I often get a lot of looks, particularly in the summertime, depending on where I happen to be in the world. You see, I’m heavily tattooed and have several visible piercings, although several less than I did a few years ago. You would think, in today’s culture, this would be a bit more socially accepted with shows like “The Osbournes”, “Miami Ink”, “LA Ink”, “Ink Master”, etc. gracing the homes of most human beings via that big box with the tubes that magically produces moving pictures. We call it a television. Not only are these shows out there, they are HITS and people watch at the edge of their seats and learn that people who have tattoos aren’t all satan worshipers (most are, to be fair) who sacrifice small babies every other Saturday, and the cutest of all the kittens on Wednesdays. In fact, this movement has encouraged “the normal” people to venture out from under their safe-rock and get a butterfly or star, a shamrock, or a rose to show that they too, have an ounce of badass in them.
Now I will say, that the looks have become less frequent. I remember years ago, walking through the mall in my hometown with my Mom. I could tell she was getting a little agitated by the looks I was getting. I never make eye contact with people when walking so I never notice it, which is why it never bothers me. I think my first inkling that it was bugging her was when she yelled at a passerby, “Would you like her to pose for a freakin’ picture with you?”. You see, my Mom grew up in Da Bronx, and there is no such thing as subtlety in Da Bronx. I looked at her puzzled, and she said, “Don’t you see the looks people are giving you?” “No”, I replied. “It’s the same look I would be giving you if you weren’t my daughter.”
And there you have it folks….
But here’s the thing. My mom taught me that people are different. Some people may be a different color or may have a different way of dressing, but they are still people and the beautiful thing about people, is that everyone is different, and everyone has feelings. She also taught me that it is disrespectful and rude to stare at people and to NEVER stare at strangers. NEVER. I got a smack when I did so. Not a beating, let’s not get excited here, folks. I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when it was socially acceptable to discipline your child with a spanking or a smack if they disrespected you, and no one would call child abuse or claim that the child contracted ADD by doing so. I grew up in a time, when the look was enough for me to understand that if I didn’t stop whatever I was doing to deserve said look, that there would be hell to pay.
A few months ago, while sitting in a train somewhere in Europe en route to the airport, this kid and his mother were sitting across from me. I was completely consumed by my iPad, watching whatever series I was hooked on at the time, but I felt this burning. Like laser beams going through my soul. I looked up, and this kid was staring at me with such concentration, I felt certain he was going to tunnel himself into my cranium. I mean, he was staring so hard, that I think he may have stopped breathing. Jaw wide open with a dribble of drool beginning to pool down, eyes glassed over from not blinking for what may have been dozens of minutes before I realized what was happening. At first I thought maybe the kid had become catatonic, but then I looked over to his mother, who was also staring. I then stared back, hard, wondering if something was actually wrong with them. I had seen this in episodes of stuff and didn’t know if I should call they guys from Supernatural, or Dr. House.
Then it dawned on me. They were just staring at me. Well…let’s give them something to stare at, shall we? I began to pick my nose. I mean, I went for it…. digging for treasure. All the while, keeping eye contact with them. Then, I pretended to have found a beauty, and proceed to stick my finger in my mouth. Hey, if they insisted on staring, may as well give them a show, right? Finally, the little boy looked away, but his mother still stared. This really bugged me, because then I realized it wasn’t just a case of his mother not teaching him that it was rude to stare at people, but also her mother who had failed to teach her. Eventually, I think she realized that I was staring back at her and she looked away. I went back to my iPad, but it wasn’t long before I felt the laser beam stare again. No matter. My stop was next. I put my iPad away, stood up to put on my coat and before I turned to walk to the door, I leaned in over the mother, looked the little boy in the eyes and said, “Didn’t your mother teach you that it’s rude to stare at strangers?”
Unfortunately, this was a pointless move because neither son nor mother spoke English, and this just baffled them more because it sounded like I was now speaking in tongues.
Can you imagine how amazing this world would be if we just accepted people how they are? Let them be themselves, believe in what they want to believe, love who they want to love, pierce what they want to pierce, wear what they want to wear, be who they want to be without judging them? This isn’t the last time you’ll hear this rant, or the prejudices I’ve endured due to my appearance. I just hope, that the next time you see someone on the street that doesn’t look up to your standards, you’ll think twice before you make yourself look like an ass for staring. Or at least smack your kid if they do.