The first time I saw him, he was walking toward me. He stared at the camera. A wide smile was plastered to his face. The caption above his head told me this was his “Tuesday Fit as a 24 Year Old Consultant in DC.” The fit in question—jeans, a blue button up, and a charcoal blazer—was further described as an “Earthy Business Casual.” The combination was apparently a perfect example of “sleek professionalism” and “comfortable.” He finished the fit check by crossing and recrossing his arms dramatically (his “signature arm roll”).
Needless to say, after my first exposure to @_tonypindc, I needed more. As I swiped along, each of his posts revealed itself to be a window into a psychological horror beyond belief. I soon learned that Tony P’s apartment was entirely unadorned except for one colorful abstract print above his couch and a vinyl copy of Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits hanging just a little too high up on the wall. In one “Week in the Life” video, he called his headphones an “essential” for his walk to work, but what was he listening to? “Sweet Caroline” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” ad infinitum? His weeks were almost too predictable: he worked, went to a corporate event or a ballgame, cooked a new salmon or chicken recipe, watched TV, and put on fits that most would consider drab office attire. His life appeared to be a purgatorial cycle of boredom and isolation, barely masked by that classic Tony P smile.
I became obsessed. He was the only lifestyle influencer I followed, yet his lifestyle was neither desirable nor particularly interesting. I reasoned that my obsession came from him being a kind of digital sideshow. @_tonypindc appeared to provide insight into a life so warped by corporate culture and digital content production that originality and authenticity no longer had a place. I looked forward to each post for what it might reveal about this grim figure.
But, having followed him for a few weeks now, my attitude’s flipped. In no way do I envy his lifestyle, but I certainly envy his attitude. I’ve gone from feeling a vague disgust towards what I thought was his disingenuous enthusiasm, to feeling admiration towards what I see now as sincere excitement. I’d like to believe that he really is this stoked about plain white button ups and salmon recipes. I’d like to believe that he is content with the same 12 Neil Diamond songs on shuffle. Tony P’s most revealing videos are those where he discusses his personal ideology of “vibrant masculinity.” Vibrant masculinity embraces the word “and.” Men can be traditionally masculine and still express emotions, participate in typically masculine activities (for Tony P, football and golf) and still wear colorful clothing while doing so. I’d like to believe that Tony P can live a life many would call mundane and still express joy for everything in it.
There still are people (including my friends) that accuse Tony P of faking it. Maybe he’s in it for the clout, or just laying the groundwork for a congressional run. But, if @_tonypindc is just a facade, I have yet to find any cracks. Tony P has remained authentic to his perhaps unauthentic self, even under pressure. When I saw that my beloved Tony P had posted a video featuring Senator Mark Warner, I was worried. Would he suddenly start being serious and politician-like? Would he discuss pressing issues and make himself appear like a true confidant to a very important man? No. He was just the Tony P we Tony fanatics know and love. At the outset of the video, he does a little dance. Then, he brings Senator Warner to his level by demonstrating to him the classic Tony P arm roll. Wearing a bright yellow tie and an even brighter smile, Tony completes a perfect arm roll while Senator Warner looks on in wonder. Looking at neither Senator Warner nor the camera, it’s clear that Tony knows he’s awesome, with or without an audience. We’re just lucky we get to watch.