1. Kathryn

    I am a young adult who wears an alternative fashion and I would like to know how I can politely deal with some of the negative situations this causes for me. I don’t wear this to work or to places like churches where it might be considered disrespectful but on my own time I see no problem with it. I am well aware that the way I dress draws attention to me because it is clearly atypical. In the past I have had people yell things at me from cars, whisper and laugh, take pictures of me without asking, and even touch or lift up my skirts or other pieces of my clothing.

    With situations where people are generally rude or insulting to me I want to know a way to tell them that the way I dress doesn’t give them the right to invade my personal space and privacy and insult me. I often simply ignore them but I feel like I should have a way to let them know what they are doing is rude and upsetting.

    • Alicia

      Dressing in an atypical fashion is usually at least in part to call attention to oneself. So for the quick second looks really that was in a certain way an expected and desired reaction. For the pictures, I would simply say “hold on a moment let me get out of your picture.” This implies that they could not be so rude as to be actually trying to take a picture of you. For touching I would flinch away and loudly say “Get your hands off me”. For lifting up your skirt I would step or run away and yell the “get your hands off me” maybe even “assault!!” Paying attention to the yelling our the windows or whisperings will only make it worse. I would ignore or confidently just smile and say hello.

    • Elizabeth

      I agree with Alicia. When someone is insulting to you or crosses boundaries (like touching you or your clothes), you are no longer required to maintain politeness. I don’t know if you ever read Carolyn Hax, but she has some great advice for expressing incredulousness when people stop behaving within the bounds of decorum.

      In my younger days, I dressed in “alternative fashions,” hairstyles and makeup, and I used to try to use it as an opening to discuss people’s preconceived notions, to try to challenge assumptions (in positive way). If you are outgoing, that’s something you could consider.

  2. Sspider

    Hello Kathryn,

    I believe that the best way for you to handle this situation is to ignore it. You are in control of yourself, your emotions, and your behavior. Most men are not. They are simply reacting of impulses of ingroup and outgroup. Your mode of dress is eccentric and therefore distinguishes you as outgroup. I personally think that what they are doing is wrong, however in the real world I think you have three civilized options. Option 1 is to no longer continue dressing the way you do, or find a way to contextualize your dress in a manner that is not so provocative. Option 2 is to learn how to see events and people coming. You can usually tell when you are not welcome. Learn when to leave. 3. You can become a strong and intimidating woman and learn to accept this behaviour as one of the flaws contrasting and containing human perfection as the higher creature.

    Everyone deserves civility, even the rude, insulting, and violent. Do not attack them and do not be cowardly. If you do not like someone taking your picture, tell them promptly. If you begin to be “subtle” in your approach you are inviting them to continue. Do not play their game. Just leave. Please understand that the law will not help you in these matters. They will continue to harass you, maybe even more after you assert yourself. People see assertiveness as competitiveness. If you truly do not like this behaviour, think about my advice. There are very many simple ways to solve this problem.

    I believe it is also up to you to recognize that you like attention (not this kind of attention). I dress eccentrically as well. I advise you learn to use your fashion as a weapon. You can sum up your audiences personality, values, ethics, uses and very history soley by judging their reaction to your appearance.


    • Jerry

      Sspider: Your third sentence is highly insulting, and incorrect as a matter of fact. (Unless you meant that “most men are not [in control of Kathyrn’s behavior].” That assumes some men are in control of Kathryn’s behavior, which makes very little sense.) Please also check your spelling. The word “behavior” does not have a “u.”

      • Rebecca

        Jerry, it depends on whether Sspider is using British/Canadian English or American English. The British spelling for words ending in “or” takes a u, thus becoming our ending (ex: colour, neighbour) where the American spelling does not. Both are equally correct.

        I’ve been following your posts for a long time and while you make many good arguments, I’m not always a fan of the tone that you use. Because of that, I must admit that I’m taking great pleasure is pointing out your error regarding the spelling… Sort of a “put you in your place” opportunity..

        • Jerry

          Rebecca: I’m well aware of the difference in American and British English. Given that this website generally focuses on American customs, I figured I’d help Sspider out a little bit. Only one spelling of “color” and “neighbor” is commonly accepted (or, in other words, “correct”) in the United States.

          With respect to your second paragraph, I am very flattered that you think of me. I wish you better luck in your future attempts to point out my errors or to put me in my so-called “place.”

  3. Elizabeth

    I feel like the impending full moon is making everyone a little crabby and mildly combative…not just here, but in real life as well. I’m laying low tonight!

  4. Hello,
    Actually I have a question. My problem is my newly married 32 year old stepdaughter (Dad is a widow I’m his 2nd wife) married outside of our faith (we are Jewish). My 61 year old husband is a chef & has always made a big deal about Thanksgiving. My stepdaughter announced that she & her new husband (he’s 35) will be going to Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years & Easter/Passover to her new in-laws. They are a much bigger family and our son-in-law was adopted in his 20’s by a woman named Nina only a couple of years younger than me (I’m 53 and a registered nurse) Nina has 3 year old twins with a 40 year old stay at home husband. Her father is a wealthy MD and her career has been enhanced greatly by his connections in her chosen field working with “youths at risk”.
    Although Nina & I are close in age Nina acts much younger, choosing to hang out with “the kids” during the engagement party, rehearsal dinner & wedding. She and her husband (and her elderly parents) were downright rude at the wedding (leaving without saying goodbye, not thanking us, etc) and even asked me if I was an LPN at the wedding.
    My husband is hurt by this but refuses to speak to his daughter directly. In fact when she showed him the wedding invitations they stated “the families of Lindsay & Andres would like you to attend their wedding” making it seem as if Nina & Jay had contributed financially (which they had not).
    All he would like is for them to come to Thanksgiving-they celebrate both Christmas & Hannukah but he only wants them here for Thanksgiving . Lindsay states this is Andres’ decision but I think it has more to do with her new mother in law.
    BTW she has never welcomed me to the family or regarded me as her Dad’s wife.
    I appreciate any & all feedback!
    Thank you,

    • There is a lot of unnecessary information here. Nina may socialize with people of any age without fear of being judged, and I’m uncertain why we need to know about her husband’s working situation as that is their business. I only say this because many times a problem gets so large in our minds that we have trouble dealing with it, when really, it can be boiled down to an easily-handled fact or two.
      Here’s the “fact or two” as I understand it. Correct me where I’m wrong.
      Your husband’s daughter apparently isn’t close to you. (They may have to do with her believing her father replaced her mother. This is not your fault.) You are understandably upset at how her new in-laws treat you, how she treats you and appears to be treating your husband.

      The wedding issues are now water-under-the-bridge. If your husband is truly displeased at the upcoming holiday arrangements, he is the one who will sit down with his daughter and discuss the fairness of these holiday plans. If he refuses to do this, then that’s the way it will be. I’m sorry you have to watch your husband struggle with the sensation that instead of gaining a son through this marriage, he appears to have lost a daughter.

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