Looks

Top three questions that I get the most about my scooter:

1. How fast does that thing go?

2. Wanna race?

3. Where can I get one?

Most of the time creepy guys ask me these questions. Whenever they do, I get a little annoyed but I’ll just play along. But some people are really not shy at all to ask the most out-of-the-world things. Once, when I was waiting for a bus with my friend in Union Square in San Francisco, a Chinese man who spoke hardly any English approached us and started rambling in Mandarin/Cantonese. He probably assumed that I spoke the same language since I’m Asian, but when I told him that I couldn’t understand him, it was useless. He kept waving his hand in flamboyant gestures and raised his voice, only making me want to look away so that I wouldn’t place attention on myself in the middle of the crowd. My friend and I could tell that this bold stranger wasn’t going to give up, though. Suddenly he blurted, “How much? How much?” while pointing at my scooter. Before I could say anything (and I couldn’t because I was too stunned – surely he wasn’t asking what I thought he was asking), my fearless friend who had grown accustomed to the weird things that happen in San Francisco looked straight at him and answered: “Sir, that is my friend’s scooter. She needs it. It is not for sale.” I couldn’t believe that he was trying to buy off my scooter! Just then thankfully the bus pulled up to the curb, giving my friend a stronger incentive to shoo the man away.

Situations like these are completely unpredictable and so ridiculous that I can’t help but to just laugh. I have countless stories that are just as shocking, absurd and comical as this one. It doesn’t happen every day since I find that most people merely glance at me, but it does make me wonder: how do people perceive me when I’m in my scooter? What words go through strangers’ minds? Frankly, if I were to see a 21 year old riding along in a scooter, I’d look, too. There actually has been a few times and it makes me wonder whether they also have a disability like me or they’re recovering from a temporary injury. Maybe a lot of us wonder how others see ourselves. It’s natural to ponder what kind of impression we give off – our clothes, our hairstyle and our body language all possess the power to say something about ourselves before we speak one word at all. Sometimes I can’t help but to wonder if strangers pity me; the mere word disabled carries such negative connotations like weak, dependent and needy.

I remember when I clearly saw myself in a scooter. I had recently started to use it, and I was in an H&M store shopping. As I passed the mirror, I stopped and went back. There I was in the reflection – it was me yet it wasn’t because I looked unfamiliar, sitting as opposed to standing or walking with a limp. I couldn’t bear to look at myself longer than a minute. Those words – weak, dependent and needy – crept into my conscious and I had begun to label them onto myself, even though I was and still am able to take care of myself as a completely independent and self-sufficient person. It’s the weirdest thing; sometimes on my way to class I’d feel paranoid, feeling as if people were just watching me and feeling sorry for me. Or I’d be in line for a coffee and I’d wonder what the guy standing next to me would think about me.

Maybe it’s because of this: one friend of mine and I sincerely believe that we attract creepers. She doesn’t use a scooter like me, but we always get only the same kind of guys approaching us. There is nothing wrong with a guy who is confident, but there’s a clear distinction between guys with confidence and guys who assert their presence in your face, unapologetically and overbearingly. A stranger in his 50s had tried to lure my said friend in going to Vegas with him, at least just for the weekend (as if that’d make her want to). Mind you, she was literally just stepping out of our college library when this took place and her telling him that she was in a relationship – who recently really did celebrate a one-year anniversary with her boyfriend – did absolutely nothing. As for me, I was speeding through the campus plaza when a stranger managed to stop me, only to shamelessly ask me if he could go home with me after a sole minute of talking. Both of these guys were dead serious. I know these things happen all the time and many women experience this and since my friend is able-bodied, I’m not going to really assume that I only attract creepers just because I have a disability, but because my wish to meet just a nice, smart guy who also loved literature in an English class had not come true, I began to doubt myself. The thing is, I did actually meet some nice, smart guys who also loved literature in my English classes. Only, nothing serious happened. These guys didn’t have that extra charisma that compelled me to ask them to be my boyfriend, and I’m guessing that I didn’t either for them to do anything more. I say this fairly plainly and seemingly easily, yet I cared a lot; each morning I’d carefully apply mascara, put on some lipstick and spray some perfume for the guy who sat next to me in class to detect. If I had on a top that seemed cut too low, I’d tell myself that it wasn’t such a big deal, but only I’d know the real reason why I didn’t change clothes. I did all of this to perhaps block thoughts – thoughts that’d ask: what would guys really think as they saw me taking off my braces at night? What would they really think when introducing me to their parents and friends? What would they really think when they saw me, my body in bed, with my forearms and legs that look like body parts of a Holocaust survivor, my muscles wasted away? I did everything to get into a relationship, yet I wouldn’t know what to do because these questions would haunt me. I knew love; I experienced it and believed that it could shield me from anything, solve everything, soothe everything, but then there would be the nights when love didn’t seem enough – nights when these thoughts would repeatedly blare in my mind.

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