This year, I got a new haircut. Half of my head is now shaved bald. I also wear almost exclusively black, eyeliner every day, and admittedly excessively tall heels. I've been called intimidating once or twice. Between the black nail polish and the newfound confidence, I find that people look at me differently than they used to. Especially coming back to San Diego, there's a big difference in what people expect of me. In Portland, I'm pretty much the norm. Of course, some people still stare a little bit or give me a once over, but nothing extreme. Here, it's a whole other story.
When I go into stores, employees follow me around because they're afraid I might steal something. The first time I realized this was happening, I got really upset. I've never stolen anything in my life, I've been a goody two shoes for most of my life. Just because I started cutting up my t shirts, suddenly I was a delinquent? At first I thought that this nice lady just wanted to see if I needed any help. But then I told her I was just looking, and she didn't move. She kept her eyes on me the entire time I was in the store, making sure to move around so that my hands were always in her line of sight. I understand that they don't want people to steal, and that kids do steal from stores, but it hurt to be stereotyped because of the way that I like to dress.
When I was getting food recently, the cashier looked frightened of me, and it felt like those movies where I had to joke, "don't worry, I don't bite." Why is that a trope? Why do we expect people with piercings and tattoos to be untrustworthy?
All my life people have trusted me. I was the one that parents wanted their kid to hang out with, because I was straight laced and did well in school. People could go to events because I was going, and their parents figured that I would do well in charge. I was in charge of a lot of things, and they all went well. People knew that I could handle it.
My eyeshadow changed from gold to black and my dresses turned to skinny jeans and tank tops. Now all of a sudden that trust that I was used to is going away. We shouldn't judge anyone because of what they choose to wear. Sure, your clothing can say a lot about you, but it doesn't have to. Sometimes people wear things simply because that's what they think looks good, and that shouldn't reflect negatively on them.
It makes me think of other expectations we have in this society. Why do we think people look sketchy, or good, or gay, or dumb, or nerdy, and why do we act differently around these people before even getting to know them?
I know we can't just blindly trust everyone, because it's naive to think that the world doesn't have untrustworthy people in it. But we can stop putting expectations on people because of the way that they look. We can be nice without letting our guard down completely.
Perhaps I just have to deal with being intimidating, and get over it. But it's really discouraging when you have to prove people's expectations wrong, especially when they have no reason to expect anything bad from you.
"High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation."-Charles Kettering
Expect more of people, not less.