“Other people just love you for who you are and how you are, no matter what you look like.”

We're reading the book Wonder by RJ Palacio. Wonder had its moment in the sun a few years ago ‘cause it was a hit young teen book that was turned into a movie that I just found out tonight has maybe Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson in it. I don't know, we're gonna try to watch it tomorrow. But, you know, it's about a student born with a disfigured face and his struggle through fifth grade in New York City, ultimately leading to his acceptance for who he is. And, you know, there's a point in the book where his dad reveals that - the main character's name is August, A K A Auggie, the dad reveals that he threw away Auggie's space helmet that he used to wear to obscure his face. He used to go to the playground and rock a literal space helmet ‘cause he was so embarrassed about how he looked. And the dad reveals that that space helmet was not lost. He had thrown it away, which crushed Auggie 'cause he loved that helmet, and the dad went on this short monologue, saying like "I hated it because I couldn't see you man, and like I wouldn't change a thing and I love everything about you. I love how you look, I wouldn't change anything. You don't understand how much I just want to see you." And it was a moment or an opportunity for me to discuss with my classroom, how like that's just as true for me as I saw my class, sincerely. But I talked about the complication there because it was so easy for me to look in the mirror and and notice my own imperfections, and I can be logical about them. "Well, we've all got them, whatever." But I still have those feelings of self-consciousness nonetheless. You know, I've got a good sized Adam's apple. I have a mole over my lip that - not over my lip but kind of above my mustache area that no one even notice or care about, but every now and again I look at it, I'm like, "Is that a little too big? Is that mole just a little too noticeable? I don't know. Do the other people notice it?" But real quickly, I think of, like, how I perceive others that I know, and that I love, or that I care…

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“It’s totally like a power jacket, I really love it.”

I do have one specific piece of clothing - well, I have a few pieces, but the one that I'm thinking of is kind of like top-tier for me. A piece of clothing that feels really freaking good to wear. It makes me feel really vibrant and in tune with myself I suppose. I feel like it really kinda expresses who I am. It's a - I went to Thailand back in October and we went to a local’s mall and found a ton of different clothing stores. And a lot of them, like, actually making their own clothing, which was really neat. You could go in and see all the different fabrics, and pick out what you wanted. But there was this one designer in particular who had these silk jackets. It's gonna be kind of hard for me to describe, but it's kinda like a crop, a crop jacket with like 3/4 sleeves I think. And it's reversible. And the material is kinda like a - kinda like a two tone metallic material if that makes sense, so depending on how you look at it and like the type of light that hits it, it reflects differently. But yeah, it looks like it came - like the design came, like, straight out of the '80s. It's totally like a power jacket. I really love it.

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“… I think that cost me a lot of jobs.”

You know, so a lot of people wanna feel like - like growing up in school, I was teased by a few people because I didn't have like, I dunno, name brand clothes or I didn't have my hair done all the time or, you know. So I would say in school, growing up, there was pressure. Not by everybody, but by enough people that it was difficult. And then I - let's see. You know, my parents really didn't take me to like the dentist and stuff growing up. Like, I had never gone to a dentist until, like, I was in my mid to late twenties, and I, you know, I had kind of crooked teeth because my wisdom teeth had come in, and kinda pushed my other teeth forward and made them crooked, and it didn't hurt but it did look bad. And so I think that cost me a lot of jobs. Because I didn't have any insurance and stuff when I was going through, you know, community college and university. And so, you know, of course, it's like I was trying to study and get an education and survive. I didn't have money for braces. My plan was to get a job and then get braces and stuff later on. So I would go into, like, interior design firms and architecture firms and stuff and try to, like - I would get interviews. But as soon as I would smile, they would like instantly look at my teeth and the mood would kinda change. So it's like, I would, you know, have a good resume and we have a good phone interview or phone - you know, like, you know, when they call you and say "Hey, would you like to come in?" And stuff, and that would all go fine. And then I would come in and people would, like, look at my teeth, and it would just change. And even for jobs where it's not, like, customer-facing, like, maybe I would've been assisting someone or, you know, or on the computer designing that, you know, it's like even in - like it wouldn't have been face-to-face with rich customers or something, it would've been like doing stuff kind of behind the scenes and they, you know, were still judgmental. So it took a long time and I finally got to the point where…

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“I have curly hair. I should be able to wear it like that.”

Note: There is language that is excluded in the transcript but not excluded in the audio.  The long answer to that is yes, I feel, I feel those - the pressure to be - to adhere to beauty standards all the time. Same with my hair, actually. I have naturally curly hair and, gosh, starting in maybe six or seventh grade, I started straightening it. Partly because, like, my mom has stick-straight hair. She had no idea what to do with a curly haired child. She would brush it and then I would look like I had a little puff ball, you know, on my head. You can't brush curly hair like normal hair, right? She didn't know that. So it always looked a mess. So straightening it was just easier. I knew what it was gonna look like. It didn't look messy, and I definitely felt that pressure to, I don't know, look neater or whatever. Just because, like, I think I'm an attractive person, but I was never thin, and not like - yeah, what do you call it? Like... Not attractive like the popular people, not like conventionally attractive. And it just, it was too much to be chubby and not conventionally attractive and not wear makeup and have messy curly hair, right? So like I did what I could by straightening my hair and wearing makeup. And I remember one time my senior year of high school, I wore my hair naturally curly to school for the first time since six or seventh grade, and I don't even know why I did it. I just kind of - maybe I thought it looked okay that day. I don't know. And like the first person that commented was one of my friends, a male friend that said, "What is up with your hair? Looks like you just rolled out of bed." And that was like, "Okay. That's why I don't wear my hair like this, right?" So back to straightening it I went. But in college, I just - it was - I stopped because I wanted to get as much sleep as possible. And so I didn't want to spend the time straightening my hair, and a lot of times I just like wore bandana or whatever over it. But like sometimes I look at some of those pictures and my hair was so gorgeous and…

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