To The Person Who Stares At Me

Dear starer, I see you.  I see you at least every other day and of late I’m noticing you more and more, bear this in mind.  You’re not as good an actor as you think you are.

Dear starer, I know, it’s my good looks right?  One day you’ll pluck up the courage to come and speak to me about that and I’m impatient on this one, I’ve been single too long.

Dear starer, don’t tell your child not to stare and then continue to stare.  You fool nobody, least of all your child.

Dear starer, ask your questions.  I won’t mind.  I’ll be happy to disabuse you of your ignorance and stereotypes.

Dear starer, don’t ask your questions.  I’ve had enough of that shit today, there is google, there are libraries.  Go and do some research.  My bodily weirdness does not make my body public property.  If you answer back when I say this to you, I reserve the right to insert my walking stick into one of your orifices…

Dear starer, if those two things seem in conflict – they are.  Tough.  Do not expect my responses to be uniform.  I am human, I am complex, I can hold both of these things and not be hypocritical.  I hope you catch me on the good days, otherwise you risk a personalised diatribe delivered with highly toxic levels of snark, acerbity and acidity.  Good luck.

Dear starer, what is so unusual about the stick or wheelchair anyway?  I see you looking at me like I’m animal that’s meant to be on the African savannah, but honestly I’m just here to buy petrol and a few groceries.

Dear starer, in answer to your question, it’s because of my previous career as a dragon-trainer, there was an incident with a Hungarian Horntail.

Dear starer, what is it you’re actually expecting?

Dear starer, you make me paranoid.  You and the many starers who’ve come before you.  There’s a reason I typically have the iPod playing in my ears when I’m walking now, and it’s because it distracts me from having to avoid glances.  It’s unpleasant to be looked at for reasons unknown, but it’s just as unpleasant to be looked at for obvious reasons why.  I know those reasons, and I can’t do anything about those – and I shouldn’t have to.  But in many ways I’d quite like to because I’m fed up of gormless arseholes like you gawping at me.  There are few ways you could make me feel more inadequate and out of place.

Dear starer, you are the reason I always say to people that two of the best things you can do as a disabled person are to drink and swear.  Few things are more unremarkable.  I’m much more amenable to answering your questions if you buy me a pint of ale.

Dear starer, some days you don’t bother me.

Dear starer, no my carer isn’t here.  Deal with it.  If you ask and I snap at you, it’s because I’ve heard you before.  Many many times.

Dear starer, if you’re staring at me because you find me inspirational please consider the following…you don’t know me – if you did, you’d have said hello.  What precisely is it that you find so inspiring?  Try and think of your answer to that, and then consider if you could speak it without patronising my face off.  If you can you’ll be the first of many who’ve spoken.

Dear starer, do you know how othering your staring is?  Seriously, if ever you want to make someone feel they don’t belong, stare at them solidly as they go about their normal day.  It is beyond stigmatising, I know freak shows aren’t a thing any more, but any time I look at buying clothes, address an audience, use public transport, I run the substantial risk of feeling like an exhibit.  Step right up and don’t feed the alien.

I understand you’re curious, I understand it seems unusual at face value, I understand the shock of the unfamiliar.  But it’s extremely familiar to me.  And sometimes it makes me want to hide, to not have to deal with this shit.  This weekend I’ve been at home and nobody has stared – apart from the cats – and that’s only because they’re greedy as all hell.  It’s been a pleasant couple of days for the most part.  I had a little drive out into the sticks and when I stopped for fuel I found you staring at me.  It pissed me off.  And while these letters all start ‘Dear starer’, and are addressed specifically to you, I’m aware that there are hundreds, thousands of you.  And I have seen you before.

And I’m tired of you.  Go look at something else.

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3 thoughts on “To The Person Who Stares At Me

  1. That’s really tough. I don’t know how you can cope with it best. And I can see that each day will be different, depending on your own state of mind. It’s natural for humans to notice a person who looks different (we’re biologically hard-wired for that), and to be curious (e.g. on the simplest ego-level, “What caused that disability? Could it happen to me?”). For many of us, it’s wanting to know if we can help- it’s an instinctive reaction to seeing anyone in pain, which is why I once asked you if walking hurt you- I wasn’t sure if we should all walk slower to make it easier, or if perhaps you felt a social pressure to keep up. Most people are of kindly intent and would hate to upset you, but we are also stupid and thoughtless sometimes. Your blogs should be required reading for all developing humans in schools.

    Dear stared-at, it’s not you, it’s us. Dear stared-at, keep being public in your activities, don’t hide away: we need you. Not to be “inspired” by you, not to badger you with questions and looks, but because you are a lively person who could become a friend (who happens to be disabled just as I happen to have asthma), enriching our lives with humour, intelligence, personal experiences we can’t imagine, a great voice and no doubt much more we have no idea of yet.

    On the subject of “personalised diatribes” and “acerbity”, I have been at the receiving end of those this morning. I took both my rather deaf parents to have ear wax suctioned out. My 97-year old father enjoyed the whole outing, was interested in the doctor and the procedure and pleased with the results, and my 93-year old mother grumbled from beginning to end, “Don’t help me into the car, I can manage perfectly well, why can’t I reach my seat belt, please turn off that radio, I don’t need that (putting a cape on her in the wheelchair on a freezing morning)- are you trying to make me feel even more dependent?”, and afterwards, “I feel so dizzy, no my ears are no better, it was a waste of time.” Carers/daughters etc can feel very “othered” too. We all have a right to be treated with respect, and we all have a responsibility, if only to ourselves, to look for the positives in other people. I am “inspired” by my father’s unfailingly polite and positive approach to his dependent old age, and the best I can hope for from my mother is learning how not to be.

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