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being blue collar doesn’t make me stupid

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“So…what do you do for a living?”

Can we please all just collectively sigh? Because sometimes this question feels like perhaps the worst icebreaker ever invented among western civilization.

A nervous smile usually ensues on my behalf and this is where I hesitantly answer, “I’m a hairdresser.”

“A hairdresser?” comes the reply, often accompanied by a weak smile.  “Really?”

It is here where I am strongly compelled to justify myself by quickly adding…”Yes.  But I’m also a writer.”

The conversation quickly averts away from hairdressing and onto literature.  It’s here where I crawl back into my shell of humiliation.

Hairdressing involves a tremendous amount of creativity.  Aspects of colour science and biology go into just the sheer analysis of a person’s head and scalp, their face shape and ultimately what colour/cut and style is going to suit them and satisfy their wants and desires.  It’s a lucrative position that prides itself on making people feel beautiful and offers an escape from their insecurities and self-esteem issues.  However, I may as well say that I dispose of cockroaches for a living, with the amount of judgment I receive.

We live in a society where the significance of the garbage disposal guy who keeps our streets clean is minimal next to the doctor who saves our lives.  Our social hierarchies dictate a person’s worth based on how many digits their salary incurs and therefore, where they sit on the socioeconomic ladder of success.  It’s a theoretical ladder which I’m already afraid of and I’ve barely even reached full adulthood.

Shahida Muhammad (author of Clutch) acknowledges in an article on xoJane that although it is of importance, her job does not singularly define who she is as a person.  She acknowledges that society has fallen prey to the ongoing concept that a person’s self-value should be equated with their ‘professional title.’  Muhammad says “It’s true that I’m a writer, I’m also a teacher…but I’m constantly evolving, growing and changing.  I’m not limited to my income, or my career path. These only add to the true essence of me.”

So how can we value someone’s worth without judging them by their career choices?  By accepting that what they do for a 9-5 doesn’t wholly reflect who they are.

Being a hairstylist makes me happy and shouldn’t happiness be the basis for what we do in life? Never mind the constructs we feel we need to abide by, the boxes that aim only to oppress us and the categories that deem us ‘rich or poor,’ if we can really accept what we dedicate on average eight hours a day toward, what does it matter whether we drive around an ice cream van or are the CEO of a corporate company?

My occupation does not define who I am.  I recognize myself as a woman above and before all else, a daughter, a survivor, a lover and most importantly, a human being.

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