An open letter

Author’s Note: This was originally written two years ago, when I was working as a sales clerk at a boutique shop in an extremely privileged area of Los Angeles. As you will probably be able to tell, I did not like this job very much. Looking back, I’m struck that I engaged in a fair amount of body-policing in this letter–which I am not proud of–however, it was written at a time when I was extremely angry with how I was being treated, both by customers and by the shop’s owner/boss. This letter has lost much of its urgency since then, but after coming across it again (that is, fairly recently), I thought it would make an interesting post. It has been edited for clarity.

Dear Young, Privileged White Folks of [Wealthy Area],

Yes, today is one of those days where I have difficulty walking. I know, I resemble a short stork on ‘ludes when I move about on days such as today, when I am in rather extreme pain. However, this does not give you the right to stare at me.

I know that I may not have the perfect, able, taut, thin bodies and sun-kissed skin and excellent hair that you all do. I also know that despite my mildly strange way of moving about, I am human also. When you stare at me, then look away, nervous as hell and perhaps a bit inclined to smirk, it is slightly dehumanizing. I can only imagine how much worse this entire awkward situation would be if I were not white. Not just two strikes (not the L.A. version of “hot,” disabled) but three (not white, not “hot,” disabled). That would be even more of a trial, I’m sure.

I do not want your pity, your smirking, or your inclination to get the hell out of the store when I get up from my chair and hobble over to you, thinking that you might want to look at some more items and that I, rather foolishly, may be able to help and/or answer a pressing question. When you stammer a “thank you” before rushing out, it makes me wonder what I did wrong.

It all makes me wonder. The big question that looms in my mind, however, is: “Why won’t they quit staring?”

Your Friendly Neighborhood Sales Clerk

About Annaham

Annaham is a feminist with several disabilities who occasionally updates her personal blog. She currently lives in California's Bay Area with her partner and a silly little dog named Winston. She is currently getting her Master’s in Women and Gender Studies; her research interests include disability and cultural/social attitudes surrounding it, the body, gender, nontraditional media, art of all kinds, and social equity. You can reach her by emailing Annaham at disabledfeminists dot com.

4 thoughts on “An open letter

  1. I once asked someone exactly how long they were going to have to watch me walk to establish that I had a limp. I am not ashamed that I enjoyed their stammering embarrassment.

  2. Bless you and thank you for writing this letter. I have a different physical issue – severe scoliosis – I’m visibly Quasimodo – so if people figure it out (not everyone really pays attention, or if I have a jacket on they probably can’t tell) I get the same furtive glances and then avoidance behavior. Coworkers and others don’t really want to talk with me unless they have to. I am tired of trying to constantly be “nice,” “agreeable,” being really outgoing to compensate, then watching them do their subtle avoidance maneuvers then shutting me out of conversations, social activities, &c. At this point in my life I have no tolerance for it and am about to start calling the perfect skinny, tall, beautiful, self confident people on their shit. I have nothing left to lose.

  3. I want to ask them, “why don’t you take a picture of me to take with you?” it would be easier on both of us.

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