Growing up, my son didn’t want to look like anyone else. He only wanted to look like him.
I’ve been entering The Twilight Zone lately to watch some of my favorite old episodes. Last night, I was drawn in once again by “Number 12 Looks just Like You.” It’s the one where, at age 19, everyone must have a Transformation surgery to become beautiful and conform to society. Only 18-year-old Marilyn doesn’t want to be transformed, and her ideas about holding onto her own identity are considered “radical.”
The 1964 show highlighted Hollywood’s obsession with youth and beauty, but for me, it resonated with other demands society makes about conformity. And for little boys, it’s most often about the toys they choose to play with or the clothes they want to wear.
Growing up, my son Harry didn’t want to look like anyone else. He only wanted to look like him. In kindergarten he wore bright-colored mismatched socks, floral neckties over tie-dyed t-shirts, colored sweatpants and, according to him, an occasional skirt. Jeans were of no interest. “Boys clothes are boring,” he declared. My son had yet to discover his kinship with Hendrix or Prince.
Harry’s individuality peaked at Halloween. No other kindergartener wanted to be a blue ghost. Certainly no other 4th grader dressed up as a vampire geisha. And while some adults may have balked, the kids who weren’t so sure about my son’s differences grew to learn that Harry was just being Harry. At high school graduation, his classmates cheered as he stomped across the auditorium stage wearing the same red cap and gown as everyone else, but with red patent leather stilettos to match.
Harry would undergo no transformation to conform to society. It was his local society that changed to accept and celebrate his unique identity and individuality. My hope is that the ripple effect builds to huge waves of change for all kids. Because as 18-year-old Marilyn from The Twilight Zone asked: “Being like everybody else, isn’t that like being nobody?”