February 2000

It’s not uncommon for people to dye their hair.  In our society, where appearance is of such grave importance, it’s likely that somebody shows up boasting new auburn highlights or blonde streaks every day.  And no one comments.  So when I decided to dye my hair black, I was unprepared for the reaction I would get.

After the initial interrogation as do why I would do such a thing, I thought people would get used to the change.  As usual, I was wrong.  That was when the accusations began.  Despite the fact that my favorite color is pink, despite the fact that I listen to boy bands and admit to it, I was suddenly labeled “gothic.”

And therefore I was, for the first time in my life, prejudged, generalized about, and categorized.  And as if it weren’t bad enough that strangers were giving me suspicious glances and peers were joking with me about eating squirrels and killing little puppies, one of my closest friends began to treat me differently.  Eventually, she told me that she didn’t like being seen with me in public because, while she knew I was a nice person, “other people don’t know that.”

So after 17 years of blindly thinking that discrimination was no longer a major problem in society, or at least not one that affected me, here I was at the center of it.  And after a few days of stressing over the horror of feeling outcasted for no reason, I realized that superficiality is something we all have to deal with, because every one of us is superficial in some way.

Who knows what will happen next?  Maybe I’ll dye my hair back to its original color.  Maybe I’ll dye it purple instead.  Maybe I’ll just shave it all off.  Whatever I do, at least I know that when people ask me about it, I’ll have an answer for them: it shouldn’t make a difference what we look like, but if it really bothers you that much, I’m sorry.  It’s the intolerant people, not the “freaks,” not the “goths,” not the “nerds,” that have the problem.  It’s the rest of the “normal” population, who can’t handle people who are different and like it that way, that end up without much respect.

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