My beautiful, 21-year-old daughter, Devin, recently decided to dye her hair dark purple. Although I am not in favor of such action, I didn’t say much about it because I choose my battles with her carefully.
Don’t get me wrong, I ribbed her on a daily basis, but I didn’t “have a cow” over it. As it turns out, I didn’t have to. Devin quickly learned that when you do things out of the ordinary, you draw attention to yourself.
Whether that attention is positive, negative or simply inquisitive greatly depends on what it is you have done. In her case, she drew all of the above. Her friends from ages 18-25 thought that her purple hair was really something. In fact, everyone thought that it was “something” whether they appreciated her attempt at being different or not.
After two weeks of receiving uncomfortable stares, Devin decided that purple hair had drawn more attention than she was willing to receive, so she went with a dark brown cover-up, which although not my absolute favorite, is more acceptable in our professional work environment.
Devin learned a lesson that I believe all young people should heed. You will be judged on your appearance whether you like it or not, whether you feel it is “fair” or not and whether all of your friends are doing it or not. This is life — get used to it.
Have you ever watched a group of young people walk through a grocery store with their hats on sideways, pants sagging, boys with big holes in their ears, tattoos on their face, acting like they are meaner than mean? What are they trying to convey to others? To me, they are making a feeble attempt at intimidation. But what they fail to understand is that most people simply shake their heads in disgust because they realize that only the weak fear them and if you dress that way to intimidate the weak, then shame on you.
Did I judge them? You bet I did and why wouldn’t I? They are trying to make a statement, right? Am I to assume that they are making an attempt to be helpful and kind? I don’t think so.
Some people will rebut my assumption by calling me names like “prejudiced” and “judgmental.” That doesn’t bother me. Those people are out to make a statement by drawing attention to themselves and if their intent were to be perceived as non-threatening, they would dress in a non-threatening manner. You can’t dress like a clown and expect to be perceived as professional. End of argument.
I enjoy looking (staring) at people with multiple tattoos, piercings and fun hair color. The problem is that they don’t seem to appreciate my stares. I’m not exactly sure why, though. If they didn’t want me to look, why did they go to the trouble of decorating themselves? It’s almost as if they are screaming, “Look at me! Don’t look at me!” It is so confusing!
Let’s think about this: Two people respond to a request to remodel your kitchen. The first is dressed in clean clothes, has neat, clean hair, smiles and politely greets you. The second is a man with no shirt, a cigarette hanging from his lips, wearing jeans with last week’s work grease all over them and greets you with a frumpy, “Hey!”
What is your initial judgment of the two? The way they are dressed may have nothing to do with the quality of their work, but who do you gravitate toward? Which of the two “appears” to be more professional and trustworthy?
Many believe that appearance should have no bearing on the way in which others perceive them. They convince themselves that if they are judged by their appearance, it is not their problem and that they don’t “need” people like that.
If you have goals and ambitions, you don’t know what or who you might “need” later in life. You have absolutely no idea at this moment in time where you might end up a week, a month, a year or 10 years from now.
In this age of “tolerance” and “acceptance” it is, perhaps, cliché to expect others to present themselves in the manner they wish to be perceived, but I’m not yet willing to give up my old-school thoughts when it comes to positive appearance and attitude.
Devin gives me hope that young people might still acknowledge that they will be treated with as much respect as they are willing to give. She realized that purple hair was not of much benefit and she cared enough about herself to change it.
Like Devin, I will love you the way you are, but please don’t make me work so hard to get to know you. And if you insist on making me work that hard, please allow me to stare at your design strategy while I’m learning.