I remember one morning in my first year of primary school. I was 5 and it was 'quiet reading time', so I was probably reading Biff & Chip after a typical "NOOOO MUM DON'T GOOOOO" moment. Cue leg grabbing and sobby breathing. But my sacred reading time was disturbed by my teacher placing her hand on my shoulder and nudging a girl towards me. "Louise, this is Bridget, she's new and needs a lovely friend. Can you be that friend? I chose you especially." WELL. I was the chosen one. I was 'that friend'. I was needed. And I accepted that offer Obama style. "YES I CAN." Oh and I had visions. Me and Bridget were going to be the best of friends and would play with Barbies until they had no hair left, run the colour dry from felt-tip pens and watch every episode of Pingu followed by Oakie Doke or even Newsround (I was an advanced child).
Bridget was, well, different. She had light brown hair which was fixed into a tight top bun, with some wispy bits left down by the side of her freckle covered face. Her eyes were bright blue, but outlined in black and her lips were postbox red. She was dressed in our uniform, a light blue summer dress which matched her eyes, but she glistened in the light, for the biggest gold dangly earrings I had every seen fell from her lobes, and she jangled with every slight movement by wearing tens of gold bangles on her arms. The sight had me open mouthed. Was Bridget from a different country? Was she a DOLL? I tried to play with her all day. Not literally, play with her like a doll, but play WITH dolls with her, or in the sandbox, or in the travel agent set (best thing ever), but Bridget never spoke. She just followed and watched. And within a week, she was gone.
That was my first encounter of a gypsy.
My next encounter of a gypsy was in the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Esmerelda was nothing like Bridget. She was pretty and nice and helpful, but everybody hated her! Why did they hate her? Because she didn't have a house like everyone else? She must have been doing something bad, therefore I won't like her. And because she's a gypsy, and she's different from me, and nobody likes her, then I can't like Bridget and all gypsies must be bad. So that's what I grew up thinking. All gypsies were bad. But why?
My Big Fat Gypsy wedding started last week, and after I'd seen the adverts there was no doubt that I had to watch it. They all looked awful tarted up in make up with outrages wedding dresses, maybe now I can see what all the fuss is about! I watched the first one, and yes their make up swamped faces and engulfing wedding dresses looked just a tad ridiculous, but they were nice. I heard no swearing, saw no fighting, and figured no reason to dislike their way of life. Sure, I took the mick out of their image on twitter but in amongst the laughter were life lessons and I learned a lot from that first episode.
The second episode last night was relatively the same with 6 year olds wearing high heels, spray tans and caked in foundation, and a bride struggling to kick her pink dress down the aisle. But this time the reaction from twitter was awful... "They're all little sluts!!!" one wrote and another said "Those pikeys should be locked away. Disgusting." What's the difference between those harsh comments, and believe me there were loads more, and harsh comments about Muslims? Nothing. It can easily be classed as racism. They live in a different culture to us, so what?! You think they're all sluts dressing and dancing like that? The difference occurs in the fact that if non gypsies dressed and danced like sluts, they'd act like them too. Gypsy girls can't have sex before marriage and don't drink alcohol. They're never under the influence of anything but themselves and peers, and don't dress for a one night stand. It's just how they dress, you're just branding them a slut on the stereotypical slut look. It was made clear last night that they dance like that because that's how their idols dance on the tele and how they've seen their older sisters dance. A bit inappropriate maybe, but the motive behind it isn't bad in the slightest. And the make up? Yes it's over the top, but what about the little girls in beauty pageants? Do you judge the whole of America based on that? No.
The gypsy morals may seem bad, for example the way they treat women. Teenage girls go through 'grabbing' where a boy tries desperately to get a girl to kiss him. People found that horrible. Well it might look horrible when the boy won't let the girl go, but it's a teenage kiss. Big whoop. A lot more horrible instances happen in our lives. I got touched up on a packed train last month by a man in his 40s. That wouldn't happen to gypsies and it hasn't scarred me. Girls must leave school at 11 to help around house, then marry at around 16/17/18 to become a housewife. They're not allowed jobs. That might sound stupid, but they're just old fashioned, and gypsy women don't mind. That's their life and their culture. They probably don't agree with our lives, but tough shit that's how we're gonna live it and they're gonna carry on living theirs regardless of what we say. Well, apart from having their homes ripped apart by the council. That's nice.
Don't be so ignorant. Those gypsies are nice people and while your judging them on their image, the nasty front you're trying to pull off is so not a good look.