A MESSAGE FROM THE ARTIST
My daughter is different. She refuses to fall in line with the rest of the norms. She likes to like the obscure. Which, as a father, is great. It’s something I celebrate. But in a school environment, different can be problematic. Not in a way that parents can easily notice either. Not in a bad report card kind of way. More in a, “I don’t want to go to school today. Please don’t make me,” kind of way. But what kid doesn’t say that on occasion?
My daughter attended a school where different was supposed to be embraced. So, I never assumed that she wasn’t anything but comfortable there. Yet, bullies can be found in every walk of life. Even private school.
It was the summer of her 6th grade year when she finally told me and my wife what was going on. It turns out that her friends at school had turned on her. They started to make fun of her likes, put her down, and make her feel that her differences were worthy of ridicule. Her friends were now the bullies in her life. She felt alone, and she felt afraid.
As a parent I felt just as afraid, and unsure what to do. I knew that telling my kid #ItGetsBetter wasn’t enough. She needed to feel better in the present. She needed friends. She needed a community where her differences weren’t ridiculed but embraced.
My daughter found that community in roller derby. With skates on, she is encouraged to be who she is because everyone in that sport seeks the same sort of validation. They all want a group where they can feel included, so they include everyone. Within that community, the differences are common place. The oddness is the norm.
My daughter’s friends on the roller derby track are her Odd-Lots. The group allows her to be strong and confident and fierce. The bullies who come at her now have a harder time getting to her. The strength that she’s discovered in her group of Odd-Lots carries her through those difficult experiences.
I want more kids to find their own Odd-Lots. I want them to realize that they don’t have to be alone because all of us have differences, and the more we embrace those differences, the more we can embrace each other.
I also want something more. All of us deal with bullies. A diploma adds no distance from the cruel. We adults can take something from the Odd-Lots too. For only after we see the silliness in the tactics that bullies use, are we able to strip them of their power.
We are in need of the Odd-Lots because we are Odd-Lots.