People stare at me here. No, I’m not imagining it, and I’m not paranoid. That’s ok; I’m used to it.
When folks stared when I was a young teenager, I thought at first it was because there was something wrong with my clothes (did they have a stain or were they torn or tucked in somewhere in an embarrassing way?) or my hair (did it get frizzed up or unbraided? Did a bird drop something?) But as insecure teens are wont to do, I began to think that it was because I was ugly, since my clothes and hair were clean and presentable.
It turned out (as we got to know each other, they told me) that the stares WERE because of my clothes and hair, which I wore in very conservative styles. So conservative, that my aunt and one of my grandmothers used to say I looked like an old lady or if they were being kind, an old-fashioned lady or a prairie girl. While it hurt, I didn’t care (I liked old-fashioned and prairie fashions); what everyone else saw and said was that I looked like a LADY, well-dressed and modest. I’d rather have them stare for that reason, than to have them stare at overexposure. I’m still kind of conservative, albeit in a little more mainstream way.
Later it was just the hair. Instead of wearing it in my customary long braids (two plaits, two “cornrows” or a French braid), I stared wearing it loose. This time the stares were from my friends. They had never seen it out and were shocked at its curliness. They kept asking if I had gotten a curly perm or a Jheri curl (yeah, I’m that old). No perm; that’s just how it grows.
When I first moved to Frederick and walked around downtown, people stared. Upon getting acquainted, they said that they stared because they thought they knew me from somewhere. Or because I actually smiled at them when we passed on the sidewalk, rather than ignoring them or being lost in my own world, like everyone else, they said.
I’m guessing that up here in Walkersville, people are staring because they DON’T know me from somewhere. This is a small town, after all. I grew up in a small town and I admit that I used stare at strangers and the new people. All of us kids in the neighborhood did and some of the adults too, but then we also introduced ourselves and welcomed them. I suppose that in time, and as I find ways to get involved in the community, I’ll get fewer stares.
Except when I ride my bike. People ALWAYS still seem to stare at bike helmets and mine is kind of bright. But that’s ok; I’m used to it.