I may be more ‘mature’ now, but I vividly remember how STRONGLY I wanted to be like everybody else when I was a young teenager.
One super-vivid memory is that my mom made me an outfit from corduroy – a skirt and top that went over a blouse. The skirt was some kind of pattern with yellows and green and there were four large black buttons on the front, forming the corners of a square. The top was green. My mom bought me a pale yellow blouse to go under the top. She was an amazing seamstress and the outfit was beautifully made.
The problem? Back in 1492 when I was a teenager, the saying was, “Yellow and green on Thursdays means you’re queer.” (or something similar.) This shows you that – as messed up as our country is NOW as far as being inclusive and embracing our differences, 60+ years ago, it was worse!
Of COURSE my mom wanted me to wear the outfit on Thursdays and told me how ridiculous it was that I would care what other people thought. This caused really bad scenes in my household, as my mom was strong-willed and I was stupid and wanted to fit in so badly I would have almost rather died than cross the ‘group.’
Another thing was tennis shoes. New ones, clean and white, meant you were a nerd. NOW I would be proud to be called a nerd – maybe I could have become a gazillionaire and had enough money I could make a difference – but THEN I would go out and purposely get grass stains and dirt on them the minute they came home from the store.
AND – for some unknown reason – I felt that I HAD to be good at things IMMEDIATELY or I wouldn’t be ‘accepted.’ I think ‘what CRAP!’ NOW, but I sure didn’t THEN. I remember a pool party where everyone was doing some kind of dive off the diving board. My mind has blurred the details of what dive it was, or even who I was with. My turn came. I gave it my best, but ended up with a huge, painful SPLAT on the water. I remember swimming under water to the shallow end of the pool (I was a good swimmer, but couldn’t dive). Someone was along side, yelling at me to find out if I was all right. I lied and said I did that for comic relief.
I substituted at the local schools for about two years, trying to get a job in the Greenwood School System, substituting for kindergarten through high school boy’s P.E. and was saddened to see that everyone is trying NOT to stand out. If you’re a good student, you try to be quiet about it. Everyone dresses alike, talks alike, give the same blank look when you ask them questions about the subject they’re studying, the book they’re supposed to be reading, etc.
It would be wonderful if children were encouraged by adults – and especially their peers – to be DIFFERENT – SPECIAL – UNIQUE. To CELEBRATE the things that make them stand out. To be CONFIDENT – CURIOUS – with PASSION to seek a unique place in the world.