Unbelievable! I wrote about this on Facebook already, but I wanted to go into more detail here because I just had the strangest experience on my lunch hour. Three people actually admitted to laughing at me because I apparently “look like someone” in their office. What the hell? It felt so incredibly rude and it messed with my head a LOT.
There I was, eating my lunch in Boston Market. I’m trying really hard to eat protein at at least one meal every day, so that’s the main reason I went there. Anyway, I sit down at this table by the window. I’m facing towards the interior of the restaurant (rather than the windows), so I am sitting across the aisle from a table with two women and one man. They’re all wearing lanyards so they clearly are also on a lunch break, and work together. But of course, I didn’t pay attention to them until they started loudly laughing. (Normally, I keep my head down and read on my lunch hour, relaxing and enjoying the alone-time, so I don’t really notice other diners when I’m out.)
Instinctually, I quickly glanced up from my magazine when the laughing was exceptionally loud, and one of the women made eye contact with me briefly. I looked back down again, not concerned at this point or anything.
But they kept laughing. They were also talking in low voices, almost whispering to one another, and then cracking up. One of the women was SO LOUD with her laugh, too. She had to be annoying the other customers sitting nearby, because it was distracting. Anyway, I look up again after a few minutes and all three of them are just looking right at me.
Logic tells me that no, they just happened to be looking in my direction, right then and there, but they weren’t looking at me, per se. I was by the window, so they were probably looking at something behind me, outside. My practical side told me not to be paranoid.
But the other side, the sensitive and cautious side, was starting to wonder about the possibility that they were looking at ME. It seemed ridiculous, because adults don’t do that, really. Adults don’t just sit and blatantly stare at someone, whisper and laugh… right? By the time we’re older, haven’t we perfected the art of talking about other people when the other people are not in the vicinity to possibly overhear? Maybe being just a little subtle about it?
It was just so weird. And they kept laughing, for God’s sake. The couple of times I dared to glance up again (and by then, I was feeling really uneasy), yes, at least one of them was looking back at me.
Logic kicked in: Do I know them from someplace?
Emotion answered: NO, I do not. They are strangers. And yes, they are looking right at me and they are laughing. This is alarming. “Hit the anxiety button; begin the cold sweat in the armpits and the weird flush in the cheeks!”
I turned and looked out the window just to be sure nothing odd was going on outside. I hoped there was some crazy thing going down out there in the parking lot, just so I could relax. But of course, nothing was going on outside. At this point, I began to consider getting up and moving to another seat. But wouldn’t that be like letting the terrorists win? I had to stand my ground and not let some bullies intimidate me.
Finally, since they weren’t giving up with the whispering and laughing, I just looked up but this time held my eyes there, looking back at them. I didn’t say anything, because I had no idea what to do. I’m not confrontational by nature, so this was really hard for me. (I wish my sister was with me! She’d have just stared them down and yelled “WHAT?! You have a problem or something?” and it would have been over; she’s so much more ballsy than I am in situations like this!)
As I was looking back, the guy finally said, “Oh, sorry. You just look like this girl we work with.” One of the women starts laughing again. The other one quietly, through a big, laughing grin, says something softly that sounded like “we’re not laughing at YOU” but it wasn’t said to me directly, or even with any gravity. No, that’s because they were laughing at me. And my apparent similarity to some unfortunate girl in their office; which is something I can’t do anything about, of course.
Frankly, I was just stunned and I did feel the reaction to utter “that’s OK” and forgive them, in a way, but I couldn’t make myself say it. It wasn’t OK. It’s not like they really apologized, or seemed embarrassed at getting caught, or anything like that. No, they were still laughing. Explaining it to me didn’t make it any better. All it did was confirm that yes, they really were laughing at me.
Honestly, I didn’t know how to react or what to do at that point. I was sort of frozen in place, staring down at my magazine and trying very hard to actually comprehend what I was reading, picking at my food. With their eyes on me, I wasn’t comfortable eating, even. What if they were making fun of the way I chewed, or held my fork? UGH! I haven’t felt that socially uncomfortable in a long, long time. I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t.
They left about 5 minutes or so after that, thank God. I could finally relax and eat, and try to forget about the bizarre thing that just happened. The only word for it is bizarre, too. I mean, seriously… I can’t get over the fact that it wasn’t in my mind, I wasn’t being overly paranoid or anything, that people were actually, blatantly, laughing at me. Wow.
I don’t look particularly weird today, and I know my hair was fine and I didn’t have a big stain on my shirt; there was nothing about my appearance that would incite mockery. I hate that they were sitting there, clearly laughing at scenarios and talking kind-of about me (while really talking about this other girl I look like), for no reason other than my dumb luck to bear a resemblance to someone they didn’t like.
I wonder how often this kind of thing happens to people who ARE different. I wonder if people who are handicapped, in wheelchairs or with any kind of deformity have this happen to them on a frequent basis. I bet they do. Because not everyone is tactful, polite and/or nice. There are mean people out there. I feel so terrible for anyone who looks different, seriously. It sucks. People suck.
I haven’t been directly laughed at by mean people since I was in middle school. Kids would stand nearby and mock me and my friends for being clumsy, geeky, ugly, fat, skinny… whatever. It always sucked so much. I’m now recalling, in detail, how those days really felt. I’d almost forgotten, I think. It’s so much better being a grown-up, in a lot of little social ways. I truly hated feeling like I was 12 years old again today.
Why did this happen? What was the purpose of it? Experiences happen for reasons, and there’s always something to learn, right? Well, I think today it wasn’t a lesson, per se. I think it was a reminder. I guess I needed to remember that people can be real assholes; and remember how visceral that felt to be on the receiving end of mockery, as a kid. Maybe I can use this in my writing. I think I can. Hell, I could probably write a short story directly about this experience, but with me fighting back in some cool way.
We’ll see. For now, though? YUCK.