Yesterday’s post asking everyone to not stare, just ask spread far and wide. I’m honored so many people joined in on the conversation surrounding the topic. That post inspired an awesome discussion on Facebook based on a question a Born Just Right commenter had: If you’re encouraging someone to not stare and ask questions, how do you go about asking without feeling awkward? (In Jordan’s opinion, staring is the ultimate sign of awkward.)
One mom of a beautiful limb different daughter mentioned how her other children are much more sensitive to stares than her daughter. She often tells her girls, “If you saw a unicorn in a field of ordinary horses you would stare too.” I want to take that conversation it a step further… If we don’t change our conversation and awareness of differences, we won’t really know how to celebrate unicorns. Our unicorns are so awesome. If you’re staring, you are missing out.
As I revealed Jordan’s plea for an end to staring and asking for more questions, there has been some pushback, mainly by parents who do not feel comfortable encouraging their kids to ask questions. Some adults with physical differences say they are not comfortable with questions. Most children, teens and some adults say they would MUCH rather be a part of a polite and kind conversation over stares. But almost EVERYONE thinks it would be awesome if you could stop staring and at least say hi.
Obviously, life isn’t as easy as just saying “Don’t Stare, Just Ask.” But it is a great jumping point to open the conversation about ending rude staring.
Once you say hello and the person with a difference seems to be kind, in a good mood, and may be willing to explain how they live with a difference, there may be some ways to broach the topic without feeling awkward or invasive. Here are some of the ideas that were shared on Facebook. There’s a mix of adults with limb differences and parents of children with limb differences who left comments:
Christine M.: I personally hate questions from adults/older kids who don’t take the time to introduce themselves and meet me first. I just think it’s rude to expect people to explain their life stories to you when you don’t even take the time to acknowledge their personhood first.
Kathryn B.: “Part of it is in the tone. Loudly asking “Oh my God what happened?!” or “Where is your arm???” are NOT the right ways to approach it. I welcome questions but I find people are too scared/nervous/unsure of what/when/how to ask. At least, adults are. Kids are less inhibited and therefore more direct. A gentle, curious, “What happened to your arm”? is perfectly fine (for me anyway). But since I find that most people are too unsure to ask, I just directly say something if I want them to know. For example, at a job interview years ago I told the first person in the interview to diffuse any potential questions or stares, and then joked that I type faster than most people with two hands. Ultimately, for me it depends on the situation and person asking the question. But questions are always preferably over staring.”
Di D.: “Whatever question you have is a good one, as long as you are polite about it. It starts the communication, and that is the important part.”
Susan F.: “Whenever we see staring we just say hi to that person, very friendly! They will do one of two things, either they will say hi back and start talking to us or they will smile and walk away. We try really hard not to be upset by staring, although sometimes it’s a challenge when accompanied by whispered comments/insults. I would so much rather people ask questions than stare. I don’t think they know they are being rude, but……..LOL”
Leanna M.: “I have a hard time with questions about my daughter. I was taught to not stare, not to ask and not to make someone uncomfortable because it is none of my business what happened. I was told if I want to know why xyand z happens look it up at home. I think I am the only one taught this!!”
Christine M. replied to Leanna: ” I grew up that way, too. I personally won’t ask anyone because I figure it’s either none of my business or they’ll tell me if they want to do so (and I actually know the person). My high school mentor is an amputee and I still have no idea if it is congenital or not. It just doesn’t matter to me. My hand deformity is congenital, but she and I just never actually talked about either of our differences.”
Marina S.: “There is no non-rude way to ask about something that doesn’t concern one, whether a missing limb or a flower in someone’s hair. That said, aquestion asked with an attempt to get to know one as a person, accompanied by a bunch of other questions, is, imo, way less objectifying than a single out-of-context “what’s wrong with you?” question.”
Lauren B.: “I get asked what happened to my arm all the time and no matter where you go people will stare. I think a polite way to ask is just say you are curious and are interested in what happened. As long as youre polite, every question is welcomed.”
Miranda T.: “My daughter is also double above knee. She has so far been remarkably open when children inquire, considering she is so shy she won’t respond if they just say “hi.” I don’t know about asking though… I think for young children the curiosity is expected, but there comes a point when what is going on with someone’s body is just not your business. Little kids need to understand that the “strange” new thing they are seeing is ok, not dangerous, not contagious, etc, so they should ask and be educated, but a 12 year old should just get that it isn’t his business “what happened” to someone else. There was a time when kids would have frequently encountered questions like “how come your mom is white if you are black” etc, but now kids are taught that there are all types of families, and it isn’t a big deal, and you don’t have to know exactly how this one was created. I hope someday kids can get that there are all types of bodies, and it isn’t a big deal.”
You can see the full conversation here:
There really is no single solution solution to a simple plea: Stop staring. We are all different. We are all awesome. I asked a second question on how do you politely recognize someone who is different without staring or asking questions. The main answer: Just smile and say hi or nod. It’s kind and it shows that person you are treating him or her as you would anyone else. So let’s get to it! Let me know if you give it a try and how it made you feel.
If you love unicorns, we are selling a t-shirt to raise money for Camp No Limits until December 9th. Check it out here.