Wednesday, October 31, 2012

'Be Yourself', a Poem

So in a less-than-sunny mood I seem to have committed an act of freeform poetry. So I thought perhaps I might as well pour this particular bottle of cynicism onto my blog - well, this is my 'Jar of Thoughts', and a surprising number of those thoughts are either cynical or in poem form. So this may be almost topical.
Here we go, I guess. One poem, written by me.

***

Be Yourself

What does 'be yourself' truly mean?

The words are simple.
But what do they mean, upon the tongues
Of those who speak them most?

They mean 'You are not like me.'
And 'I have caught you.'
'You did not act well enough.'
They mean a failure to pretend
that you are just like all the rest.
They mean that you are different.
They mean 'Be quirky.'
They mean 'Entertain me.'
Upon such tongues
'Be yourself' is a demand
that you be different enough to amuse.
But not different enough for questions.
No, not different enough to make them think.
Prune away all habits
All traits that they dislike.
It is 'I will disdain you
if you try to be like me.
But I will not respect you.
Not now or ever.
No matter who you become.
Be only as much self as pleases me.'

'Be yourself' is nothing less than a chain.
It is a leash.
A trite phrase used to control.
And we are expected to be grateful
for this kind permission to have selves of our own.

But not to show it.
Not unless it can be performed
for an audience to enjoy.

If your self is outspoken
or does not understand
the way of things
that self must be cut.
It must be trimmed and shaped
until you will cause no discomfort.
Until you do things right
and say things right.

They will grease the mould with your tears
until you fit into place
and then chide you for weeping.
Don't you know it makes them uncomfortable?
Be more funny.

'Be yourself' means that you did not pretend
hard enough to be normal.
You did not make up a self
that they could comfortably ignore
and now must make up another
they can spectate upon instead.

It means 'Create a self
I will like better
one you can act at more convincingly.'

I have a self.
It is mine.
I do not need your false permission
to be that self.
Take your clich├ęs and go.

Why should I entertain you
when you have not earned any part
of the self I call my own?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Red Hair; Rant, Advice, Contemplation

[Rant ahead.]

Dyed-red hair is not the same as naturally red hair. That's a pretty simple thing, I think.

But some people seem to think that a bottle of hairdye will let them buy into an identity.

Please don't do this. You want to dye your hair? Good for you! But don't claim you are now a 'fiery redhead.' Don't use redhead stereotypes to define yourself.

If you do that... You are in essence choosing to enter into a group, and then increasing or perpetuating stereotypes about that group. If you get sick of it, you can just stop dyeing your hair.

I can't.

My hair colour is the one I was born with. I am a redhead. Sometimes I like my hair. Sometimes I don't. But I should not have to change it to get away from stereotypes that have been increased by people who can escape them just like that.

Let me repeat that: I should not have to alter a fundamental part of my appearance to avoid being judged for a reputation that is affected by people who can easily stop having that reputation.

I have been insulted for my hair colour. I have been treated in less than sterling ways by people who thought it was somehow okay to pick on me for it. I have been called names by people... because I have red hair. Because I have a trait I didn't choose. Because how I look is somehow apparently open to the judgement of others. (And not just regarding my hair, but that's another post.)

And then I see people come along who think it is fun to be a redhead. Well, sure it is, for you! You didn't grow up with it. A dyed-red-haired person who uses the rep, to me, is someone who has come along once all the hard parts were over, to grab at whatever appeals to them. And who apparently has no compunctions about increasing the strength of that reputation, no matter what it involves for people who've been born with red hair.

And we are out there. There are plenty of us.

Not that certain haircare companies seem to know that, either. One company has a line of shampoos and conditioners designed for different hair colours. Each type does different things - the blonde one, for instance, is touted as improving brightness. It and the brunette one are specifically said to be for dyed or naturally-coloured hair. The redhead one? Oh, it's to prevent the colour from fading. As in, the dye. It's to rev up that red-dyed hair so that the dye does not fade away.

Well, I'm sorry, but my hair doesn't fade. It lightens a bit in the sun, and is darker when I've not been outside much, but it doesn't fade.

Yeah, sure, less redheads than brunettes, too small a target market yada yada. But why pretend, then? It's clearly only for dyed-redheads, and it's dishonest to pretend otherwise.

Also on the topic of non-redheads examining redheads; can people please stop writing their heroines with red hair as though this makes them Special Snowflakes? Your heroine will not be the only redhead in the world. People will not necessarily fall down and gasp in wonder.

I have a large extended family, and there are rather a lot of redheads in it. I've grown up considering it normal (because it is.) If I write a redhead, it's because I'm writing what I know. It's a trait that can be interesting, but it isn't the One True Specialness indicator.

By the way, a tip for if you do write redheads, especially pale-skinned ones: The redhead in green is a cliche because it works. Colours that also work include rust, jade, turquoise, burnt orange, yellow, brighter orange (this one, I think, works better for redheads with strongly-coloured hair) and peach. Cream works better than white. Reds should have orange undertones, not blue ones. Tan and gold work well, and warm browns - think autumn colours. On the paler side of things, clear colours are good.
Pink and purple? They frequently clash. Opinions may differ, but I personally think it does not suit redheads. *
A pale redhead in black will have the colour stripped from their complexion; if you want 'lively' and 'colour in their cheeks' this is not the way to go, but if you want stark and striking, it can work. Think the Goth aesthetic; pale, with strong contrast against the dark clothing. And it does make the hair show up very strongly.

Others, even other redheads, may disagree, but that's my opinion and my experiences in terms of colours that work.

[* Mothers of redheaded young girls? I really and sincerely suggest you go for yellow, orange and so on instead of pink. It's okay, your kid will be beautiful. 'Pink for girls' is the sort of generalisation that isn't necessary.]

To come back to the starting topic? If you want to dye your hair red, feel free. Hell, I'll even say that if it feels true to your identity in some way, hooray to you for finding something that does. But please, please keep in mind that there are redheads out there. If we get sick of being treated a certain way, we can't just stop buying the hairdye. It's one thing to choose a stereotype, but we can't choose it; we have it from the time we're born. We have it through childhood. And we have to carry it through the rest of our lives, or change something innate about us to avoid it.

If we fit that stereotype in some way, that's a little different to someone else choosing to. (I've grown to accept 'fiery redhead' for myself, even if I wonder whether or not the teasing and the expectation helped shape that goal. I do, however, categorically reject some of the other redhead stereotypes.)

You are walking upon something that is a part of the identities of others; walk lightly, please.

P.S: Redhead fetishists, it's nice that you find the colour attractive. It's not nice if you objectify us as a result. We are people, not just ambulatory bearers of the hair that floats your boat. Please treat us accordingly, as people, and respect our boundaries. You have a fetish, and that's okay, but it's not okay to treat people as things on account of it. Please try not to be creepy around redheads. (Yes, this includes the internet. You can't see the hair-colour of everyone who will read whatever comment you make, so please try to keep that in mind. Yes, it does feel uncomfortable to read your comments if you've blatantly regarded redheads as sex objects in them. Please don't do that.)

This is My Thought-Jar

This is where I put the things I think.
Some of them are likely to be odd.

What this blog has:
No guarantees whatsoever. I might rant about one thing, or praise another. I might spend most of a post discussing something I just want to muse on a bit. It might be boring, or it might not.

This is my thought-jar. They're kind of squirmy, and oddly assorted, but I'll stuff them in here if they fit.
This is also my first post. Because one of those was kind of obligatory.