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Meanness, if left to grow, will overtake the most pristine garden. So, let us cultivate empathy daily, and watch our beautiful places like heart and soul become a refuge for others to visit.

From the time I was sixteen to the time I was thirty-five, I was very fashion forward. As a teenager, I dyed a strip of my hair black, and let it grow much longer than my naturally colored hair (strawberry blonde). I kept that black tail in a braid on the right side and it hung well beyond my breast before I cut it off one day. I bought many of my clothes in Europe, Egypt, and in thrift stores so that I could be unique. I always wanted to wear things that no one else had. In college I had a clear plastic raincoat with red, blue and yellow polka dots on it that I wore with go-go boots. I also wore dresses, hats, and gloves that were from the nineteen-fifties that I bought at a vintage store that I loved.

It’s been a long time since I cared about fashion. I still shop at second hand stores, but not to be unique, I do it for the good of the environment (recycling), to be thrifty, to cut down on cheap clothes made in sweat shops overseas, etc.  I’ve lost the motivation to put the time and effort into being fashionable. I simply don’t have the desire to spend on my looks. I rarely wear make-up. Although I envy my girlfriend’s brightly painted toenails, I never make the effort to get mine done, and I wear what is comfortable not necessary what is in fashion or the cutest. I don’t know if this has to do with getting older, getting lazier, being more comfortable with myself, or my illness (it very well could be all of those things).

The point I am trying to make is that I don’t try to impress or please others when I am out in public, and I don’t expect anyone to dress or please me. I notice that sometimes when women are together, they will toss a head in my direction and laugh (particularly when I wear a pair of polka dot pants that are so comfortable and that I love), or when I layer several shirts, put on a stretchy skirt and wear tennis shoes (I almost always wear tennis shoes which I know look funny with many of my outfits but my legs are significantly different lengths after the arch in my left foot collapsed). The fact that tennis shoes are about all I can wear brings up a good point, we don’t always know the story behind why someone is dressed the way they are. Maybe they are injured. Maybe, their kids are sick. Maybe, it is the first time they were able to make it out of bed this week. Maybe, they recently gained or lost a lot of weight and don’t have the money for new clothes.

This is why I am shocked, hurt, and appalled that people take photos of complete strangers out in public and then post them to their social media and make fun of the person in the picture and encourage their friends to make fun of them too. I have to admit I have seen women do this more than men. I recently saw a picture on Facebook of a woman that was probably a size sixteen wearing the new style of yoga shorts and a hoodie. The person who took the photo wrote, “Look what I have to look at while I eat my lunch.” There were so many comments shaming this woman for not being a size two and daring to wear short shorts out in public. When I saw the woman in the short shorts, I thought, “Wow. I wish I was that comfortable with my body! Good for her!”
When I am out in public, I don’t want to think that people are secretly snapping pictures of me to put on their social media accounts in order to mock me with their friends. I want to feel like I am free to be myself in the world without judgement or ridicule. I want you to have the same freedom from cruelty, and humiliation.

So what if our shorts are small, our shoes don’t match, or we are a plus size and want to wear spandex, let’s make a smile matter more than appearances, and a kind word open our heart.