My daughter dresses in interesting clothing. Her style would be classified as part punk and part goth. She wears heavy black eyeliner and has her hair cut in a very long mohawk, generously highlighted with greenish blue streaks. (The picture here is not current in fact it is about 2 years old; you can imagine the progression….=) She likes to wear Harley Davidson boots, but she also wears Chucks (high top runners) and Vans (slip on runners). She wears safety pins and colored paper clips in her ears. She has several pairs of black pants inlaid with over 20 zippers each. She often wears black fingerless gloves even when it is warm out. It is common for little kids to point at her and say things like “Mommy, look, a rock star!” Typically, the mothers will grab these little kids to kind of discourage them from approaching my daughter any closer… but as soon as her eyes connect with the eyes of a child, her smile melts any hesitation on the part of the parent and she gives those kids a thrilling moment in their lives ~ conversation with a rock star! She empowers them, she encourages them and she models to them that not everyone that looks different is BAD
I know that clothing often does express a bad attitude; it is often used as a wall, to keep others away, but this is not the case with my daughter, and I have always known that.
My daughter has homeschooled since grade 6, but this year in grade 11, she decided to go back to traditional school in a neighbouring town instead of going back to our local K-12 school. I was pretty nervous about the way that she looks and how she would be perceived. She is really academic and I know that not many academic kids in small towns look like her. I tried to encourage her to tone down her appearance. About 6n weeks before she started in the new school I made her stop shaving the sides of her hair. I tried to convince her to change the colors in her hair. I forbid her to wear her knee high lace up platform boots. I warned her that she would suffer rejection and that kids can be so mean, and assured her that I was just looking out for her.
I forgot that when she was 4 years old I started teaching her to be who she is and not try to be someone else. I forgot that by the time she was 7 that the biggest goal that I had with her was to empower her to be who she is and walk away from the kids who rejected her because she was not who they wanted her to be. I forgot that I myself had spent thousands of dollars in therapy to get out of the tight box I was in, the conformity box of meeting other people’s expectations. I forgot that my dissociated identity disorder was rooted in trying to be all things to all people and that so much of the money I spent on therapy was to learn who I really was! I forgot that her clothing doesn’t define her; it doesn’t make her who she is; Clothing ~ like wrapping paper, doesn’t always give a clue as to what the present is inside. I forgot my own mantra because I was afraid that she would get hurt.
So she went to school. No one in her classes talked to her. She phoned me at lunch time from the safety of her truck the first few days. My heart hurt for her.
But she met other people and she learned some great truths. I think I learned (and re-learned) even more then she did. Her appearance turned out to be a great screening process. She made friends with people who are willing to look beyond her style and were willing to get to know the person inside. She grew in her confidence because she chose to be herself and she knows that her value has nothing to do with her appearance. She is a bright light in an often otherwise dark world. Does it get any better than that?
As for me, I learned that my old belief system still creeps up on me all the time. Oh I could write pages and pages more on this… and rest assured… I will. =)