When you think about going about your daily tasks how much of it do you do truly alone, do you think about being alone? Does doing everyday tasks alone make you feel lonely or does it empower you?
As a women, and as someone with a facial difference doing seemingly “normal” tasks can make me feel anxious, annoyed or in some cases even angry.
I have always given the subject of being alone some thought but never really sat down to think about it until recently. I was approached by CBC Radio to give a different perspective on a radio program they were doing about going it alone. Most of the stories focused on conquering one’s fears or even sometimes the trouble kids can get into being alone for even a few mins. The perspective I was asked about is when doing things alone can have a negative feel. I told the story about going for a manicure and pedicure alone, I also talked about how having a facial difference can sour even the most mundane of tasks.
I go out just like you do, I run errands, go to appointments, and head to work and do all of that mostly alone probably just like you. The biggest hurdle is how my facial difference impacts every aspect of my everyday life. Most of the time my commute on public transportation is uneventful because early in the morning everyone is either going to work or to school and people mostly keep to themselves but it’s not the same if I’m on the bus alone going to the mall or heading to a friends house on the weekend. Taking public transportation is great for the environment and most times I’m ok with it but when I come face to face with my difference by the way other’s react to me it turns a simple commute into a very uncomfortable experience.
Just like taking public transportation shopping alone is one of my least favourite activities to do alone, not just any shopping but when I need to get something for myself. If I have to run and get something at the grocery store or if I have to get a gift for someone (especially a child) then I’m good to go. I go get what I need and get the heck out as quickly as humanly possible but it’s a totally different ball of wax when I need to actually buy myself something like new shoes, or a new dress…. I seem to always be acutely aware of those around me and how I am being perceived. I am sure some of what I think is going on may not be, some of my discomfort is of my own making, that I’m being paranoid. But there are some clear instances of when I’m NOT being over sensitive where I can clearly tell that while i’m going about my business I’m being judged, pointed at, and laughed at. The worst is when I’m standing in line waiting to cash out, when I get stuck behind someone who is a little to obvious in their second glances. For the most part it’s children who are the culprit and who’s parents just continue to stare ahead and ignore their child’s remarks or stares. On one occasion I wasn’t even standing in line when met with a comment that will stay with me for a long time. I was in a H&M looking around and out of nowhere a kid almost at the top of his lungs yelled “Look Mom, look at that girls face”…. well needles to say my shopping experience was in ruin (as many before and many since) but this one sticks with me because that child felt the need to YELL to his mom and that the mom did NOTHING to correct the behaviour.
Most times while standing in line kids just stare, and parents do nothing. It’s not like I don’t get it, I myself as a child point out a difference to my mom but had the sense to do it on the down low! I’m not sure how old I was but I remember the event so vividly, my mom, oldest sister and I were in Toronto I’m sure I was there because I was having tests done at the hospital and we had decided to venture out. While in a store I encountered for the first time an older man wearing a turban. My reaction to seeing something different was like most kids I didn’t really stare but I did try to get my moms attention. I remember being in a shopping kart (I don’t remember the store, or what it sold) and I tapped my mom’s hand, pointed with my right thumb over my right shoulder and whispered to my mom for her to look. My mother being embarrassed with my actions promptly took me out of the kart handed me to my older sister and my sister took me out of the store where she kneeled down and had a conversation with me about how my actions were considered rude. I don’t blame my mom for how she handled the situation although looking back at it I wished she had taken the opportunity to teach me about differences instead of running away embarrassed. I would have LOVED to have said hi to the man working there, for him to tell me about himself and the significance of the turban and what it means to him to be different. I loved getting attention from adults when I was a kid and would have relished the attention of him speaking to me and I would have learned a lot!
I have never went to the movies alone but know people who have and almost want to see what that experience is like, but not a kids movie as that would be torture to me! I have also never really went out to dinner by myself, sure I’ve gone to a coffee shop by myself even ate at McDonald’s by myself (which as you can imagine with kids there wasn’t the best idea) but never have I went to a “nice” restaurant and sat down to a meal by myself. However it gets one thinking about how we view the idea of being alone and how we perceive other’s when we see someone out and about alone in what has been considered “group” or “couple” activities like the movies, or fine dinning.
Sometimes being alone is a good thing, there is no one who’s opinion you have to consider, you can doing things either taking as much time as you want or as little time as you want. Some of my favourite times as a kid happened when I was alone and when speaking with friends and family it’s much the same with them.
We are so acutely aware of what other’s maybe thinking but having a facial difference makes me hyper aware and sometimes over sensitive to the fact that when I’m alone I seem to be more of a target. I am learning a lot of different method in how to deal with the feelings that arrise as a result but i’m not perfect. So when you see someone alone in a situation that normally calls for a wingman try not to judge them maybe even try being alone yourself.