From the time I was small, I was taught not to judge others. Especially not to negatively judge them, and especially not for reasons either out of their control or that made them different. I was raised to be open minded, never to look at someone and deem them unimportant or unworthy of my time based on looks. Or, to paraphrase Martin Luther King Jr., simply judge them on the content of their character. Nothing more, nothing less. And as a little kid, it seemed easy enough. I was nice to people who were nice to me, etc.
As I got older, I found that more difficult. See, it’s human nature. We form packs, cliques, etc. It’s instinctive. Perhaps it goes back to our Neanderthal days, when people had a better chance at survival in groups. Who knows. But we form these packs- usually with folks of similar mind. And then we isolate our little pack, and everyone else is shit out of luck. It’s just the way it is. We’re just hard-wired to judge. We point fingers at those who aren’t “like us.” We hold our noses up, thinking we’re so much better/cooler/prettier/smarter. We judge people’s political views, religious affiliations, looks, fashion choices, etc. Especially in high school. High school is a safe haven of judgmental bitches. And an all-girls high school, like the one I went to? HA! Try and find a non-judgmental bitch. I happened to fall into a group of misfits; we had all types of races, all types of musical interests, all types of dress (or in some cases lack thereof, haha). But even us, the misfits, judged others. And that’s just how it is in high school. You grow up, you move on, right?
A judgmental bitch is a judgmental bitch.
Some of us, deep down inside, aren’t judgmental. Some people genuinely do not give two shits what you do/say/wear. And with some of us, if we do judge, it’s a superficial snap judgment, and we fight it. We know better. We really do accept everyone for who they are and we don’t care if it’s the same as us or different. If we find ourselves judging, we step back and correct ourselves, reminding our inner asshole that we have no right to do that. But others… others are just born to rip everyone else apart, specifically if that other group is different than them in any way. They don’t care if it’s right or wrong. They don’t care if it’s a generalization, a stereotype, or just a flagrant example of racism/sexism. There’s usually not much you can do with people like that. You can avoid them (as I try to do) or you can try to work around them, but they’re always around. In the workplace, in college, in the mall, in the supermarket, on the internet…
I’d say it was economically based, but it isn’t. Not always. I’d say it was just religious claptrap, but it’s not. It is a lot of the time… but not every time. I’d say it’s the way they were raised, but then I’d just be blaming parents for something that at some point every individual learns is wrong and has to own up to.
It infuriates me when people look at me and make an instant judgment about me, or when they hear something about me and instantly assume something. Just because I’m Agnostic doesn’t mean I’m a cruel or bad person; my inner ethics meter works better than most “religious” folk I know. Just because I have a mohawk doesn’t mean I’m “tough” (although… don’t test me) or a bad-ass. I’m a bad-ass because of what’s inside, not outside. I’d be a bad-ass with a little mousy brown pixie cut or long red hair, too. And I don’t have a nose ring so that other people will think anything specific about me. I have it because I like it, and I want it. It’s not about you, it’s about me. It’s not about the message I want to send to anyone. It’s just how I like to look. How I feel comfortable.
Which is why, when I stumbled on this article by Sheila Wray Gregoire, it not only rubbed me the wrong way, it got my hackles up. This woman, Sheila, wrote a pretentious article about piercings and tattoos under the guise of “advice” for young people. Which- pardon my French- is bullshit. For example, and I quote:
Part of what concerns me about this whole trend, though, is that the young people who dress to make themselves virtually unemployable also tend to come from less than ideal circumstances. While there are exceptions, in general, kids from stable middle class families don’t tend to do this. That makes me really sad, because I want to be a society which champions opportunity for all, not one that sticks some people in lower classes permanently.
So here’s some tough love for you: if you’ve come from a rough background, you start out with several strikes against you. But the vast majority of us want you to succeed, we do not want you to fail. We are not against you. But you’ve got to decide to help yourself.
There’s a whole lot of ignorance in those seven little sentences.
First off, middle class kids don’t get tattoos or piercings? I am middle class. My family sent me to Catholic school, which they paid quite a bit of money for, and to college. I was a stable middle class “kid” with both my parents in the picture. And as I type, I have a big ol’ hoop hanging right off my nose, and the sides of my head shaved. And guess what? I was a straight A student, except for math. Accepted early to the one & only college I applied to, my first choice. And I went to the interview wearing Doc Martens. Never got a detention, or a demerit, or had any disciplinary action taken against me. I wore lots of black eyeliner pencil on my eyes & blue nail polish, wore spiked dog collars to class, wrote all over my uniform blazer with Sharpie & made mules out of my mandatory oxblood Bass penny loafers by pressing the backs down & wearing them like slippers. I paid no attention to the uniform rules, I pushed the limits. But I did my work, and I did it well. And ultimately, other than a few cross looks and a few “tuck that shirt in” comments… I wasn’t even bothered. Not even by the nuns.
SHOCKING! HOW DID I MANAGE TO GRADUATE? AND THEN ENTER INTO SUCH A NORMAL SOCIETY WITH ALL THAT NEEDLESS REBELLION & COSTUMING!? HOW WAS I NOT ARRESTED? OR WORSE… HOW DID I NOT DELVE DEEPER INTO MORE HOT TOPIC-LIKE SUBCULTURES?
And… “if you’ve come from a rough background, you start out with several strikes against you“? Wow. The balls on this lady are huge. I actually have no idea how she can keep typing, what with her foot in her mouth and balancing so delicately in her ivory tower. What’s worse? She claims herself a Christian. A God-fearing woman. Clearly she missed this part of the Bible:
“Judge not, that ye be judged.” -Matthew 7:1
What’s missing from this article is too in depth for me to get into. It’s empty, it’s clueless, it’s baseless, it’s superficial. It’s a frightened woman who probably has children of her own, who she probably stifles from being who they really are, all in the name of job security or “what society will think.” That’s how people like Sheila function. They view society as if this is 1950… or worse, 1750. Where everyone is one religion, everyone looks or dresses similar, and anyone who doesn’t is ostracized. I’m surprised Sheila has an opinion. Shouldn’t women get off the internet & raise families? Oh, oops. Did I just make a sexist comment based on an unfortunate & outmoded archetype?
What is written in this article isn’t just a thinly veiled form of racism. It isn’t just ageist. It’s the blatant judgment that “alternative” looks aren’t attractive. That you have to be like everyone else to succeed. It’s the judgment that people only do these things for attention, or to wear a “costume.” As if it isn’t real. As if they aren’t actually enjoying it, they’re just doing it to belong. And sure- some people might be so insecure that that’s true. But- newsflash- tattoos are expensive. And piercings cost money too. I don’t know many people getting them just to avoid getting a real job or to avoid being a member of society. However, according to Sheila:
Who in their right mind is going to hire someone who looks Goth to be a receptionist? Or a sales clerk in any shop that caters to those over twenty? Or a server in a restaurant? Nobody, because these are businesses, and in business, it’s never a good idea to scare your customers away. Even government jobs will be closed to you, I’m sorry, but no kindergarten teacher can have skulls tattooed all over her arms.
According to The DO:
A survey published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology in 2006 indicated that among Americans born between 1975 and 1986, 36% have at least one tattoo, 32% have had a nontraditional body piercing and 20% have had both—a dramatic increase over previous generations. Thus, it is not surprising that many med students and young physicians have body art.
So alll those people are just avoiding real life? They don’t work or function normally? I find that hard to believe. Mainly because it isn’t true.
Tattoo by Jeff Gogue, Grants Pass, Oregon.
Clearly that man above doesn’t have a job.
Alright look. Yes, you have to dress the part for a job interview. It’s not acceptable to show up in ripped jeans to see someone about a job at Ernst & Young. But it might be acceptable to work at Google, or GoDaddy. And that’s the part of the article Mrs. Gregoire forgot to add. That there are a lot of jobs out there. And not all of them involve wearing polyester pant suits & briefcases. And not only that, but most tattoos aren’t visible when you’re fully dressed, so what difference would it make? And if you’re fully sleeved, with neck tattoos and face tattoos, it’s safe to say either you’re already safely employed or you shift around in an area of work that’s fine with it. If not- then you might be narrowing your job choices, but if you’re paying $500 and up per tattoo, you probably don’t mind.
And what is it that the nose rings, and the eyebrow rings, and the death-dyed hair say? They announce, “I’m tough. I don’t care what you think. I want to scare you a little.” Then, when people don’t accept you, you have a ready-made excuse: the rest of us are uptight and judgmental. You can continue to reject “the culture” and opt out, because we’ve rejected you first.
It just gets better. Look- I haven’t rejected anyone. I even accept people like you, as sad as you are. I know you’re out there, typing furiously away at your laptop, trapped in a world where creativity is stifled & everyone looks the same. Trapped in some strange mentality where people only get by if they “play by the rules” or “dress respectfully.” What exactly does that mean anyway? Are my leopard print flats or studded belts disrespectful? Or is it my cashmere J. Crew sweater combined with my studded belt that’s disrespectful? Or is it my nose ring? I don’t think so. I don’t think that’s anymore disrespectful than your earrings. And “death-dyed” hair? What exactly is that? Is that a goth joke? (I do love a good goth joke) I don’t know many tattooed/pierced people who don’t buy things in stores, contribute to the Capitalist society we have and just sit around, brooding all day about how different they look. Scratch that, I know none.
And by the way, I have a lovely name- Marilla. You don’t have to call me one of “the nose rings.” We all have names, and identities, and feelings. And families. Who love us and adore us no matter what. I feel sorry for your family. You have all the warmth of Eva Braun. She was another woman, part of a society who wanted everyone to be the same. Hmm. Interesting. But that’s yet another difference between us: you judge, and expect everyone to listen, understand, and fall in line. You use your so-called experience or superiority to convince people they aren’t going to be good enough unless they’re like you, a.k.a. tattoo-less, nose ring-less, and snooze worthy. I don’t want anyone to be like me. I want to be different. I want there to be a great big divide between you & I. A big one. HUGE. Massive. As in I want to be on the other end of the spectrum from anyone like you. Mrs. Gregoire thinks that Hollywood’s presentation of goth youth in movies & TV and that images of the Sex Pistols are representative of everyone with a hoop in a body part or ink on their skin. That the photos of high school girls with black lipstick listening to Type O Negative in a dark room are the ultimate in truth for all people who enter a tattoo shop. Not so. If Mrs. Gregoire left her small-minded attitude at the door and actually paid attention to life around her, she’d see that. And she’d understand that most people she runs into on a daily basis are “modified” in some way… and she’d never know it.
We all know tattoos have been around as long as humans. Here’s a terrific example, a 2,500 year old Siberian female mummy dubbed “Princess” that has extensive tattoos. And we all know that piercings, too, have been around forever. But what I don’t know is when we all became so judgmental of them. If they’ve been around longer than any of us, why is this still a problem? Why is it even a discussion? Why does it matter?
Tattoo by Den Yakovlev, Russia
Because Eleanor Roosevelt was right: great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people. Apparently, what other people choose to do with their bodies is up for debate. Apparently people have the right to call you “poor” or “uneducated” based on what t-shirt you choose to wear or how big that visible tattoo is. Well people will judge, that’s true. And it doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. They’ll do it anyway, and they’ll make sure they do it in such a way that they present themselves as far better. But why, as someone writing an article in a newspaper, would you make it okay to judge? Why would you throw around statements in the belief that it’s perfectly fine to put people down for not making the same (probably boring) choices as you? Or better yet… why judge anyone negatively for being more creative than you? For having the confidence to not look like everyone else? Because to me you don’t look all that great either, but I didn’t write an entire article debasing you on your looks. I did, however, write an article calling you out as a fake Christian, an incredibly ignorant & judgmental person, & least of all: a sorry excuse for a “writer.” And I based it all on your own words.
I mean, really, didn’t anyone ever tell you that people judge you based on how you present yourself?
But as a matter of fact, I apologize for even judging you at all based on your article, because it makes me look like I’m no better than you, which I certainly am.
If this is the only topic you can think of to write an article about, let me help you, Sheila. Wars. Children going hungry (all over the world). Malala Yousafzai. Those are just a few ideas for your next piece of riveting text. That’s from me, the creative & interesting one, to you, the evidently boring & stodgy one. This time it’s on me. Next time it’ll cost you.
Oh, and Sheila, as far as nose rings & colds go… I never had a problem. But you’ll be the first to know if I do.