I am constantly surprised and irritated by the instant assumptions made about a person based purely on their appearance, circumstance, or beliefs. I have recently read two really good posts that serve to highlight this, by Nate and Claudette, and it reminded me of a few of those moments that I have had to deal with in my life.
I will happily admit that I have always bucked against the constraints of *normal* preferring instead to relish my individuality, and celebrate that of others. How dull and colourless would this world be if we all followed the same path. I have actively encouraged my children to do the same, and delight in the amazing, vibrant people they have become. None of them a carbon copy of me, each has developed their own sense of style and thought. My own actions have never been as a result of malice, however, I have no time for bigotry or spite. But I thought I would share some of the assumptions made about me.
I left school at fifteen. Not because I wasn’t academic, as would appear. In fact I was three years above my peer group because I was blessed with a fierce brain. I simply wanted to follow a non-academic path.
I was a hairdresser. Therefore, in some people’s eyes, I was stupid, because intelligence is not a prerequisite for that career. In fact, success in that world requires not just a natural artistic flair, but also an innate ability to assess and understand individual personalities in a very short space of time. To be able to converse easily on any subject, and to listen, because people treat their hairdresser as a confidant and counsellor. And to be constantly smiley and positive, even if your world is collapsing around you. My flamboyant make-up and hair quite often meant that I was ignored in shops, and refused entry to bars. Small children were steered away from me, because I was obviously dangerous to be around!!
I have tattoos. I love my tattoos.They were not as a result of a drunken bet, but very carefully thought out, designed by me, and each has a huge significance. They obviously make me a thuggish individual, with totally unsavoury character traits!! My Darling Daughter hates them, the boys love them!! My Fragrant Mother’s reaction was priceless, when I sent her a photo of my first, rather large one on my back. “Well done , darling, you look like an ageing lesbian!” Made me giggle for days!!
None of these have bothered me particularly, just made me smile. But it was my experience as a single mother that left me stunned by other people’s preconceptions. I had been in a relationship with my son’s father for three years.He was only my second boyfriend. He had left me for another woman when I was five months pregnant, and I was forced to go home to Mother. All of which was distressing enough, but then I discovered that I was, apparently, a woman of loose morals, who had a voracious appetite for men, and had got my come-uppance. Oh, and that I had deliberately become pregnant in order to gain housing/benefits. Absolutely amazing!! It has to be said that I have met a few women like this, but the majority of single parents are such purely because of a series of unfortunate events. It did afford me the opportunity to have one of my more glorious moments however.
A short while after returning home, I went for lunch with Fragrant Mother and her partner at their local pub. I was introduced, for the first time, to the landlady of the establishment, a large, loud, blowsy woman by the name of Audra. She knew nothing of my background, but jumped in feet first to the whole slutty single mum scenario!! Her opening line to me, in her very loud voice, was, “So, do you know who the father is?”
An instant hush ensued, as all eyes turned to me. I took a deep breath, smiled sweetly, and in my very best cockney accent, accompanied by obvious chewing of gum, I answered.
” I’ve narrowed it down to twelve. And if it turns out to be black, then it’s one of three!”
Just a bit of an update. I thought you might also like to read this wonderful post by NS on inkriched, concerning the same subject. Well worth a read.