Now here we have a really fascinating article. It’s pertinent to a subject I’ve been worrying for days (and years and my whole life, really, but specifically for days here on B and W), the power and coerciveness of public opinion. We see that in politics, in ‘public relations’ and advertising, and we even (or perhaps especially) see it in the more mundane, secret, personal corners of life. In our friendships and romances, in how we feel at parties and meetings, at work and school, when we shop and see the doctor. Any time, in fact, that we’re not alone and unseen, public opinion is part of our landscape.

If you have diabetes or heart disease, you suffer regardless of who is watching you or how they perceive you. But the suffering that comes from being too short, too shy or too small-breasted is bound up with the way these characteristics are seen by other people.

Just so. We don’t mind from within being shy or short, we only mind insofar as we are consumer objects for other people. If other people prefer the tall and brash, the hip and the cool to short bashful geeks and nerds, and if we care what those Other People think of us, then we will do our best to stop being a short bashful geek and become hip and cool. But that transformation is so difficult – or it used to be, but now there is a pill. O brave new world. But do we remember to ask ourselves if we actually want to be hip rather than geeky? Or do we just go with the public opinion flow. And what of the loss involved when public opinion makes us all like one another, irons out all our oddities and wrinkles? And above all what of the anguish when the bullies still won’t leave us alone?

Kids pulled his tie so tight it nearly strangled him. They’d tease him about not having fancy gear. They’d call him ugly. He was buying ciggies and handing them out at the bus stop so that he’d be left alone. But after Christmas he tried to give up, and when he didn’t have cigarettes he’d get slapped across the face. No one wanted to play with him. No one wanted to be his friend. He got friendly with this one other lad and then he was accused of being gay. He just couldn’t respond in the way that other kids expected him to.

Be like us or else. Have the right gear, don’t be pudgy, don’t be clever or interested in politics. Don’t be shy or thoughtful or small-breasted or plain. So we mould and shape and form each other – distort and cripple and maim and stunt each other. It can be a high price to pay for fitting in and doing what the others expect.

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