Dear Staring People

People can be very judgmental. There, I said it. People can be horrible and judge other people without knowing what these people have been through or the pain that they go through every single day. That being said, not all people are like this. Some people go about their day and barely realize that some have a physical impairment or are not quite like them. These people were always my favorite kind of people. But not everyone can be like them, and I understand that sometimes it is hard not to stare when someone has an odd walk or is wearing a brace. If it is not something that you are used to, it can be intriguing or maybe even look cool and you stare simply because it's interesting. Sometimes I even catch myself looking as someone with a brace walks by. I know that I am not judging, and I have no room to. But for the person with the brace, it is awkward and sometimes even humiliating.

I wore a knee brace for a very long time. So long that it actually started to cause more damage to my knee because my muscles did not need to work to support it anymore. Of course, after my father yelled at me and I did some physical therapy, my knee got better and I no longer needed to wear a knee brace for the most part. But when I was wearing it daily, I got a lot of looks. People would stare as I got up from a chair and my knee would pop and I would walk out with that black knee brace strapped to my leg. People would stare as I ran in gym class and my brace was still strapped onto my leg. People just stared. At first, it really bothered me, people just staring at me. But eventually, I began to ignore it. But at times it still gets to you.

I was at Knoebles with my boyfriend over the summer. We did a lot of walking, running, and hiking which I discovered really bothered my knee if I was not wearing a brace. So I wore my knee brace while I was there. We were walking around the park one day and it was incredibly hot. I was in a tank top and shorts, leaving my knee brace on my bare skin (which is basically the color of Casper the ghost, so it stuck out a lot). Wouldn't you know that the entire park felt the need to stare. I had parents gawking and kids trying — but failing — to discreetly point at my leg. I felt like a freak show. It was cool when other people walked by with a brace, they just kind of nod at you because they get it. Of course, my boyfriend seemed oblivious to all this attention; he usually is. But after walking a little more, we came across a group of school kids. Man, kids are the worst. And of course, these kids had to be around thirteen years old. I guess one of them thought my boyfriend was cute and probably younger. She made the comment about how she would make a better girlfriend than me because she wasn't 'broken'.

That really hit home. Usually, I brush off comments and stares but she was dead serious. It wasn't jealousy or anger I felt, it was defeat. I had gone through so much to be able to walk without limping and be able to do everything I can do and yet it was not enough. I still stuck out. My boyfriend was again oblivious, and I ended up hiding out in the arcade where I had to tell him.

Moral of the story: please keep your eyes off of my leg. I can do everything that you can... however, I may just have an extra piece of cloth on my leg. And for the love of God, please keep your comments to yourself. You have no idea how much I have been doing to get rid of the brace for good. I haven't had to wear mine for a couple months now. And that goes for everyone who has a brace or crutches or just something out of the ordinary about them. We are all human.

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