I often wish I were quick-witted. I wish I knew what to say the very moment it needed to be said.
For instance, the other night in an elevator a preteen was standing across from me, noticed something weird about my face, and ran over to her friend to whisper in her ear. Her friend then ran over to stand across from me to stare. I thought to myself: are you serious right now? I need to say something. But all I could blurt out was a very quick “I know you’re looking at me!”
I wish I had said something stronger. Not spiteful nor malicious, just more impactful.
Why say anything you ask? Because if someone is going to be that obvious about my face, I’m going to reciprocate. They need to know that I am not oblivious to their actions. I am not an animal. I am a human with human emotions. And I am way more intelligent and intuitive than they realize in that moment.
People have told me not to get mad when things like this happen, just ignore them. For the record, these situations don’t infuriate me as much they frustrate me. Over my thirty-four years, I’ve encountered a lot of people, mainly kids, staring at me. Of course the stares hurt, but I completely understand them. We humans are curious beings and when something foreign is introduced to us, we want to explore it to understand it better. When kids stare, I can easily ignore them. In fact, I almost always do. If I do or say anything, I’m kind about it. I smile and say hello. This truly is the best antidote.
But blatant rudeness doesn’t deserve the same respect from me. I’m finding that these are the teaching moments when I could, and should, say something. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t want to say anything mean or hurtful. I would be no better of a human than the person being rude. I want to educate by being real and direct. And I want to be confident while speaking up.
That’s why my concise “I know you’re looking at me!” wasn’t nearly enough in my opinion. It was brief and showed my frustration rather than my confidence. But it was also a step in the direction I want to head; it’s a step towards being braver and bolder when put in these uncomfortable situations.
Next time maybe I’ll be able to look these people in the eyes and say, “Yo, I know what you’re doing. Can I answer any questions for you?” Or as my cousin suggested, hand them a promotional card for my book and say, “you should read this.” The goal is to walk away from a future encounter leaving the other party speechless and embarrassed of their actions, to have them see me a person rather than a weird face, and to leave them understanding just how wrong they were.
If those preteens in the elevator could be so rude to a stranger, I imagine they have no qualms about bullying a peer at school who might be just a little bit unique.
You see, there is definitely a place and time for silence. But sometimes not speaking out is the cowardly thing to do. I am realizing that now. This may be my world but I know I am not alone in it. Not everyone can handle the stares and comments directed at them. I can; therefore, I need to be a voice for those who cannot.
By not staying silent, I may indirectly help someone else. And that is the very reason I cannot simply “ignore them.”
This just gives me more fuel to get my story out there and be a voice for change. It gives me even more of a reason to Choose Strong every single day.
As my friend’s mom told me after witnessing the elevator situation, I am in control.
And now it’s time to let everyone see that.
I encourage you to also say something if you see rudeness occurring. Choose the right words and remember that your actions matter. You too can be the voice for change. Choose Strong.