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Discrimination against (dirty) tired-looking parents

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So, earlier this week, in my quest to remove the world’s ugliest ladybug tattoo from my ankle, I found myself inside a tattoo parlour…

It was less fun than it sounds, since for the whole three minutes I was there, I felt disgustingly discriminated against. I must give you some context:

I had not planned to pop into the tattoo parlour. The plan was to pop into the toy store, and the tattoo parlour was conveniently situated en route. The most important detail is that I was dressed as the sleep-deprived mother I am. Hair scraped back into a hair band – kind of like (dry, very dry) grass being held back by an unruly weed. There was a mysterious, unidentified white substance on my shoulder. No make-up. Flat shoes. Comfy pants left over from pregnancy days. You get the idea. In sharp contrast, the girl behind the counter wore a perfect pair of jeans. Her tattoos peeked alluringly from under her stylish blouse and her hair was so very straight. Her make-up was perfect and through thick black lashes she literally looked me up and down.

I don’t think I have ever experienced the feeling of being discriminated against, but this made me want to grab her by her sleek hot-ironed hair and shout “I was cool once too!”

When I told her that I wanted to cover a tattoo with the names of my children, I could see her cringe on the inside. I could swear there was even a bit of eye-rolling going on, but at this point I was staring down at my ugly tattoo, so I can’t be 100 percent sure. Her suspicions about me had been confirmed. What was I doing there anyway? And so I fled to go and hide in the toy store, which is way more my comfort zone anyway. And it is where people dress the way I do.

When you research ‘discrimination by type’ the following types of discrimination come up: age, disability, equal pay, national origin, pregnancy, race, religion and sexual harassment. There is even a type for ‘genetic information’, all about the sharing of said genetic information.

But nowhere could I find a type for “tired parent”. I’m happy to say that these days, in the majority of our beautiful country, I think discrimination based on race is falling away. But now people will simply judge you on your looks, and even though this is a slight improvement on the discrimination scale, it can still be hurtful.

In hindsight I am glad of this experience. And specifically, I am grateful to her for making me feel a bit small. You see, I am sure that I have done this countless times to other people. As a result of that experience, I try to really open my mind and look beyond a person’s appearance.

This morning I had a meeting with a very clever mathematician, it would have been so easy to put him in a box and label him as nerdy. But I kept an open mind and we ended up having the most riveting discussion about books, movies and whiskey. I made a new friend and my life is richer for it

I guess my point is not that you should drop all stereotypes; it is natural to use stereotypes to categorise and understand our world. But don’t let them blind you and don’t let them prevent you from having potentially life-changing interactions with colourful or tired-looking characters.

You can also find this as an article in http://www.All4Women.co.za

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