I had a strange conversation with one of the people on the mask and sanitise station at the door of the hospital today. It went like this.
Me: Hi, how are you.
Him: Eyes. (He then takes this moment to point at my face)
Me: Um… Eyes?
Him: What happened to yours? Why do you wear this?
Oh, I realise. For some reason he’s decided he needs to know why I look different. And he’s going to demand I tell him.
Me: well… (I fail to contain the sigh that escapes my lips at being requested that I divulge personal information about my medical trauma before 9am to someone I will never see again, who has no business knowing). I have Cancer…
‘Is your eye sore, is that why you’re wearing that?’
‘My daughter wants to know if you’re a real pirate.’
‘Is that real?’ (I really I want to respond by saying ‘no, it’s a figment of your imagination’.)
‘What have you done to yourself?’
‘Is that for fashion or is it medical?’
‘Aye-aye captain.’ (Child)
‘Can I see what’s under your eyepatch?’
‘Are you wearing that because you want to, or you have to?’ (My answer to any iterations of this are always ‘both’)
‘Oh my god are you a movie star? Is she a movie star??’ (the answer to that one is yes, obvs.)
‘Can I just say, you look incredible. Your style is brilliant. If you’ve got to wear an eye patch, you may as well go full pirate!’
That last one nailed it. My thoughts exactly. I’m leaning into the pirate vibe and it’s a lot of fun. But it’s a conscious decision I’ve made to try and control the narrative that arises around me. In a way, do it for the random people who demand to know why I look how I do. I don’t want people putting their head on its side and cooing ‘aww’ at me, or gracing me with the epitome of patronising: ‘bless you’.
I’m fabulous, not floundering.
I’m coping, not crumbling.
I’m a pirate, not pitiful.
I wonder what it is that makes people think that if someone looks different, they owe them an explanation of why… I just wouldn’t think to do that. I would never dream of sauntering up to someone I didn’t know, saying: ‘You’re in a wheelchair. Why?’
How weird and rude… But people do it, don’t they. Famously. People do other wild things too, like taking it upon themselves to move someone in a wheelchair out of the way…
Telling someone you love how they’re dressed, now that, I’m a fan of. I do that. I’ve bought clothes after asking someone in a pub where they got their overalls/jacket/tshirt. If you appreciate someone, tell them. No matter what the context. But asking someone to tell you what’s ‘wrong’ with them… Yeah let’s leave that one until the person themselves offers up any information about their situation.
Kids, obviously, are more than welcome to be curious and ask my anything. That’s so fine. The ‘my daughter wants to know if you’re a real pirate’ one was wild though – I was at a local market with my parents last time they were visiting and was ordering some samosas and spring rolls for us to have for lunch, and a grown man interrupted me as I was in the middle of ordering to demand I perform for his child.
‘Yes,’ I said, ‘I am.’ And I went back to ordering.