Sunday, March 11, 2007

Character

I was channel surfing the other day when I came across an interview between two women. It had to do with eating disorders and the interviewer was asking the woman, who I believe was a formal model, some tough questions with regards to the choices she had made. This woman was currently being treated in a rehabilitation center for bulimia. I think, but what caught my eye was not the conversation around the eating disorder, but her comment about character. She said something to the effect that in Hollywood (and elsewhere) all of the emphasis is placed on how you look and the emphasis is never upon your character. People don’t seem to care who you are, or what you are about. It doesn’t matter anymore whether you have good character or if you are a bad person, it all boils down to how you look. She went on to say that even as you get older, the focus continues on appearance; it doesn’t matter what you have been through in life, or what you’ve learned or who you are, it’s just about your looks.

I thought about what she said and then I remembered the kids in Dear Son’s classroom last year. They had just started to stand out among their peers. Not for their disabilities as much as their looks. The girls, more so than the boys. At around junior high, you can’t help but notice the beautiful hair on the young girls-their hair washed every morning and styled with a straight iron to get that long lush look as well as the golden highlights in their hair. But the Special Needs girls aren’t like that. There hair might be combed in the morning, but more often than not, it’s a bit messy. And their aren’t any highlights. It’s not that their Mom’s didn’t make the effort, it’s just that they aren’t washing and styling their hair every morning and the girls hair gets messed up from sleeping on it or from their lack of head control. They don’t wear thongs on their feet to school in the summer and they don’t get pedicures with pretty polish on their toes. The boys aren’t as dramatic, but there really isn’t any gelled hair among the group. In the summer, the girls wear their short skirts and have beautiful tans, the Special Needs girls, well, they look a little pasty. No tan for these girls. The bottom line is that what is fashionable for regular kids, isn’t fashionable for them.

As they enter high school, it gets a bit more dramatic, as you might imagine. But one thing that doesn’t change is who they are. The Special Needs kids still grown and change but their essence remains the same. Their character remains the same. They still live honestly with no pretense, every day. While their experiences shape them, they don’t change who they are.

My mind switched back to the model and then back to Dear Son. My son will never have to live in that world, or actually, he may live in it, he just doesn’t know it. His character remains the same. He is who he is. He lives every day honestly and from the heart. We don’t place value on that though nor do we as a society, place value on disabled people’s life. If we did, we’d have daycare for them and things would be more accessible.

And then my mind switched back to the model again, and how she said that even as we get older, the focus continues on appearance; it doesn’t matter what you have been through in life, or what you’ve learned or who you are, it’s just about your looks. I thought about Dear Son and what he had been through these last few years, then I thought about his character and then I remembered how his favorite thing to do this year is to go out in the hallway with the therapist and look at the beautiful high school girls as they walk in the hallway to change classes.

Yep. The model was right. No matter what you’ve been through, it still boils down to how you look. Only in this case, I think it’s o.k.

5 comments:

Jodi Reimer said...

I often think about things like this. I think the reason that kids with special needs don't usually have the highlights, the piercings, etc. is because those are teenager-driven, not parent-driven. My son doesn't ask me to help him getthose things. Maybe a tatoo for Dear Son is in order! (just kidding)...it's been a long weekend. My son is a character...that's for sure.

Dream Mom said...

Jodi-You are probably correct. Too funny about the tattoo for Dear Son. I don't think that will ever happen but if he did, it had better say, "I love my Mom." LOL!

Dreaming again said...

The model is right on one thing and very wrong on another.

It IS about character ... but it is not about looks. No matter how much someone with an eating disorder tries to make it about weight ..and appearance ... it just isn't. It's about control.

Hollywood has a mass problem of eating disorders because they have a massive problem with people who are trying to control the uncontrollable.

It is easier to say "I want to be skinny at all costs" than it is to say feel what they don't want to be feeling ... so ... they starve ..binge ...purge ..drink ... drugs ..whatever ... to control what they so desperately need to control.

Jo said...

Exactly why I am such a freak about Little Man's appearance. He is such a handsome boy and with all his issues, it is VERY important that he present well at first glance. I don't want ANYONE thinking no one cares about this child. My good girlfriend has been awfully glad for his nice togs as I hand them down.

Chris and Vic said...

I am the same as Jo. My Vic is known as Mr. G.Q. at school. He looks like a million-bucks. He looks sophisticated (unless Bill dresses him like a lumberjack in a flannel shirt). He is totally unselfconscious about his appearance, on top of it all---which is an entirely charming, and adds to the effect.

Vic drools, so I wash his winter jacket at least twice a week. Am I boasting? Perhaps. BUT, there will not be any reason that I can prevent for anyone ever to tease or make fun of Vic. Or to judge him on appearances before they get to know him.
Chris and Vic

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