Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Today's lesson: my values aren't negotiable


I'm beautiful. And I'm fortunate enough that I don't need to be in a fancy outfit or makeup to feel that way. I can stand stark naked in front of a mirror and be content with what I see, and I can see myself just after I rolled out of bed, hair sticking up on end, and smile to myself at how lovely I am. And while I know that this may not be standard, I'm very glad for it.

Knowing this, I'm also not clueless to the fact that most of the world has expectations. If I walk into a job interview with a knee-length skirt and fuzzy legs, I'm not getting the job. If I appear on television in jeans and a hoodie, nobody will take me seriously.

And so today I played the game.

When I heard I would be on TV, I got up extra early to primp. I shaved, I did my hair, and I even put on a dress and the most uncomfortable heels I could have found. I marched to the TV studio and I waited patiently, feet already in pain, until it was my turn to speak to the host. When my time came, I was on camera for less than 5 seconds, while the camera spent 95% of the time panning the important part: what I'd gone there to talk about.

Now, for a lot of people, I wager this is no big deal. But for me, my behaviour was completely unacceptable. Why, when I value myself the way I do, would I go through all this trouble to play the game? Why would I feel like a clown in my own clothing, subject my feet to that pain, and sacrifice a good night's sleep to look pretty? Why would I send the message to myself that the way I was born isn't OK, and I need to straighten my curls and take the hair off my legs to be beautiful? Because that's what I've been told, I suppose.

And afterwards, when I was limping back to my office, toes blistered and bleeding, bare legs frozen from the cold, and hair curled again from the snow, I realized life was punishing me for doing what was expected, rather than what I knew to be right for me.

So today I learned that I perceive my values as negotiable. They're good values that I'll uphold, as long as the people around me that I need to help me out aren't going to think less of me for them. At the end of the day, I'm behaving like the pair of fuzzy legs that goes into the interview under pants. I'm being the lesbian who's in the closet around homophobes. And I'm not OK with that.

So starting today, I'm turning my back on the game. I'm telling my friends no thanks when they tell me people will like me better if I "take care of myself." I'm ceasing to censor what I say unless it's untrue to who I am. And I'm loving every moment that's thrown my way, whether I "should" be doing that thing, talking to that person, or supporting that cause.

Maybe it's just a new game. But at least this time I'm the one writing the rules.

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