William looks young for his age. Primarily because of his height. And everywhere he goes, people make sure to tell him. Every new doctor. Every new teacher. Every new classmate. Man, I wish I was exaggerating.
When I was a kid, I was very thin and very insecure about it. And everywhere I went, people made sure to tell me how skinny I was. Since my ankles were so thin that they were swallowed by ankle boots, I was very aware. Obviously, there is a traumatic junior high story there. But, anyway, my mom started to call me slender in an effort to put a more positve connotation to it. I liked it. So when people would say I was skinny, I would say, I was slender. It seems silly now to be bothered by that. I mean, I would love for someone to call me skinny now. 😉
But it mattered to me and it matters to William. And I’m left wondering why we, as a society, think it’s ok? From a young age, we are told not to stare, not to call people fat or ugly or any other society agreed negative aspect. But are we ever taught not to be rude to the other people?
There’s a lot of focus on appreciating different body types lately. Essentially, society is trying to break us out of society’s mold. I think this is awesome. We are far away from actually breaking out of it but we are getting closer. We are learning to appreciate different versions of beauty and to appreciate people as they are.
But, like I said, we’re not out of the judgy woods yet. Because still when William meets a new person, this person will inevitably say…” You’re (insert age)?? ” They will follow with how old they would have guessed or how old he looks. This wasn’t really a big deal when he was little but ever since he became a teenager, a troubled one at that, making him feel self conscious about something that he can’t control is pretty crappy. It makes him self-conscious and sends the message again that it does matter what you look like and there is a norm that we are all expected to achieve.
It’s a lot to ask of random people to realize all of this, but it would be nice. But I sure would think that professionals like teachers, guidance counselors, doctors, therapists, psychiatrists; would realize the impact that their words have.
So, yes, it is great that we tell our children that it is rude to stare or point out that someone has a disability or is heavy or maybe even unattractive. It would be even better to tell our children not to focus on appearance at all. Also, unrealistic, I know. But, would it hurt to try a little harder?
There is no doubt that there is no malice behind the repetitive age and size observations that William hears. But, maybe, if we all stopped to think about how our words affect people just a little more, my son would feel like a freak just a little less.
(No doubt that William is not alone here. What do you wish people would keep commenting on ?)