As I get older I’ve become more fascinated with my facial difference as it relates to those around me. When I’m alone and I’m out shopping or just getting to and from work I see my difference through the strangers that stare. It’s one of the ways that I’m faced with the concept of difference and it’s almost daily. What I’ve started to be come interested in is how my friends view my difference when we are out and about together. How it impact them, their experience and their lives. We always focus on the one dealing with the difference or illness but I find those around it are just as impacted. I know my difference impacted my sister a great deal although she doesn’t much like to talk about it. I know she felt left out, isolated in ways that I can’t understand. I wish she had been included more with my appointments as there were times mom and I were gone for a week at a time for various appointments and she was left in the care of our older sister.
It’s no surprise that I’ve about given up on being nice when I’m reacting to those reacting to me. Sadly this includes to kids. Mind you if the child is really young I’m tolerant, I wave and smile at young kids in the hopes that the next time they encounter someone who is different they won’t be scared and they will smile and wave. I’m less tolerant with older kids, kids who should have been taught about differences.
The most recent encounter happened this past Sunday. My friend Heidi and I drove up to Toronto and met with our friend Joanne to partake in a Sunday afternoon ball game. It was the Toronto Blue Jays vs. Boston Red Socks. As we took our seats and waited for the game to start a family sat in the row directly in front of us. There were a number of adults and two kids, a boy and a girl. Typically as soon as I see kids I know I’m in for having to put up with something. Whether it’s just a few glances, snickering, remarks, and/or outright gawking. The little girl took maybe a look or two but for the most part watched the game. The boy who I assume is older took the other end of that spectrum and spent the game on and off outright gawking/staring.
In a large social setting such as a ball game I tend to do my very best to ignore the child as I don’t really want to ruin the experience for myself or those around me. However as the game dragged on it became rather annoying and upsetting to me that I had to be subjected to this kids stares. You would think after a couple of hours I’d become less interesting and you’d expect the kid to focus on the game. Sadly the opposite became true, as the game dragged on and on, the child seemed to focus more on me than on the game.
As I’ve said earlier I’m not very tolerant of kids I feel should no better, and having been sitting in the same area for hours on end I got really tired of it and decided to make a gesture towards the kid. I used the universal symbol for “fuck off” I stuck my left middle finger up at the kid.
It was at this time Joanne asked me what was up. She noticed my gesture and she then became aware of the child’s behaviour. I asked Joanne three questions today about this incident mostly because I wanted her words here and not my version or how I saw it.
Q1: Wen did yo first notice the kid at the game staring at me?
A1: When you told me, I started to notice it.
Q2: How did it make you feel?
A2: Angry and disgusted.
Q3: What action did you take?
A3: Put my face in front of yours and told him to stop gawking and turn around and watch the game.
Joanne and I talked via text later that night and I could tell it was still on her mind. She felt the need to apologize for the actions to which were in no way her fault. It’s a common thread I’ve noticed with my friends that THEY apologize to me because other people are staring. Joanne and I have been friends for a number of years but sadly because we live in different cities it’s hard to just get together and hang out. Thus she hasn’t been with me out in public a ton and been in this type of situation with me. So I wanted to ask these types of questions to another amazing friend I have who has been out in public with me a ton in the last few years. My friend Karen, we’ve been friends since high school. She was really the only person who invited me over to her house. We had lost touch after high school and it’s only been in the las 7-10 years where we’ve reconnected and become closer. I sent her a text this afternoon asking very similar questions of her as I had asked of Joanne.
Q1: Can you think of a time when we were out together and you noticed someone staring, laughing, or otherwise noticing my difference?
A1: One that comes to mind as sadly I notice it most of the time we are out.. But the one was the night we were eating at Jack’s and that little prick of a kid actually turned around to stare.
Q2: What action if any did you take?
A2: I believe I switched sides and came to sit beside you and we both gave the kid a dirty look and said loud enough for the parents to hear to do a better job.
Q3: How did it make you feel?
A3: It always makes me angry and upset when I notice people staring etc. Angry because it’s rude and if they are curious come ask politely don’t just stare and sad because those narrow minded people will never know how incredibly awesome you are.
I’m not going to lie, most days if I could work from home and avoid having to subject myself to being stared at I would. Being different isn’t fun, it sucks, when I’m out with friends I just want to let lose and have fun but most times my fun time is muted by the fact that as a society we still think it’s ok to gawk at those who are different.
I hope that kid at the ball games realizes at some point what he did isn’t cool. I suspect that he told all his friends that he saw a monster at the baseball game because until we change the narrative of what difference and beauty is I will continue to be the villain. I. Not a victim, but I am a human being who is tired, tired of being ugly, tired of having to be stared at, laughed at, or snickered at every single time I leave my house.
One thought on “Through their eyes”
I remember the girls who thought it funny to run screaming when they saw me. I remember at least some of the names I was called back then. And I remember the genuinely curious who couldn’t quite understand what a kid who looked 12 was doing attending a technical college for 16-18 year olds. But most of all I remember those who related to me as a person despite the fact that I was only 4’11” and weighing in at 70lb. The ones you’ll be able to still name 40 years from now, are the only ones that matter. The others should be no sooner out of sight than out of mind. Early on I came to grasp that being different was a blessing in disguise. It meant that you would always know what others didn’t; who you really were and you’d always have the freedom to be that. Fit into a crowd, live with the peer pressure of feeling that you have to impress others.. no thanks.. I’d rather be true to myself, than pretending to be someone I wasn’t for the benefit of others. That is a game with no future and no end.