Sometimes, I am very glad that I don’t talk now. It means that when people are rude, I can just stare at them until they talk themselves into feeling uncomfortable and then, occasionally, realise on their own that they’re being rude and/or intrusive.
I actually did a search when I got home, because I am so sick of being questioned about my hair. I put in “is it rude questions about hair” and I got back several articles, a few thinkpieces, and most of them say the same thing. “Well, I wouldn’t ask, and I don’t understand how people don’t think it’s rude.”
Well, it is rude. It’s awkward. It’s uncomfortable. It’s pointless. It’s not your business.
The latest in the saga of the thing of the thing is that my mother insisted that I had to find a new place to have lessons because she decided they’ve been helping so much. She is also paying, which means she feels entitled to wait for me and then question me on how class was as soon as I get home, which is the whole reason when I started that I didn’t tell her until it was unavoidable.
Today was my third lesson. I got back to the car, sat down, put my head on the steering wheel, and started bawling. I stopped, and asked myself ‘is it just different, am I just adjusting’ and I couldn’t say yes.
Last week, I touched my head in answer to being questioned about why I couldn’t make sound. I had already explained my condition, in a note which was then passed around the office so ‘everyone knows’. She decided that meant I had a headache. (I always have a headache. I always have a fever. I always hurt. It’s about time other people let me decide when it’s too much for myself.)
So today, she was ‘do you have a headache again? Is it better or worse than last week? On a scale of one to ten, how worse is it than last week? Have you drunk enough water? Are you sure you’ve had enough water? Have you eaten? Have you eaten enough? Do you eat much? But you’ve had enough water, right?’.
Which was inappropriate right about ‘do you have a headache again?’.
But she couldn’t stop there. ‘Is that all your hair?’
I just stared. And she kept going. ‘How long have you been growing it?’
‘You’ve been growing it since you were little, right?’
‘Did you do it yourself?’
‘That’s so amazing that you did it yourself! I can’t plait my hair.’
‘I really like it it’s so amazing that you did that.’
‘Is purple your favourite colour?’
‘I suppose it would be weird if you were wearing purple and it wasn’t your favourite colour, huh?’
I don’t even think about what I could say or should say, I just stare. My brain goes blank, if it isn’t already. I know people sometimes talk a lot to fill in silence, because that happened a lot around me even before all this, but usually it’s about themselves. How much I eat, whether all my hair is mine, whether it was braided at a salon, what colour I’m wearing – none of these are open for discussion. I have not brought them up or asked for an opinion. Some of the comments on the articles I found were from people who go ‘I love your hair!’ and are used to people going on in detail about how it was done, and they don’t apparently want to be told that randomly commenting on people’s appearance is rude.
It’s like everything else, though. They go up to someone who’s minding their own business, or is focused on the actual reason that you’re there, is and start with an opinion on their body, then use that as a means to invade your privacy and space, often implying some kind of judgment, and expect you to be okay with it. Obviously, you’re not, because you weren’t asking for that at all, may not have even been prepared for it, and it’s quite possibly hurtful and invasive. It’s not even that they could end up complimenting someone who’s in recovery on how thin they are, or someone who’s wearing a wig on their hair, or any of the numerable other obvious missteps that can be very damaging and immediately harmful. It’s that they’re contributing to an environment, a cultural expectation, that anyone who is not alone is firstly valued on their appearance, and that their appearance is, by nature, open season for comment.
And it isn’t. It should not be. Anyone can go out wearing what they want, with their hair however they want, makeup however they want, and should expect to be safe and not get questioned about their appearance. Going out in public does not entitle people to come up to you expressly to pass comment on any aspect of your appearance, having a business relationship with someone does not empower them to tell you what to wear or invade your privacy and question you on your appearance, and nobody at all needs to know whether your hair grows out of your head or is attached by whatever means (unless they’re your hairdresser, in which case it still only goes to the extent that you pay them to, be it once a week or once off).
As far as I’m concerned, I do not have to deal with it. I get to stare at them until they talk themselves into a corner and feel awkward, and they get the benefit of me not pointing out how inappropriate they’re being. I mean, if I asked her if her hair was naturally blonde, it would be rude, right? So how is her asking if my hair is real not rude, because it’s not blonde? Because it’s so long? Because for one day I didn’t put it up in a bun (not that that stops people)? How does how much I eat relate to the fact that I’m there for half an hour a week to rip my soul out and leave it trampled and stuck to my heel by street dirt and sweat? It doesn’t.
Oh, and this was all before she started going on about how I shouldn’t wear a corset (actually, she went ‘is that a corsette? is that what you call it? are you sure you can breathe in that? if you’re going to wear it you should check that?’ even though I wear a corset every week and I made a very clear deal of nodding to say I can breathe just fine) because next week we’re doing breathing and apparently I can only breathe properly if I’m stooped over like a broken twig.
I somehow don’t think I’m going next week. Because, I guess, even if you think that being questioned about your appearance and what you eat and drink is perfectly okay, I don’t, and I’m not in a place where I can put up with it and write it off.
And that’s okay. It’s not even something I should have to deal with, because people should mind their own business, without me being able to speak to tell them to do so. If my head hurts and I’m doing something anyway because I have to because the world isn’t always set up for letting people stay home and rest, then that’s my choice, and I don’t have to qualify it to anyone. If I wear a corset, that’s my choice, although not really if I want to be in less pain and walk and carry things and not get told I look like the Hunchback from that Disney movie (that was a book first and I always think of the book not the movie). If I wear my hair up or down or with sticks or clips or ribbons, that’s my choice. You don’t get a say about it, you don’t get to touch it. Most especially, you don’t get to pass judgment on it, and you don’t get to impose yourself on me to do so.
(Especially if you’re my mother. ‘That’s nice, have I seen that before? When did you get it? (Where did you get the money for it?) That is so nice. I have to feel it. But you do look amazing.’ No, you don’t get to keep an index of my clothes and what you saw when and when and where it was purchased. That’s stalkery, Mum. Don’t do that. Nobody do that. People do that. I don’t get why people do that. Don’t do that. Thoughts to yourself, folks.)