Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Book with a Bright Pink Cover?

Just over a week ago, I did something I had wanted to do for a long time... I dyed my hair pink! Not all of it, but huge big chunks of it. I'm not talking subtle pastel coloured pink either... Bright, bold magenta. I then waited for the comments to roll in. You see, I'm not totally bonkers, there was an ulterior motive to doing this to my crowning glory. It was a great social experiment to see how others perceptions of me changed, just by changing the colour of my hair. With human nature, people will evaluate others within seconds of meeting them, by the style of their clothes, the way they talk, look, and smell even, and will form an almost instant opinion of what that person is like. It is a self preservation and protection mechanism inbuilt into us to gauge what threat may lie with this individual and if a threat is perceived to protect our children and those close to us.

I was amazed how quickly attitudes changed to me. Not by those who know me well, in fact some of them were very quick off the mark to realise that I had another reason for doing this, but by virtual strangers who may have felt they knew a little about me, but not too much. People all of a sudden felt as if they had a right to pass comment, and to judge my choice. Marks were overstepped on several occasions where very personal comments were passed on my physical attractiveness... Assumptions were made by strangers and I was watched closer by security guards in shops. On the other hand, a lot more people felt free to start conversations with me, using my hair as an opener for discussion. I had teenage girls stop to tell me how much they liked my hair and strangers smile at me for no other reason than to just smile and nod.

We are led by all our senses, not just the visual sense. We judge others by how they talk, what accent they have, where they come from.. We assume for example, that old men with rough hands and skin were manual workers... We believe that when someone is slurring their voices that they are drunk... Not all of these things are necessarily true, but it doesn't stop our instant evaluation of that individual. Munchkin talks with an English accent at times as can a lot of children with aspergers. I joked with a friend on a night out that they must have been drunk as they were a little unsteady on their feet only to be told of the brain tumour they once had. How small I felt suddenly... I have another friend who has epilepsy, and when she's tired her voice slurs... she has never taken a drink in her life. This is where I have my own lesson to learn, not to judge the book by the cover until I have read the contents.

What has this got to do with my experiences with autism I hear you ask. Almost as many assumptions are made of our children. How many times have you heard "well he/she LOOKS normal..." People assume that because our kiddies may not have a visible disability, that their behaviour is down to bad parenting, or that the child needs more discipline. How many looks have you had when at the supermarket? I have had many moment of people tutting when Munchkin has a meltdown in the middle of the shopping aisles. We have had people look and not try to hide their disgust at the "naughty" child! People have actually passed comment to me before that "children were better behaved when you could slap them" implying that Munchkin just needed a good clip around the ear to stop the tantrum. Sometimes I explain, but there are times I'm glad I've have a Nelly like hide which is virtually impenetrable!

The other comment I get a lot is "but she can talk" as if that is all that autism means. I have had to explain the difference on many occasion between speech and communication. Munchkin has great speech now thanks to a lot of hard work by her very good tutors, teachers and school and her siblings. She is not conversational but her comprehension is improving at a great rate. With a good home program in place and a lot of patience, her communication deficits are decreasing. Her aspergers and my hair have that in common, permanent but with a lot of treatment will fade, however my hair will "grow out" but her aspergers is what makes her who she is and I don't think I would like to remove all traces of it. Shes my quirky little madam who doesn't care what colour mummys hair is... In fact she paid no heed to the change whatsoever!


Anonymous said...

great blog petunia,
it must make u smile that munchkin is so pure she doesnt judge u by ur hair or clothes etc, she just doesnt care, ur her mummy and beautiful no matter what u look like.
Im laughing reading ur comments too, AJ has a strong english accent most of the time lol

Jean said...

love it petunia...we are ALL judgemental without realising it,it's just part of human nature, but it's good to be aware of it.
we use appearances to square people up, to check if they are "friend" or "foe"...but we need to learn not to stop at appearances.
great blog hun
P.S your pink hair makes you look like a complete slapper lol XXX
(you know I love it)

Jen said...

I am getting used to the 'Oh he doesn't look blah blah blah' comments now. It is very silly when you think about it, how we all judge on the wrapping rather than what is underneath. I am still lovin' the pink though :)J

Lisamaree said...

I love my little "west brit" but must admit that I enjoy hearing broader vowels from him too.
Tonight he wanted us to "get a new car" which is a common complaint riding in the back seat when Daddy is driving.
He said "park in the new car park" I said "No, you mean "Car Yard, Park in the New Car Yard"

Which to you would have sounded like:
"No, PAHK in the new CAH YAHD"

Bratty originally started speaking in a deep Dub accent. She sounded like Bob Geldof to begin with. But quickly learned to moderate her tones to get what she wants. And yes, there is an upward inflection there too sometimes! (he he)

As for your hair? I think it looks GORGEOUS. Enjoy standing out.

I think I have come full circle now finally. When I was getting the looks in McDonalds today (Boo sprinting the length of the place and systematically destroying balloons while I queued) I saw a woman look at him quizzically and then I turned and looked at him - with her eyes. Fair enough I thought, he does look a bit wild. But who cares? xx

Anonymous said...

Great Blog Tracy, I don't think you look like a shop lifter at all!!
Yes we have heard the same comments "He LOOKS normal!!" When we get our diagnois I pretty much told as many people that I could that would be in contact with RoRo that he was asd, mainly that whenever they met him they would know that he is not bold, sulking by being unresponsive, he just being RoRo. I have a feeling a few of them were shocked by my openess but that's their decision to make. I think it will make it easier for him to meet people when they know that it's important that they come down to his eye level and talk in a softer tone.
I LOVE the pink hair!!

Nan P. said...

I agree with you, we all rely on our perceptions far too much... I am as guilty as every one. But I am learning to change, slowly...

By the way, THAT is a shade of pink I really like! ;-)

Anonymous said...

Great Blog. We are getting alot of the "he looks normal" comments and I am trying to learn how to deal with with them. H. does a great american accent. The last thing he says at night is "what you sayin', are you nuts"! I suppose it's human nature that we all judge each other on first impressions. I have noticed strangers seem to be looking at H. thoughtfully lately. He is much taller than his 3 years and can easily pass for 5 or 6. I think they hear his speech and realise there is a problem. I also explain to most of the people we come into contact with. I want people to understand the challenges he faces every day and help him along. Well done x Trish

jazzygal said...

Hey, Pink Chic Petunia!

You're looking gooood! I think the "smile and nod" looks were really the "looking-in-admiration-wish-I'd-had-the-courage" looks!!

I think we all fall into that prejudging trap. Autism has definitely taught me to think twice before making a judgement but I do forget at times.

As I've commented before on other blogs...we too can make the wrong assumptions when we see someone looking at our mid-tantrum child. Sometimes they're not thinking what we think they are. I remember 2 old dears looking at us for ages and then approached me on their way out. I'd had enough of this lark and was preparing to stand up for myself when the old dear took the wind out of my sails by saying....."you're a great mother....and he's a great boy"!! ;)

Great blog! xx Jazzy

Looking for Blue Sky said...

I can totally relate to the 'they just need a good slap' thing. I've been told it by family and I can feel it being thought in the school yard when I'm trying to hold back my son from attacking some boy who has just wound him up past endurance. I wish I had a thick hide...instead I have a hoodie and earphones - now everyone leaves me alone.

I guess though having a child with a difference hopefully means that you stop judging people - including people who don't understand our children.

Love the pink hair by the way - and I know another mother of an autie child who has done the same thing - could this be the start of a new fashion? I would certainly love to be next in line lol

Clive said...

Wow! Pink hair - it suits you! I can't even change the style of mine without the not so little man going mad - tried curls last week instead of the usual straight - and he got so upset I had to brush it all away!

He smells my hair the minute I come in from the hairdressers and will only accept it if it looks no different from when I left! Had difficulty even trying to cover up the grey bits! You could say, why bother getting my hair done at all!

So, anyway, delighted with can go with Pink and that it is so well accepted!

take care

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