Wednesday, February 27, 2002

I drove past an advertisement today for Denim Day, an event coming up to recognize support for research for breast cancer. The name "Denim Day" brought back a flood of memories from my first year of university and another group participation event - Gay Jeans Day.

Going to a university campus from a medium-size high school in a very conservative city is a big leap. I felt awkward, out of place and very insecure about how I looked and acted. My swim team buddies (my touchstone of normality and source of social standards) were even more redneck-ish than the average redneck Edmontonian. One day at lunch, one of my associates mentioned that he saw an announcement put out by the Gay and Lesbians On Campus group (or GALOC) that stated that tomorrow was "Gay Jeans Day." To show support for alternative lifestyles (or your pride in being gay), they were encouraging everyone to wear jeans to school.

This struck me as odd. Normally, everyone wore jeans to school.

I thought to myself, "Tomorrow, If I dressed as I normally do, in jeans, would my buddies assume I was making a statement about my own sexual orientation? Would others that unwittingly wore jeans be seen as showing their support for the homosexual lifestyle? What if I forgot and wore jeans by accident? Would there be big signs posted all over campus thanking all of the blue-jean-wearers for their open homosexuality?" I felt that GALOC was being very underhanded in trying to rally support for their cause.

I also felt bullied by my friends. Was my orientation any of their business? By their implied social pressures, they were preventing me from dressing the way I was most comfortable dressing.

In the end, I decided not to wear jeans to avoid the teasing my swim buddies would undoubtedly bestow on me, for that day and for days to come. Of course, if there had been a Gay Jeans Day, it was immensely underpublisized - I saw nothing making note of it on the supposed day of the event. Looking back on the situation, I realize that I allowed social pressure to force me to do two things that I didn't want to do: change the way I dress and take a stand against homosexuality. I wish that I had been more self-confident and dressed in jeans that day.

As I watch my daughters interact with their friends, I see them both striving to be accepted by their peers. How do I teach them to have faith in themselves and not to act as the group wants them to behave? Banana has a friend in the other Grade Four class named "Addi" who excels at marching to the beat of her own drummer. I hope to have the two of them spend more time together this summer, and maybe she can learn to be more trusting in herself and I can learn (from Addi's parents) how to encourage it more.

Peer pressure is a terrible thing.

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