The kiddo has been really into The Berenstain Bears lately. He stumbled across some well-loved copies of mine and my brother’s while visiting his grandparents a month or so ago, and since then he has immersed himself into the folksy world of Mama, Papa, Brother and Sister Bear. In the spirit of the season, we’ve been reading (and re-reading) the Halloween themed book, Trick or Treat.
The plot is pretty tame – Sister and Brother go trick-or-treating with their friends, only to find themselves afraid of old Mizz McGrizz and her spooky home. Spoiler alert: she ends up being a kind, older woman who offers them delicious homemade candy apples instead of being the mean witch the kids feared. The tidy lesson that wraps the book up? Appearances can be deceiving.
And it’s true. I mean…look at this kiddo:
He rocks his silver sequined Batman cape like nobody else, and I’m sure folks may look at him and form some opinions (about his gender, his sexuality, his “manliness”, sigh.), most of them off base. But he doesn’t care. It doesn’t even register to him that some people might think certain things about him as he zooms around, his sequin cape shimmering as he runs. All he knows, at almost 6 years old, is that he loves superheroes and he loves sparkly things. And for him – those things can easily go together like pb&j. That’s it. His cape isn’t indicative of anything else besides his love for the caped crusader. But that didn’t stop a neighbor from raising an eyebrow when he saw my son run down the street, and giving me a look like I should know better then to let my son run around in thermal Batman pajamas and a silver, sparkling cape.
Or, perhaps his scolding, judgmental look was for my new hair – it’s purple you know. And that brings a whole host of assumptions along with it as well. But, shockingly – despite my apparently nontraditional son and my apparently nontraditional hair, we’re still a pretty traditional family.
The looks and disapproving glances aren’t anything new, however. My husband has long hair and a penchant for oversized hoodies, causing him to look a bit like a slacker despite having a doctorate and full time job as a pharmacist (where he wears a lab coat and tie, thank you very much). Our casual style has caused car salesmen to look the other way when we were on the hunt for a brand new car (shocking, right?!), and my son’s penchant for wild, curly hair and the color pink have caused many to think he’s a girl and others to question our parenting decisions.
And while I understand that sometimes you need to “play the game” in order to get ahead – or even get by – , there are just some things I can’t be moved to change. Like my hair color or my husband’s affinity for baggy sweatshirts or my son’s love of sparkles. But these things don’t solely define us, and it’s a shame that others can’t see that.
Perhaps I should carry around extra copies of The Berenstain Bears, ready to hand out should anyone attempt to judge us based exclusively on appearance. Today being Halloween, I figure this post is more than appropriate. Halloween is a day where it’s okay to dress up anyway you want to without the fear of judgment or shame (oh, unless you’re an adult that decides to wear a “skimpy” costume. seriously – we can’t win. This blog post from The Nerdy Feminist gets to the root of that issue nicely).
We all do little things to change our appearances based on the situations we find ourselves in, but there are some constants that define us that will never change. And, unfortunately – that can lead to poorly made assumptions. Whether it’s hair, hoodies, or sequined capes, I just wish we could all take a page from The Berenstain Bears and remember – appearances can be deceiving. It works the other way too – how many handsome, sharply dressed men in expensive suits can you find lately that are just chomping at the bit to snatch your reproductive rights away from you? But I digress…
So, what about you? Do you find yourself changing the way you dress to accommodate some perception of how you should look? Or do you find yourself surrounded by assumptions because of your appearance? If so, how do you handle it?