Blue is not always bad

Published 12:00 am Saturday, May 18, 2002

How boldly do you face the world?

Many people shy away from letting the world see who and what they really are. For as many reasons as there are people doing it, artificial faades are constructed behind which to hide individual differences.

Why are so many people in our culture afraid to face the world bare of diverting coverings? It seems in one sense that we have evolved into a culture of sameness. It is somehow viewed as an inadequacy to be outside the norm. And it concerns me because genius and brilliance are outside the norm.

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What will happen to future generations if thinkers are encouraged to fit the mold? Civilization has advanced because explorers ventured forth, mathematicians contemplated infinity, inventors looked to the skies, scientists looked for cures, and philosophers searched for true meaning. Where would we be today if Einstein didn't wonder, if Curie didn't experiment, if Pythagoras didn't calculate, if Jesus didn't teach?

Individuality is encouraged but then often not tolerated. Many school systems have taken steps to define the differences between our children's independence and rebellion. Usually we hear of those issues when a student has been punished for falling outside the school's definition of what is acceptable.

Recently, we've heard in the news of a boy who was expelled from school because he dyed his hair blue. The hair color change was a reward from his mother when the boy vastly improved his grades during a grading periodhe had a good report card. But the school authorities claimed he posed a danger and a disruption in the classroom that detracted from the educational process. I'm sure that he caused a stir among the other students. As a former teacher, I know how unsettling that can be in a group of kids.

But a dangerprobably not. I'm sure the stir caused by media coverage of the incident was a far greater distraction than was the hair. The year before, that same boy had dyed his hair red with no objection from the school. It was the blue that caused concern.

In her book, Nora, Nora, Anne Rivers Siddons' character, Nora, is guiding the pre-adolescent awakening of her cousin, Peyton. Peyton is a withdrawn child who was raised by her father after her mother died in childbirth. Peyton hides from life out of loneliness and fear of rejection. Nora suggests that Peyton needs a new, more grown up hairstyle. Peyton states that she would feel naked without her long hair. Nora responds, &uot;In a way you are naked. You're not hiding behind hair anymore. Hair is a powerful thing, sweetie pie. A headful of it will hide you, Cutting it off means you're offering yourself to the world.&uot; If that is true, the same can be said of beards. When are long hair and beards adornment and when are they barriers against the world? When is fashion an expression of oneself and when is it a hiding place?

These are not burning questions. but personal ones. I think we should applaud those people, young and old, who have the courage to be different. I myself don't want blue hair. But I don't want to be just like everyone else. We are a society espousing diversity and acceptance. Let's practice what we preach.