NON-SAMENESS by Stacie Isabella Turk

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Is being the same always the best?

I dig juxtaposition.

(Above) The black rock and the leaf are completely in contrast to one another in color/texture and yet, quite striking, don’t you think?

As a parent, teacher, or any adult in the lives of children, do we teach our children that being the same is valued over being a fully expressed version of her/himself or do we allow/encourage their non-sameness?

Is this the old power struggle that parents have been having with their daughters about not having blue hair or their sons about cutting theirs?

In society in general, do we encourage sameness?
What is so great about everyone looking the same?
Call me crazy, but I get bored easily…with everything.
I like new stimulation.
I like visual variety.
I do not like what everyone else likes, necessarily, and I am grateful for the freedom to express mySELF the way that feels most authentic. (Buzz word warning!)

I like walking into a room (or outside of one) and seeing things that look different; people, dresses, trees, buildings. I love walking down a street where every building looks different, where architecture becomes art. So this might seem like a silly question, considering the fact that peer pressure to fit in is an age old battle waged from the school playground to professional playground, but it is one that is very much on my mind since last night.

I was invited to join some friends at a party and when one of them arrived to pick me up, he saw what I was wearing, a simple black knee length short-sleeve sundress, low heeled sandals and a necklace. Oh, yeah, earrings… did I mention simple gold earrings? The whole ensemble was incredibly simple, nothing rockstar about it. He commented that I would definitely look “fancier than everyone else at the party.” He emphasized, ‘everyone,’ making it perfectly clear that he felt whole-hearted conviction in his statement. He commented on my sandals and jewelry as well, proceeding to explain that all my accessories contributed to my fanciness and he was sure I would stand out,”looking very different from all the others.” He topped it off by saying, “there will definitely not be anyone else there that looks like that.” It was clear he thought that to be a negative. I changed… two more times. He had me convinced that I would be mosquito bitten in my skirt (option #2 purple skirt,) covered in mud at my feet (option #1 sandals and option #2 clean grey Keds sneakers,) and sitting on dirty outdoor benches that would soil my white pants (option #3).
Each time I changed, it was still too fancy in his opinion.

Hmmm...maybe my friend WAS just looking out for my best interest in what was sounding like a dangerous backyard party environment, but I could not shake his words which is what led me to feel that what was really at the root of it was how my non-sameness would reflect on him…somehow…poorly?

Now let’s see...

A) I have no problem with wearing things that are fun to look at and make me feel pretty.

B) Why does it matter if I look different than all the rest? Why is sameness the goal?

C) Should my individuality/self-expression (in this case, with my fashion) reflect upon him (in any which way) because I was his guest?

So… I ask those of you out there who have children in your lives and whom are influencing those children, are you encouraging sameness or individuality, your expression or your child’s unique expression?

Now, I am a full grown-up lady, this was a no big deal party, and even I felt the pressure to blend in after his tap dance.

How might a child respond to that influence…when the adult’s own issues are projected onto the child? I believe they will feel wrong for their self-expression and hide it away never to be seen again. That is what doubt and shame do. Doubt paralyzes you. Shame shuts you up and shuts you down. Shame can be delivered and disguised in the most subtle way. Of course, my friend cares about me, and wanted me to be physically comfortable at this outdoor party (which was beginning to sound like Jurassic Park) BUT I have always had a truth meter lodged up my — and I feel strongly that what was really happening for him was about him, not me.

It dawned on me just now… is this another chat about mediocrity? Wasn’t I being asked to just look mediocre so as not to call too much attention to myself (or maybe him)? Wasn’t I being asked to make myself small, so as not to appear too large in a crowd? Maybe my friend is uncomfortable with attention himself? I realize that my friend was sincerely concerned about my attire being comfortable for me in light of mosquitos and mud, but I cannot help but feel that what was truly underneath it was, instead, at the root of his own words.

I have always been different. I have never fit the mold. I have always worked outside the box and outside the traditional system. I work in “independent” film, for goodness sake, because that’s where one can create their own rules for getting something made (well, it used to be!).

I would like to live in a world where non-sameness is celebrated.
I celebrate it in others everyday.

Much more importantly, do you celebrate, champion and encourage it in your child?

Incidentally, my children''s book/music anthology, MACARONI AND CHEESE, is described as “a collection of stories songs and activities for children and their parents designed to champion your child’s unique view of the world.”

Interesting, that I am revisiting those very words, in just getting dressed for a gathering...