Saturday, November 14, 2009

How do I look?

It's been said a million times before, but human behavior ebbs and flows. We operate on cycles (in reality my cat operates on cycles also). I am no exception. What controls the cycles I follow is human interaction. Until about a month ago, I had for a long time operated freely and confidently out in public, unconcerned about any attention or stares that my short stature may solicit. In fact, I had been riding such a positive cycle that I believed my internal confidence negated the impulse of any stranger to stare or gawk.

The cycle swung down four weeks ago when the passenger of a car with New York license plates snapped my photo while I was on my bicycle. Since then, rather than a load of confidence, I've been carrying a shield, tentatively ready to defend myself against unsolicited negative behavior from strangers.

Soon after the flow moved downward, I came across a book by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson called Staring: How We Look. The book studies why people stare, divides staring into several categories and includes testimony from the starees. I have not read much of the book. In fact, I only printed out a few pages in hopes of finding testimony from people of short stature, and new coping strategies. Indeed, most of the starees about whom the book speaks are people with disabilities. While the best testimony may not come from people of short stature, one little person reported he often "flips them (starers) the bird," the pages are filled with helpful information. From information that helps explain why people stare, "The visual presence of disability robs the encounter of firm cultural guidelines," to words of empowerment, "stares do not necessarily make one a victim; rather, they can make one a master of social interaction."

Based upon my experience, I am far from a master of social interaction, but I am always trying to learn. During the learning process, it's always nice to find new information and experience new things to move the process forward.

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