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#514: Justifying Your Deviance From Ordinary In A Work Setting

Oh Captain my Captain!
    For medical reasons I won’t go into here (long explanation with a bit of gross) I wear an eyepatch on my left eye, which may well become a permanent addition to my wardrobe, since I am rapidly going blind in that eye and it looks really weird and creeps people out, so it’s easier to just cover it up rather than deal with all the flak for it. The patch, however, comes with it’s own problems.

The first time I wore it out in public, I was waiting in line at the coffee shop, and a little girl in line with her mother (I’m guessing about four or five years old?) noticed the patch and asked, in that just-below-a-yell voice small children have, why I was wearing an eyepatch, and if I was a pirate. I generally don’t like children, but oddly enough, I get along really well with them and can be creative when it comes to interacting with them, in spite of social anxieties. I turned to her and told her ; “Yup, I’m a pirate! We’re on shore leave right now while Captain Hook gets the ship fixed up…Pan and the lost boys took it out for a joyride last week and busted the hull. (in a loud whisper) No one’s supposed to know we’re here, though, since adults don’t know about Neverland, so don’t tell anyone, okay?” She responded with the loud child-whisper “Okay, I promise I won’t tell!” while her dad was barely stifling his laughter, and everyone else in line (and the baristas) were grinning and had that little shine in their eyes that nostalgia and childish wonder tend to bring. I loved that, so when a young child asks me about the patch, that’s my usual response, and has had pretty good results. If they’re an older kid, I might give them a heavily sanitized version of the medical reasons, and adults naturally get the medical explanation, sanitized as needed, if they ask politely. The kids aren’t the problem, however.

It’s the adults. Surprise surprise.

I’ve had a few who were pretty snide about it, a couple who wouldn’t call me by my name but just ‘that pirate kid’ or some other nickname, which I don’t mind that much since I hate my real name, but it gets a little old, you know? I even had one guy who, while I was at work, actually reached over the counter and tried to grab my patch off of me to see what was underneath. I have pretty good reflexes so I was able to jump back before he reached me and I told him I would appreciate if he didn’t try to touch me or grab at me like that, to which he just huffed and sulked. I’ve had a few accuse me of just wearing it for the attention…yeah, I’m really sacrificing my depth perception and 50% of my already crappy vision, wearing a patch under glasses which is SUPER uncomfortable, just for lulz…or been told that I shouldn’t be working if I’m disabled, or that they think I’ll creep people out and shouldn’t be in public, et cetera. I’ve had one or two who insisted on using pirate-speak the entire time I was talking to them…but I can handle that. However, people trying to take off the patch, yelling at me about it or purposely sneaking up on my blind side or doing other things like that is really getting old. 

Any advice for how to deal with these adults who are either rude, obnoxious, nosy or sometimes flat out violent due to a medical condition I can’t help, particularly in a work setting when I can’t reply back snappishly or be rude right back to them as they so richly deserve? Especially if the patch becomes a permanent thing, which it’s looking more and more like it will every day. Can you or your army give me some scripts to deal with these jerks and preserve what sanity I have left?

Love,

Not Actually Hook’s First Mate

Oh, Matey, my Mate! Elodie Under Glass here, so very much rooting for you. I have been carrying you with me since you first wrote in. I have carried you through my life and thought of you and wished well for you.

For one thing, you are already excellent and your responses are already the best. I would like to send in my application to join your crew.

Scripts, yes – we can give you scripts. We can write you sassy lines and somber ones, ones that cut like a stiletto to the gut, ones that flash bloodlessly into throats so cleverly and swiftly that the person is still rocking on their feet grinning like a fool, not feeling that they’ve been cut, not knowing that they’ve been cut dead. We can give you scripts for strength and empowerment and prescriptions of you-go-Matey, and I want to, and I will. I also give you now a pair seven-league boots to keep kicking asses with, and a potion of courage and righteousness, and a cloak of warm encouragement. Equip these items and go forth, dearest Matey. We all think that you’re great.

But at the end of the day, there are two problems here. One is that you deviate from the definition of “normal” in a society that loves to pick at the white crow, that thinks it is justified in doing so. The other is that you work in a society where you need money, and I am not going to tell you to sass your customers if we are talking about your daily bread. In general, I am in favor of bread first, vindication later. Revenge is a dish best eaten cold, on a picnic blanket with a selection of side dishes and champagne, and a full and forgiving heart.

When I was very young, I was a starving scientist in the high North Woods.  These were my Hunger Times, my winter. To have the money to purchase food during my quest for truth,  I worked as a hostess at a Mexican restaurant famed for its female employees, who were all hand-picked by the manager to fit a specific type – short, curvy, white-skinned, with long red-brown hair and large drowned eyes, like miniature matching plumpish Ophelias. Unfortunately, the male customers of the joint felt that we were a sort of chocolate box, to be physically grabbed and generally creeped upon. And the manager said that we mustn’t be rude to them.

Absolutely bugfuck ridiculous right? But. I needed the free tortilla chips that the hostess job gave me. I needed the job so that I could afford to go to work at my equally poorly paid but infinitely beloved science job. And bless me, I needed the money. And as we all know, searching for another job when you’re already working two is a difficult and exhausting proposition. My mouthing off at any one point to any one person who had wronged me at work would have made me hungrier. Perhaps that wasn’t true. But it wasn’t something I could afford.

It wasn’t a very feminist job and it wasn’t a very nice situation. And I wasn’t as sassy and upstanding as I could be. I looked carefully at the money I was making, I looked carefully at the choices that I was making, and I realized that I was not going to get any support from my manager and that offending the Hamlets could cost me my job. Then I decided that for $10 an hour I could do it. For a few hundred bucks a week I didn’t mind being Ophelia. I would bitch about it, and later I would write about it, and I would make the Hamlets into fictional characters and have them be eaten by wolves. I would use them as fuel for my stories as I used their beautiful money to pay off my debts. Sure, my dignity was being violated and one day I would take it back with a small army of dragons, but this was my winter. Maybe for $10 an hour you can be a pirate. I do not know. I wish for you that you don’t need to.

The woods are a tough mistress. Lots of us live in them. Many of us can’t afford to stake our money on a principle. Many of us sacrifice our dignity on the altar of Customer Service, and we don’t do it because we enjoy it. Nobody goes to school hoping to be an Ophelia. Nobody wants to grow up to be a telemarketer. People don’t usually work in factories for spiritual fulfillment.

Can you, Matey? Do you live in the woods? Dr Glass, who is not from the woods, comes from a magical kingdom where the customer is always wrong. He thinks that you should sue customers for assault if they try to touch you at work and call the police if they attempt to remove your medical aid. He thinks that your line manager should leap up from behind the desk to throw these dreadful customers out by the collar. Once he was working in a shop and an annoying customer tried to touch him and he activated a trap-door known to all retail suppliers in the kingdom that drops them into a special pit of crocodiles, and his manager gave him a purple sash to wear and a minor knighthood. I don’t know if you’re from the woods or the kingdom, so I must only recommend that you spice your sass up or down accordingly.

I assume that you have already discussed your eyepatch with the people at your work, but if you haven’t, you may want to start with “I will be using this medical aid for the foreseeable future” and stating that it has attracted notice from the customers. Then ask how your manager intends to help you deal with that.

  •  “Manager, my eye patch is attracting some attention, sometimes negative, from customers. Since it’s staying and so am I, how would you like me to handle that?”
  • “O Dark Overlord Morgazor, is there a policy for handling customers who attempt to remove a medical aid?”
  • “Captain Hook, may I ask you or a colleague to step in and deal with customers who become aggressive about my medical aid?”
  • “Do we have a policy that states that rudeness or abuse towards customers will not be tolerated? Can we get one? Can we enforce it?”
  • “Do we have a customer-service script for customers who are behaving rudely or aggressively?” (Note that some jobs actually do.) “Can we make one together?”

And at the point of contact at work, you may select any phrases you like from the chocolate box of Customer Service Announcements:

  • “Sir, please step back, as you are not allowed to threaten me.”
  • “Ma’am, I understand your concern, but touching me is inappropriate.”
  • “This eyepatch is a medical aid. Please enter your PIN.”
  • “That joke is very funny! But my name is X.”
  • “I assure you, ma’am, that I am not using a medical aid for attention. Thank you for your interest.”
  • “Thank you for your interest, but wearing my medical aid does not affect my job performance.”
  • “I hope to provide the best service that I can, but if you are concerned about my disability, you are welcome to speak to my manager.”
  • “Thank you for your concern. I wear this eyepatch because I have a medical condition. I am not in pain. Please spell your last name.”
  • “I am sorry to hear that my eyepatch upsets you. Please step slightly to the left – no, the left – no, the left – yes, that’ll do. Manager! Another entry for the crocodile log.”

If the customers react poorly, as people who are overly interested in plucking out your feathers will usually do, look at them with vague blank interest and continue to serve them professionally to the best of your ability. Channel the mostly-fake but usually quite entertaining storytellers at Not Always Right - Not Always Right is not always true or believable, but it has remarkably good customer-service scripts. Repetition is mostly key, as people who feel that seizing eyepatches from people who are trying to serve them are not necessarily receiving signals from Planet Boundaries.

The other problem here at the heart of it all is that our societies don’t love the white crow. People whose appearances, abilities and ethics deviate from those of a static staring Ken doll seem are seemingly fair game for personal comments and boundary invasions. Pregnant people have their bellies touched and diets questioned; black people have their hair touched; people in wheelchairs find themselves being kidnapped; people with service dogs find their animals being petted; people get groped or attacked for wearing clothing; people of color are asked to justify why they’re not white; immigrants stand accused of hating various nations; people get awful nicknames or wrong names thrown at them like paint; everyone has at some point been assaulted with bad advice and unwanted public attention and deeply stupid conspiracy theories. Why? Because you were found guilty of being slightly different in a place where people on shore leave from Planet Boundaries could inflict themselves upon you. SO not your fault, Matey. I apologise that the crocodile pit is full. In the meantime, when you’re not at work, say to them just as you please.

The scripts for these things are always the same, with situational levels of sass and safety. Do you want to escalate the situation and feel vindicated, or do you want to walk away and feel safe? Are you in the kingdom or the woods? Do you want to carry a pair of pearl-handled revolvers or a cloak of invisibility? Do you scream “STOP HARASSING WOMEN” or do you channel your feelings into written words? All of them are good and fine. You cannot control the actions and reactions of these strange people from beyond our planet. If your daily bread and daily wage and daily sanity allow it, say what makes you happy, Matey. Say “Don’t touch me” and “That’s not my name” and “If you do that I will call the police” and “This is called an eyepatch. Fuck off.” They’ll be your words, not mine. Say them. You already have permission.

You are a fierce strong funny beautiful sexy person with one eye and a lot of spirit and worth to give. You’ve already found your words in your pirate stories for children. Find your stories for adults – the Army will surely help as well – and you’ll be even more golden. Stories are the way to the answer. “How Elodie Stopped Bring Ophelia.” “How Dr Glass Filled the Crocodile Pit.” “How the Little Kid In The Coffee Shop Decided To Grow Up and Change The World.” Each is the story of our becoming and overcoming, and no matter how small the victories are, each is a reclaimed power source like a wee little nuclear star.

We white crows are good things. We bring the winter out of the woods. We are hard monsters to be, but beautiful, for we begin the stories. This one is yours. I call it “How the One-Eyed Mate Went On and Kicked Ass Forever.”

Love,
Elodie

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108 comments
  1. tawg said:

    I have a few suggestions for dealing with coworkers.

    Coworkers can be jerks, which I’m guessing is news to no one but it helps me to steps back for a moment and say it. Wow, that guy who grabbed my injured shoulder at work to ‘see if I was faking’ was a jerk. And it was not my job to laugh off that kind of physical and emotional assault. And according to our workplace code of conduct he should have been fired, and my managers were MASSIVE jerks for telling me to just ‘try and get along with him’. That place was a massive pit of jerkitude, and (in that specific instance) I was not the problem and it was not my fault that people were jerks at me.

    So I guess step one is to become familiar with your workplace codes of conduct between staff, if you’re not already. And talk to your buddies at work – let them know who is being a jerk to you. Let them know if THEY are being a jerk to you, explain why the thing they did was not cool and maybe you can say “Instead of calling me by this nickname that makes me feel uncomfortable all the time, maybe you can use this one that I actually like? Maybe you can save the pirate pet names for dress up days when I actually like a pirate? I’m just a mere mortal – I can’t be a pirate all the time.” You might be able to ask if they would feel comfortable taking note of how you’re doing when dealing with a problem person, or maybe you can talk about signals for assistance if it’s a shitty day and you’ve had one too many shitty comment and you’re about ready to snap.

    I was also wondering what your own relationship with the eye under the patch is like? If people in your work/social groups are getting really gross and aggressive about wanting to know what’s under the patch, then you can say “Woah! Have you considered being an adult and just asking me politely, instead of being weird and a little scary about this?” And then if they use their manners and ask politely (or politely enough, I guess), would you feel comfortable lifting the patch? Or maybe having photos on your phone to show? That might be really uncomfortable for you and so don’t do it if it’s going to be a bad experience for you! But sometimes workplace gossip can be an asset, and letting three people see the reality behind the patch can mean that it becomes less of a mystery and people start to chill out about it. Or maybe there’s already too much gossip about it and you want to not be talking about it for a while. “Are you my doctor? No? Then I don’t have to take off the patch and wait for your assessment.” “I’m glad that you’re having fun mocking my medical condition with piratey nicknames that I find alienating and demeaning. Good for you. But could you save that stuff up and do it when I’m not around?”

    TL;DR – You don’t have to treat your coworkers gently. If they’re making your workplace distressing for you, you’re allowed to make it awkward and unfun for them to do it (if you feel comfortable doing so/have the energy/don’t intend to but you snap one day and don’t worry it won’t be the end of the world).

    • Guava said:

      I second the advice about talking to your buddies at work about the troubles you’re having with the Jerky Coworkers, and definitely with the customers too.

      Several years ago, I worked at a job where certain customers felt free to come in and harass the women in our workplace. We developed a code phrase to alert each other when this was happening. We employed it if a customer had one of us cornered, or was saying inappropriate things, or if we suspected someone was stealing, or if we generally felt unsafe.

      We would ask each other, “Hey, is Amy coming in today?” (There was no Amy at our shop) and that was the signal that we needed backup – whether it was just another person to come stand near us and exude firm GET OUT vibes, someone to go get our manager, etc. It helped a lot! And also gave us another witness who could vouch for the Not Okay behavior, if the store owners questioned why we were sending customers away.

  2. If it weren’t so uncomfortable, I’d almost suggest having a doubled patch so that if they grab one, the one underneath said FUCK YOU. But it’s not worth adding any discomfort to your actual face to indulge my fantasies of awesome.

    Is it possible to add any small mirrors to your workplace to cover your blind side? I have used one at work to keep people from surprising me when I’m focused on my screen. Like a mirror, you might be able to make small changes like switching where you sit or stand to minimize your availability to jackasses, when you’re at work and constrained to being polite.

    You can use defensive situational awareness in other ways, when you’re elsewhere and you’re worried about assholes; putting your blind side to a wall, for instance, or carrying the open cup of coffee or pokey umbrella on that arm. Pokey umbrellas can be great, since you can reflexively lift them up and let people decide if they want to impale themselves. “Oh, you startled me.”

    Finally, I just want to say, you don’t have to explain to anyone, ever, why you have a patch. They don’t need your medical explanation, watered down or otherwise. It is perfectly polite to coolly say “To cover my eye” when people demand to know what it’s for. But why do you need it, they’ll demand. Same answer. “To… cover my eye!” But what happened? “My eye needed covering!” But why? “So it would be covered.” You can do this with a grin or with increasing chill in your voice, as you like.

    You don’t have to refer to it or explain it. It’s just a part of your face.

    Good luck, though. This is a tricky world full of jerks who don’t like boundaries. I hope they leave you alone and your boss has your back.

    • Queen of scarves said:

      kind of loving the “fuck you” backup patch idea, but yeah, definitely comfort first. Also seconding that LW doesn’t need to give any version of a medical explanation and loving the broken record “eye covered” script!

      • Miss Otis Regrets... said:

        I think “BOO!” would be more SFW.

  3. meh said:

    Also, if it is your co-workers doing this as well, and you do want to take a stand, that very well may be workplace harassment based on your disability. Maybe check EEOC or your state’s human rights commission to check on your rights regarding that if you live in the US. I’ve been in the woods too, but….theoretically you have rights even in the woods, and in some places (not all, much as I wish there were) there are people who can help you enforce them. Theoretically with protections. Sometimes in reality too.

    • Seconding this. Employment lawyers are generally not bad people, and in the U.S. they may be willing to write FREE! Stern Legal Letters to your employer reminding them of your rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A lot of times employers just don’t know (hell, I was getting disability-related shit from a social security disability law firm!), and a Stern Legal Letter might be all it takes for them to go “Oh shit, this is actually a thing that we need to do.”

      On the other hand, a Stern Legal Letter might be all it takes for them to go, “Well, Matey doesn’t have the money for a lawsuit, let’s fire them because their disability means we have to remove our heads from our asses for milliseconds!” So that again will have to be weighed from your position in Castle or Woods.

      • meh said:

        OK, seriously, what is up with law firms violating the laws in areas they practice? I got employment related issues from an employment lawyer. I worked a case that had the exact facts of what the firm was doing to me! And know another person who got gender discrimination issues from an employment discrimination law firm that fired her when she complained about it.

        • emmelineysun said:

          The irony would be funny if it weren’t so awful.

  4. Key said:

    Trying to take the patch off your personal face???!!!! The unmitigated gall!! I cannot believe it, except I totally can believe it, because this society, but goddammit!

    • If you’re theatrically inclined then shouting, ‘The unmitigated gall!’ would be an awesome way to go! But I don’t think you are LW, so as pissed as I am on your behalf and as much as this absolutely should not be happening, I believe that it is because a lot of people really DO believe that breaking from the norm means, ‘Please, please come over here and tell me your offensive opinions.’

      A few people have mentioned the patch itself, can you get a patch that matches your skin? It won’t be an exact match but getting a flesh toned patch could help send out the message that it’s not something you’re wearing for display purposes and that you’d rather it not be mentioned.

      Finally, just want to send you some love and support. You sound like you’re dealing with this brilliantly and I’m just sorry any of your energy in this matter has to go towards keeping other people in line. It’s hard enough to deal with a medical problem on your own without everyone else making you feel like an outcast. But as a cliché as it sounds you are definitely getting a sure-fire way of detecting who is worth your time in this world.

      • whistlewren said:

        Maltypass, I just need you to know that I will forevermore be theatrically exclaiming ‘The unmitigated gall!’ whenever I am offended. Thank you.

        • I’m now actively hoping for someone to mess up your drinks order just so this can happen!

      • Copcher said:

        “a lot of people really DO believe that breaking from the norm means, ‘Please, please come over here and tell me your offensive opinions.’”

        That is so true, and so frustrating. When people deviate at all from the status quo (by choice or otherwise), they’re expected to passively listen to the opinions and advice of people who often have no idea what they’re talking about. Meanwhile, when people speak up against whatever is considered the normal way of doing something, they’re often accused of being difficult and told they need to learn to let things go.

        I think that phrases like the ones Elodie has listed or carbonatedwit suggested above – that give as little information as possible and then change the topic and move on – are probably the best way to avoid getting drawn in to lengthy discussions. It won’t always work because some people are just really awful and that sucks. But if it helps, know that they’re the ones who are being awful and any unpleasantness that comes from the situation is on them, not you.

        • JenniferP said:

          The thing we have to keep beating into our own heads is that “the status quo” or “normal” is just as much a construct as any other identity or condition. We are trained to see straight, white, male, able-bodied, etc. as “neutral” and everything else as “other,” and the less we give into that narrative (& the more we decolonize ourselves from this, which runs deep, deep, deep), the better. Which is why I like Elodie’s very matter-of-fact “It covers my eye” script.

          • Copcher said:

            Totally agree. Normal isn’t an objective thing and it certainly isn’t neutral.

            Also, if people keep bugging you after you have used the “It covers my eye” script, I recommend repeating it (over and over if you need to and have the inclination or time) in a confused, I’m-not-sure-what-you-don’t-understand kind of tone. Because, really, what would anyone wear an eyepatch for other than to cover their eye?

      • When my brother was little he had a lazy eye and to treat it he had a flesh-coloured patch on his good eye, it also adhered to the skin so you couldn’t just flip it up like a pirate-like patch. Obviously he was a kid at the time but surely they have them for adults too.

        • staranise said:

          I’ve seen adults who wear such patches. With real jokesters, from time to time, I’ve seen eyes painted upon the patches, so if you’re not paying attention everything looks normal, and then on second glance you’re dropped straight into the Uncanny Valley.

          • Golden Peanut said:

            Man, I was just about to suggest that she draw an eye on it. I see that I am not the only smartass in the world. :) I know – glue a googly eye to it!

          • They have them for adults. My review is: if your eye still moves and you have remotely long eyelashes they become torture devices very rapidly, especially if it’s warm.

            LW, my currently-patched right eye and I salute you in solidarity and there will be a long comment lower down!

        • Guava said:

          My late FIL lost an eye to cancer. Eventually he got a prosthetic eye, but in the interim, he had to wear a patch while he was waiting for it to be made. Whenever people would demand to know what was under the patch, he would flip it up and yell, “BOO!”

          Not that I’m recommending this to the LW, but he was particularly awesome at dealing with assholes…and I miss him.

  5. Austin said:

    Elodie,

    As a not-so-white-but-decidedly-grey crow, I have to confess your response to Matey’s tale has left me in quiet tears. I’ll be saving this Best Xmas Ever-sized parcel of wisdom (and many others here, I’m betting) for the days when there’s no wind in the sails and the grog barrel’s gone near dry.

    And Matey, I you’re reading this: looks like you’ve already taken your first steps to apply for a leadership position in the Kingdom of The Blind. Keep up the forward momentum!

  6. Wench said:

    Okay. “DISPATCH FROM PLANET BOUNDARIES” has now entered my personal lexicon. Thank you for that and this beautiful response, Elodie.

    Matey, you are awesome. And I don’t have any advice beyond what Elodie and the other Awkwardeers have given you, but from one white crow to another, you are awesome and deserve every good thing.

  7. D said:

    Consider a not-black patch? I dunno..just an assumption that it is, given the pirate comments. If you love it black, power to you, as you were, my apologies for being presumptuous. If you defaulted to black, consider something else (the idea of two with Fuck Off on the underneath one got me to thinking about the patch itself). My thinking on that being that either way, if it’s clearly something you own it might be something people are less ok with mocking or questioning, somehow.

    I like the endless monotonous answer of “to cover my eye that needed covering so it’s covered with this cover because it needed to be covered”…there’s very little that can be done with that kind of politely single tracked response other than to accept defeat or enter a zone in which stronger measures would become justifiable in the workplace

    • Vicki said:

      When a child I know needed to wear an eyepatch for a while, her mother made several different ones out of patterned fabric, so instead of being a pirate, she was Girl with Butterflies or Girl with Dinosaurs.

      OP, you might not want to go that route, since you’re not five years old, but a few bright-colored ones to go with clothing might read as “she is trying to look nice,” which often gets points from judgmental people: even if they think it looks dorky, they may give you points for trying. It could become “poor thing, with the eye patch she can’t really look stylish, even when it matches her shirt” rather than “why is she trying to look like a pirate?” Abstractly, I’d rather look fierce and defiant, but in the day-to-day, customers or coworkers who feel sorry for you might be less aggressive.

      • J. Preposterice said:

        One of my aunts needed to wear an eyepatch for a while, and she is an artist, so she hand-decorated a lot of hers.

        But the thing is, the adhesive beige ones (if the LW’s skin is even beige) are…adhesive. Which can be really painful and irritating after more than a few days.

      • I love the idea of bling patches. That sounds awesome. If a patch can’t really blend in, then rock that sucker.

        I am flabbergasted that anyone would GRAB FOR IT, though. That is over the age of six. WTF?

        • MateytheFirst said:

          You’d be surprised at how much people can shove boundaries aside without thought. I actually had a customer call and complain about ‘that kid with the patch’ because they claimed that their kid was disturbed by it! Also, I’m a guy, just so you all know. XD Patch is gone for now, hopefully won’t be coming back, though it might. Here’s hoping, though!

  8. misspiggy said:

    The jerkitude may be partly about people getting that irresistible unconscious urge to do the wrong thing. So many times colleagues who knew about my joint problems would come up behind me and squeeze my neck, when nobody else got a neck-squeezing. I’ve done it too, saying exactly what I shouldn’t have about a friend’s illness or mental health issue.

    People can act on shady and strange impulses, is what I’m saying. I’m not sure how this helps, except that reacting with obvious shock and disfavour is always good. It might shake people into awareness of what they’re doing, hopefully enough that the well-meaning ones don’t do it again.

  9. Jenny Wren said:

    Excellent advice, Captain. A and B the C of D.

    • JenniferP said:

      ’twas Elodie who wrote the post, but I agree, it’s a great piece.

      • Jenny Wren said:

        Oops. Sorry. Thank you Elodie!

        • Being mistaken for the Captain is such a massive compliment, like a shot of sunshine to the heart. CARRY ON.

  10. FlyBy said:

    Wow, that’s amazing that anyone would ever think it’s okay to grab anything off someone else’s face – let alone a device they’re wearing for privacy about a medical condition! Most people stop grabbing stuff like that before they enter grade school. (Possible script idea there? “Wow, most people stop ____ before [young age]“? )

    I want to second the advice about talking to your manager. They can be really good allies, and should come down on your coworkers like a ton of bricks if they’re part of the problem. As with all workplace behavioral issues documentation is your friend, even if your manager is 100% on your side.

    Good luck, and carry on being awesome.

    • RP said:

      IIRC, there was a workplace letter to the Captain where either the response or the comments contained some specifics on how to document verbal conversations.

      The gist of it was that you send a follow-up email to the co-worker and BCC the manager and/or HR. The email should state what happened and make it clear you’ve asked that the behavior stop. The email should then say/ask something work-related.

      Example:

      “Co-worker, I just wanted to follow-up with you about the conversation we had after you tried to pull off my eye-patch. I understand that you thought it was funny but it makes it difficult to do my job when people grab at me like that. Thank you for understanding.

      BTW, they moved that meeting up to 1:30pm so you may want to grab lunch soon.”

      I’m not good with scripts and I’d link to that article if I could find it but hopefully this gives LW the gist.

      I think including that the behavior is affecting your ability to work/making the environment hostile is a good idea if you can do it subtly and *if* your boss/HR aren’t hostile toward you. You don’t want it to scream “LAWSUIT” but they should be picking up what you’re putting down.

      • Yeah, this is great, except it’s really formulated for people who have email at work. Which is not — I expect, it’s been a long time since I worked a service gig — a lot of the jobs that are In The Woods.

        It would work in my office job, but not for the awesome people who make my egg mcmuffins, I mean.

        • RP said:

          Excellent point. I was trying to duplicate the advice I’d seen before an didn’t even think about how the method may not even apply here. My bad.

          I suppose if you don’t have work email then documentation becomes more about making sure you have the details some place so they aren’t forgotten and not about being able to prove that the co-worker knew you wanted them to back off. In that case still write down what was said and when ASAP.

          Though if someone has better documentation ideas, I’d like to hear them. People always say to document this stuff but until I read that email suggestion I thought they just meant telling HR about it.

          • Britt said:

            If there’s no email at LW’s workplace (I’ve worked retail where there was and some where there wasn’t), I would suggest keeping a notebook in your bag or locker/cubbie/etc. or something, wherever you know it’ll always be on premises when you’re at work, and then make a note of date/time/person(s) involved/any details of the incident any time something happens. Not as good as sending that person an email, obviously, but at least you don’t have to worry about forgetting specifics.

  11. I really have nothing to add to the advice, but just wanted to say that I loved (a) Elodie’s beautiful writing, and (b) the story with the little girl at the start. Genuine curiosity > faking curiosity to have fun at someone’s expense. Good luck, LW.

  12. M Dubz said:

    I have nothing to add to Elodie’s beautiful advice, but I just wanted to say that I am sure that you made that little girl’s entire life. Kudos to you on being brave and building scrips of awesome!

  13. I don’t really have any sage advice, but I do have some commiseration to offer.

    I have Bad Skin, or so I have been told. Dermatologists and plastic surgeons have referred to my skin (and me) as disfigured. Nowadays, I am lucky enough to be making my own life as a food justice activist, and when I appear in public, I’m usually hiding behind baked goods and making people smile.

    But a long long time ago, I worked in plain old food service. That was not a happy place. I worked in a food place in a shopping mall, which was extra un-happy. One day during Present Season (formerly known as Christmas) a young child crossed my path and asked me, innocently enough I suppose, what was wrong with my face.

    I snapped. I snapped quietly and calmly, but still, I snapped. I bent down and spoke firmly, just above a whisper “My dear, I am an angel, but if I wasn’t wearing so many layers of ugly to hide my true form, I would burn your sweet little eyes right out of your sweet little head.”

    And then I put my mop down and hid in the walk in cooler and cried.

    I am cheering for you, from behind my baked goods.

    • Molly Grue said:

      This story made me tear up. For what it is worth, I think you handled it really well, especially for someone who had just snapped the marathon ribbon of how much our fellow humans can suck.

    • earthboundmisfit said:

      That was a terrific response!
      Children can be forgiven, provided they aren’t being deliberately nasty, it’s the adults that never cease to amaze. I have a small scar from a surgically repaired cleft lip and on a few occasions I’ve been asked about it. If the person asking is just curious and is polite about it, I’m not offended. It’s the occasional person who asks in tones of amazement or horror, the implication being OMGwhat’swrongwithyourFACE, that offend me.
      If I wore an eyepatch and someone tried to remove it, I’d punch them. But that’s why you, LW, are awesome and I’m not.

      • JAT said:

        I just…what rocks do these jerks live under?

        I’m so sorry you run into people who apparently haven’t left the house for their whole lives.

        It isn’t even that some people are white crows. What blows me away are the crows who have been ignoring the WHOLE CROW RAINBOW AROUND THEM IN THE WORLD just so they can peck someone today. Look at the examples in this thread so far! An eye patch, some rough skin, a scar on the person’s upper lip … these are pretty frequent human variations. Do these jerks also bother people with visible birthmarks, canes, walkers, baldness?

        I guess they do. I despair.

        • Sadly? Yes. Yes they do. My boyfriend is has only one eye, and people mostly don’t notice because he has a very good prosthetic, but every so often someone will comment. I can grasp HOLY SHIT YOUR EYE IS BLEEDING (sometimes a little blood leaks out if the area is irritated) because blood is alarming and startling. I’m not sure why anyone decides to let WHY DOESN’T YOUR PUPIL DILATE or WHY’S YOUR EYE FUCKED UP DUDE escape the filter sometimes.
          Then there’s me and my compulsive disorder – it’s quite mild and mostly manifests in terms of me picking my lips. Again, if I am bleeding from picking, I can understand why someone would feel the need to let me know, because it feels like they are trying to say “You appear to be injured, can I help you?”. It’s when people see me pulling dry skin from my lips and say things like YOU SHOULD STOP THAT that I have to count to ten. Really? I should stop injuring myself compulsively in a way that is unattractive and painful? I wasn’t aware!

          • agentbonkers said:

            Has the compulsive disorder thing been diagnosed? I ask because I’ve been compulsively picking my lower lip since I was a kid, twenty-five now and still do it. I’ve gotten so much shite about it from mother, other people around me sometimes, etc. And like, yeah it is not a good thing so I dont really get that upset, but…its so something I have never been able to stop, regardless of whatever ‘tips’ ive been given to do so and…have not met online or off someone else who did the same thing :0

          • @agentbonkers: I do the same thing; have done for years. I’ve been getting shit for it since forever – I’ve been told that I must hate myself, I’ll be unattractive OH NOES, etc. Only within the last year or so have I clued in that it, and some other similar behaviors, come out for me in response to stressful and anxiety-making situations, and so maybe HEY I’m not fucked up, I’ve having an anxiety reaction? (Reading about dermotillomania was very helpful, and gave me a nice new ten-dollar word to boot.)

            So, you aren’t alone. Not by a long shot.

          • It depends on how one defines a diagnosis. The first person to put a name to it was a mental health professional who was treating me for ADD, but it was in conversation, not in the context of her consulting with me on that specifically. Basically she noticed me picking one day and said, “Do you do that a lot?” I described the situation – I’ve done it since I was a kid, I’ve tried to stop without much luck, and while it’s annoying, I’ve mostly learned to live with it – and she concluded that it was a symptom consistent with a compulsive disorder but didn’t push me to get treatment for it. Apparently the symptom is fairly common.

      • And of course it’s that occasional person who is an ass that you remember the most and makes the biggest impact. I had open-heart surgery as a child in the 70′s, so I have a big-ass “zipper” down the front of my chest. Because I’ve had it since the age of dinosaurs, I honestly forget it’s there most of the time and freely flaunt v-neck shirts and bikinis. Usually, people are only politely curious, and depending on my mood they get either the real story or “I lost a swordfight.” But man … the one dude who gets all “ewww what the hell IS that?” is the one I’ll remember.

        I’ve got a friend with a prosthetic eye as well. I have no idea why he has one, because I don’t need to. The thing to remember, OP, is that rational adults will assume you NEED the patch for a medical reason. Those people who are not assuming that? They are JERKS. The people who are ignoring it are the ones in the right.

  14. “Ha ha, yes, that was hilarious the first 37 thousand times I heard it.”

    Sorry people are being such creeps. I can’t even.

    • paperkingdoms said:

      … or a blank neutral stare, and then silently making a tick mark on a just-large-enough to be conspicuous piece of paper. No other reaction; professional service continued.

  15. Amy Pond said:

    Wow. As someone who had to wear an eyepatch as a kid to correct my vision, it saddens me that children are apparently more respectful, polite, and less hurtful in that situation than a bunch of so-called adults.

  16. meadowphoenix said:

    You handled that guy trying to touch you perfectly. You accomplished your goal! He stopped touching you! There might not be a way to get someone to stop touching you without them responding negatively. This does not mean you’ve been inadequate in any way. This means they have entitlement problems.

    For the other physical stuff, like walking up to your blind spot, I would suggest positioning yourself so that doing so is difficult or frankly, just asking them straight out in the most curious tone possible. “Why would you want to walk up to my blind spot like that?” “Why would you want to play a joke on someone who can’t see?” “What would I find funny about trying to scare me?” Most people will feel embarrassed, but that’s not a rude question. There may not be a script for the people who won’t.

    For the verbal stuff, if you have the time or inclination, I would also advise asking people their reasoning in a calm curious tone. “Why do you think someone with a medical condition shouldn’t be allowed outside?” “Why do you think people with medical conditions shouldn’t be able to enjoy life like everyone else?” “Why do you think people with medical conditions shouldn’t be able to work?” I say you need time and inclination because people will give you reasons, if the question alone won’t embarrass them. Then you keep asking questions, so that they have to justify those reasons in a way that doesn’t make them seem like an asshole (hint: there usually isn’t a way). This is more for people who have to see over and over rather than customers.

    I think you’re probably handling customers fine. There’s nothing you can do to stop other people’s desire to be rude. I’m sure you’re responding in the best way you can.

    • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

      I have actually used this phrase to address a co-irker who was getting huffy about me and my hearing-impairment (which I use for shits & giggles, ya know! ). “******, there is a special place in Hell for people who make fun of the handicapped.” Although, I’m non-religious, I can still put on my disapproving and unamused Church Lady face for such occasions, and I did.

      • CoolNewAnonymousNickname said:

        Sorry for use of the word ‘handicapped’ (which I don’t personally use but most clueless-boobs still grok despite their cluelessness).

      • Kaz said:

        I’m personally practicing a “Did you seriously just make fun of my disability? Wow. Do you also kick puppies for fun?” comeback for the next time someone is rude about my stutter. I may have just been really lucky (I’ve had pretty few bad reactions all in all), but it’s been my experience that a lot of the time people who do this have “making fun of a disabled person makes you a despicable excuse for a human being” pretty engrained but somehow don’t connect this with the situation where they have just made fun of my disability. Like, the last time someone did the “haha, did you just forget your own name?” thing when I got stuck on introductions, I just said “no, I have a speech disorder” and he basically grovelled in apology. I am still not sure what he was expecting – I mean, what, do you honestly think I talk like this for fun?

        • I’m a pretty tolerant person, but I could cheerfully murder people who make fun of speech differences. I don’t stutter myself, but my brother very obviously does and people were just awful to him when he was growing up. For some reason they’re less awful now that he’s an adult who stands at 6’5″ and looks like he just stepped off the longship for a quick pillage.

          Check out what the amazing Watsky has to say on the subject of speech impediments:

          When I saw him perform this in concert, I cheered louder than anyone.

          • laggedy said:

            Thank you. My son stutters, and takes no small amount of crap for it. I cannot wait until he’s old enough to see this.

  17. Hi Matey!

    Firstly, I am so sorry that this is happening to you.

    Is it possible to send an email aroound all your co-workers? If it was comfortable for you, you could send a short email around saying something like:

    “Hey Co-workers,

    “I will be wearing [the eyepatch, medical aid, whatever you want to call it] due to a health condition [feel free to not say anything more. You don't owe these people your doctor's notes]. There are a couple of things you guys can do at this diffficult time to help facilitate me: [helpful things like "not sneak up on my blind side"; "Not deliberately putting things in my blind spot" "NOT TRYING TO TAKE THE EYEPATCH OFF MY FACE, JESUS FUCKING CHRIST" "Not call me by pirate nicknames"]. Also, if you all could back me up if a customer is being difficult about it, that would be much appreciated.

    “Thanks!

    “Matey”

    One of the other commenters suggested maybe the manager might be a good person to go to. I concur. They can help you with work-scripts or know to look out for people giving you a hard time. A good manager will be happy to step in and say “Excuse me [customer] but I have to ask you to leave [your name] alone. Her medical business is her business” and so on.

    For dealing with people outside of work, if you wanna be dismissive but not ouright rude, and you wanna “reclaim” the pirate thing, you could still run the pirate story. Sample:

    “Hey, why’re you wearing an eyepatch?”

    “Actually, I lost my eye in a duel with a crocodile. It’s a difficult memory, and I’d prefer you not to ask about it”. Said in a deadpan voice and accompanied with a glare or cold look, and that may well get across your message. (Caveat: maybe this works in England because we have irony as A Thing? I don’t know that it would translate to all cultures equally.)

    In fact, you could even (if you wanted to) use the pirate (or high-seas aventurer, or cowboy or whatever) thing in a positive way. Say there’s a person (at work, at a party, somewhere you wanted to meet people, not just a stranger on the street):

    “How did you get your eyepatch, if you don’t mind me asking?” (I assume this person is more polite in asking, as you want to talk to them! You don’t want to talk to dicks!)

    “Actually, I lost the eye in the great gun battle of ’69. We fought all day and all night and all day again, but come that second evening, as the sun was setting through the haze of gunsmoke, I raised my fist to the sky and knew: I was the greatest gunslinger this town had ever seen. The loss of my eye was a small price to pay”

    This has the advantage of not instantly shutting down a conversation (which “I’d prefer not to say” can) without actually having to give out any details about it. It may also help the other person be at their ease- I think one of the reasons people can ignore or be awkward around someone with a disability is that they’re worried about offending a person. If you let them know you’re comfortable with it, they’re much likelier to be so themselves.

    NOTE: You don’t HAVE to put people at their ease! This is THEIR burden to bear! I am in NO WAY saying you have to carry their discomfort for them, or try to aleciate it in any way if you don’t want to.

    Good luck, Matey!

    • staranise said:

      I totally explain missing pieces of my anatomy to nosy parkers as, “Incident with a crocodile. Nasty business. Best not discussed if you’re planning to eat today.” and so forth. Deadpan over a spark of humour, and the fact that this is faintly plausible but highly unlikely, keeps the person too distracted with, “Wait, really?” to keep being rude. ^_^

      • Marie said:

        I did a bit like this when I was wearing a wrist brace for months. “What happened to your wrist?” “I got mauled by a cheetah. You should see the cheetah.” Most people laughed and moved on. Although I had one guy who said, “No, really, what happened?” repeatedly. I did as many others have suggested and kept repeating “I got mauled by a cheetah.” In increasingly Why Are You Still Talking To Me tones. Eventually someone else in the room said, “Geez, man. Back off.”

        Best wishes, LW. I know I’m just an internet stranger, but I wish I could stand by your blind side to fend people off for you. Although mostly I wish people would just not be megajerks.

  18. Extremely good advice from the excellent Elodie, but remember most of all:

    You don’t have to justify your deviance to anyone. If you never want to explain the medical situation ever again, you don’t have to (except, perhaps, to actual medical professionals when consulting their expertise).

    I often think our culture is so geared towards explaining difference, as if to understand all is to accept all. That’s not my personal experience – when I was younger, and talked a lot about my impairments, I got far more prying questions, jokes and unhelpful advice than I do now. Now, only my close friends and family know my actual diagonses and it’s not something anyone else raises. The only time I have to talk about things a bit more is when I have an access issue, but again, that’s straight forward; “I can walk up a step, but not a flight of stairs.” rather than an explanation of pain and dysfunction, which invites intimate questions, unwelcome sympathy, advice and occasionally even doubt (are you sure that if you didn’t push yourself…?).

    The very basic information I always gave to curious children – my legs don’t work very well, my body isn’t very good at fighting off bugs etc. – does fine for adults too. I’m not secretive or defensive about my illness, just bored of the subject, so I’m vague and move on.

    This won’t work for everyone – especially when something is new, and most especially when there are aspects of a condition you might *want* to talk about. But it is another option.

  19. poiuyt said:

    Wow! People are just horrible sometimes. I have no advise to you on the people front.

    But maybe there is something you can do other than wearing an uncomfortable patch? It wouldn’t necessarily solve all the people problem, but at least you would be more physically comfortable and not look like a pirate. I regularly see a person when I shop for groceries who has a pair of glasses with one frosted lens so you can’t see his eye. Maybe something like that could work for you?

    While goggling around on the topic I also found http://www.losteye.com, which has information and support forums for people who have lost or are losing an eye. Maybe check them out? Here is a tread on strangers reactions to eye patches: http://www.losteye.com/message_forum1/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=9717 .

  20. helenhuntingdon said:

    “The woods are a tough mistress. Lots of us live in them. Many of us can’t afford to stake our money on a principle. Many of us sacrifice our dignity on the altar of Customer Service, and we don’t do it because we enjoy it. Nobody goes to school hoping to be an Ophelia. Nobody wants to grow up to be a telemarketer. People don’t usually work in factories for spiritual fulfillment.

    Can you, Matey? Do you live in the woods? Dr Glass, who is not from the woods, comes from a magical kingdom where the customer is always wrong. He thinks that you should sue customers for assault if they try to touch you at work and call the police if they attempt to remove your medical aid. He thinks that your line manager should leap up from behind the desk to throw these dreadful customers out by the collar. Once he was working in a shop and an annoying customer tried to touch him and he activated a trap-door known to all retail suppliers in the kingdom that drops them into a special pit of crocodiles, and his manager gave him a purple sash to wear and a minor knighthood. I don’t know if you’re from the woods or the kingdom, so I must only recommend that you spice your sass up or down accordingly.”

    That was absolutely fabulous.

  21. Bittybird said:

    Wow. Wow. Calling people with eyepatches “the pirate” instead of their name is right up with calling people in wheelchairs “Professor Xaviar.”

  22. neverjaunty said:

    I especially adore this:

    ““I hope to provide the best service that I can, but if you are concerned about my disability, you are welcome to speak to my manager.”

    ….because it has that superficially apologetic tone, while making the idiot customer look like a complete ass if they respond with anything other than an awkward mumble. Because, what, they’re going to go the manager and complain “That cashier wouldn’t let me pull off their eyepatch/call them a pirate!”

  23. I can imagine making a pirate joke with a coworker with an eyepatch… if they were someone who I was friendly with and they’d made it clear that was how they wanted to approach the situation. Aggressively referring to someone in a way they don’t want to be addressed? Man that is some passive-aggressive, childish nonsense.

    I worked with someone once who wanted to use my full first name, for no reason I could ever understand. And my experience has been that, usually, when there is no coherent reason for someone to disregard your wishes on something like that it means they just wish to denigrate/dominate you for some power purpose. Which I see no reason to play along with. So the first time I said “Unless you’re my mother or the IRS, that is not my name.” And after that I simply wouldn’t respond to it.

    Which you can play-up or you can simply be calm and matter-of-fact about. With this person I didn’t make a big show of it if they walked right up to my face, but I ignored any time it might be plausible. For a while they’d make an issue of it with “how do you not respond to your own name?” or the like, and I would calmly say “people know I prefer to be addressed as Don so nobody calls me that; I just don’t hear it and notice it the same way.” It’s not impossible for them to call you a liar over such a thing, but most folks are unwilling to sound like idiots out loud for very long. They can stand hearing themselves be rude and disrespectful because they have convinced themselves it’s funny and charming, but tediously asserting boring things like “you know perfectly well that when I say Matey I must be talking to you!” is beyond most of them.

    I’ve found with most folks that refusing to play along either way copes with 90%+ of them. “Please do not mock my injury,” “it’s really rude to say those sorts of things about another person’s physical appearance,” “I assure you I’m not finding anything enjoyable about the kind of attention you’re giving me about this medical device.” It’s unfortunate that being an upright-walking polite human being demands of us that we respond to them with more grace than an air-horn to the face, but there eventually becomes some gratification in it. I mostly try not to find joy in being in a different group than my fellow human, but I give myself a pass to feel superior about being courteous and polite rather than a cretinous jerk.

    If you’re in the US I’d suggest taking some time to familiarize yourself with the Americans with Disabilities protections and the EEOC guidelines. http://www.eeoc.gov/laws/guidance/subject.cfm Your employer has some responsibility to provide you a non-hostile workplace.

    • Drew said:

      I’m not totally sure I’m ready to rule out the air horn, now that you mention it. It’s no MORE rude than pawing at someone’s face or making fun of a disability.

    • JAT said:

      An imaginary airhorn to the face (right up the offender’s nose, I think) will now be my default fantasy response to jerkitude.

      I find it helpful to supplement civil “outside voice” responses with vivid fantasies, so thank you.

      • MateytheFirst said:

        Forget the imaginary, sometimes I’m tempted to yank out a real one! Not very practical though.

  24. Just Plain Neddy said:

    No advice really but can certainly empathise. I have to wear ear defenders in any noisy or unpredictable environment (oversensitive hearing from autism spectrum disorder) and people have been known to try and pull them off my head. I tend to freeze when this happens which is really annoying because I want to point out that people who wear ear defenders in odd situations are often autistic and if you touch them there is a good chance they will panic and punch you. Just because I didn’t doesn’t mean it won’t happen next time. But of course my panic results in shutting down and saying nothing.

    • Argh that is NOT COOL what they do! NOT COOL.

      You deserve better from the world around you.

  25. JenMatthews said:

    Honestly, all I can do is offer support.

    I am frankly awed by how how well the LR is dealing with this situation. Once, for a week, I had to wear an eyepatch due to a mosquito bite, on, of all things on my eyelid. It swelled up like a balloon and while I waited for the anti-histamines to work the doctor insisted I wore an eyepatch to protect my eye.

    I got stared at, people made horrible comments and in the end a friend painted a white skull and crossbones on my patch to humourously deflate the hostility I experienced.

    I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult it is for LR to deal with this on a daily basis with no end in sight. (pun NOT intended).

    I applaud the scripts you’ve already used and have to say you are doing exceptionally well in diffusing the negativity you’ve experienced.

    It is horrible that people are physically molesting you and trying to see under your patch. Dealing with the medical condition alone must be hard, but to experience the additional “monkey must see” attitude of people cannot be anything other than draining.

    The advice offered so far is brilliant and I hope that you find a script that works for you. An eyepatch doesn’t detract from the incredible person you already are; love the ability to connect with children.

    I want to say, I rooting for you and I hope you can overcome the adult feckwittedness. Remember your friends won’t and don’t care. I wish you all the good fortune in the world! :)

  26. staranise said:

    “They’re terribly comfortable. I imagine everyone will be wearing one in a few years.” is an old classic.

    I really love what Elodie says about the woods. It would be nice to be a Defender of Righteousness and give a rude person what-for and so forth, but sometimes you just can’t. And it’s fucking tiring to continually be the bigger person. I can only imagine how awful it might feel to not only have to deal with my vision being very limited, but then to acquire a whole new class of danger and aggression from people about it, when social anxiety is already an issue. That’s really tough.

    I think it really is important to keep telling yourself your own version of what’s going on, instead of letting other people call the tune. “The time when people were awful and jerkish and occasionally violent” is all about them and you just have to cope with it, which is a really defensive situation. It’s easy to get entrenched. So decide ahead of time what you want this to be about, whether it’s “when I gently but firmly kept an intrusive person at bay and was kind enough not to let them know how rude they were” or “when I used a frosty voice and withering glare and stood so straight and tall and authoritative that it communicated ‘fuck off, I will punch you if you touch me’.” or whatever suits your situation and personality. Because you may still have to keep dodging snatchy hands or responding to intrusive questions; better to figure out ahead of time how you want to do that.

    YMMV with this last bit: but I find people intrude on my boundaries less often when I keep my chin up, shoulders back, breathe through my diaphragm, and do not jump to fill awkward silences. They’re things that tend to communicate assertiveness and calm, both to me and the other person. And refusing to react to them in my movements, or doing so deliberately (like staying perfectly still when they, say, grab my arm, except for turning my head to stare at their hand) communicates, “What you have done is so beyond the pale that you are now alien to me.” But that one’s specifically for people who are trying to jolly or badger you into interacting because they want to have an exchange with you, who might see complaining or trying to jerk out of the way as just another way of you playing the game; for them, a complete lack of response can be more effective than the wittiest riposte.

  27. Splodge said:

    I use a mobility scooter because I have a chronic illness.

    And one day, when an adult said “why do you use that?”
    I smiled brightly and said “because I have a chronic illness and need to”.
    And she said “…oh…” and looked a tad perplexed.

    End of conversation.

    I have no doubt she was expecting/hoping for more information but geez! No. I did not wish to talk to her and I find the topic rather dull. So my response was the equivalent of “I wear an eye patch because I have an eye problem so I need to wear an eye patch”. Of course, there will be the people who feel so entitled that they will insist on details, but my follow up lines are (deliberate) reiterations of the first and thus far, I’ve found most people get the hint.

  28. Lym said:

    I knew a long time ago that it’s a normal human impulse to smile at cute children or friendly strangers, and to stare openly at disfigurements and disabilities. Then I grew up and realized that the people (especially children) behind those deviations-from-normal deserved a smile that acknowledged their common humanity just as much as anyone else.

    Every child deserves a smile, whether they have severe burns, a facial deformity, are in a wheelchair, or deviate from average in any way. They all deserve to feel as valued as the poster chid for Cute. Adults with visible deviations deserve the same respect you give any other adult. And if you’re out there physically touching others without permission for ANY reason…what the hell is wrong with you? Maybe there are just too many people who don’t understand the concepts of respect and dignity, having none themselves, or none FOR themselves. Very sad, in a way.

    Evolutionarily, the staring response is understandable. You meet someone who is deviant…are they contagious? Do they pose a danger? If you’re going to behave like a Cro-magnon and take your inspections to the extreme, though, you don’t belong in modern society.

    I’ve been jeered at by adolescents for being fat and in a wheelchair. “Don’t get old” I warn them. “Your body will fail you too.” I always try to take some comfort in the fact that people who are rude over something I can’t help or change will most like experience some karmic balance later on in their lives, and come to regret their words.

    • Lixxy said:

      “They all deserve to feel as valued as the poster chid for Cute.”

      I love this. Thank you.

  29. R.J. said:

    Hey, LW, does it bother you that we’re all calling you Matey? I think you know how we mean it, but you *did* write in because you were over the pirate references.

    I wish I could be surprised that people are so darn rude, but I work with the public so I’m not.

  30. One of the responses I use, when I am asked the inevitable question ‘What’s wrong with you?’, is to say brightly ‘Oh wow, are swapping medical history? Alright then! You first!’

    This usually makes the point, or at least confuses the asker.

    Otherwise, I agree with the ‘because I need to cover my eye’ repetition, depending on what you prefer to say. I tend to answer questions (from ‘were you in an accident?’ to ‘why do you need a stick’) with ‘actually, I have a whole body condition. So anyway, nice weather!’ and if a few iterations of ‘well, it is a whole body condition’ or ‘well, Im disabled’ followed by ‘so anyway…!’ dont cut it, then I say ‘Um… look, I dont want to be rude, but it is really none of your business! So anyway…’ and this does usually result in apology. If necessary you may have to repeat the none of your business angle, or maybe ‘sorry… do I know you? Oh, ok… So anyway…’ Basically what youre saying isnt offensive, so not a problem in the workplace especially if you tried a few friendly changes of subject first, but it shuts them down.

    • manatee said:

      Amazing – I’m definitely adopting that response. Thank you! :)

  31. Oh, also – if people touch you, shriek OW! and STOP! loudly. If your boss picks up on it, explain calmly and ideally in private that the customer or co worker was touching you around your eye unexpectedly and without asking. I find OW, STOP and GET OFF make people react by pulling away, and usually realising they are in the wrong. And after all you cant be judged for an instictive reaction to being grabbed! Unfortunately it does attract attention at the time though.

  32. karak said:

    My friend has some kind of serious eye issue that flares and he regularly uses a “medical eyepatch” that’s white and gauzelike and suggests injury. My grandmother had a sticky eye path that was flesh material.

    LW, you don’t need to change yourself, but I agree with some of the other commentors that “official looking medical device” can sometimes stall obnoxious people.

    My mother has a large, obvious scar on her arm, and people would often interrogate her about it. She had a variety of ridiculous, amusing lies she told them intending to humiliate the questioner. It’s not a bad tactic.

    Lastly, you need your managers to have your back. Threats are hard and scary, but go to your shift managers, then your GM, and then, if you have to, above that, with a script along the lines of, “Customers are physically assaulting me. I need written, company policy about what to do.” If you work at a chain, in some ways, that’s even better, they’re wary of bad publicity and lawsuits.

  33. manatee said:

    I love that as well as all the bad ass scripts for putting people in their place there is recognition that we can’t always be a spokesperson for or defender of whichever oppressed group we are a part of and that that is ok too. The right move for the LW here, or anyone in their position, is to do whatever they need to do to make themselves feel safe and comfortable.

  34. Riot said:

    Oh, Elodie. I have nothing to add to your beautiful words. I do however, want to address some to you: That was wonderful. Both the prose and the meaning were gorgeous. You made me cry. Well done.

  35. LW, it’s not a solution. Or even fair. BUT.
    If you feel comfortable, and if you would like, I will knit you eyepatch covers, out of cashmere, or silk, or cotton, or wool – or bamboo or alpaca or literally anything you’d like. In any colors, schemes, or patterns you would like. I cannot kick these people in the common-sense place, but I can give you something soft and comforting to cover your patch if you would like it.

  36. Our Lady of the Crass said:

    I have no words for the sheer I don’t know what of the behavior described here. That adults would behave this way just put my blood pressure to boiling.

    That said, I’m sort of inclined to respond to the people who’d reach for the face with, “Hold on, can I pick your nose? Because there’s a really pickable looking booger in there, it’s really glisteny and ripe, and your nose holes seem just the right size for my fingers…oh no? Well ok then.”

  37. CaitlinMac said:

    One thing that worked for me with a co-worker: I have scars on my upper arm. One morning, pre-caffeine, one of my co-workers saw my arm while I was at the water cooler and asked how I got the scars on my arm. I didn’t have a good story, and I didn’t want to discuss what really happened, so in a fit of desperation, I looked down at my arm, looked her dead in the eye, and deadpanned “What scars?”.

    There were a few moments of awkward silence, and I let them be awkward, then I smiled and went back to my desk. She never asked again.

    • caryatid said:

      i love this so much.

    • Copcher said:

      Amazing.

    • JenniferP said:

      This comment is everything. You are full of win.

    • Full of win, made of awesome, and I’m stealing if I ever find myself in such a situation.

    • Stealing this awesome response too :)

    • Riot said:

      You are totally full of awesome.

  38. Hazel said:

    I can only say…

    Who would do things like that. Urgh.

  39. MateytheFirst said:

    Hey, LW here! To answer someone’s question, I don’t really mind the pirate puns and stuff being used here because you guys are not doing it maliciously, so that’s way different than the people at work who’ve done it.

    For now, the patch is off, hopefully it won’t be coming back, but it might. My vision in that eye is still near-blind, but at least without the patch and with my eye not being all red and scabby anymore, I don’t get people jumping on me a lot.

    I mostly stuck with a black patch, rather than the adhesive flesh-ones for two reasons: My hair is black, so I could kind of brush it over and hide it a little, and the fleshy adhesive ones hurt to peel off and tended to take my eyelashes with them. I am rather fond of my flashy eyeball-fans, so I’d rather keep them, thanks *flutters them*.

    Thank you so much to the person who offered the knitted patch-covers, but for now I’m not wearing the patch, and if it does come back I’d still be wearing it under glasses, which is difficult enough with just the patch itself, something making it thicker would probably make my glasses fall off more than they already were.

    My co-workers, once I talked to them (Email wasn’t an option, sad to say) were pretty cool with it, even if one of them did insist that I dress up as a pirate for halloween (Heeeck no, I’m totally bringing my ocarina to work and rocking Dark Link, unless I can get a Wiccan ((Young Avengers Comic)) costume put together in time!), but she hasn’t mentioned it since.

    I kind of find it funny everyone assumed I’m a girl, everyone who mentioned gender at all all said ‘she’ XD I guess most of the posters here are female? Sorry to disappoint anyone, but I’m a dude! No worries though, I get mistaken for a girl a lot IRL too….being short and adorable is SUCH a curse! *insert dramatic sigh and swooning here*

    I’ll be saving these responses to use in the future, though, just in case I end up dealing with anyone being a jerk to me again, particularly if the patch makes a return. Unfortunately I do have to mostly stick to the more professional, sanitized and polite ones, since I am sadly In the Woods at the moment. I’d like to move to the Kingdom, but alas, that time has not yet come for me!

    Huge thanks and hugs all around (for those who are okay with hugging) for the great advice though!

    • JenniferP said:

      Hello, sorry I let your comment languish so long in spam!

    • caryatid said:

      dark link FTW!!!! do it!

      • MateytheFirst said:

        Trying to, but the costume I had my heart set on won’t be ready in time (it’ll take ’til late November/Early December to complete), so I’m talking to someone about the possibility of Wiccan, or finding a much simpler Dark Link costume since one of my friends is going as Link and we’re all planning on going and messing around haunted houses and stuff for Halloween.

    • Good to hear from you!

      Maybe some people assumed you were female because of the touching issue. Unwanted touches seems to be a thing women complain more about than men. Here’s hoping the personal space invaders don’t revert back to old ways if you ever have to wear the patch again.

      • MateytheFirst said:

        I kind of figured that…I do get mistaken for a girl a lot by my appearance (small, slight, very fine and rather rounded features, large eyes, tiny hands and feet, ect) so I get that a lot too, and it’s really annoying. Most guys won’t do it again once I tell them I’m a dude, they generally take themselves off with some rather disgusted noises, but sometimes that just seems to egg them on or they even don’t believe me and decide to try groping me to prove I’m a girl! Guh. What is wrong with people?! If any of these asses did this kind of thing to my female friends, I’d probably beat them with a salmon, and the bear it came with.

    • Probably just assumed since women are, sadly, used to harassment in various situations. Glad to hear things are improving for you Matey, (also Wiccan is the love of my geek life and a total badass, although Dark Link is cool too!)

    • I don’t have advice but am wishing you the best as you make your way In the Woods. And Dark Link would rock.

  40. DewiSri said:

    I see the OP has responded, but if anyone ever needs to deal with eyepatches again, take inspiration from the amazing Mexican soap opera “Cuna de Lobos” (Den of Wolves). The grandmother matches her eyepatches to her outfits like so:

  41. Hello, LW!

    If you’re Matey, I’m currently going by Captain Eyeliner. I’m waiting for a surgery date to have my strabisimus corrected, but for the next six to nine months I’ll be occluding my right eye on the grounds that monocular vision is better than double vision with side-orders of vertigo, migraine and nausea.

    I also wear glasses and find a patch under glasses uncomfortable, so right now I’m alternating between a patch while wearing my left contact lens and wearing my glasses with this lens:

    http://www.sfxhalloweencontacts.com/blind-contact-lenses.php

    in my right eye, because non-freaky-looking opaque lenses are custom prosthetics and take six months and three hundred bucks.

    You may not be able to wear contacts in that eye, and it’s *definitely* not less startling than a patch, but it has its points.

    Comments, oh Lord. I will just list my most frequent and you can pick to suit:

    People I actually KNOW, first time they see the patch/lens: “strabisimus, waiting for a surgery date.” Anyone who sees me fairly regularly, even if it’s to take my Hydro payment, I don’t mind a polite enquiry.

    Small children: my Godson solemnly told me I had a bandaid for my eye cause my eye got hurt. I am now using this answer for all small children.

    Stares: *long cold blank stare back*

    People trying to touch it/grab my specs to see the lens: “OW! OW! LET GO OF ME!”

    Rude adults, from least bad to worst:
    “Yeah, let’s just go back thirty seconds, shall we?” (For those who blurt and then look horrified.)
    “How many reasons ARE there?”
    “I don’t care to discuss it.”
    “That is not an appropriate question.”
    “The same thing that happened to your manners.”

    The absolute worst so far was the drunk guy in the parking lot/smoking pit of the Legion. Not in his manner, just his timing: I took him aside and explained that we do not ask people about their disabilities, and we REALLY do not ask people DRINKING AT THE LEGION about their disabilities. (I am neither in the Forces nor a vet, but I know a fair number and none of them wishes to interrupt a good darts match to tell you where they left their leg.)

    I have also taken to carrying my walking stick, which is excellent for checking the height of curbs, etc. and also good for enforcing some personal space on my blind side. YMMV and it obviously won’t help at work but it may make the commute less vile…

    • ‘The same thing that happened to your manners.’ Perfect. And I think Captain Eyeliner is a fabulous name!

      • Marna Nightingale said:

        *grins* Thanks. Somebody was talking about cosplaying Captain Highliner and I had a brief but rewarding reading fail. :)

        Also, I just posted a pic of my smashing new denim eyepatch on Twitter (MarnaNightingal). And my tailor gave me a fabric scrap from the suit he’s making me so I can have a snazzy aubergine wool eyepatch to match my snazzy new outfit!

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