Since I run a clothing label and my income comes from sharing unique styles and perspectives with new people I often end up acting as default Ambassador to the Weirdo’s when in public. My friends joke being out with me in Tae-mode is like walking around with Mickey Mouse, I pose for photos and talk clothes with strangers all the time- and I try to enjoy it. It’s important to me to show people that Weirdos are approachable and not scary deviants.
I grew up in the 90s when every news channel featured stories about how “goths” and “clubkids” were murdering and seducing otherwise respectful youth with drugs and tattoos and deviant lifestyles. Fear mongering alternative-culture articles/news-segments have led to arrests, deaths, and bullying of Weirdos for years- so in being approachable and friendly about my appearance and perspective I hope to reduce the cruelty done by those reporters in some tiny way.
I’m definitely not suggesting every Weirdo presenting person take on this role, you deserve to go about your day with the same level of privacy and respect as any other person on the planet. But in thinking about this Ambassadorship I thought I’d write a rough guide for non-Weirdos on how to react to encountering an alternatively dressed person in public.
Weirdo: Someone who is visibly alternative in presentation. Regardless of specific subculture affiliation or hair color. Weirdos can be of any size, age, race, or gender.
A Field Guide to Encountering Weirdos in the Wild:
-Maybe don’t ask about it. It is not the responsibility of all Weirdos to explain their appearance to you, to educate you on their subculture. They aren’t appointed the position of Weirdo Ambassador by default and they don’t owe you time or attention. No, they aren’t in a play. No, they aren’t dying to explain their style to every curious person, even if you are polite, even if you “don’t mean to be rude” (intention does not excuse behavior). TRY GOOGLE- there’s a unique cultural arrogance in expecting other-ed people to educate you on their perspective. If you are at a convention or a fashion event, asking about the style might be acceptable, but out on the street this is not a great tactic. If a Weirdo is just going about their business in the wild, maybe leave them be.
-Do not take their photo without permission. There is never ever a moment where deliberately taking someone’s photo without their permission is okay. It’s degrading, dehumanizing, and rude as hell. Ask if they will pose for a photo for you- if they say no, respect that. I pose for tons of photos every month with strangers who ask (my favorite so far being the two really excited ladies in full burqas at the mall), and it’s rare I’ll say no because I have a label to promote etc- but this isn’t something you can expect from every Weirdo. Sometimes we are running late, sometimes we just want to exist without being Ambassadors of our subcultures. Sometimes we just don’t want to pose for a damn photo.
-Remember Weirdos are people too. Not an extra in your amazing life movie, not a proselytizing promoter of subcultures, not Mickey Mouse waiting to pose for your photos. Weirdos have lives and jobs and responsibilities- much like you do- so be respectful of their time and existence. If you wouldn’t want to be approached in line at the grocery store and asked pointed questions about your clothes don’t do it to others.
-Do not offer food or try to feed us handfuls of grass through the fence. Or wait maybe this tip is for horses? Either way, we probably won’t eat grass from your hand.
-Don’t make Halloween costume or “where’s the funeral” jokes. It’s not 1985, you aren’t funny.
-Don’t come up tell us how you’re “sure” Lolita fashion is 100% related to sex. We get it, you once saw a porn category with the same word on it; please keep your habits to yourself. Also who do you think has more information on the subculture? You and your porn category or someone wearing it in their daily life? Go away.
-Don’t speak to a Weirdo with headphones on (unless they’re about to step into an open manhole or something). We’re wearing them because we don’t want to talk to you, sorry.
-Do not touch our clothes or lift our skirts!!! Yes there’s a petticoat under my dress, it’s actually *extremely* inappropriate for you to lift the hem of it to check. Just no. I don’t care if you “mean” well (intention is not an excuse!) or are a 85 year old granny. Just do not do this for any reason. You wouldn’t pet an unfamiliar dog, don’t paw at Weirdos either.
-Do not touch our hair or ask if it’s “attached”. In this era of ebay hair extensions, gorgeous wigs, and rainbow hair dye at every local pharmacy- is it ever okay to touch a stranger’s hair and ask if it’s real? No. The answer is a hard no.
Thank you for treating the Weirdos you encounter like people. We do appreciate it, even if smiling might wreck out makeup today. 😉
*This post is not a comprehensive guide to encountering Weirdos, just some pointers on interacting with us.