“She cannot participate in the drawing competition,” the woman in charge declared. “It is the rule.”
“It is the rule that my granddaughter cannot participate in your competition?”
The woman scoffed. “No, dada, the age group is 5–8 years. Your granddaughter is much older. Many parents have complained.”
“Oh,” said my grandfather. “In that case, you wasted my time. You should have declared in advance that tall kids are not allowed, even if they are well within the age range.”
He had said that out rather loudly, and some of the people gathered nearby glared. They looked at me up and down as I held on to my grandfather’s hand, clutching my drawing board and colour-box that I wouldn’t get to use that morning. She must be well past the age-range, they surmised. Look at her grown-up body language. Look at her clothes.
As a child, I had presumed the glaring would stop when I grew up. They taught us in school that it was rude to stare at people or “check them out” from top to bottom. Everyone needed space, and you were supposed to respect their privacy by minding your own business. How wrong I was! If the glaring focused on my height in my childhood—apparently much above average for my age—it has since shifted to clothing choices, gait, body language, and conversations.
Whenever I venture out, I can frequently find people glaring at others. They stare at their clothes, hair and make-up, grimacing or giggling. They shake their heads disdainfully at how short your dress is, how inappropriate your make-up, how mismatched you are as a couple, how unattractive your figure. They make quick assessments about how careless you are as a mother, how self-absorbed. Few make an attempt to be subtle about it, and their eyes travel right from your hair, down to your shoes, piercing through your heart. Even though their thoughts remain unspoken (sometimes), I can hear them making comments; rarely are the comments generous.
I don’t deny the charms of people-watching. We are social creatures, and it can be infinitely interesting to observe the mannerisms of others. However, it irks me how this pastime has been getting loathsome. There is little regard for how constant staring and glaring can make some people uncomfortable. If you need to figure out where I purchased my outfit from, could you try observing it without being ultra-obvious? Or even asking me outright? If you want a place at a restaurant, could you consider seating yourself at a table where you don’t have to breathe down my neck, especially when there is abundant space to choose from? Could you stop pushing me in queues and glaring at me—again—when I sigh in discomfort? Could you focus more on your companions and what you are doing with your life instead of examining the minuscule details of mine with your roving eyes?
Perhaps, as a community, we are losing interest in looking inwards. Glaring at other people, passing judgment, and making them feel uncomfortable take the edge off the loneliness and frustration that abound in the modern world.
* * *
I am taking up the April #AtoZChallenge 2019 and will post every day of the month, except Sundays. I look forward to your company!
Find out more about the #AtoZChallenge 2019 by clicking the badge below: