I did write this originally for our Facebook page. However, I felt so strongly about this I needed to post it here too.
This last week and a half I’ve had so many questions and heard so many things, it’s been intense. So, I figured we’d address the “elephant” in the room and put some things into perspective. This could get a little long, but please read it because I think it says a lot about us, our culture and society as well as our perceptions.
This could even be classified as Em’s own personal “social” experiment if you’d like. She’s been asking us for over a year to allow us to let her dye her hair black. She didn’t feel like she was taken “seriously” as a blonde. She felt like she was lost in the crowd and never heard. And sadly, I think she’s proven to herself through this change how right she may have been.
I’ve heard she’s changed. I’ve had people tell me that they are worried about her. I’ve heard she’s not the same sweet girl she used to be, that she’s gotten very vicious and sarcastic and her humor and style has become very dark. The whole reality is though, she really hasn’t changed as much as people seem to think. The changes are so minute they shouldn’t have made a difference but they did because suddenly people’s perceptions of her changed and they started paying closer attention to her.
1. Her sense of humor has always had some dark, twisted and somewhat sadistic undertones. It’s just more noticeable now that people are listening and watching her.
2. She’s still just as sarcastic as she was before. And the witty comebacks that seem vicious at times have been there far longer than people caught. She grasped sarcasm and embraced it fully. Sometimes we have to reign her in but part of her autism is learning social boundaries. And she is still working on that.
3. She isn’t changing into some girl who wears only black and starting to wear a leather jacket. She’s had that jacket and wore it for well over a year. Dark colors are her chosen colors on average but she loves bright colors too. It depends on the day, just like anyone else. However, once she dyed her hair, she wasn’t just a “cute” girl in a leather jacket. She has this image of a “tough” girl in a leather jacket.
4. People used to look past her so never realized she muttered under her breath and talks to herself. Sometimes she does it to remember key information or answer a question that she’s not 100% sure she’s got right. Sometimes it’s also to remind herself to use her coping skills. She’s always done it, but now she stands out to others.
5. She still has the same hopes, dreams, fears and insecurities. The difference is now people perceive a confidence in her versus a timidness. There is a slight change in that but that was more about her tired of being a “wallflower” ignored. And it’s more frustration and calculated “confidence” versus a true confidence. Fake it until you make it kind of thing. And that was actually starting before she dyed her hair. As people NOTICED her that fueled the idea of being heard.
6. She still has a deep love of nature, animals, and justice. Her three passions.
7. Sensory issues are still issues that she deals with daily.
People think she has changed. She hasn’t changed. What’s changed is that people now notice her and she stands out. She doesn’t fade into that cute little wallflower. She’s shocked them into to noticing her.
Before, she was this cute and timid blonde who faded into her surroundings, even when she was screaming out for people to notice her. Now, she’s perceived as this fierce and fearless girl who doesn’t care what others think.
And the crux of the matter comes down to she’s both. She’s timid in how she feels inside. She’s trying to embrace and push herself into society. And when she did so before, her voice was lost in the crowd. Now, this tough gal persona, helps her voice be actually heard ~ for better or worse. She does care what people think. She wants people to realize she’s there. She wants people to reach out to her.
Yet, this isn’t something just limited to Emelie. How often do we as a society ignore the timid and meek looking individuals? We run over them with our own ideas and thoughts and squelch their voices. Yet, those who look like “trouble” is brewing or fierce and ready for a fight we listen to and even steer clear of them. They have a voice and it very often gets heard.
Look around you. There are many of both sides of Emelie out there. They both deserve to have their voice heard and be taken seriously. They are two sides of the same coin. And they very often are feeling lost and changing the hair color or shocking people around them shouldn’t be the solution. We need to draw them into the fold and make sure they feel loved being who they are.
~ Jenn ~