Keep it real

| Staff Columnist

I was watching the new episode of “South Park” the other night, and it dawned on me that those little modestly-animated, potty-mouthed fourth-graders are not so different from all of us.

This particular episode involved a clash between the goth kids and the newly-increasing group of wannabe vampire kids. The goth kids were portrayed as the ones who were true to themselves; their clothing and makeup were a way of life. The vampire kids, on the other hand, were the posers who had picked up the fad at Hot Topic. Everyone at the school grouped them together, though, as “those creepy vampire kids.”

One of the points here is that the kids were judging each other’s authenticity and value by what they were wearing. It seems that most of us have tried to move past this kind of thinking, either because we want to or because we must refrain from using common stereotypes. I don’t think, though, that we can ever fully get away from judging people by some aspect of their appearances.

I’m not going to call someone a jock, prep or goth, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to (mistakenly or not) assume things about someone because of their choices in clothing. For instance, I’m not the kind of girl to wear leggings. Ever. I’m not built for them; they look silly on me. And, in general, I think they look silly on other people. It doesn’t make sense to me to wear something that’s practically painted on and shows things that should almost always be left to the imagination.

If I were just meeting strangers, I’d probably gravitate toward the people wearing T-shirts and jeans. What I try to make sure of, though, is that I’m not making personality judgments based on those tight little doodads. A couple of my friends wear leggings all the time, and for the record, they’re great people, and they don’t look so bad in leggings.

I’m sure I get judged for what I wear, which is usually more comfortable than it is fashionable. Perhaps I look like I don’t care about clothes (I often don’t) or like to buy things second-hand (I often do). And for people who know me as little as I know most of the leggings-wearers in the world, let me tell you that I care about people and activities a lot more than I care about my everyday appearance.

At the end of the “South Park” episode, the goth kids call an assembly in order to inform the student body that they are different from the vampire kids, and afterward, everyone seems to understand. I wish we had the time to hear each person’s story this way, but since we don’t, perhaps we can all try to imagine the best about strangers. For instance, maybe the girl with the messy hair and ugly boots woke up late and ran to class. Or maybe the girl with the $300 jeans got them as a gift. Or maybe the guy with the pants that are too short just hasn’t gotten around to buying new ones yet because he’s been working so hard in the lab.

I find that these excuses I make for people aren’t always true, but they certainly are a good start to driving out stereotypes and understanding people a little better. I hope the next time you see me with unwashed hair and wearing a giant sweatshirt and pajama pants, you’ll know I just came from working at the pool, and yes, I’ll take a shower later.