An Open Letter About Staring, Part 2
This week's blog is the second in a two-part series about staring at people who look "different." People with trichotillomania (or any hair loss) are often on the receiving end of those uncomfortable glances. Last week's blog, An Open Letter About Staring, Part 1, was addressed to my fellow trichsters (aka people with trichotillomania) to help them cope with the fears and negative emotions that arise from people looking at their hair or lack thereof. This week's blog is for anyone who has let their eyes linger.
I've addressed this week's blog to everyone, because we've all done it, myself included. We've all stared at someone a little longer than we'd like to admit. It might not have been because they had trichotillomania or any form of hair loss. Perhaps you were checking to see if the dark spot on someone's face was dirt or a mole. Regardless of the reason, we've all been there.
Before I give you some tips on how to approach someone who looks different or has trichotillomania, I'm here to tell you that it's ok. We're all human - our eyes are drawn to things that are "new" or "different" around us. By not acting out of a place of malice, you're already creating a safer space for people who feel uncomfortable with their appearance.
Having said that, there are some actions or habits to avoid when speaking to a person who you might be inclined to stare at. These are the top five things I wish I would've told people for years when approaching me, especially when I was at my worst in terms of pulling. While they are specific to trich and hair loss, the underlying suggestion can be applied to anyone.
Please don't touch your hair when you're looking at my hair.
Please don't look at my hairline (or any area of noticeable hair loss) instead of my eyes when you're talking to me. Make eye contact with me.
Please don't look or point at me when you're talking to someone else.
Please don't ask "what happened" to an area of hair loss.
Please don't be scared to approach me because I look different.
Lastly, I want to remind you that just as we've all stared, we've all felt uncomfortable with our appearance at one point or another. While some people may be able to cover up their problem areas easily, this might not be an option for others. Imagine that one time you wish people didn't stare at you in public. Now imagine that's every time you step out of your house. That's what it feels like for some people dealing with trichotillomania. Be compassionate and empathetic to other people's struggles - that kindness will be returned to you in other ways.