When people say, “I don’t care what anyone thinks about me,” my reaction is, “you’re kidding yourself.” It’s the human condition. I often ponder what it is that makes us care what people think about us; what’s really behind it all? So I riffed on this in a little ditty (350 words max) that constitutes me throwing my hat into the ring for a one-year essay-writing gig at my local paper. Might as well share it here.
By Diane Daniel
In college, in the late ‘70s, I had streaks of purple in my hair and an earring at the top of my ear instead of the lobe, rare sights in those days, at least in Florida.
“How are you going to get a job looking like that?” my father asked. “What will people think?”
“I don’t care what anybody thinks!” I said, shooting him a sharp look.
That wasn’t true, of course. While I didn’t much care what school administrators or prospective employers thought, I did want to impress the cool kids, the ones listening to the Talking Heads and wearing vintage clothing.
My hair is now graying and I removed that earring two decades ago. I’ve since acknowledged that I do care what people think. Don’t we all? Is there anyone who has been laid off or divorced or gained weight or a number of things small and large who hasn’t worried what people think about them?
In 2010 I endured the biggest test of all when my husband changed genders. It goes without saying that many areas of our lives were affected. I had a hard time admitting to myself that one of my biggest struggles was other people’s reactions. What would the neighbors say? What would friends and family think? How much would people gossip about us? What does this say about me? If I stay, will people think I’m pathetic, sick, insane? Or maybe courageous, empathetic, loving?
“I never took you for someone who cares what other people think,” one friend told me.
“Really?” I countered. “You didn’t take me for a human being?”
Unlike my purple-haired youthful self, not only can I acknowledge that I care, I can dig deeper to explore what those fears and vulnerabilities really mean. I can make sure that, as much as possible, my actions reflect my core beliefs and not those of family or society or anyone else.
When I reached that place with my marriage, I knew I wanted to stay. To some, I’m probably insane, and to others, courageous. To me, I’m just human, like you.