We aren't supposed to worry about what other people think of us, right?
And yet, we are expected to dress fashionably. Or wear make-up. Instead of recovering after spinal surgery, I was supposed to make sure my house was presentable for the visitors that would come to wish me well. We're told "you never get a second chance to make a first impression" and of course there are entire industries dedicated to improving one's looks or one's social skills. The stats talk about how people need people to survive. We are social beings. People do need people to like them.
Certainly not all people are going to like any given person. But there is definitely both a need and a desire to be as attractive (inside and out) to enough people.
Being teased hurts. It means someone doesn't like you and has encouraged others to hop on the bandwagon.
At the age of nearly 41, I would have thought that my days of being made fun of would be over. But, even adults are not immune to others' taunting disapproval. When my oldest was very young, there were many situations that came up in which I was considered a "bad mother" and shunned appropriately. I simply didn't join playgroups or anything of that nature when my second son came along. Now, it is my youngest son's teammates who have decided that I'm deserving of pointing and laughter.
I'm not sure what set them off (my weight? my hair? my clothing? that I enjoy watching workout at the gym so am there more than other parents?) but they enjoy whispering, laughing, and pointing up to where I sit. My son was in tears during the last workout because he told me his teammates were saying mean things about me. (And no, this wasn't just a round of "Yo Mama" jokes; I know they've done that in the abstract and my son found it funny. This time it was "serious.")
Then today, I learned of a girl in Ohio who is being bullied for cutting her hair for a cancer charity. Her newly short hair isn't societally-acceptable, apparently. Her family has set up a #StandWithJetta Facebook page to support their daughter and to raise money both for Wigs for Kids and for an Anti-Bullying non-profit group.
I definitely feel for Jetta, because I remember what it was like to be looked down upon as a child. I was called "Pig Nose" and worse. I was harrassed for having a large early-developed chest. Of course, my chest size has never stopped being an issue, as it has gotten me lots of unwanted attention. And right now, my hair isn't quite right, so I have to wait for it to fill in a bit. I'm sensitive about it, and so can relate to Jetta. (Although, she's very confident with her new haircut - and it is gorgeous on her.)
Just a few days ago, my son asked if he could get one ear pierced. He's a fifth-grader. I got my ears pierced in the fifth grade. I have no problem with him wearing pink or enjoying sparkles. When he was younger and wanted his hair long, I let him. And when he decided last year that he wanted to go super-short, I let him. It is his hair, after all. (And yes, he got plenty of comments when it was long about how he should cut it; and plenty of compliments when he did cut it short.)
But I admit that the idea of a young man having his ears pierced at the age of only 10 has given me pause. If he were a girl (and not less than 2 months away from gymnastics season where earrings result in a uniform deduction) I wouldn't hesitate. I admit this is the first time that traditional gender roles have swayed me. Now - when he's a bit older (16? 18?) then, yes, I think getting an ear pierced could be pretty cute. (And, it would give him time to make sure he really wants to do it. Because, hair can be cut or can grow, and we can change the clothing we wear, but piercings are more permanent.)
But in some ways, it is like Jetta's case -- because she's 10 and got a pixie haircut. Lots of teenagers and older women have short hair, but most elementary-aged girls have nothing shorter than a chin-length bob. If my son were to get his ear pierced, he'd probably be the only guy in the school with a pierced ear. What would happen, I wonder?
Because at the core, we're worried about what other people think.