Daring to be Different Part 2: Time-Manner-Place

I like reading articles on Reflect On This and Tiny Buddha – you don’t have to delve too deep into them in order to find something positive, inspirational or motivational. They were two sites I visited often during my post-counselling homework.

The sentiment of this article from Reflect on This I agree with completely – I’ve mentioned before how much respect I have for those willing to break the mould and use their creativity and lateral thinking to solve problems. Applying its teaching in the real world has its rewards, but from experience, it’s not as simple as it sounds.

I’ve brought up my fondness for wearing a utility-kilt a few times before, and I make it sound like it’s one of the most liberating thing I’ve ever done… because it is. It’s certainly the most visibly different thing that I do, but the transition from private to public was hardly instantaneous and I still feel a little self-conscious when I am out and about. I’d love to just give the world the middle finger and say “this is me – deal with it!” but, as I’m going so far against the grain, it was better for me to start off a bit defensive and move forward in baby steps.

I started just wearing it inside the house, then I ventured outside only as far as the bin, then as far as the car. My first real outing was wearing my kilt in front of my in-laws before we all headed off to the pub for a family meal. The next step was a trip to the supermarket with my family, then another with just my 4 year-old daughter (including a tiny solo excursion just to pay for a tank of petrol). Only then did I feel confident enough to tackle a town centre on a Saturday afternoon.

That was the first and, to date, only negative verbal reaction I’ve had – a couple of youths thought it was hilarious to yell “lady boy” and “batty man” as I walked past… but I just carried on walking. I’d been visible to hundreds, if not thousands, of people that afternoon and the worst I got was a couple of immature remarks; I’d be lying if I said it didn’t replay in my head over the next few days, but I remained unperturbed and came out of it even more determined (if a little self-conscious).

It’s proven to be a huge boost to my self-confidence, but I was always mindful of three things: time, manner and place.

Even though it’s technically not against the dress code, I still wouldn’t wear my kilt on casual Fridays. Company time is not the right time – they do help me pay my mortgage, after all.

I also make sure that whatever I wear with my kilt is pretty standard – I don’t go to too much effort to stand out. It’s a plain, black kilt (no tartan) so I tend to draw attention away from it with either a band t-shirt, or a more colourful, checked shirt.

And finally, there are places where I wouldn’t dare wear my kilt: one of those is my local newsagents. Not that the staff would even remotely care – my money’s as good as everybody else’s – but the distance between the post office and the local pub is too close for comfort. Let’s just say that the word “cosmopolitan” does not exactly describe the area where I live, and I don’t think singling myself out as somebody “different” is a particularly wise move when the local residents have been drinking. It’s also a meeting place for the local Outlaws… make of that what you will.

I know the tone of this post has been a little bit negative – just emphasising that fulfilling an ambition needs as much realism as fantasy – but the overall picture is very much positive. Being able to stand up and be myself, however different that may be from the norm, is proof of how much my self-confidence and anxiety has improved over the year. I still think it’s “strange” and “weird”, but such words sound more like compliments to me today.

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