CURIOSITY is one of those things that people can’t always seem to control. I catch people looking at my leg every single day and I know they are simply dying to know what happened to me. I was recently standing in a coffee shop in Dublin when a group of men walked in.
One of them noticed my crutch and almost broke his neck trying to look back at my leg. He was as subtle as a sledge hammer and actually moved his friend out of the way so he could get a better look. Not once during this time did he think to look at my face, if he had he might have noticed that I had watched every bit of his little dance and to be honest I was well within my right to feel annoyed.
This complete stranger was making absolutely no effort to hide his curiosity and drawing the attention of his friends while doing so.
Thankfully, I have grown quite used to this behaviour and generally don’t mind it. In fact I rather enjoy their expression when they eventually look up and catch me looking directly at them with a big grin on my face.
Their reaction is often hilarious, it is almost as if they forget that there is a person attached to the ‘weird leg’. There are various types of people who ask the same question but in different ways. The main question is always ‘ What happened to your leg?’, but the speed in which the question is asked and the level of detail I give back all depends on the person asking the question.
Some will allow their shyness to get the better of them thus resulting in a lot of side glances at said leg. This will usually be followed by a hesitation, I know they are going to ask, they know they are going to ask, but then they fall at the last hurdle and don’t ask. I will normally put them out of their misery and just answer the question as if they had asked it. I find this saves on time, otherwise we could be standing there all day.
There are others who will have no problem asking what happened and I can tell by them that they haven’t built anything up in their mind, they simply asked because they noticed my crutch. These are the people who react with the most surprise when they discover I didn’t just fall while skiing or ‘have a heavy weekend’.
Once they find out that it is in fact my hip that has failed me they usually don’t know how to respond. This results in a moment of awkward silence where they rack their brain to try and think of a conversation changer (cue tumble weed).
It is at this time I might try to rescue them by throwing in a ‘sure it could be worse’ or a typically Irish tut followed by an ‘ah well’.
Last but not least there are those who are not satisfied with simply knowing what happened to my leg, they want to know every intricate detail of my life from birth until the present day. They want to know what I had for breakfast two weeks ago and what I am doing for Christmas four years from now.
These are the time consumers and they always seem to morph out of the wall when I least expect it. I was walking around a popular hardware store a few months ago with a friend when suddenly I felt my leg grow hot under the stare of a female attendee.
She was visibly excited as she made her way over to me and after a quick scan around to find a possible escape route (there was none) I resigned myself to the fact that the next ten minutes would involve a lot of questions. I walked away feeling like I always feel, ever so slightly embarrassed but pleased that I can provide a story juicy enough to spice up someone’s day.
I have hundred of stories similar to those I have described and I will continue to share some of them with you as I think they are amusing and harmless. I deal with questions daily and tolerate staring everywhere I go. Children are the best at this.
They ‘whisper’ (loudly shout) questions to their parents that go something like ‘ Mammy, what is wrong with that girl?’ or ‘ Daddy, she walks weird, is her leg broken?’ and I smile sweetly while the parents die of embarrassment. It’s a hoot!
I was once walking behind a little girl who on hearing the sound of my crutch turned around to get a better look. She then decided it was best to walk backwards the whole way in to the shop so she wouldn’t miss a single moment of the action unfolding before her. Her parents were oblivious and I didn’t mind so that was how we walked.
A child’s innocence is not something to take lightly. Children stare more due to genuine curiosity but they also accept you easily for who you are. I spent the summer in Montauk in 2008 and during this time I looked after three little American kids.
I have lymphedema which is a fluid build up caused by damage to the lymph-node so my leg would often swell to twice its normal size.
As I was much younger at the time I felt self-conscious of my swollen leg. Each night I read the kids a story and did so while lying on the bed beside them.
Now and again they would reference my ‘fat leg’ and laugh while comparing it to my ‘skinny leg’. I laughed too as I knew they were just calling it as it was. Their innocence made everything okay and it was with their help that I began accepting my situation.
I will end by giving you some advice. If you happen to see me in the street it is okay to look, you are curious and you can’t help that but do me a favour, do it on the sly! And in return I promise to pretend to not notice you looking.
Nikki Bradley is the founder of Fighting Fit For Ewing’s, a campaign to promote awareness of Ewing’s Sarcoma. Nikki is sponsored by All Sports in Donegal Town. Support her campaign by giving ‘Fighting Fit For Ewing’s’ a LIKE on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @nikkibradley59