“I’ve dealt with people staring at me my entire life. Ever since I can remember, people would stare, surprised that I don’t have any legs and only have one arm.”
Having dealt with staring for so long, Erin has developed routine ways of handling it, which usually involves either ignoring it or providing a clever comeback to scrutinizing eyes.
Both adults and kids stare.
Adults generally try to be a little more undercover about the stares while kids generally just gawk away. Erin doesn’t try to cover her disability in any way. She doesn’t wear prosthetics, and she confidently wears short sleeve shirts which tend to highlight the fact that she has only one arm. So she is used to the stares. But things have changed for Erin recently.
“Before I had my son Gavin, when kids stared and made comments, I tried to smile and engage them, inviting them to make contact and have a positive experience with a person with a disability.”
Erin says that recently, however, she prefers the adults’ sneaky stares compared to the kids’ relentless eye contact.
Erin says her shift in attitude probably has to do with the fact that she’s a busy working mom, and just wants to go about her life without having to pause and conduct a learning lesson on interacting with someone with a disability. Erin shares a recent event when she was going to pick up her son from daycare. She had been wearing a long sleeve sweater at work, and by the time she arrived at the daycare, the weather had warmed up, so she started to remove her hot sweater in favor of wearing the more comfortable tank top she had on underneath. She recalls: “I was about to take off my sweater, but then the thought crossed my mind that traipsing into that daycare with an exposed stump was like leading a lamb to slaughter. I could just envision my white arm contrasting with my black tank top – attracting all these busy bees to their flower. I stopped dead in my tracks. Was I seriously trying to keep my arm hidden to detract attention? Yes, I was. Is that wrong?”
Erin knows it’s natural for kids to stare. And she admits to feeling guilty for being uncomfortable with all those curious eyes all over her. Erin ends her story with a great question for the future: she wonders how Gavin will handle the stares and questions about his mom as he gets older.
“I have a feeling he’ll teach me a thing or two,” Erin concludes.
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