse cartoon characters to look like. Lenny is a genuinely good person (shark). He’s also voiced by Jack Black, which is awesome. And in the movie’s heartwarming conclusion (lukewarm is still warm) everybody accepts him for who he is, so that’s nice, too.
On the other hand, most people think I look like a shark.
I don’t know that it’s necessarily a good thing to look like a shark. I haven’t had many jobs, but I really do hope that my interviewers don’t think of me as Sharkboy. Though they would probably just think of me as a shark, because Sharkboy is a different character from the 2005 live-action film “The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl in 3-D.” Either way, I experience the same fear of being judged on my appearance as many other young people.
It has been a great struggle in my heart as of late. It’s hard to internalize the fact that your physical features look like an anthropomorphic shark, and continue going about your daily life as normal.
My therapist tells me that the only way to happiness is to accept myself as I am. They might have stolen that from the Buddha, but whatever. Five years after those fateful basement fumblings, I have begun to accept that I look like Lenny from “Shark Tale.”
I hope you can accept me, too.