What do you do when you get stared at?Jul 17 02:08
While I don’t remember my first public outing as a wheelchair-user, I’m sure I was horrified by the stares. Annoyed and horrified. And the sideways glances, the quick-look-away stares that occur every time I go out, they still bug me, and its been 18 years since my injury.
The thing is - no one likes to be stared at. In my world, a stare is a look that lasts longer than 5 seconds. If its shorter than 5 seconds, then I don’t mind. I realize I use a power chair, drive fast and have bright blonde hair. People notice me. But to gawk, to watch my every move (I can feel it, jerks), as I look for a ripe avocado in the produce section? People know when they’re being rude, but some just don’t seem to mind, and they’ll just keep on staring, making me feel uncomfortable, until I’m out of sight.
You know, I became amazing at dealing with stares for a solid 8 -10 years once I realized 2 years into my injury that getting upset was pointless. The stares stopped maddening me and I accepted them as something I couldn’t change, like the sky being blue. I was able to go out in public all the time, which I did. But lately, oh lately…simply ignoring people’s stares, accepting them as being innocent, understandanding where they're coming from, and just going about my business, isn’t as easy as it once was.
Now when people stare, I find myself staring back until they look away; a defensive gesture to be sure. Other times, I’ll smile and look back, just so they know that I’m aware I’m under their surveillance; but inside I'll be pissed. Other times, I find myself not even wanting to even go out, and staying home instead.
Either the stares are getting worse or what I’ve always feared is happening: I’ve reached my tipping point. I was always worried this might occur, that I’d run out of patience. My patience is gone. Vamoosh. Its like an oil shortage, and my reserves are bleeding. Where did my happy-go-lucky persona go? The one that understood their stares, sympathized with them? Being annoyed by stares in an exhausting business.
How do you deal with the inevitable stares?
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1. SAM | Jul 19 12:03
I'm interested in any thoughts folks may have on this phenomena also. I'm 21 years in and finding myself at the same tipping point.
2. Tiffiny | Jul 20 02:07
Really, Sam? Glad to know I'm not the only SCI oldie experiencing this.
3. Bilvis | Jul 22 04:10
Surviving the stare is something that, like most things takes practice and comes with experience, but sometimes we need to give ourselves a little refresher course. I noticed it a lot as a kid with my trache and scooter (that made a lot of noise), at a time when I just wanted to fit in, but at the same time was always quick to notice the differences in others. With age I realized it isn't a specific group of people that stare, and that they are individuals just like us. Maybe I'll notice 1 or 2 people in a day, maybe I'll notice more if I'm out in a crowded place but in the end what other people is not something I can control and a quick little smile is what I feel countering with. Another thing I tell myself is if I do let it get to me to the point that I won't go out in public, I'm not doing the next person in a chair/scooter any favors because the more an able person sees someone in a chair/scooter in public, the less likely they will be to stare at the next disabled person.
4. Tara | Jul 22 01:11
I've been stared at as a child as a teen and as an adult and I'm with Tiff sometimes I'm just so sick of it especially when I used to walk with crutches & braces and walked like a drunk. It depends on my mood and what I'm doing. Sometimes I smile but sometimes I just don't want to be stared at like on a romantic date in a nice restaurant with candles. I don't want someone to stare and act like we've just been let out of the "special house" for the night ... I don't mind old people or even kids it's the adults that should know better then bother me the most. Some times I don't want to educate someone on what it's like to use a wheelchair which is usually the follow up question to the stare...
5. Yana | Jul 22 07:23
I had to respond, i just had to...People stare at Mazaratis, and Pink Cadillacs.they stare at people with green hair, and Goths, and Punks, and minorities...anything out of the ordinary.please do not take it personal.(i am AB)I learned very early in life that individuality is what makes every single one of us special, not fitting in, and blending in. They may also be staring because they are jealous of how special you are, your strength, will-power and that even stares will not intimidate you. They might be also jealous, because noone is looking at them....because they are just boring-looking and invinsible... Looking and being different is what makes the world a better(looking) place at least, along with standing out and making a difference. So do not focus on the negative, but the positive...so next time you are out and about, chin up, because we are all different, and that is how it should be...
6. Syd | Jul 25 03:39
You get over it. That's how you deal with it.
7. Israeli girl | Nov 30 10:55
I feel exactly the same way, you have no idea! I'm short statured (4 foot 5), and people stare at me a lot, too. God, I hate that so much! I also try to stare right back at them to teach them a lesson, but it doesn't always help... :/ Lately I found myself telling them "What? do you want my picture?". But I think I'm starting to realise that there's no hope here, because we won't change how people are (rude, nosy, shameless), we can only change our own attitude towards it to make things easier for us... :(
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Tiffiny Carlson is freelance writer and writes the “SCI Life” column for New Mobility. She's also a C6 quad from a diving accident that occurred when she was 14 years old. A lifelong resident of Minneapolis, Tiffiny has been a writer in the disability community for over 10 years and writes for several publications and blogs, as well as her personal blog BeautyAbility. Her work has also appeared in mainstream publications such as Nerve.com and Playgirl.