Well, another vacation is over...and I'm kind of glad! I figured out a few things...chiropractic care is a necessity, cats and car trips DO NOT MIX, and when you're an adult and you get picked on, it still hurts. Though the pinprick isn't as sharp, and it doesn't bleed as much. I guess that comes from experience...the more lessons you learn in your own life, the easier it is to deal with the ignorance of others. Or maybe it's just the crow's-feet...the more wrinkled your skin gets, the harder it is for the insults to penetrate!
So what happened? Well, it was nothing I haven't dealt with before...in fact, I'm kind of getting tired of waiting for the bullies to get some new material. You see, there is a current campaign of sorts making its way through the CMT community, prompting people to show off their braces...in other words, be proud and show them off by wearing shorts. It kind of reminded me of what I was trying to do last year, by going out in Capri's in the summer time, rather than always covering up in long pants...I admit, I didn't get very far with that personal quest. When this recent campaign started, my faith in myself and my desperate hope for decency in others was renewed, and I decided to break out the Capri's once again. I packed them in my suitcase and brought them with me to camp, knowing it would be hot outside, and hoping I wouldn't chicken out by putting on my usual jeans. And I didn't! It was close to 90 degrees for several days in a row, and I bravely donned my tan Capri's and went shopping in town. After all, it's 2012, right? We've come a long way, right??
Well, not so right. Okay...maybe that's not totally true; I think it went better than it would have 25 or 30 years ago. My mother and I went to town to get some groceries, and being the weekend before a major holiday, there were plenty of people around. Flashbacks of High school hallways came back to me...the name calling from others, the constant staring, even getting tripped or pushed down on purpose. I've been through all of it before, and didn't actually expect anything that dramatic...but still I was nervous. Despite that, I was determined not to turn around and go sit in the car. I had every right to be there, braces or no braces! Though surprisingly, people didn't even seem to look at me--I kept waiting for the eyes to turn my way, doing that slow sweep down to my legs, and that slooooooww sweep back up. Some people would have looks of "Freak!" on their faces, some would have looks of pity...some would just have looks of confusion. Gripping the grocery cart tighter, I prepared myself for all of it...but the further we went into the store, the more I realized people weren't even looking my way. As our cart piled higher with items, I began to forget what I was even wearing, or that people might "SEE" something they didn't like...I began not to even care anymore! What a relief, right? I've never been able to feel this calm in public before--we really have come a long way, I thought.
And then it happened...the smack in the face came, waking me up to reality a little bit. Not everyone is as evolved as you've been led to believe, Christine! And with nothing more than a whisper, it all came rushing back. "Psssstt! You gotta see this one!" Somehow I knew, deep in my heart, that I was the "This One" this person had to see. I looked toward the voice, and locked eyes with a check out girl who somehow thought it was her duty to point me out to her grocery-bagger friend. I literally stared straight at her, willing myself not to look away...but did that stop her? Was there any shame on her face whatsoever?? Not a speck of it! I've got to give her credit for sticking to her beliefs, I guess, no matter how ignorant and misdirected they may be...she didn't even look away! Staring straight at me as I stared back, she started directing her friend..."Look to your left...one more. Nope--one more. See that?" That?? I am a PERSON, no matter how flawed my body may be...I'm not a 'THAT'. And any delusions I might have had that the checker was pointing out the 'brave person showing off her braces to the world' were dashed, as checker and bagger alike began to stare, eyes sweeping down to my legs...the sloooww sweep upwards followed by snickers and laughter. The word 'Freak' was quite apparent, and no code book or secret decoder ring was needed to decipher what they were thinking. And then I started to feel it--that slow shame, that embarrassment I lived with all through childhood, as if somehow I needed to feel bad for being different...as if I should be ashamed of things that were beyond my control. And then something else happened, waking me up even more. A woman walking into the store passed by the checkout lines, and waved to the checker, saying "Hi! You came back!" The girl answered with a big, bright smile on her face, "Yep...for the summer! Nice to see you!" And as soon as the woman turned the corner, the girl turned to her friend and made the universal signal for 'crazy' next to her head, mouthing the word at the same time. Both started snickering and laughing all over again, thrilled to have yet another innocent victim to insult...totally forgetting about the "Freak" with the braces, standing just a few feet away.
I'd like to report that I walked over to both girls and gave them a piece of my mind, but I didn't...in fact, I didn't even look their way as I walked out of the store. Maybe I should have taken that step, letting them know that their behavior wasn't right...but to tell you the truth, at that point, none of it seemed worth my energy. Seeing those girls picking on that woman told me something--this had been going on long before I walked into the picture, and would continue long after I walked away. Somewhere along the line, that girl learned how to get attention by putting others down. Whatever events happened (or didn't happen) in her life to make her think this was okay, did the damage...even if I complained and said my peace, I doubt it would have made a dent in her psyche. It would only have provided her with more ammunition, and I wasn't about to give her the satisfaction. I realized in those few moments that this has never been about me, or my physical issues, or my braces. If I walked into that store looking like a runway model, with perfectly functioning limbs and a butt like granite, those girls would have found something to laugh at. People like that always do. I decided to focus on all the other people in the store who didn't even care about my braces or my clothes, or the way I walked...for there were a lot of them around, more than I've ever seen before.
None of this is over for me...it will still be a process I have to go through, digging up the courage to put myself out there, braces and all. I am under no illusions that my moment of clarity in that store will be all that I need from now on. Although it was only a moment, it is a tiny seed, and it's all that is needed to make new thoughts and new bravery grow. As for the idiots out there I'm forced to deal with? Well, they will still be there, unfortunately...though I'm a firm believer in Karma. I truly believe that what you put out into the universe comes back to you, and that includes negativity. Although I would love the opportunity to be there when Karma comes knocking at that young girl's door, I know I won't be. But like a tree falling in the woods, Karma's knock will make a noise. It's up to her how loud it will be.
In the meantime, I will continue to put myself out there more often, because I think it's important for my own psyche and well being. To remind myself that I am special and that I shouldn't give up, despite the actions of others, I bought myself something at the Schroon Lake Town Store. It made me smile, and the meaning struck a chord with me, so I had to take it home. It reminded me that I am what I am, and that is a DIVA, who just happens to wear braces. So deal with it, world! Cause this Diva is here to stay!