Don't get me wrong, I'm as guilty as the next girl when it comes to this. I see someone and off goes my brain, making decisions about who that person might be; whether or not I'm interested in engaging with them; and, more germane to this conversation, what type of relationships that person might be involved in or want to be involved in.
And that's the part that has me befuddled right now. I don't want anyone telling me what to wear or how to look and I certainly don't expect to make those decisions for other people. But I am becoming more and more conscious of how other people's presentations affect me.
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The most visible members of a group end up defining the look of the group. Despite the fact that this is an inaccurate and unfair, it's also inevitable. If I had a magic wand, it would be one of the first things I'd change (after getting rid of world hunger and professional wrestling.) But I'm not waiting around for fairy dust any longer.
This has been on my mind for a very specific reason. I have chosen to write about my life and when I'm asked to speak publicly about that writing people are often surprised when they see what has been described as my "conservative look." It's disappointing, quite frankly. People in open relationships don't all look the same.
And therein lies the issue that compelled me to write about this—stereotypes: judgments that originate in truth but are exaggerated until they become ridiculous. Stereotypes come from what we see most frequently, and they are limiting to everyone.
The only way to eliminate stereotypes, of course, is to expose the truth. And what I've discovered is the value of presenting the image I want to portray, regardless of how incongruent it might seem at first glance. I want to compel others to feel comfortable being who they are.
Allow me to elaborate. If you walk into a room and no one looks like you, you might assume—wrongly most likely—that you don't belong in that room. But if you enter that same room and you see yourself in someone there, you will likely feel better about the room and the people in it.
We all have the opportunity to be that familiar face. I won't bother suggesting that we stop judging one another. Sadly, I don't think will ever happen. And I wouldn't want people to change the way they look to satisfy someone else. Nope. I'm suggesting that we start outing ourselves.
Do you like to wear short skirts as much as you like to play chess? Do you like to dress conservatively and dance outrageously? Do you like to don the attire of one group and join the members of another? Do it. Know that you will be judged for it. And do it anyway.
You don't have to be who you dress and you don't have to date or have the kind of relationships that your style—or even lack there of—prescribes. You can look suburban and have an open relationship and you can dress edgily and be the model of monogamy. Whatever your thing, there are others like you, trust me.
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We don't have to let the image we project—or the images others project onto us—keep us from our own happiness and desires. The truth is, we can't expect people not to judge us. But we certainly can allow ourselves to surprise people—maybe even enough that they too will choose to live outside their own closet.