In Following the Fashion (1794), James Gillray...

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That’s the conclusion I’ve come to lately. All my life, I have struggled to try and fit in with society, with the current mindset, fashion, all of it. I’m the one who just keeps going against the current, though. My parents raised me with the notion that I was ‘perfectly fine’, that there was absolutely nothing wrong with me whatsoever. Never mind that I had to go to the hospital just about every summer for surgeries; I was just like my twin sister and shouldn’t think of myself as ‘different’.

It confused me to no end, this double standard I existed in. I wanted so much to fit in at school, with friends. I never looked fashionable; a lot of my clothes were hand-me-downs from family friends. I was not very social because I feared being taunted over my looks. I had interests in subjects most girls found weird, or considered suitable for boys, such as science fiction. I read a LOT, which set me apart from the rest of my classmates even further. I wound up hanging out with most of the outcasts in school, because they were the only ones who didn’t taunt or bully me.

As I got older, I developed a fierce love-hate relationship in regards to fitting in. I wanted so badly to be accepted by everyone, yet at the same time, I hated them with a passion because they were so stuck-up, mean, and most of all, popular. I began to develop my own style and looks, despite my deep longing to conform. What I came to see later on was that those girls I wanted so much to be like were all the same. Variations on a theme, you could say. They all had the latest fashions, had money, had boyfriends, but in essence, they were all alike.

I would’ve taken freckles over my scars, to be honest. Lots of them, like this one girl in my class had. I would’ve put up with acne than my surgeries. I would be happy to wear glasses than to be blind in one eye. I would’ve taken all those little imperfections over what I was born with. I would’ve been overjoyed beyond belief to have my twin’s looks, even when she complained about her own. For all that I tried, I still felt different. I thought of myself as a freak for many, many years, because of my looks, because of what I went through at the hands of bullies, the way I came to see myself.

One of my most profound life lessons came when I was in college, and it came from an acquaintance. Ah, Louis. You could not miss this fellow from a mile away, that’s how distinctive he was. Skinny as a rail, with a penchant for old russian Army greatcoats, he sported the meanest pair of steel-capped boots I’ve ever seen. He also had a six inch mohawk that had nails tied into the trailing locks at the base of his neck. One of the smartest guys I’ve ever met as well. He did not give a damn what anyone thought of his appearance, and people learned to respect what he had inside rather than his outward appearance. He took me aside one day and asked me why I hated myself so much, and I told him it was because I was ugly. I thought no one would ever take me seriously because of my defects, that they’d always consider me mentally handicapped in some fashion. Louis thought it was rubbish and then proceded to give me this very sage advice. He said, why be like everyone else when you can be unique? There is not a single person on this earth who looks like you, acts like you, says the the kinds of things you do. Why would you want to force yourself into a false idea of what you think people expect? He said that half the ‘normal’ people in the world don’t have a fraction of my knowledge, or intelligence. Why would I want to limit myself in such a fashion?

I laughed it off, but it stuck with me down the years. I was in denial of this for a very long time, because I could only see the darkness in my life. But things change over time. here I am, writing blogs for a wide audience to read. I never thought I’d have the guts to do that. I dress up for special occasions and I look really good. The face you see is the only one I’ve got, and I’ve learned to accept it. I’m not going to be a runway model, but then again, I don’t need to be. I have been told I am beautiful by others, and I have come to believe it. These are regular people, not celebrities or media icons telling me this. Hearing such things from real people is what makes it all the more profound, because they mean it.

We really ought to stop judging one another based on outside appearances. I would rather surround myself with people who stood out in a crowd than those who all look the same. We make fun of people who dye their hair neon colors, have lots of piercings and tattoos, and call them freaks. Some of those people I have met are the most down to earth folks ever. So what if they defy the norm? Does that make them automatically a bad person? People once perceived me as stupid, ugly, and undesirable. They based their contempt of me solely on my looks, not my brain. I wish people would stop trying to fit in to this carbon copy world. There isn’t enough variety, at least to me. We should not be afraid to be ourselves and express ourselves in a way that isn’t damaging. Why should we follow the talking heads of fashion, society, and other things? They have no real concept of what our actual lives are like anyhow. They don’t know what it’s like because they live in a false world. They have all the trappings of a well-appointed life, so they don’t know how much average people hurt inside.

We need to be more accepting, I think. Fear of the unknown in all aspects of society is what holds us back, makes us cling to prejudices that serve no purpose. Different doesn’t mean bad. Why be normal when you can be unique?