Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Stop Staring

When I suffered a spontaneous corneal perforation two months ago, a rare event, I truly didn’t understand what a learning journey this would be. A week in Edmonton, a trip to the OR, some crazy glue in my eye and eight weeks later and I have some tales to tell about this experience. The most fascinating aspect, though, has been what happens when you suffer an incident that causes a visible change in your appearance, and how people react to it.

There is no denying that for some time the appearance of my eye was less than normal. The dot of glue sealing the perforation is quite visible, but it was the accompanying inflammation that really affected the appearance of my eye. It went from looking fairly normal to looking zombie legit in a matter of hours, and the reactions of others have been intriguing. One of the most common reactions, though, has led me to share one simple rule of etiquette and behaviour:
Stop staring.

Staring is rarely good etiquette, but I am stunned at how people seem to have forgotten this social nicety and when seeing something unusual have a tendency to stare (often open mouthed, which doesn’t help). After two months of having strangers stare at my eye I have realized how prevalent this behaviour is. Now, children might stare but they do so with such open curiosity that it is forgivable. They often follow it with a question, too, like “Does that hurt?” or “What is wrong with your eye?” which I answer with good humour and honesty.
It is the adults who simply stare, though. It is a rare and refreshing person who simply asks what is going on and if I am ok, and those are the ones I commend for their bravery and decency. But the ones who just stare drive me a bit bonkers, because they know they are staring and I know they are staring and neither of us says anything (ok, on occasion I do say something, and it usually isn’t nice and references exposure to strange viruses, but honestly I can’t help myself).

I have spoken to friends who have children with some sort of visible difference in their appearance and they too share tales of having their children stared at and the pain it causes them and the child. It might not seem like a big deal, but it is and I know this because when my eye was at its worst I was already terribly self-conscious about its appearance and the staring simply made it that much worse.
I recognize that it may be a natural human reaction, but part of etiquette is about dealing with those natural human reactions which may be less than polite. I can’t think of many instances where staring is appropriate, so if you find yourself staring it might be a good time to check yourself and consider the feelings of the one being stared at. As someone on the receiving end of countless stares due to an eye disease that is beyond my control I can safely say it is at best an uncomfortable experience, and at worst an infuriating one.

So that’s my public service announcement for the week. Stop staring, people. Just trust me on this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment