1. partly or completely unlike
2. not identical or the same; other
3. out of the ordinary; unusual
Sarah mentioned in her previous post that I have purple hair. It’s a recent thing–for the past couple of months, I’ve been experimenting with unconventional hair colors. I’m a color fanatic, and now that I’m unchained (no more desk job!) and have the freedom to look however I please, I don’t want to waste the opportunity. (Also, I just really love purple :))
Most people are complimentary about my hair color–kids especially love it–but there have been quite a few stares and “that’s…different” responses: a not-necessarily-insulting but definitely-not-complimentary reaction.
At this point, being called “different” makes me laugh, because it’s happened so often in my life. I’m the “different” one in my family–the liberal, pacifistic, pagan, tattooed lesbian who has 5,000 nicknames for her cats and likes to wear fairy wings.
The truth is, I’ve never tried to be different. Never wanted to be. When I was young, all I wanted, dreamed of, prayed for was to be the same as everyone else. Maybe then the bullies would have left me alone. Maybe then I would have felt as if I belonged in this oftentimes harsh world.
Even now, at thirty-something years old, I have my moments of not-belonging. But I’ve stopped blaming myself, or feeling ashamed, for being “different.” My life fills me with so much joy. And all of my choices, all that I am, have brought me to this moment–here, now. I don’t fit some people’s conception of the “mold,” and I’m so grateful that I don’t, because if I did, I wouldn’t be where I am, who I am, and sharing my life with the most amazing (and, yes, different) person I have ever been blessed to know–my wife, Sarah.
I’m learning to let “different” flatter me rather than ruffle me. I mean, it makes sense, because I’m drawn to different people myself. I have the most wonderful, creative, surprising, brave and supportive friends anyone could ask for. People who aren’t afraid to express themselves for fear of what “they” might think about them. When you’ve been around for long enough, you begin to realize that “they” don’t matter–may, in fact, not even exist, because allof us are different, if we allow ourselves to be.
That’s what’s beautiful about the world–different thoughts, different dreams, the different manifestations of love.
I’m a shy person by nature; I shrink from attention. And I’m not especially brave. But I’m not going to cover up my tattoos or hide behind my mousy brown hair or refrain from holding my wife’s hand in public just because someone might stare, scoff, whisper, be offended, or otherwise express their disapproval. We each have one life to live, and this is how I choose to live mine. Differently, maybe, but motivated by the same things that, I think, drive us all–truth, beauty, self-expression, love.
It’s telling to me that children respond the most positively to my purple hair. They don’t know about “them” yet (or at least I hope they don’t). It gives me hope. The world is changing. The school-age generation is far more open-minded than it was during my educational years. I’m eagerly awaiting the day when a glimpse of rainbow hair doesn’t turn a head, and when the sight of two girls or boys kissing is public is as everyday and expected an occurence as the sun rising–and acknowledged, by and large, with smiles.
This post wasn’t about purple hair or even being gay; it’s about being true and chasing dreams without shame, fear or regret. Most importantly, without regret. To be perfectly honest, I was compelled to write this post by a recent, rather hurtful incident involving the word “different”–used in a derogatory manner by someone I love, against someone I love. So I began to redefine the word in my head, reclaim it, I guess, to lessen the sting and the isolation being different can inspire.
I could have played safe and stayed hidden in my quiet apartment, solitary and repressed and working my daily 9 to 5–my existence before Sarah. I could have pretended for the rest of my life. In some alternate universe, maybe I’m doing just that.
But in this universe, I’m not pretending, and now I have so much more to be grateful for. 🙂