Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Art of Looking Ridiculous

December 8, 2009 by  
Filed under Fat Acceptance

Today’s guest post is from Elizebeth Turnquist, her blog is About Being Different.  When Elizabeth submitted her posts for consideration, she stated;

I’m very open and out about who I am.  I’m a geeky wierdo and proud of it.  I understand if my voice doesn’t fit in
with your community.  Regardless, I greatly respect what you’re trying to do.  My theory is that the more voices that speak up the more likely we’ll get heard.

Well, we love geeky around here….weirdos even more, so she was a shoe-in. Plus, her writing is hard-hitting and thought provoking.  I am sure you will all enjoy this post as much as I did.



My mother was born with a cleft palate.  The facial deformity meant that she expected to be stared at.  And, as I was growing up, these expectations lead her to act out in public places.  I don’t know if she was living up to or defying the stares, all I know is that I was embarrassed.  Over time I learned to temper my embarrassment and eventually I even joined into her little performances.

The other day, as I was limping up to the bus stop, I had to remind myself that I have no problem with people’s stares or snickers.  Earlier that day, in a rush, I ended up tanking my husband bike instead of mine.  Less than a minute into peddling, as the shooting pain from cramps radiated down my legs, I realized the mistake I’d made.

Only uncommonly unkind people would snicker at a girl limping down the street.  But I’m not a common girl.  I’m a moderately obese woman.  I have blue hair.  And I tend to dress in bright shades of pink or purple.  The picture presented to the worlds was of a fat woman, with short blue hair, dressed in pink, and limping as she dragged a bike down the street.

I’ve been fat all my life.  As an adult I’ve become a size acceptance activist.  I’m used to my weight encouraging ugly catcalls of ‘fat bitch’ from strange cars as they wiz by.  My weight, by itself, would only bring snickers from that small portion of the population that’s bigoted enough to shout obscenities at strangers.

But then we come to my hair.  I stat dying it unnatural colors right before I turned 30.  In the last few years it’s jumped from pink to purple to red to blue, depending on my mood.  Even more so than my clothes, my hair is a statement.

My mother didn’t have a choice in the stares she received.  I think she would have been just as happy to blend in.  But I suffer from a different kind of deformity.  My insides don’t match my outside.  Without the blue hair and crazy clothes it takes time for someone to realize I’m a freak.

I spent years getting excited about new friendships only to be disappointed.  To find that, in the long run, they weren’t up to being friends with who I really am.  After all those disappointments I decided to make it more obvious.  To put my weird on the outside.  Some people dye their hair funky colors because they want to be the center of attention.  I dye my hair as a warning.

Dying my hair brings its own set of complications.  Some think that adding blue hair to a fat woman is a joke just waiting to be laughed at.  Also, I tend to attract drunks and drug addicts.  They see my hair and assume I ‘party.’ But I don’t party.  I barely drink, let along foray into the illegal realm of the drug culture.

I wouldn’t call myself ‘normal.’ This is the age of the cool nerd and I’m a geeky neophile.  I’m into what’s new and interesting.  I want to try on life and all it has to offer.  I have a kind of bohemian view of life and many of my values don’t match up with the mainstream.  I try not to break laws but I’m pretty flagrant in my defiance of social norms.

No one pointed as I walked to the bus stop.  They didn’t need to point.  Three people (in a row) put a hand up to their face and chuckled as I walked by.  If only one person chuckled I could had dismissed it as paranoia on my part.  But three isn’t so easy to dismiss.  I wondered, for a second, if maybe my fly was open or if I had something on my face.  But when I sat down and checked myself it was clear the chuckles were aimed at my general appearance.

I sat on that bench and realized that I’ve perfected the art of looking ridiculous.  Instead of wishing the world was more tolerant and understanding, I want to be seen for who I really am.  If they were laughing at me, then they’re confirming I’ve succeeded in my goal.

I’m very aware that fewer people would laugh if I tried to blend in.  They’d still laugh because I’m fat.  Some would even laugh because I’m fat and limping.  But then the joke would be on me.  Their laughter would be pointed and cruel.  I have to admit that their laughter would hurt more if I was trying to fit in.

I’d much prefer to beat them to the punch.  To write the joke on my terms.  It makes me feel like I’m choosing my fate instead of suffering from what I can’t change.  Even if that choice means that I look ridiculous.  I’d rather perfect the art of looking ridiculous than to be the butt of their joke.


12 Responses to “The Art of Looking Ridiculous”
  1. cggirl says:

    Wow, this is a very interesting post! Thank you for that. It’s very interesting how we choose our clothing, hair, etc, and what we’re trying to convey with it, as compared with how we deal with those parts of our appearance we can’t change as easily…

  2. lissa10279 says:

    Thank you for this post. Elizabeth. In this world (though I wish it weren’t so) it takes a strong person to truly accept yourself as you are and embrace your uniqueness. You’ve done that, and are capitalizing on it, using it in your favor. And if you feel like you’re choosing your fate, that’s all the more empowering. I say, GO YOU!

    I have auburn hair that makes me stick out like a sore thumb, so I give you major props for rocking blue locks!!

  3. AnotherEm says:

    Wow. This is the most thought-provoking post I have ever read on WATRD. Thank you.

  4. McLauren84 says:

    Wow, so nice to see such a refreshing viewpoint on here. Embracing one’s uniqueness is always a good thing. I think it’s interesting that you’ve chosen to so explicitly mirror your internal qualities on the outside to sort of label yourself more obviously as an “other.” I’ll admit when I see someone going out of their way to look different, my first reaction is to think they must be trying to get attention. I’d never really considered the other factors behind appearance, such as provides others a “warning” that you don’t accept mainstream societal norms. Such a bold statement! Kudos to you for being so brave.

  5. Roni says:

    Wonderful post. Simply wonderful.

  6. Candice says:

    I LOVE this post! Awesome! I’ve always wanted to have a blue streak in my hair but by the time I was brave enough to try it, I had jobs that wouldn’t allow it.

    I know what it’s like to be laughed at by a group of people and just know in your gut that they’re laughing at you because, yeah, one you could dismiss, but not three or four.

    I’m pretty sure that you don’t look ridiculous. I bet you look fantastic. Great post.

  7. mamaV says:

    My favorite line by FAR is; “I dye my hair as a warning.”

    That’s awesome. I have felt like Elizabeth does, when she says she meets friends, and then they find out who she REALLY is and she is too “weird” for them to handle.

    For me, I think this is because as adults, particularly in business, we put on our Corporate costumes each day, and we become who we are supposed to be. At home, we are ourselves, but it is in private.

    Two years ago, I ditched the Corporate scene (after climbing to the top of the ladder to CIO at 38). I remember looking out the window of my immaculate corner office thinking “this sucks” It was just not me.

    I took the risk, went out on my own and built a web consulting business. Now I work for who I want to. If I think a client is a knob, I say ‘catch ya later dude.’ If I want to wear black nail polish to work — I wear it. And if I want to blog morning, noon and night — I do it!!

    Freedom at last!

  8. Elizebeth Turnquist says:

    Thanks for all the positive feedback!

    I think there is a part of the picture I didn’t represent in my essay. There are good parts and bad parts about having firmly established self-esteem.

    The good part is that I like myself. I’m proud of who I am. I feel comfortable with my choices and strong in my opinions. Some even tell me they envy my self-worth.

    The bad part is that others see pride as a sin. I’ve been told that I come off as “stuck up” or that I should “get over” myself.

    I blithely ignore the naysayers. I’m too “full of myself” to give their words thought. But I can definitely understand how it can be hard to be proud and standout in this world that delivers such mixed messages.

    A world that seems to say “like yourself” on one breath and “doubt yourself” on the next.

  9. heart says:

    Elizabeth, years ago I worked with a “kid”, I guess he was 19 or 20, he had aged out of the mental health system for minors and into the adult public mental health system, and he explained to me why he was “goth”, what it meant to him, which he felt was what it meant to anyone goth.

    He said it’s dangerous to be invisible.

    He talked about it at length, about how the goth style drew attention, made people wonder, that it didn’t matter if the attention was a bit negative, because it was attention and attention is always good, being seen is essential to survival.

    As someone who’s always been in the habit of trying to blend in and found too much attention of any kind, positive or negative, to be uncomfortable and something I don’t quite know how to deal with, I’ve thought a lot in the 10 or so years since we talked about what he said. So your post just made me wonder if your feelings are similar? When you were a kid, were you a target for bullies, and did you feel like you were safer from that if people noticed you more?

    Or is it more of an attempt to control the kind of attention you’re getting? I think anorexics tend to do that, that it’s reinforcing to control what about you people will pay attention to, to make it all about being skinny (or having blue hair) so that people aren’t noticing things about you that you don’t have control of?

    If this is too personal, please feel free to tell me to buzz off & I apologize with no offense taken. It’s just something I wonder about.

    • Elizebeth Turnquist says:


      I’m so sorry it took me this long to reply. I’ve been watching the number of comments to see if anyone new posted and for some reason I missed the addition of your comment until just now.

      First, I have to be clear that I can’t be completely subjective about my own motivations. The best I can do is tell you what I’ve found through introspection.

      It sounds like the kid you were talking about was seeking attention. While I don’t think there is anything wrong with seeking to be seen, I don’t believe that’s why I am the way I am.

      I don’t really like meeting new people and I don’t feel like everyone should like me. So “being seen” is not something I seek out.

      I like to belong when I know I can belong.

      No, I wasn’t a target for bullies when I was a kid. There was one instance in High School where this girl tried to bully me, and every time she’d get in my face, I’d just walk away.

      And, honestly, it wasn’t an “I’m better than this” walking away, it was an “I don’t understand” walking away.

      I didn’t care about fitting in. I lived a life outside school, such that school was not my primary social interaction.

      Am I trying to control the kind of attention I’m trying to get? Sure. I’m trying to warn some people that I’m not normal and, hopefully, draw to me people that can accept me.

      Am I trying to DISTRACT people from other things about myself? No. I like myself. And I want people around me that like ME. Not some persona I’ve built.

      Pink hair is a part of the person I am. So are my tattoo’s and my fatness.

      If you want me to talk about the less empowering side of choosing to stand out, I think it’s about pushing away those who are afraid by my abnormality.

      I am making the group of people I keep in my life exclusive.

      As for asking something “too” personal, I’m a fairly open book and I actually welcome questions like yours. You want to understand and I want to give you all the information so you can understand.


  10. Jennifer says:

    From the pic of you, I think you look absolutely gorgeous and not like a “weirdo” at all. Be proud of who you are because yours is the only opinion the truly matters. You are so very encouraging. I have long brown hair with multiplying grays. I’ve often wished I had the courage to don a wild do such as bright red or blue, but I just don’t have the self esteem to wear it out into the world. I admire you 🙂
    On a side note, do you color your hair yourself or professionally? And have you noticed any problems with your hair since you’ve been coloring? These are questions I consider when i think of doing something wild with my own hair.
    Also, I am the type who has always wanted to blend in. You are so very encouraging in your attitude of being yourself and not trying to blend in.

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