Being out in public can be a hard thing for an amputee. People stare, that's just the way it is. You look funny, you look different, and the average fully-limbed person just doesn't know how to react to that. How you deal with looks, stares, whispers, and uncomfortable questions will say a lot about the type of person you are, and in your reactions you speak for all amputees.
That's right, you may be the only amputee in your town, so if your rude to a gawker, you will have just set the tone in that person's mind about what all amputees must be - which is angry and rude. Your actions as an amputee make me look bad, so stop it already!
When I first started going out in public again after my amputations I would get angry when people stared at me, I would look them dead in the eye and just dare them to say something, and when they looked away in shame I felt like I had won a battle, but I hadn't. I was being militant about it all for nothing.
Face it, we are like a train wreck, no one wants to stare and look, but sometimes you simply can't look away! Once I was out with my son eating in a restaurant when a family two booths over kept continually staring at me and whispering. Of course, I gave them a cold stare in return, feeling totally justified in my militant attitude. To my chagrin when I got up to leave and pay my tab the father of that family got up and followed me. When I made to the waitress stand to pay that father stepped up and told the young lady behind the counter that he was paying my bill, and then turned to me and said "Thank you for your service."
I was immediately so embarrassed at my attitude, especially when I had to respond to the man with "Thank you, but I wasn't in the armed services, I was in the fire-rescue services." His response was simple. "Thank you anyway, for being a good example. I told my kids they needed to look at you and realize that there are strong people in this world, and your one of them."
I nearly cried right then and there. I was really glad that I hadn't had a chance to be ugly to him or his family for staring, and that one incident changed my views on how to deal with people when out in public. People are going to look, people are going to stare, and people (especially kids) are going to ask questions. When this happens ask yourself this, are they staring at an amputee missing a limb, or are they staring at the strongest person they have ever seen in real life?
Answer questions if you can. Smile instead of glowering. Don't be militant. Your not just representing yourself, your representing all amputees. Keep in mind that you may be the strongest person in the group, so be strong. Don't be angry at people looking at the train wreck, you've done it, too.
B Neil Brown