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