Sunday, October 12, 2014

You Should Know Better

"She should know better."  The same has been said about children and adults alike.  This expression, almost as popular as "boys will be boys", has been used to express disagreement with behavior over the years.  I can just imagine ladies in Ruth's time whispering about her staying with her mother-in-law, "She should know better."  Or some equivalent in the appropriate language.

As a young lady, I understand that I am expected to be polite, beautiful, modest, quiet, shy, and unassuming.  I'm supposed to be attractive, but not TOO attractive as to distract members of the male variety from their all-important tasks of life.  I understand that I can and will be sent home from school and church alike for dressing in a way that could distract people, mainly boys and "men".  I understand that my intelligence is of no importance to other people if I am dressed or speak a certain way.  I just hope that those who expect of this of me understand that I literally could not care less.

Okay, that's a lie.

Obviously because I've written this post, I care a little bit.  I care enough to educate you and to illuminate your life.  I care.  I really do.  But, seriously, leave me alone.

This post has been sitting in the back of my mind for several weeks now, ever since a certain incident at my high school.  This didn't happen to me, but it happened right next to me and it made me think.  Now, I'd like to believe that I am capable of rational thought and making decisions for myself, but being mentally disabled requires a bit of doubt on my part.  Either way, this is my opinion and I am allowed to express it, despite how annoying you find it. "Yes, but your opinion is wrong." No. Stop. Go away.

Anyways, back to what happened.  Sitting at lunch, munching on my chicken nuggets peacefully, I overheard a conversation between one of the teachers and two students.  Well, it was less of a conversation and more of a "let-me-tell-you-passive-aggressively-why-you-are-wrong" from the teacher to the students.  My interest was piqued and, like the inherently rude person I am, I listened in.  The teacher told the girls that their pants were inappropriate and that they would have to change or leave. The girls seemed to understand, though I thought the accusation was idiotic.  They seemed to both be rather skinny and though the pants were patterned leggings, they hung off of their legs like normal pants would.

This just in, people with legs are too sexy to learn.

It was then explained that obviously this was correct thinking because their legs would distract the boys and it was important for the boys to learn without distraction.  Sooooooo, girls should be sent home and prevented from being educated because they will distract the boys from learning?  All teenage boys, unless they are gay and/or asexual, will be distracted by females.  I feel safe in this generalization, but excuse me if "not all men are like that!" You're right, they're not.  All of humanity is not controlled by one statement made by a 17-year-old girl, so calm down.  I have seen girls mercilessly harassed wearing sweatpants and a baggy shirt.  If someone does not care about what is being said, they will find something to distract them.

So what was the turning point, you may wonder.  Well, here is your explanation.  This last Wednesday, I went to go help with a local community service project at my church.  I was excited all day.  After being harassed by a fellow student and having an overall just-let-me-die sort of day, I wanted to help people. It's always lifted me out of a bad mood.  After school that day I had changed into my workout clothes, a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and practiced for 30 minutes on our punching bag.  It had been a tough day.  I went and did some chores, ate dinner, and by the time I had to go I had no time to change.  I looked in the mirror and thought, "Well, I'm not going there to seduce anyone so this should work."  But alas, I was wrong.

Shortly after arriving I was informed that my outfit was inappropriate and I was not allowed to stay there.  It was closing time, but only for me.  I left, enraged.  I was hurt.  I sobbed in the car as my dad drove me home then, between snotting and sobbing, explained what had happened to my mother.  I felt a numb emptiness.  It had been a bad day.

That night some friends invited me out and, happy that someone wanted me around, I went out.  After several hours of laughing, smiling, and feeling welcomed I felt better.  It was nice to be around people who expected nothing of me, except that I would be genuinely and unfiltered "ME". It was refreshing.  After calming down, I hatched a plan.

I had already been trying to think of a way to express my Palestinian-Turkish heritage, like us white people are prone to do.  I know there are a lot of memes, like "don't ask white people what their ethnicity is unless you want to hear 70+ European countries that are all the same flavor of vanilla."  We like to feel special and cool and the way we try to express that is not the most healthy or PC.  I acknowledge that, but it is not up to me to apologize for mistakes that are not mine.  So, in the most respectful way, this morning I dressed for church in an outfit that made me feel absolutely beautiful and connected to my ancestors.


I felt amazing.  I tried to tie it the best way.  I didn't want to make a joke of it, because it wasn't a joke.  It was a statement of "This is who I am."  But more interesting than my reaction was the way others reacted. There were a few who kindly accepted me and talked to me as they always did, which I appreciated.  I think they understood that something else was going on, but they didn't force me to explain myself or take it off.  They welcomed me. That was a nice change.

But the majority ignored me.  Most refused to speak to me or look in my general direction.  No terse "hello", no eye contact; today, I did not exist.  I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that, so that's all that I'll say about it.  Only after I removed it, because I'm a very sensitive person and was not used to wearing something on my head for that long, did I receive a few comments about how I was prettier without the burka.  It's not a burka.  It wasn't even close.  If it was close to anything, it would be a hijab, which it was not.  Google it.  Educate yourself.

As I mentioned in the last paragraph, I am a very physically sensitive person.  Part of the limits of my disability make it hard for me to leave bed, change my clothes, shower, or even talk.  Some days I feel happy that I managed to put on a clean dress or make my bed.  Little things are great feats and I feel I am progressing every day.  I'm learning to live with it.  It's becoming a part of my life.  I do not like being told that I am not allowed to attend an event or see someone because of my mental limits.  My family cannot always censor me and I don't expect them to.

TL;DR Yes, I do know better. I know better than to discriminate against someone because of the way they look.  Do you?

My awesome selfie from this afternoon

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