The young people I work with are obsessed with the physical. Apparently, what you wear and how you look defines who you are, what club you belong to, what you like, what you dislike, what TV shows are your favourite, what music you like, what job you will get, who you will marry and how you behave in all instances.
Looks like our lives have been mapped out for us right? Terrifying.
Last week, I felt like I was fighting a losing battle trying to tell my young people that my brother (who is their age) isn’t a skater/goth/grunger/townie/chav/geek/plastic/insert all other stereotypes here, and that he is just J.E (his intials), a 13 year old boy. They couldn’t understand. They pressed me for more details of what shoes he likes, how he wears his jeans, what tops he wears, trying to fit him into a pre-made mould. I had to leave the room, because I was about to scream. They didn’t ask me what music he liked, who his favourite comedian was, what his favourite food was. They tried to build a picture of him just from his clothes and his appearance. They were going to judge him completely by his coverings.
Frighteningly, it isn’t just teenagers who do this.
Recently, all over the internet, this article has been linked up. Miss Khoury has every right to her opinion on tattoos and what she does with her own body, but what she also seems to do in one fail swoop is judge everyone who has a tattoo and everyone who doesn’t without getting to know them. Women with tattoos aren’t classy? Women without tattoos spend their time better than those who do, by skipping off to the mall and getting their nails done? I paraphrase of course (please check it out for yourself) but in one tiny piece of writing she, in my opinion, damns half the population, tattooed or not. She judged a book by its cover. She judged women by how they look.
Clothes can, of course, reflect our personalities, but appearances aren’t the be all and end all are they? Come on, let’s be sensible.
Whenever I talk about my Dad, he’s imagined covered in tattoos. My Dad, despite spending his life on and under motorbikes, hasn’t a single one. He dislikes them. People are always surprised. It boggles me…why?!
My young people can’t pigeon-hole me. They try, but they give up, generally just telling me I am strange, a weirdo, an anomaly because I don’t fit into a stereotype. I find that sad and I get so frustrated. Can’t we just be who we are? Why do you want to be like a whole group of people? Do we want to be clones? Why can’t I dress in a pretty frock one day, followed by my skull cardigan the next? Oh…hang on… I can, but society finds that weird and tells me so.
I’m truly sick of all the boxes, I am just me. I’m fun, I wear stuff I like, I’m obsessed with organising, I like classical music, I don’t like bananas, I dislike being cold, I love to dance, I dye my hair, I have tattoos, I love dogs, I enjoy board games. We are a multitude of things, and our clothes do not even begin describe who we are.
I do understand why some young people cling to this idea of a ‘tribe’, the idea of belonging to a group and feeling like they fit in, when they are changing so quickly within themselves. We, as adults, just have to educate them and keep reminding them, that it isn’t what you wear that makes you who you are, it is what you do.