Recently, I was surprised by a very negative statement about kids and adults with the blue or green hair. The statement was from a friend and fellow artist and I was taken back that they disapproved of the wild hair styles of recent years. I was surprised at my gut reaction to the statement also. I was hurt and defensive of the young people and angry that we are still having this same conversation 30 years after I had this same conversation with my own family about my friends and my hair choices.
I have also recently re-watched” The Greatest Showman” where the topic of freaks comes out in obvious ways. For those of you who have not seen it “The Greatest Showman” the movie is about P.T. Barnum’s rise to fame as a sideshow producer and circus millionaire. So the word freak is used in many ways, some positive and some negative, but over all a way to describe a person with unique attributes. Many of my readers remember side shows and many of us will have fond memories of a visit to the circus. We can remember how seeing the circus made us feel and the excitement of getting a chance to see something new and different.
I was lucky enough to see one of the last Barnum and Bailey circus acts before they retired their elephants. I took my then 5 year old granddaughter and my then 8 year old son with my daughter in law to Charleston, West Virginia to see the show. It was amazing and so educational. We were able to see acts and animals from around the world, the costumes and acrobats were outstanding . We laughed and cheered and enjoyed the show.
We watched and accepted that these are hard working performers and they are talented. But years ago this was a freak show, a place of the weird, odd and a place of the new and unseen. As a kid I thought of sideshows and circuses as a place of magic and mystery, of the unknown and the amazing. I loved them and the performers that worked the shows. I loved reading about the strange and unusual in my “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” paper backs and I loved seeing the amazing things listed in the Genius Book of World Records. The Chinese man with the longest finger nails pops into my mind along with the tallest man.
I like millions of others have always felt different, odd, or even broken at times. I was a round peg in a square hole, most of my life. My unusual learning style and disability have always made me feel like a freak. Over the year I have found that many contemporary artist, performers, musicians feel that way too. Many were kids who grew up with ADHD before we knew what it was, many were Gay, trans-gendered or drag queens before the 80’s AIDS crises killed so many of them. Many were born with physical traits that the ruling class disliked, such as to pale, to dark, to tall, to short, to fat, to skinny, to much hair or to little, to many body parts or to few, that caused ridicule. Some had talents above what was expected and others were able to do tricks that most would never dare. They were unique, talented and blessed with something original. So when I look back at my life my most loved and closest friends were freaks and still are today. Most became successful in art, music, and literature, the engineering, some make fashion and others heal the sick, but we all come from an authentic place of understanding and support.
So when a young person dies their hair or gets a tattoo they very well may be feeling like a square peg in a round hole, just like I did years ago… They maybe just exploring what their deeper self has been telling them for years that they are different and unusual. That they are a rare gem and that in stead of being ashamed they are trying to embrace it. It is this embrace that we all long for our whole lives. We search for a person or group that understands and excepts us as we are.
Being a freak has taught me valuable things, that I am still proud to use each and everyday. For one thing never judge a man/woman by his looks. First, when we value the shell we miss the very best part of a person and often miss out on meeting the most amazing people on the planet. Second, Everyone of us is struggling with something. Some of our struggles are more obvious then others, be supportive and understanding of every story. Third,The world is hard enough without people jumping on the hate train. Share goodness, build up the world and make it a better place. Fourth, everyone has a story, listen, learn and understand. This is how we build community and effect change. Then finally freaks are strong because of adversity. Struggling and challenges are nothing new, we endure much to get to where we are going. Don’t for one minute think because someone is disabled that they weak or helpless. Often they are more adapted to the real world then the average person. Keep you pity to yourself, no one wants to be looked down on from a fake pedestal.
So as I dye my hair again for the 2000th time in my life, I wonder if maybe blue or green is my color. I wonder if that young woman who had black hair and got tattoos knows how many people will love her in 40 years. How much goodness she will bring into this world and how many wonderful creative people she will meet. I wonder if she even understands how strong she is and how she will over come her weaknesses and disables to reach new levels of people around the world with a blog. I hope she keeps being freaky because is a gift.
It is uniqueness that makes the world so beautiful. Never for one minute believe that being a freak is a bad thing.
Hippies live…..in WV…….your post could have been written in 1964. While admiring your volunteer work, I don’t like your liberal bias. Kinda goes against the grain of my Kasson/Belington roots. Consider yourself shunned. Paul Loar (Lohr)
Sent from my iPad
No better way to confront the prejudiced and bias than to be direct and hit it head-on. Nicely done!