“What did you do to yourself?”
That was the first thing the saleswoman at the dress shop said to me before she even said hello. I was taken aback by her question. My good friend realized this and started to answer, “Nothing …” Then I gained my composure: “Nothing, I was just born this way.” The question really threw me, and that was the only response I could come up with.
It was the first time I was wearing shorts with my ankle-foot orthotics (AFOs). I also had my folding cane since we walked to the dress shop and around the town. Wearing shorts was a difficult decision because I knew people would see the AFOs. I was not so sure I was ready for the stares and comments. I certainly wasn’t expecting one like that. I do not think she meant any harm by her question, and I want to believe it was coming from a good place. I want to. But part of me feels it was an inappropriate thing for an adult to say.
I survived that uncomfortable incident, but it took me a while to wear shorts again. I do not feel good about having to wear the AFOs as it is. It is just something I need to deal with, and having people stare or ask questions like that makes it harder. I know a few people with AFOs who never wear shorts or skirts because of that.
I recently decided that I was going to wear shorts anyway because, honestly, it has been around 100 degrees. I am not going to suffer because some people do not have enough sense not to make others feel bad about themselves. I have started to wear some of my cute, short summer dresses. It is hot, and I should be able to be to be comfortable. I also discovered the joy of a maxi skirt! They are so comfortable and easy to wear! I love them!
From the incident in the dress shop, I realized that people are going to say or do things that make me uncomfortable, but I get to choose how to react to it. I decide how it makes me feel and how I want to handle it. It is OK just to smile and give a short but polite answer. It is also OK to smile then walk away. It is OK to dress how you feel comfortable and not worry about what others will think.
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