An Open Letter To The People Who Stare At My Kid

by Laurie Arnold for The Mighty
Originally Published: 
people who stare
Stockphoto4u / iStock

This is a public service announcement: Your confused face is an ugly face.

Do me a favor.

Go stand in front of a mirror.

Now close your eyes and think of a time when something confused you. Or caught you off guard. Or threw you for a loop.

Channel that moment. Feel how you felt. Make the face you made in that moment.

Now open your eyes.

Yikes! Not a pretty face, right? In fact, it’s kind of an ugly face.

How do I know this? No, it’s not because I am spying on you through your mirror.

The reason I know this is because that is the face we see over and over and over again when we are out in public—a confused face that is, in fact, an ugly and unfriendly face. So I’m on a mission to raise awareness among people who stare at my kid (and others) that your confused face is an ugly face and, in doing so, hopefully make the world a better place.

Imagine what it would be like walking through life if this was the face you saw every time you made eye contact with a stranger.


Disturbing, right?

And then, as if that isn’t bad enough, the person making their ugly face realizes they have been staring at you (or your child, in our case) with their ugly face and then quickly attempts a recovery face. It looks something like this:


Not much better. Actually maybe worse.

Honestly, after seeing this face so many times, I want to just to go ahead and put a narrative to it for people. You might as well be saying with your blatant, gawking, ugly face: “My brain literally cannot comprehend what my eyes are seeing. A person who looks different or acts different? What is this? Where am I? Am I safe? This is so far beyond my realm of understanding that my face has frozen from confusion and fear.”

First of all: What year is this? “Diversity” has been a buzzword for more than a few decades now, and I’m pretty sure wheelchairs have existed for longer than that, so these are not new things. If they are new to you, then you should consider getting out more.

Secondly, for the sake of the children… (okay, let’s be honest, in our case, it isn’t even for the child. She doesn’t see it, thank God. In our case, it’s for me). So for the sake of me, for parents like me and for the kids and adults who do see it and are sick of this being the face greeting us wherever we go, please work on your facial expressions. You want to make a difference in the world? You want to make the world a kinder place? Master your face.

Sounds hard, I know, but don’t worry, I’m not going to give you that advice and leave you hanging. I’m a helper! I want you to succeed. And thanks to my seven years of devotion to Tyra Banks’s educational television program, America’s Next Top Model, I know for a fact it is indeed possible (with work) to master your facial expressions even when you feel something different on the inside. Thank you, Tyra Banks, for your contribution to the world.

So with that good news in mind and a little help from Tyra, let’s practice.

Next time you see something that confuses you:


It’s not this.


It’s this!

Try it!

It’s hard, I know, but you can do it.

Let’s try one more:

“I just saw something I wasn’t expecting to see. What should I do with my face?”


It’s not this.


Or this.


It’s this.

OK, got it? Great! I knew you could do it! Now just practice this tutorial in front of the mirror for three to four hours a day and I promise you will be making the world a better place for families like ours.

This concludes this public service announcement.

Suggested Reading:

36 Things People With Anxiety Want Their Friends to Know

A Letter to Those Affected By My Anxiety

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