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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Column: Haters gonna hate

A true story of harsh judgment,
and reconsideration:

It
was a brisk fall day. Leaves cascaded down from seasonally ailing trees like the
hair that rains off the back of an overly radiated chimpanzee (most tasteless
metaphor of the year? I tried). Undergrads, with all their degree-less
inadequacies intact, went to and fro, living out their lives with moderate
content. And me and my girl, the radiant Linh Banh, were strolling along Davis’
A Street discussing the various fascinating topics that were so fascinating I
have since forgotten them entirely. It was a pleasant day. Pleasant, that is,
until a green haired bicyclist began passing us by in a flurry of heated
pedaling and heavy breathing.

As
he passed, Linh and I looked on at him as if hypnotized by the irregularity of
his hair, and I found myself thinking with quick negativism that his outlandish
style resembled something toxic, like cartoonish radioactive waste, puke, or
whatever else is definitively terrible in its “greenness.”

My
judgment, however, was fast cut short for the green haired bicyclist, as if
sensing our intrusive gazes, turned to us suddenly and began staring back with
beady, terrible eyes; the eyes of a nonconformist. Oh, those terrible,
terrible, awfully terrible nonconformist eyes!

Looking
into that ghastly face for only a moment was enough to sicken me. It was as if
a wave of repulsion had crashed over me, leaving only a sense of poignant
disgust in its wake; a sense so strong I could hardly maintain my stoic,
mostly-implacable composure. Who is this terrible creature with green hair and
small, haunting eyes, I thought, shaking? What right, I demanded internally, does
he have to such an absurdist appearance? How dare he wear his hair as …  dare I say it, bright green! Oh, the
horror indeed.

Turning
with disgust to Linh with an eagerness for affirmation and the hope of finding
a look of horror equal to my own, I was greeted only by an air of
self-satisfied contentment. Shocked and appalled, I waited for her to speak,
incapable of mustering any words powerful enough to express the dark, dark,
emotional emotions brewing within me. She did not leave me waiting long.

“I’ve
always wanted to dye my hair green,” she broke in with happy disregard.

Quickly,
I worked to suppress the feeling of nausea that welled up suddenly within me. I
succeeded, seeing as how by some incredible force of will I did not vomit in
response.

Then,
as if freed by my own strength of self-control or, perhaps, assisted by divine
intervention from He Himself, words finally came to me. Of course, given the
state I was then in, I do not remember what I said verbatim. But I know I
started ranting about how that sort of self-expression (i.e., dyeing your hair
bright green) is a superficial, and by extension flawed, means of conveying
your personality.

That
is to say people who choose outlandish methods of self-distinction are really
only drawing to themselves negative attention. At least, as it goes for someone
like me, I tend to think that intentionally presenting yourself in a visibly “odd”
manner is more a cry for attention than an effective expressive style. In other
words, I figured (at least at that particular judgmental moment) that dying
your hair green is a type of “false distinction.” That is, you’re not saying to
the world you’re different by dying your hair green necessarily, but only that
you are more desperate to seem different.
So in that sense, I suppose one is different to do
so, but only in that they want
to dye their hair green, for example, more than most
other people.

I
then advocated for a more personality-based means of self-expression. Like
through writing, or humor, and so forth; things that stem from within and
reflect your inner-self un-superficially (perhaps).

 Following my rant, Linh, who disagreed,
proceeded to succinctly counter my argument by suggesting that some people are
too boring, simple or desperate to have those subtle and/or complex means of
self-expression. Some people simply need
visible distinctions to set themselves apart.
Well, at the time, that was a definite “huh” moment for me. Her suggestion was
so obvious, yet so unapparent.

Basically,
in a sentence, she made me feel bad about judging this poor kid who maybe just
wanted to dye his hair green and feel different for lack of a better way. And
that’s okay right? Why should I care? Why should I mind if you want to dye your
hair? Or wear really tight pants? Or pierce your eyebrow? Or whatever. The
weird part is, normally I wouldn’t. But for some reason I did in that moment,
which I’m glad for, because it reminded me to be careful of making easy
judgments.

 

JAMES
O’HARA may have embellished this story a tad, and yes, he did exaggerate his
reaction. Contact him at jpohara@ucdavis.edu.

1 COMMENT

  1. I like how your idea of personal growth is to learn to condescendingly pity people you consider your inferiors.

    You know what the Aggie needs more of? Your wonderful opinions and insightful columns.

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