When you look a bit different and people can't wait to tell, or worse - touch, you
Words by Jess Temby. Header image via Flickr.
We all go out every now and then; we have a wine with friends, put our music on in the Uber, maybe have a boogie and let our hair down. It’s great for most people, but when I let my hair down, it’s nerve-wracking. See, I have big, curly hair that I dye pink, so you’d be correct if you said I stand out a bit. People are quick to remind me of this fact, but I’ve made the choice to leave my hair curly and have it pink knowing full well I look a tad different to most, so I’m cool with that.
You know what I’m not cool with, though? Dirty hands. Dirty hands up in my grill, touching and sometimes pulling my hair. That shit is uncool AF, but I deal with and allow it because I know I have chosen to put myself out there and others find it curious. There are, however, some people who haven’t made a choice and stand out nonetheless. Take my very tall friend, Franklin* as an example.
I don’t know Franklin’s exact height but he is very, very tall. Once upon a time, Franklin and I were having a pleasant chat at a club, in all our pink curly hair and tallness glory, when someone decided to come over and join the convo. His contribution: “Dude! You are the tallest motherfucker I have ever SEEN! Holy shit! Look how tall this guy is! And shit, look at your hair! It’s CRAZY! Can I get a photo?” Nice observations - high fives all round? Not so much. Oh, except when he called his friend over to come join the exclamation, then high fives were thrown.
Both Franklin and I are used to this kind of attention, but should we be?
I can only speak from my own experience, but grinning, baring and almost enjoying it has become part of my skillset, whereas I saw Franklin visibly shrink when his height was put into focus. It made me think about why I took the attention in my stride while Franklin did not – I must be a legit attention-seeker.
I’ve always laughed it off when people have labelled me as such, but I’ve worked out that while receiving this attention lowers Franklin’s self-esteem and makes him feel lesser, it makes me feel validated as a person. Over time I have come to expect these remarks and exclamations about my appearance to the point where I actually rely on them to feel good about myself. How fucked is that?
If I don’t get comments about my hair when I go out, I feel like I look gross or smell bad or something. Then I don’t have the confidence to talk to anyone as my self-esteem has been punctured by their not wanting to talk to me because I look different. Can you believe some people point and laugh at me? It even happens at the supermarket, like I’m some kind of freak show for them to gawk at. Granted, I have both good and bad qualities but, generally, I’m a good egg and it bothers me that some people can’t (literally) see past my hair.
This makes me think of other ‘different-looking’ people I’ve seen, such as really short people, people with visible piercings and tattoos, the lady who wears a box-like headdress around Perth city or even the hairy man who rides his bicycle on Wanneroo Rd. God forbid if you dress differently to what’s trendy.
These could all be relatively nice people if one took the time to get to know them. Or maybe they aren’t, but how could anyone know that if they just spend their time pointing and laughing? Don’t even get me started on people asking to take selfies…
I also wonder about “beautiful” people. I mean, even if you are blessed (or cursed) with total babe features, surely there must be bulk pressure to present beautifully and be impressive all the time? It can’t be easy. I just wear my hair this way because I CBF putting in the effort to make it like everyone else’s when it just isn’t, but those poor stunners are always in the limelight, no matter their outfit.
So the next time someone grabs your attention, please don’t make them feel like a freak just because they appear differently. Maybe they’re super interesting or powerful? Maybe they’re crazy! Maybe they’re fuck-off boring, even. If they look scary, approach with caution. But be kind enough to respect their choices and consider what Niebuhr said: “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Nailed it.